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Neutone Morpho Brings AI Timbre Transfer Models to the DAW

Neutone is one of those rare AI music companies that creates software around the needs of musicians instead of the general public. While most companies were building web browser applications and trying to "disrupt the industry", Neutone took a road less traveled and released free, high quality AI audio VSTs.

Their first plugin version was developed by Japanese music tech company Qosmo back in May 2022. Neutone eventually branched off and became their own company. They have continued to make updates ever since.

In February 2024, Neutone released Morpho, their most mind-blowing app to date. You can watch a short demo above but you've really got to get in there and start using it to see the full potential. You can find their pricing model below:

Free Demo

Full Version ($99)

Bundled Models

4 Models

5 additional Models

Add-on Models

Not Available

15+ models (growing)

Table of Contents

What is Timbre Transfer?

Timbre transfer refers to an AI audio technique where signals from an initial input are transformed into a new sound, while retaining some of the original features. For example, beatboxing can be made to sound like a real drum set while hummed melodies can turned into an exotic instrument.

The word timbre (pronounced tam-ber) is a traditional music term referring to the tone quality of an instrument or audio source. If you're having trouble remembering it, just think about the word timber, or wood. The quality of wood used in classical instruments like violins and cellos was a key element that defined its timbre.

Want to understand how timbre transfer technology works? Check out the free Sound of AI Youtube courses offered by Valerio Velardo.

Timbre transfer typically runs on Variational Autoencoders (VAE) or Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs). The Sound of AI covers these concepts in detail.

A brief history of timbre transfer plugins

Neutone Morpho didn't emerge out of a vacuum. They're part of a rich multi-year lineage of AI music products that came before. Let's have a quick look at that.

You may already be familiar with Magenta, the Google AI music team that developed some of the first ever AI MIDI generation apps. Fewer people are familiar with Google's DDSP web app Tone Transfer, which debuted in October 2020 running on Tensorflow.

Neutone VST
Neutone's previous VST Interface

Above is a screenshot of an early version of the Neutone timbre transfer VST. The interface provided a variety of models, trained by a small collection of programmers on their own licensed data sets. Each model specialized in transferring audio to a specific kind of sound.

During mid-June 2022, just a month after Qosmo released V1 of Neutone, Google's Magenta team announced their own DDSP VST. It was intended to bring some of the Tone Transfer experience down into the DAW. Like Neutone, it was compatible with most audio workstations and was free to download.

A lead developer on Google's DDSP project, Hanoi Hantrakul, later split off to build his own timbre transfer plugin Mawf. He was hired by TikTok in Shanghai and has continued working with them on AI music programs ever since.

In January 2024, TikTok announced a new AI song generation feature that Hantrakul may have had a hand in.

Acclaimed AI musician and programmer Hexorcismos released his own timbre transfer app in late 2023. Branded as a neural audio synthesizer, Semilla is a trippy music divination app based on traditional Mayan corn kernel ceremonies.

Datamind Audio has released their own commercial AI neural synthesis plugin called Combobulator in early 2024.

Suffice to say, Neutone is not alone in this niche. But as far as free apps go, they're the best. So let's shift our attention back over to them and get you caught up on some important details.

How to use the Neutone Morpho plugin

Neutone coined a new phrase, tone morphing, to describe the what the Morpho VST does. Tone morphing is certainly easier to remember than timbre transfer!

To get started, head over to their website and download the app for free. Once you've installed it, create an audio track in your DAW and you'll be able to load the plugin as shown in the screenshot below. According to the site, it's been tested and shown to work on the following DAWs:

  • Ableton Live 11

  • Logic Pro 10

  • Bitwig Studio 5

  • Studio One 6

  • Cubase 13

Neutone Morpho in Logic Pro X DAW

Neutone Morpho's eight models

The timbre of your audio output depends largely on the model and parameters that you select. As of April 2024 there are eight models to choose from, organized into strings, percussion, vocals, texture, and the artists who created the models.

  • Mind the Gap creates glitchy and emotional sonic landscapes

  • Cheerful world percussions morphs audio into international drum sounds

  • Exotic star is trained on the sitar and can be used for melody or ambience

  • Festive latin percussions is a percussive model inspired by Uruguay

  • Martian male choir combines male vocal chanting with ethereal decay

  • Oriental pipa string was trained on a Chinese stringed instrument (pipa)

  • Spirited broken circuits delivers buzzing electrical tones and noisy textures

  • Unintelligible 911 calls creates atmospheric textures from voice sounds

Each model takes about 30 seconds to download on a high speed internet connection. Unlike other generative AI music models, Neutone doesn't consume an excessive amount of GPU, so you can run it in a DAW without crashing your computer.

As a user, you can input just about any type of sound including voice, drums, keys and synth. You will need to use an audio signal, rather than MIDI, so keep that in mind as you get started.

Navigating the Morpho interface

Neutone Morpho macro interface

There are two "modes" or interface views available when you open the app. The left and right columns remain in place as you toggle between these modes.

Macro Mode: Twist four different knobs to change the behavior of each model. The labels may change depending on the model. For example, the Exotic Sitar model provides controls for Serendipity (randomness), sensitivity, filter and tone. Thee Cheerful World Percussions model swaps in a "bassy" knob for "tone".

Can we take a moment to appreciate the beautiful, amorphous and audio-reactive color blob in the macro view?

Click on that strange floating entity to zoom into micro mode shown below.

Morpho's micro parameters

Micro mode: Your four macro control knobs will remain in place, however six new parameters appear as highlighted in this screenshot.

These Morph Parameters (technically called latent variables) will offset and guide your audio output in different directions. In my experience, tonal models like the sitar will change pitch as you tweak the params. Each slider seems to target different overtones and accent them, along with other tonal qualities like expressiveness and articulation.

Left and right panels: Music producers will recognize most of the controls located in the left and right panels. The plugin includes pitch shifting, feedback and delay, compression, a filter, noise gate, a limiter, and global mix to control the final output.

Neutone Cocoon: Train your own AI model

The next product on Neutone's roadmap is a cloud GPU service called the Cocoon. Users will be able to train their own AI tone morphing models and load them directly into Morpho. These will be held in private containers that only you have access to. An official release date has not been announced yet.

Meet the Neutone team

The Neutone team is relatively small and each person has contributed something special to the audio plugin. I'd like give them a little praise where it's due, considering how hard they've worked to create this app for us to enjoy.

Neutone CEO Nao Takui

Nao Takui is the CEO and founder at Neutone. He has a Ph.D. in computer science from Keio University in Tokyo and founded Qosmo in 2009. He's also a DJ and electronic music producer.

There's an expression in tech, that founders should eat their own dog food. In other words, you should use the product that you're creating in order to make it better for the rest of your user base. Tokui is a shining example of that. Have a listen to some of his music below and check out his book Surfing Human Creativity with AI.

Neuton CTO Andrew Fyfe

Next up is Andrew Fyfe. He was the first person I met from the Neutone team. We interviewed him for a article about VST interface design and I've enjoyed getting to know him slowly over the past year.

Andrew is the CTO and co-founder of Neutone. His background is in engineering and research, but the guitar was his first love! He's written that his goal is to help people experiment, discover new sounds, and even uncover new genres entirely.

Other members of the team include founding engineer Christopher Mitcheltree, AI application engineer Alfie Bradic, UI designer and engineer Matthias Schafer, AI researcher and engineer Naotake Masuda, Designer Mike Sekine, AI music research scientist Keisuke Nohara, and marketer / project manager Justin Ruiz.

We're greatly appreciative to the whole team for all the effort they've put into advancing AI music for musicians. Please support the team by visiting their site and downloading the free Morpho plugin today!


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