Featured Cableguys PanShaper by Funkybot
· Product: Panshaper
· Developer: Cableguys
· Formats: AU, VST2 (Mac and PC, 32/64 bit)
· Price: €34 / $39, incl. VAT
· DRM: License Key
· Website: Cableguys | PanShaper
At its most basic, Cableguys Panshaper is an auto-pan plugin, however, once you take a look at the UI, you’ll quickly realize that there’s nothing basic about this particular auto-panner. Panshaper separates itself from other panning plugins by offering multi-band (three bands) panning, and allowing users to draw the modulation waveforms (in addition to the preset shapes), in addition to having a unique waveform, each band can have its own LFO, Mix, and pan-law.
Features & Interface
Full panshaper UI.
Upon first launch, you’ll immediately notice that Panshaper has a crisp, modern interface. Everything here looks to be vector based, however the UI cannot be scaled (at least not yet) so this one may not be 4k/retina monitor ready yet. That said, on my 1080p DAW monitor, the mellow interface colors and sharp text look great, with no legibility problems and good contrast throughout.
The menu bar.
There’s a small bar at the top of the UI that lets users select the main page or preset library, along with the ability to cycle through presets. At the far right, there’s a small arrow which opens a menu with options to create a new preset, save your preset, sync presets with the online user library, and check the web for updates and tutorials.
The left-hand portion of the main plugin window is dedicated to the waveform. You’ll want to spend a few seconds to read the instructions (or watch a Youtube video) on how to draw/edit waveforms but at it’s most basic, single-click adds a node, click and drag to move it, double-click to delete it, and right-clicking changes the softens or hardens the angle of the waveform leading into and out of that node. Users can select which of the three bands they’re drawing the waveform on from the top of this window. There are also some additional tools to aid in waveform drawing on the right (such as a stepped mode, a snap to grid option, randomize nodes button, and undo/redo).
The top-right-hand portion of the UI are the controls for the three bands. Users can change the crossover points, which stereo channel of the band you want effected, the input and output width, and level. There is also a band solo option in this section. Hint: if you just want a single-band panner, all you need to do is extend the frequency range of the mid-band setting it to it’s min and max values.
Waveform presets, including the ability to save custom made waveforms.
Below that, are the waveform presets. There are default settings covering each of the main shapes you’d expect in a panning plugin, plus a bunch of new ones. Additionally, there’s a Local section where users can create their own shape presets and save those (right+click to save the current waveform).
Some LFO options.
Next up is the LFO section. You can use the “Link/Unlink” button to create a single LFO speed for all bands, or setup unique LFO speeds for each band. LFO’s can be synced to the beat or be in hz, and there are options for MIDI triggered LFO’s, including a one-shot mode.
The master section includes Mix and Pan Law options, which can be set independently for each band or globally.
The Master section offers controls over the Mix and pan-law, with another set of “Link/Unlink” these controls for single or three-band operation.
Instructions and tool tips are presented in a text box on the main page of the UI.
Below this, is a small window that will display text instructions and tooltips as you hover the mouse over a particular section or control. You can also click on the words "Panshaper" or "Cableguys" at the bottom of the UI to open up detailed instructions on waveform drawing.
Note that the waveform and band sections also have maximize buttons to allow users to bring those sections into full-screen mode for more precise editing.
Maximize buttons on the Waveform and Multi-Band sections allow for a more precise view as shown here with the waveform section.
Finally, the Library page offers one of the best preset browsers in the business. You’ve got information on the author, the ability to rate presets using a star-based system, and then on the top-right-hand portion of this page, the ability to filter presets based on author, keyword, or star rating. Additionally, presets can be set to private or public, with public presets being sync’d to the Cableguys site (which users must initiate). This is a very clever way to build a preset sharing community as the effort on the part of users is very minimal.
The Library screen not only provides details on presets but allows for keyword or author searches, rating presets, and filtering presets by rating. Presets can also be uploaded and sync'd to and from the Cableguys website.
I’ve never used any Cableguys’ plugins before Panshaper, but I can assure you that going forward, I’ll be keeping an eye out on everything they release. Panshaper is just incredibly fun to use and has a wonderful feature-set. It’s great on guitars, electric pianos, synths, drum loops and percusssion, etc. It can do everything from subtle widening (or tightening) of the stereo image to full-blown psychedelic pan madness. Thanks to Panshaper, I now know what a Fender Rhodes sounds like with a 16th-note triangle LFO panning the low frequencies, a square LFO beating the mid frequencies in 8th notes, and a sine LFO modulating the high frequencies in dotted 8ths (answer: it sounds cool).
It’s clear that I think Panshaper is close to perfect, but there are a few things I hope to see improved upon in future releases. As mentioned earlier, a scalable UI would be a must for folks running 4k displays and DAW’s that don’t scale up plugin windows. Next, and more importantly, square waveforms will create clicks at faster LFO rates. I know that’s a symptom of the harsh transition in a square LFO and the crossovers not always lining up with zero-crossings, but other auto-panners use smoothing algorithms to avoid the clicks and I wish Cableguys’ took that approach here. As-is, you can smooth out the transitions by manually editing the waveform and saving those as a custom waveforms, but some automatic-smoothing would be very welcome. Lastly, any time you modify a preset and decide to discard your changes and find another, Panshaper will throw up a nag screen to let you know that any changes you made to the current preset will be lost. I’ve already heard back from the developer who indicated that they may ditch the nag screen entirely, but as of version 1.1.1, it’s still there.
Panshaper truly takes auto-panning into the 21st century and at its low price, belongs in every plugin collection. I’d honestly be recommending this plugin just as enthusiastically if it cost 3 times as much. Cableguys wasn’t on my radar before, but they’re a company I plan on keeping an eye on going forward. They’re putting out high quality plugins, with amazing feature sets and at extremely affordable prices.
Sound Quality - 5/5: The range of panning effects available here is stunning.
Ease of Use - 5/5: Spend 30 seconds to read the instructions on how to edit waveforms and you’re all set. Everything else is perfectly intuitive.
Features - 5/5: Honestly the most comprehensive panning plugin I own.
Bang for Buck - 5/5: This plugin’s pricing is a steal, so don’t steal this plugin; run out and buy it.