In the last few years, strange things have been afoot in the world of plugins and sonic manipulation. As computers have been getting more powerful, tools for live performance have been developed to help take music production out into the open, and plugins have been constantly harnessing new technologies, a whole new world has started to open up.
The traditional arsenal of effects is familiar to most producers – delay, phase, distortion and so on. Useful for helping out with your mixdowns, but not really something you’d base a tune around. But if you’ve not been paying attention, you’d be amazed at what the next generation of plugs can do – not just add a little movement or character to a sound, but completely transform it, in realtime, and usually live with MIDI control too. This makes them far more exciting – you can use them for performance, for studio work, and also for all the traditional effects you need too. But which one would work best for you? Let’s look at some of the main contenders….
A relatively recent entrant to the market, this plugin offers some solid effects capabilities at an absolute bargain price. The effects look, on the surface to be a little standard, if comprehensive at least – filter and delay, vintage phasers, distortion, pitchshift and so on. But it also comes with two LFOs and a modulation matrix, and this is where it really comes into its own. You can use the LFOs and two pattern generators to control pretty much anything else, and route almost any effect into any other effect – which is also being controlled by something else. The result is some top-quality sound mangling with minimal hassle. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, however, there are plenty of presets too. Excellent stuff for the price. Get the VST Plugin here.
This is a slightly older plugin, but it’s none the worse for that. Released in 2008, it was one of the plugs that really set a new standard in effects processing, and – at the risk of sounding partisan here – it’s something of a personal favourite. The reason it was such a breath of fresh air is that it combines effects with kind of a step-sequencer. You can take audio and put different effects on it at different points, loop it up and make crazy rhythms and patterns easily. Which makes it ideal for any kind of glitch, psytrance or technical stuff, but it’s also great as an inspiration source. Take some random samples, maybe some found sounds, traffic noise, whatever – throw them in, and get hacking. You can make them into loops and rhythms which you could base a track around or just throw in for atmospherics. Like most step sequencers, it’s very addictive, and the price has come down somewhat over the years too. Recommended! Get the VST and AU Plugin here!
iZotope are one of the big names in effects plugins, and with Stutter Edit they’ve upped the ante even more – this one even comes with celebrity endorsement. Stutter Edit was designed as a live performance tool, largely by grammy-nominated producer BT. BT was one of the pioneers of the stutter edit back in the early 2000′s, when it was all about laboriously chopping up audio for hours. He’s even in the Guiness Book Of Records for most stutter edits in a tune. If anyone knows about edits, it’s this man. So it’s no surprise that this is a really solid piece of work. You bundle a load of effects, noise generators and processors into a ‘gesture’, assign it to a MIDI key, and trigger it whenever you like. It even quantises your MIDI input so the effects are always in time – perfect for live improvisation. Sounds simple, and once you’re used to it, it is indeed simple to use, but the results can be astonishing. It’s also great for studio work, and comes with dozens of presets made by BT as well. It’s not cheap, but then you do get a lot for your money. Get the AU and VST Plugin here!
Sugarbytes return, with another new concept in how effects processing is used. In a manner reminiscent of Dada Life’s Sausage Fattener, Turnado is all about simplifying complex processes down to the turn of a single knob. It’s a dynamic system, in that the more you turn a knob, the more stuff it does; various effects will be switched in and turned up as you move around the dial. You can then assign 8 different effects to 8 different knobs on your MIDI controller, so again it’s great for live work. Then you can go in and tweak the various parameters on each effect, and run any of them into any of the others, in any order, all changeable on the fly from your MIDI device. As you can imagine, once you’re set up it’s pretty simple to completely transform a sound without even looking at the laptop screen, which is a boon for stage performance. But it’s not like you can’t get under the hood if you need to. There’s even a built in automation sequencer called the Dictator, which can create smooth or rhythmic automation on any of the eight effects, and itself can be dialled in or out in varying amounts. It can get very detailed, very quickly – but the strength of Turnado is that it only needs to be as complicated as you want it. Impressive stuff. Get it The VST and AU plugins here!
We could go on – there are plenty of other high-quality plugs available in this end of the market, and they’re improving all the time. If you want to check out some more, we’d recommend Izotope’s Trash 2, Roger Linn’s Adrenalinn Sync, Camel Audio’s CamelSpace 1.5, and of course Native Instruments’ Reaktor, which opens up a whole new world with literally thousands of effects and sound generators.
So if you’ve not used one of these new breed of FX plugs, now is the time to get started. And if you already know how useful they can be for composition, production and performance, then you won’t need any convincing! So check out the Prime Plugins store and see how you can take your music to the next level with some prime audio mangling:
Check out all our Effects Plugins here!