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Softube Fix Audio Doubler and Flanger

Softube Fix Flanger and Doubler

5 5 out of 5, based on 1 Review

From the mind of legendary audio equipment designer Paul Wolff comes the new Fix Flanger and Fix Doubler.

5th December 2015

Softube Fix Flanger and Doubler by Mercado_Negro

Softube Fix Audio Doubler and Flanger

  • Product: Fix Flanger and Doubler
  • Developer: Softube and Paul Wolff
  • Formats: VST, VST3, Audio Units and AAX native
  • Price: $149
  • DRM: PACE iLok (no USB key required)
  • Website: Softube - Fix Flanger and Doubler

Doubling and flanging for three decades
Double tracking has always existed. Even before multitrack tape recorders started their appearances in recording studios several musicians experimented with overdubbing. This technique became a standard practice, mostly on vocals, because of time constraints and convenience. Back in the 60’s the engineers at Abbey Road Studios developed a technique called ADT (Artificial Double-Tracking) using tape delay to create a copy of the recorded signal. This copy was then combined with the original source to simulate the sound of natural doubling of voices and instruments. In 1979, Paul Wolff created a little box called “Real Time Auto Doubler AD-2” to do the classic tape-style doubling while touring with a few bands and while it was very popular it never went into mass production. Now, more than 30 years later, the very same genius behind the AD-2 teams up with the creative forces of Softube to bring us the Fix Doubler, a faithful recreation of his revered little box.

Along with the Fix Doubler, Paul Wolff and the engineers at Softube created a second plugin called Fix Flanger (one thing leads to another, as people say). The Fix Flanger recreates the technique of blending two tape machines with the same sound but at different speeds to achieve that particular and famous effect used in countless of records.

Softube Fix Audio Doubler and Flanger-doubler.png

Fix Doubler
It's a simple yet powerful and versatile chorus/doubler which is capable of tricking you into thinking that what you're hearing was actually recorded twice. Yes, it's that good. You can go subtle or radical by just flipping a switch and if you're after that Optimus Prime metallic-like type of voice you just have to tweak a few other knobs and go wild. Let’s see the controls in detail:
  • Engage: this is a simple on/off switch for the plug-in but it’s a smooth bypass which means you won’t get any clicks or pops when turning it on or off.
  • Stereo: with this button you can set the doubling to mono or stereo.
  • Mix: this is a dry/wet parameter which you can use to blend the input (dry) and the delayed signal (wet) to your liking. So far I’ve never gone past 30% for a rich and natural doubling effect.
  • Auto Double: this is Paul Wolff’s secret sauce. You don’t have to tweak things further if you don’t have time, just engage the plug-in, turn auto double on and set your mix level: done.
  • Regen: this parameter sets the amount of delay feedback. This is where things can go from subtle to metallic-like so use with care (or not!). When auto double is enabled you can’t tweak this parameter.
  • Dual sweep: this parameter uses two independent doublers for each channel which means you can use it to set the doubling to stereo or mono like you do with the Stereo switch. The difference here are the sound and how the result is achieved so it’s up to you to decide what suits better your material. Most of the times I choose Dual Sweep for vocals or strings.
  • Delay Offset: this parameter is like a pre-delay in reverbs or at least that how it looks/sounds like. A full sync double might produce a hollow comb-filtering sound so this parameter is very useful to add a difference in time between the input and the delayed double. Short values will sound tighter and somehow more natural, you have to experiment with it.
  • Sweep: with this parameter you can add movement. It’s a way to tighten or loosen the Delay Offset. A singer/musician will never perform things twice identically, there are changes in pitch and timing throughout the performance. With this parameter you can mimic this scenario to make the doubling more “real”.
  • Rate: this parameter sets the speed of the sweep which you can use to make the “drift” more or less apparent. Higher values tend to sound more natural because the faster the sweep is the less you’ll notice this “drift”.
  • Sweep types: this buttons simply allows you to set a waveform for the sweep. The Triangle maintains the pitch during the sweep which means you can use it with low sweep values while auto sweep is enabled. The Sine waveform is more dramatic because it changes the pitch during the sweep but this is not a bad thing, especially on vocals where these “differences” are actually wanted. The Random waveform is pretty self-explanatory, you get random changes in pitch here and there while sweeping. This waveform is also useful when you’re after natural sounding doubling because it adds the randomness factor which is desired on most performances.

In essence, the operation of the plug-in can be seen from left to right. You start with a low Mix level, decide if you want the doubling in mono or stereo, try the Auto Double and if you need more control you just start playing with the rest of the controls, especially the Sweep and Delay Offset. Let’s hear a couple of examples:

Softube Fix Audio Doubler and Flanger-flanger.png

Fix Flanger
It’s a straightforward flanger with a simple and particular approach in some areas. You have two main sections: Auto Sweep and Manual Sweep. You can choose your poison depending on your preference although you can mix both modes for further creative tasks. The Manual Sweep is very interesting because it has a peculiar feature called VSO (Variable Speed Oscillator) which emulates what happens when you’re working on tape machines to achieve a flanging effect. Let’s see how controls work in detail:

Common parameters for both Auto Sweep and Manual Sweep:
  • Engage: this is a simple on/off switch for the plug-in but it’s a smooth bypass which means you won’t get any clicks or pops when turning it on or off.
  • Delay Polarity: this parameter sets the polarity of the delay feedback as the name suggests. Try it once you’ve set up your sweep to get a different color/tone.
  • Stereo: this button sets the output to mono or stereo. If you’re working on a stereo track this will add a more vivid image to your sound but you have to be careful with the phase relationship. Enabling this on a mono track will give you a stereo image out of it.
  • Mix: this is a dry/wet parameter which you can use to blend the input (dry) and the flanger (wet) to your liking. I recommend a 50% value so you can hear your tweaks much better and then lower it to make the effect sit better in the mix.
  • Regen: this parameter sets the amount of delay feedback. As soon as you start twisting this knob to positive or negative values the flanger goes more and more into self oscillation which gives you that well-known “swoosh” piercing sound from flanging. I like to tweak it after setting everything up to make the flanging more apparent.

Auto Sweep parameters:
  • Envelope: use this to make the input signal to control the flanging. As you go adjusting this parameter you’ll hear how the loudest parts of your signal drag the flange towards zero which is a very cool effect. So far I haven’t gone past 80% for a nice and controlled flanging effect.
  • Delay Offset: it sets the starting point of flanging. Positive values will make the flange lean into a more “thin” sound while negative values will make it sound “darker”. If you set this to zero and then move the Sweep all the way up to “auto” you’ll get the classic “dark/thin/phasey” cycling sound you get in flangers.
  • Sweep: you can control the Delay Offset further with this parameter up to a point where it’s automatic. Drag it all the way down to the left and the positive or negative values you’ve set in the Delay Offset start making sense. Now set it to full and you can forget about the Delay Offset value because it will modulate it automatically.
  • Rate: this parameter is simple, it just sets the rate of the sweep. You can use the Tap and Tap/4 parameters to set this to the song tempo.
  • Tap and Tap/4: this non-automatable buttons allows you to set the rate to the song tempo by tapping on them. Just play your song, click on Tap as the beat goes on and if you think it’s too fast just click on Tap/4 to reduce the rate by four.

Manual Sweep parameters:
  • VSO and Offset Modes: the VSO mode is like working on two tape machines where you vary the speed on one of them while blending the output of both. This is an interesting approach because you can automate the VSO knob and get exactly what you want, when you want it. You can even use this knob for the famous tape-stop effect by automating it from zero to -100% (Halt -50ms). This is my favorite mode. The Offset mode simply sets the delayed offset between the input (dry) and delayed signals.
  • Auto/Manual Sweep: this allows the blending between each mode. Put it all the way down to the left and it’s working on Auto Sweep mode. Drag it fully clockwise and it will work on Manual Sweep mode.
  • Servo: this parameter emulates the bounce of the servo motor. When you’re varying the speed on one of the tape machines fast the servo motor will try to correct itself, it bounces and passes through the zero crossing point while it slows down. That’s what this parameter does so you can also automate while trying the tape-stop effect for a smoother transition.

It’s pretty easy to work with this flanger. Just set the Mix knob to 50%, set it to stereo or mono depending on what you need as output, choose Auto Sweep mode (this is the default mode anyways), set the Envelope to 50%, move Sweep to auto and start playing with the Rate until it starts bouncing back and forth. Now reduce the Sweep to something like 30% and then reduce the Rate for less flanging but keep it obvious. Play with Regen for adding a bit of delay feedback and finally tweak the Delay Offset depending on the color you’re looking for (thin vs dark). If you prefer the Manual Sweep mode just drag the auto/man knob to Manual, set it to VSO mode (more fun and freedom) and automate the VSO knob using a Sine waveform. Try to stay between -25% and 25% for gentle flanging and add some Servo for a smoother transition. Let’s hear a couple of audios demos:

Special Note: in REAPER there is a built-in feature called “Parameter Modulation” which we can use to modulate plug-ins parameters and this is very good for the VSO knob. We can use an LFO or the signal itself to modulate it which is amazing because we can have much control over it than with just the automation. This is a quick and dirty example of using parameter modulation for both the VSO knob and Regen parameters:

Grand finale
I’ve used doublers on vocals in my mixes for many years but it’s always been a bit of hit and miss to set them up and make them blend. There’s always this hollow and artificial sound from the start, like she/he is singing in a bathroom or a room with really bad acoustics. I’m always fighting against this instead of having fun with doubling. This was not the case with the Fix Doubler. The first time I loaded it I thought “OK, this is too much doubling, let’s minimize that with the Mix knob” (because that’s what Mix knobs do, no?) and that was it. I could’ve left it there and be done with it, it sounded fantastic. Part of this impression is the fact it uses Paul Wolff’s “auto double” secret sauce by default which simply works. Of course, you can tweak things further to make it blend even more with the source (add a bit of offset to make it less tight, move the sweep to smear that tightness, etc). The Flanger is not as easy to understand the first time you load it but once you’ve read the nicely written user guide you’ll get it… quick. Basically you just have to decide up front which mode to use and start with that, then go tweaking to your heart's content until it sounds good. Both plug-in are pretty straightforward and sound fantastic (well, what would you expect from a team like that? Paul Wolff and Softube). I strongly suggest to read the user guide to get a better understanding of how controls work and interact with each other.

Attached Thumbnails
Softube Fix Audio Doubler and Flanger-doubler.png   Softube Fix Audio Doubler and Flanger-flanger.png   Softube Fix Audio Doubler and Flanger-main-pic-both.png  

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