Unfiltered Audio Sandman Pro by Funkybot
· Product: Sandman Pro
· Developer: Plugin Alliance (Unfiltered Audio)
· Formats: VST2/3, AU, AAX Native
· Price: $99
· DRM: Machine Authorization
There’s so many delays on the market these days that it’s getting harder and harder to get excited by each new release. If you already own a premium delay plugin or two, most new delay releases aren’t going to be bringing anything new to the table feature-wise. You might prefer a given plugin’s workflow, or GUI, or just prefer the sound-quality of one delay over another, but they all basically do the same thing (delay time, feedback, HP/LP, Mix, maybe a few different modes, etc.). If this sounds like you, or you’re just a little bored with delay plugins, then keep reading...
Sandman Pro isn’t a delay. Or at least, it’s not just a delay. Sandman Pro is part delay, part stutter effect, part looper, part pitch shifter, and part semi-modular synthesizer. Combined, it can do delay, doubling, modulation, reverb, harmonizing, looping, freezing, stuttering, rhythmic gating, tremolo, sample rate reduction, everything in between, and a whole lot more. In fact, on a few occasions, Sandman Pro was doing things I still don’t know how to describe. The more time I spend with Sandman Pro, the less I think of it as a delay, and the more I think of it as a multi-fx toolbox.
Interface & Features
Sandman Pro’s interface opts for a modern, flat UI style that focuses on functionality over aesthetics. Clicking the gear icon near the top of the UI opens up the settings where you’ll find 3 size options, and a light or dark theme. These option mean Sandman Pro is definitely ultra high dpi compatible and usable at all resolutions, and lighting conditions (nothing worse than a white UI in a dark studio, but it may work better in a brightly lit room). A lock icon offers the ability to lock parameters while (mix, delay time, sleep buffer, and gain) while browsing presets, which is a very well thought-out and welcome addition. Hovering your mouse over most parameters will open up the tool-tip, explaining what the control does. From a usability perspective, this is a great example of how to design a modern UI.
The signal flows logically from left to right. You’ve got the input controls on the left, with input gain, a Mute button that can be automated and modulation some rhythmic gating type effects, pan, a mono summing button, and knob for Sample Rate. The Sample Rate knob is interesting in that it controls the internal sample rate for the entire plugin, so you turning this down not only adds some grunge, but it can also slow down the delay time and buffers.
The Delay Time section does what the name says, but has controls for Linked, Independent and Offset delays with the latter two options giving you left and right controls. There’s the typical tempo sync options, but there’s also an additional Lock Time setting, which when enabled, allows you to reduce the Sample Rate (via the knob on the left) without changing the delay time.
The center of the GUI covers the Sleep Buffer controls. This essentially the delay buffer. The Sleep button will “freeze” the buffer, Kill will clear it, and Reverse will...well, you get the idea. Once You’ve got your buffer frozen, you’re essentially using Sandman as a Looper and you can adjust the Start and End points of the loop using the appropriate horizontal faders (they’re not buttons). Lock Length makes sure your delay buffer equals the delay time, which was designed to allow you to play with your start and end points and get interesting pitch effects within the buffer. Smooth will crossfade the buffer to avoid clicks, and turning on Sleep Filter allows you to apply the HP/LP filters to the buffer.
The Delay Mode section is right below the Sleep Buffer controls. Here you’ve got 7 different modes to choose from. You’ve got Classic Tape, Modern Instant (great for percussion/drums), a pitch shifter that gets into that H910 territory, a glitch shifter (read the manual for more on this one), a Multi-Tap mode, then lastly Reverse and a No Delay mode which allows you to get right into the buffer. Each mode has it’s own unique set of controls for further tweaking.
Next up to the right is the Echoes section, and anyone who has operated a delay will be used to the feedback, LP and HP controls. There’s a Crossfeed knob to feed some of the left channel into the right and vice versa, and a Diffuse knob which can soften the delays and get you into reverb territory.
Output controls are on the far-right with gain, soft clipping, Mix, Width, and an M/S button. What’s an M/S button doing on a delay? Well, turn it on and the Left output becomes your mid channel and right becomes your side. Very cool.
The bottom of the GUI is where things really get fun. Below the Delay Time to Echo controls is a fantastic visualizer, which allows you to see what’s going on in the delay buffer, and gets kind of trippy to watch. Then below that, you’ve got the Modulation section. This is where you can add up to 6 LFO’s, input followers, or macro knobs, which can be routed to just about every parameter in the UI. This opens up a nearly infinite number of possibilities in terms of what Sandman Pro can do to your audio, and at the same time, really encourages experimentation. Want a simple tremolo? Route an LFO to the output volume. Want a chorus? Shorten the delay time and have an LFO modulate it. Flanger? Make that delay time even shorter and add some feedback. Multi-tap flanger? Set the Delay Mode to Multi-Tap. S&H filter? No Delay mode, mix 100% and route a S&H LFO to the filters. This is just scratching the surface with simple, more traditional modulation schemes. Wait till you start modulating lots of stuff at once, or setting up and automating some macro controls.
Sandman Pro is the Brian Eno of plugins in that it fully encourages experimentation. It simply begs to be explored. A quick initial run through the presets left me amazed by its capabilities at times, and scratching my head at others, wondering what the music context of that preset must have been. As I started to use it more, I’d want to run it through every type of source material I could think of, and at a different tempos. I started challenging myself to come up with new uses for it. I’d find new and extreme ways to abuse it, then get mad at myself for not having the DAW recording the output in realtime. Pro-Tip: record the output of your Sandman experimentation in real-time, you’ll hit upon some really cool sounds that may be impossible to recreate.
I can go on about how it can do this, or how it can do that, but the best thing I could do is tell you to fire up Sandman Pro and just have fun playing with it. What I can’t do is find enough nice things to say about it. I’m about the furthest thing you could get from an EDM guy, and Sandman Pro has become a go-to plugin for me. If you’re any kind of an electronic music producer, then I’d consider it essential.
Sound Quality - 5/5: Great sound on all fronts, even when being abused.
Ease of Use - 5/5: Between the clear UI, different size options, tooltips, and intuitive modulation system, a plugin this deep has no business being this easy to use, but Unfiltered Audio pulled it off.
Features - 5/5: Insanely deep, capable plugin.
Bang for Buck - 5/5: At twice the price, it would still be a steal.