PitchBox

Overview

PitchBox is a small software application for transforming your voice or music in real-time.

PitchBox was developed for shows and exhibitions, and was hence tuned for that purpose. As such, most of the efforts have been done in proposing ear-catching and attractive audio effects, and on reducing the latency as much as possible. On the other hand, fewer efforts have been done in making it easy to install and setup, or in the amount of features it provides.

If you want to use the audio effects of PitchBox within an audio editor, most of them are available as LADSPA and VST plugins.

Screenshot

Requirements
Windows

Linux

Other

PitchBox should run on any other system for which the Java Runtime Environment version 5 or greater is available (Mac OS X, Solaris, etc). However, audio is recorded and played using JavaSound rather than using a native library, and hence you may not be able to achieve low latencies.

Download

PitchBox.zip (2.32MB, version 2.0.2)

Warning PitchBox is not easy to setup, especially for real-time voice transformation. It requires understanding of the Larsen effect, and knowledge of audio and microphone setup in general. Please carefully read the advices in the Installation and Setup section below.

Installation and Setup
Starting and using PitchBox

If the JRE is properly installed (see requirements), you should be able to start PitchBox just by double-clicking on the PitchBox.jar file, or by using the context-menu "open with..." and choosing the Java runtime. In the application,

Choosing the audio input for real-time transformation

When "Audio In" is selected, PitchBox transforms audio in real-time from the default audio input port. It will not automatically select the microphone input, or let you choose the audio input to use. It will also not adjust the volume automatically.

Hence, you have to manually choose and setup the correct audio input port (microphone, line-in) using the setup tools of your operating system or sound card.

The proper way to setup the audio input widely differs from on system to another and from one sound card to another and it is hence not possible to provide any precise user guide. Just a few hints:

Setting up the microphone

When trying to transform your voice from the microphone, audio feedback (high frequency loud tones, known as Larsen effect) may occur, especially when using the build-in microphone of most today's laptops.

Audio feedback occurs because the microphone records some sound, which is transformed, amplified and played to the loudspeaker a few milliseconds afterwards. This amplified sound is recorded itself again by the microphone, and then transformed, amplified and played again, and this loop continues again and again. You get the picture.

Audio feedback cannot be prevented by the application, and may occur in any system with a real-time record->amplify->play loop. A few hints to prevent audio feedback:

Achieving low latency

With some effects, you may notice that the transformed voice is not played immediately, but about 1/4 seconds after you speak, which is annoying, isn't it? This small delay is named latency, and is caused by several factors. Furthermore, it depends on the effect itself. PitchBox has been designed to allow most effects to run at low latencies, by following the advices below:

Within PitchBox,

On Windows there is only one additional, but strong recommendation: use a sound card that has native ASIO support, or use the generic ASIO4ALL driver (see requirements). Without ASIO, the latency will remain very high regardless of how you change the settings of PitchBox.

On Linux, the application attempts to run at real-time priority, which significantly helps in achieving low latencies. However, some distributions such as Ubuntu do not allow applications launched by a non-root user to switch to real-time priority by default. In that case:

With laptops in general, there are usually power scheme choices such as "high performance", "power saver", etc. In that case, it may help to choose something like "high performance" or similar rather than "power saver".

On "good systems" and with proper settings, you should be able to get a total latency

Unfortunately, I'm afraid I'm unable to tell you what a "good system" is for PitchBox, as it depends on too many factors that are hardly ever documented. Except perhaps that you need at least a 1.2GHz CPU.

Troubleshooting
Sorry Prof. Drake, I couldn't finish my homework

This happens if you computer is too slow to process audio with the chosen effect and buffer size settings. As each effect has different requirements in terms of CPU power, this error may only show up for some effects. Also note that you may sometimes hear a lot of clicks or a buzz-like sound, sign that the computer is too slow as well, without the message appearing.
If this occurs, here's a few hints:

Failed to open audio device

This happens if the settings are not supported by your sound card driver or by the operating system.
The simplest solution is to click on the "Settings" button, and then on "Reset" and "OK" in the settings dialog box. This restores the default audio device settings, which are compatible with almost all systems.

Alternatively, click on the "Settings" button, and then change the following in the settings dialog box:

I cannot hear any sound

 

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