By diogo_c on 22nd October 2015
Soundtoys 5 Plug-in Bundle
After nearly one year of expectation, Soundtoys finally delivers the highly-anticipated Version 5 of its line of effect plugins. Having established themselves as one of the quintessential plugin companies since the early days of DAWs, Soundtoys’ tools are ubiquitous all across Gearslutz when it comes to naming the best special effects out there, and they have rightfully gathered a big cult following that even includes some big endorsements. I’ll take a look on what’s new for V5 then do a quick rundown of the bundled plugins, finalizing with the scores focusing on the bundle as a whole.
Soundtoys 5 - What’s new?
Version 5 brings the brand new Primal Tap delay plugin, along with a new Effect Rack that can chain up to six Soundtoys plugins. There’s also a general framework update for the existing Soundtoys bundle, with improved tweak menus and new wooden frames - which looks nice but this is just cosmetic of course. You can check out my "virtual unboxing" video for all the updated interfaces, so for now I’ll just say that quality of life when using these plugins has raised substantially with this update and this is definitely their best form so far. The new tweak menus are presented as lower panels which replaces the former floating windows, and this proved to be a big improvement to this reviewer’s eyes. Sections such as modulation editors (on all plugins applicable), saturation and other inner settings had their interfaces enhanced and are now offered in a much more elegant way. It definitely makes their use far easier than before, and not having things on top of the main interface is a great thing. These plugins are quite feature-packed with many possible settings on some cases such as Echoboy and FilterFreak, so a better organization of the interfaces was definitely called for.
One of the biggest news besides the rack, the reworked menus and PrimalTap are the new analog emulations/saturation options on FilterFreak, PanMan, Phase Mistress and Tremolator. They have scrapped the digital/analog toggle and now those plugins have seven different “analog styles” ranging from kind of subtle to very crunchy, amongst those there’s a “clean” mode which is as close as it gets to digital mode - not entirely digital but very clean. The seven options covers more sonic ground than ever before, so I’d say it was a good change that added a nice extra touch to an older set of plugins. Crystalizer, Echoboy now have longer delay times and pitch-slewing effects when automated and Radiator also had some small changes which I will cover shortly. Overall these were good changes but they came at the cost of (some) backwards compatibility problems, and I can definitely understand the frustration from people who wanted full retrocompatibility and it’s a fact that can not be downplayed, but I will look into it with fresh “version five” eyes and say that overall the changes weren’t totally “necessary” but they are definitely welcome - these plugins are definitely better now, so maybe that can soften the eventual recalling and redialing burdens a little bit.
Quick rundown of the plugins included on Soundtoys Version 5:
The Effect Rack
One of the biggest selling points about Version 5 is the Effect Rack, which allows the user to chain up to six Soundtoys plugins in a row. When I started playing with it was fun, but for a short a while until I felt like it missed some depth...but how come? While chaining amazing plugins in a row is fun, I felt like the rack currently lacks better handling of audio signals and I’d really welcome a mixer-style routing to really make the most out of these plugins with the choice of serial or parallel inserts, auxiliary channels, sends, some panning options and everything that comes along with a full-blown audio mixer. Further modulation options would also be much welcome, with macro knobs to control a bunch of parameters at the same time, a modulation matrix and so on. Besides the basic input/output, mix and the feedback control, it doesn’t add anything else than what your DAW mixer offer - some will offer even more to be honest, such as Reaper, Studio One and Tracktion, which all have very flexible routing options.
Although the rack is easy and straightforward to use (drag and drop and you’re set), it lacks some quality of life. Soundtoys’ interfaces aren’t exactly small, I’d say they’re sufficient for a single window, but when you stack 3 or more it gets inevitably messy and some vertical scrolling is mandatory. I’d say that a simple function to minimize the device, collapsing the interface to a narrow strip, would be enough to have a better grip on all the modules. In this day and age it’s getting more common to have different size options, scalable interfaces are getting more common, so maybe that can be also be considered for a future update. In very broad and vague terms I have a hunch (and no more than a hunch) that the Effect Rack is kind of incomplete and a work in progress right now. Soundtoys will hopefully add more to it in the next years, but as it currently stands it’s without any doubts a very useful sound effects tool and a creativity-enabler of the best order and it’s irresistible to play with. After all, it’s Soundtoys and its lengthy set of awesome plugins and there’s something very cool about lining up EchoBoy and Devil Loc Deluxe (and more!) under the same interface, there’s kind of a magic here that’s hard to find in the plugin land.
One last thing: it’s important to note that the little plugs for Devil Loc, Microshift, PrimalTap and Radiator are not available in the rack and we have to use their full-blown versions (as it was already mentioned, Little Alterboy is not available on the rack). I honestly think the little guys should be on the rack as they do serve certain roles very well - I can even imagine them lined-up side by side...they would fit very well given their small vertical size. Maybe this is another thing for Soundtoys to consider further down the road as they develop the rack.
Performance and support
Despite the aforementioned retro-compatibility issues and a handful of small bugs that are kind of inevitable on a big release such as this, Soundtoys’ plugins have always been pretty good in terms of performance. Maybe V5 is a bit better in terms of cpu load - although there is no way to have both versions running together I get the feeling that it’s at least as solid as it was on V4 and before. Stability is very good, no crash-inducing highlights and overall pleasing performance. It’s also important to say that the Soundtoys guys are very committed to delivering all the necessary updates and have been in constant contact with the Gearslutz community addressing all the issues.
Published by ZMcNee on 28th January 2012
SoundToys Native Effect Bundle
As a mix engineer, I’ve spent increasingly more and more time in front of my home rig in the last couple years and less time in front of big mixing consoles in studios stocked with outboard gear.
Because of this, it’s essential that the tools I’ve grown accustomed to in the racks of my favorite studios be available to me in software form to use on my mix projects. Enter: SoundToys’ Native Effects Bundle. For the past several years, SoundToys has been at the forefront of the revolution to accurately replicate many of the most recognized hardware FX units for use in the box.
TECH SPECS: The Native Effects bundle by SoundToys is a Native-only plug-in package for use on Mac and PC and retails for $495. It comes with installers for VST, AU, RTAS, and AudioSuite and is compatible with Pro Tools LE 7, 8 & 9, M-Powered, Digital Performer, Logic Pro, Cubase, Nuendo, Sonar and Live.
The bundle includes 8 plug-ins: EchoBoy, FilterFreak, PhaseMistress, Tremolator, Speed, Crystallizer, and the all new PanMan and Decapitator. All of these plug-ins work in the formats listed above except Speed which functions like many other pitch and manipulation as a non-real time AudioSuite- and Logic Pro Time Machine-compatible plug-in.
WHAT IT DOES: At the heart of the Native Effects Bundle are the six most popular and widely used plug-ins in the SoundToys family — EchoBoy, FilterFreak, PhaseMistress, Tremolator, Speed and Crystallizer. These plug-ins have become a gold standard in effects and manipulation tools for many mixing and audio engineers over the last six years. The two new additions to the bundle are the Decapitator, an analog saturation modeler, and the PanMan, a rhythmic auto-panner.
SoundToys plug-ins are deep with complex functionality and intricate features that will keep the pros busy for hours. For those who may not be as technically inclined or experienced as mixers, not to worry — SoundToys plug-ins feature a huge array of presets that will allow even first time users to find the sound they’re looking for quickly and easily.
A great example of this is the ability to sync time-based FX to the MIDI tempo of your session and adjust the timing properties of the effect musically such as ¼ note and 1/8th note. Hugely helpful to those who are more musically than technically inclined.
THE INTERFACE: All of the SoundToys plug-ins except Speed have a very simple white on black design with clearly labeled controls and switches. While all of the plug-ins in the bundle are packed with features, none of the individual units feel overly crowded or difficult to process visually which is refreshing.
IN USE: One of the great things about SoundToys plug-ins is their ability to accurately emulate some of the things we love about our analog gear. A simple example of this would be the input and output control sections, which — just like their hardware counterparts — allow for easy gain staging and gentle overall adjustments to your effects. This is particularly useful when you want to gently overdrive a particular effect or conversely to back off a bit.
ECHOBOY is the flagship processor in the SoundToys family and doesn’t disappoint in its wide array of uses. This plug-in alone boasts over 30 different built-in echo styles with instant access to a wide variety of classic delay and echo boxes including EchoPlex, Space Echo, Memory Man, DM-2, and the TelRay oilcan delay.
Along with standard echo functions like Time, Feedback and Low/High Cut, EchoBoy boasts Tap Tempo, MIDI Sync, knob adjustments for groove and feel, and an adjustable saturation knob in the input section to give your echo effect an extra boost. The most remarkable thing about EchoBoy is simply how unique each of their delay styles sound and how strikingly similar they are to the hardware that they are meant to emulate.
Excellent examples of this are the rolled-off and warm Echoplex, creamy-smooth Space Echo and Tel Ray and the hi-fi sound of studio tape. For the technically inclined, Echoboy — along with a number of other plug-ins in this bundle — includes a few extras: i.e. a switch called Prime Numbers on the EchoBoy keeps the repeating echoes from building up resonance that often occurs when every repeat is at exactly the same time interval. This is a big help for engineers who’ve found themselves reaching for a post-FX EQ to alleviate some of the frequency build up from vocal or guitar echoes that resonate within the key of the song.
CRYSTALLIZER is a wild FX unit inspired by the Crystal Echoes presets in the Eventide H3000. Crystallizer does everything from off-the-wall harmonizing and octave treatment to backwards FX as well as more traditional chorus and reverb.
The main controls on the front face of Crystallizer include Input and Output, Dry/Wet Mix, Pitch, Splice, Delay, and Recycle. Pitch allows you to drastically raise and lower the pitch of the effected signal. The Splice control determines the length of the section of audio being sent to the unit that is captured and played back and at what speed it’s played back.
For example, according to the Crystallizer manual, if you set the Splice control to 1000ms it will be looking to grab a slice of audio every 1000ms and there will be approximately a 1000ms (1 second) delay before the effect sound is played back. Delay adjusts the amount of delay time added to the signal. Recycle is a kind of feedback control and allows you to send the output of the effect signal back into the input at varying amounts.
As with most of the SoundToys plug-ins, Crystallizer is much more easily digested with your ears than your eyes. More than anything else, you will need ample time to experiment when using Crystallizer to find the settings that work best for the given application. Settings for Drums, Echo (pitch and reverse), Guitar and Keys, Harmonizes, Melodic, and Spaced Out will help guide you quickly in a general direction.
FILTERFREAK is a resonant analog filter. Familiar controls for Mix, Frequency, and Resonance are joined by “Mod,” a control used to adjust the overall depth or amount of modulation applied to the filter’s frequency. Some of the excellent presets in FilterFreak include: Basic Filters and Modulation, Bass, Drum Destruction and Mangling, Envelope Filters, FX, Guitar, and Sweeps.
I tried FilterFreak as a wah-type sound on electric guitars. The results are as close as I’ve been able to come to an actual wah pedal in a plug-in and it has proven its worth a number of times on electric guitars and keys. In fact, I’ve gotten in the habit of recording these types of tracks in the studio dry knowing that I have the option of adding wah with FilterFreak later in mixing.
FilterFreak is not a subtle plug-in, but one that can be used across a wide variety of instruments to create a new sonic landscape that what was perhaps originally intended. FilterFreak tends to find its way into my mix sessions most often with artists that are looking for the mix engineer to add another level of creativity to the project musically as well as provide a sound mix.
PHASEMISTRESS is the mother of all analog phasers. Nearly every classic phaser imaginable was tested exhaustively in the design of the PhaseMistress and it shows. Controls for Mix, Frequency, Resonance, Mod and Rate are standard across the front along with input and output controls.
Like its counterparts in the Native Bundle, PhaseMistress boast a uniquely impressive sound and can be tweaked extensively to dial very specific settings. When I was messing with it, I managed to dial in the perfect Smashing Pumpkins-style phaser sound for an electric guitar. PhaseMistress is by far my favorite go to plug-in for all phaser needs be it guitars, keys, subtle or not so subtle drum FX and much more.
TREMOLATOR seems to me to be by far the best and most extensive Tremolo plug-in available. Controls for Depth, Groove, Accent and Rate provide all the necessary tools of the Tremolo sound. A wealth of excellent presets to choose from including emulations of the classics like Dan Electro, Demeter, Fender, Premier, SilverTone and Wurlitzer are also available to point you in a familiar direction.
Tremolator also morphs into a very cool auto-gate when the shape pulldown is switched to square wave. Engage the MIDI switch and you have an instant time-locked auto gate that can prove to be very handy on guitars, keys and other instruments. For guitars that need a little soul and keys that were cut totally dry, Tremolator is a life-saver and has become my go to plug-in for adding that little extra depth to my rhythm tracks.
SPEED is the AudioSuite- and Logic Pro Time Machine-compatible pitch and tempo modulation plug-in from SoundToys. You have the option of Simple, Graphical and Calculator modes to help you either stretch your audio or alter its pitch.
When I used Speed on delicate vocal and bass guitar tracks, it performed better than expected with very little destructive artifacting to the original signal even when the tempo or pitch were pulled down significantly. Like other SoundToys plug-ins, Speed is straightforward, but produces results you’d expect out of a more complex chain.
Last but certainly not least are the new additions to the SoundToys Native Effects bundle. The Decapitator and PanMan are welcome additions to an already impressive lineup of staple Pro Tools plug-ins for many engineers.
PANMAN is a rhythmic auto panner that bears more than a striking resemblance to the classic old PanScan found in the big classic recording studios. SoundToys jokes that PanMan serves all your panning needs that you didn’t know you had and they’re right. While an auto panner might not be first on anyone’s list of day-to-day plug-in necessities, the PanMan has some very handy features and functionality for which I found a number of uses. Keys, guitars and vocals, for example, can all benefit from the subtle tremolo-like effects of this ”set it and forget it”- style auto panning tool.
PanMan’s basic controls are: Offset, which allows you to focus the panning field to one side or the other in the stereo spectrum; Width, which adjusts the overall panning width; and Smoothing, which adjusts the edginess of the panning effect. One of the coolest forgotten features of the Panscan brought back to life in the PanMan is the trigger divider. This feature allows you to set the number of triggers it takes to move to the next pan position.
Of course the PanMan can be synced to MIDI and set very quickly to be precisely locked in with your session thus alleviating the need for tedious and time consuming Pro Tools pan automation. PanMan proved its worth on Rhodes and Wurly tracks in my album mix for Richard Jay and Jen Hallam’s children’s album series, People Rock!, as well as on some more driving synths for a soundtrack-type mix I recently finished for an artist called Robotmonkeyarm. I was able to very quickly dial in precise auto panning synced to the tempos of the tune.
The last and most interesting new addition to the Native Effects bundle is the DECAPITATOR. The Decapitator joins an elite group of successful analog saturation plug-ins such as the Mellowmuse SATV, Massey Tape Head and the URS Saturation that are helping prove that there is a real market for software that helps take the edge off of sterile digital recordings and brings back the warmth we all miss from our analog gear.
The guts of the Decapitator are 5 different hardware emulations highlighted by 5 buttons at the bottom of the plug-in labeled “A, E, N, T, P.” These buttons represent their models of: (A) Ampex’s 350 Tape Drive Pre Amp, (E) Chandler/EMI’s TG Channel, (N) Neve’s 1057 input channel, (T) Thermionic Culture’s Culture Vulture in Triode Setting and finally (P) The same Culture Vulture in Pentode setting.
The other main settings on the face are Drive, which is the overall saturation and drive setting, Output, Mix, controls for Low Cut, Overall Tone and High Cut, and a Punish button which engages an additional 20dB of gain for maximum pain. Two additional switches located on either side of the tone section are Thump and Steep. The user manual says that the Thump switch will add a few dB of low frequency boost right at the Low Cut frequency. This is similar to the ‘head bump’ of analog tape recorders, and is one of the reasons that recording to analog tape can sound so fat. Steep is a 30dB high cut filter that increases the amount of high cut based on the knob setting.
One of the best and most unique features of Decapitator is the auto output switch which smartly pairs the Drive and Output knobs so that if you increase the drive, the output knob will correspondingly decrease giving you a generally constant output volume regardless of how much drive you engage. Huge bonus points to SoundToys for coming up with this idea as it is generally very helpful and as of this writing I haven’t found a good reason to ever have it switched off.
In use on a mix for an artist named Jamie Lynn Hart, I found the rock vocal presets provided a generous amount of harmonic distortion and an overall bite to these female vocals that were originally tracked very clean and in desperate need of some edge sonically. Depending on the sound and instrument you are Decapitating, switching between each of the 5 main algorithms may or may not seem to change the sound a great deal. There are definite subtle differences between each of the hardware emulations, but in many cases it seems to take a lot of intense critical listening to distinguish between them.
In my tests on male background vocals singing simple “aahs,” these algorithims were much more distinguishable than on complex female vocals. The Neve emulation provided the most obvious difference between the 5 with more brightness and obvious distortion than the rest.
The tone shaping section of Decapitator helped me to add brightness to dull guitars and make overly bright vocals a little darker. Although this is not a feature I would expect from a saturation plug-in, I found myself reaching for the tone shaping section almost every time to see if making my vocals and guitars a little darker or brighter would help and often times it did.
The Chandler/EMI and Neve emulations added noticeable warmth and character to electric guitars that had come to me sounding a bit on the flat side. As with every other saturation plug-in I’ve had a chance to use, the key for me is to find a comfortable amount of saturation with the drive knob and then use the mix knob to blend this sound in tastefully with the original. I wasn’t able to find a suitable use for the additional 20dB of gain added with the Punish button on the couple projects I’ve been working on recently, but I have absolutely no doubt that this will be a favorite feature of other users.
TO BE CRITICAL: In general, I have very few criticisms of the Native Effects Bundle overall. I would like to see EchoBoy default to the mix knob being in the Wet position as this is generally an effect that is fed from an aux send in my mixes. It would also be very helpful to have a pop up label to more clearly distinguish the 5 hardware algorithms on the Decapitator from the “A, E, N, T, P” that they are labeled as now though I’m sure I’ll get used to that as I use this plug-in more and more.
Averaging just over $60 per plug-in, the SoundToys Native Effects bundle is by far one of the best value plug-in bundles you will find on the market.
Users of all skill levels can easily and quickly achieve tremendous results comparable to any of the top of line outboard gear available on the market for a fraction of the price of just one unit. Most surprising and impressive about SoundToys products is how they inspire me to find ways to improve on my tracks that I hadn’t even considered until I began experimenting.
By rack gear on 29th January 2012
Game Changer - Best Plugin Suit I've Ever Used!
Soundtoys Native has been a complete game changer for me. Specifically ECHOBOY and CRYSTALIZER. These two alone are now on every mix and every project.
It's hard to write a brief review because the plugs are so deep. You can think of these as "module" within an H3000. The Soundtoys guys were the software designers for Eventide so you're getting the same building blocks that made those pieces of hardware classics.
You can add complexity by routing one effect into another in serial like Phase Mistress -> EchoBoy -> Cystalizer -> Filter Phreak-> ... etc.
This is really opens up creative opportunities that are more intuitive than tryinf to program a hardware H3000 for example.
Very deep, highly recommended. You could spend a week just processing Guitar, Drums and a Synth and not get bored working with just an 8 bar loop... it's that diverse.
By fragletrollet on 30th January 2012
All in all, a great FX-package that covers echo (and reverbs), tremolo, phasing, saturation, filtering panning etc. The plugins are quite deep, and sound great.
I dont think I could add much more than the original poster, other than the sad fact that I cant seem to be able to automate the parameters on Soundtoys plugins in FL Studio (X) without it crashing. This is a major PITA, as the plugins really come alive when modulated/automated!
I have tried to speak with Soundtoys customer care, but havent gotten any response after several emails. Dont know if this is a problem in other DAWs.
Still use them in every session
By Branmong on 31st January 2012
This is a superb collection of plugins. It has to be said that apart from a good verb, these are truly the only effects plugins that one would ever need. After owning them for two years I'm still only touching the surface of how powerful they can be, especially when you consider how they can be used together in combination.
One of the really nice things about soundtoys software is how good the presets are - they're grouped according to instrument, which is really useful, and provide an excellent starting point for deciding how these plugins should best be used.
Echoboy: the best delay plugin I've very used. Its models the characteristics of several famous delay units - e.g. the Echoplex - and has a lovely warm sound. I use this on every song I produce.
Decapitator: My favourite distortion plugin. Models 5 different preamps and is great for either adding subtle warmth / depth to a sound on low settings, or beautiful searing distortion. Does use a fair amount of CPU, but worth it....
Panman: Don't use this alot but its an extremely flexible plugin for panning.
Speed: useful for tempo / pitch changes.
Phasemistress: Probably the best software phaser available, apart from maybe the one in U-He Uhbik
Tremolator: This is such a lovely, versatile effect, and is really nice when used in moderation on a sound to add subtle movement. The presets in this are great for guitar / rhodes.
crystallizer: I don't use this plugin for the standard granular wall of sound effect, but rather for its pitch-shifting capabilities, which are excellent. Quite a complex plugin and capable of some truly crazy sounds.
Overall: a truly excellent collection of plugins from which I get constant inspiration.
By homesweethome on 2nd February 2012
I couldn't live without...
...SoundToys! And that was the main reason I bought an iLok. After checking out the demo for a month or so, I knew I couldn't get similar results with other plugins. So I bought it
After a few years using them, Echoboy is my go-to delay effect. Sometimes I don't even need to use reverb, Echoboy does its duties.
Many modes to choose from, near-perfect emulations of classic gear and a plethora of presets for those that are too lazy to dig deeper.
And that's not all. Crystallizer is an amazing crystallizing effect, it creates loads and loads of delays, but pitching them up or down, in a very clever and clean way, it sounds awesome on pads, guitars and effects. I even tried it on vocals and drums with success.
Other plugins in the pack include Phase Mistress, a really useful phasing effect, that I don't use a lot, simply because Phasing is not an effect I look out for in a regular basis.
Tremolator is really cool if you look for a tremolo effect and even does trance-gating well, in case you need this kind of effect.
Panman proved to be useful in some cases too, even a very subtle use of the effect make static drones and pads come alive. With clever automation, it never gets boring!!
Filterfreak is included for many many reasons, it even replaces a seimple eq sometimes, with its hp and lp filters. But it doesn't stop there. the modulation control is amazing for making sounds that you think it's Stardust or Daft Punk those who are the producers.
And Decapitator, the beast!! Just a couple of dbs on the Gain knob and the boring 'digital' sound becomes alive!! :o
Probably the best Saturation plugin at the moment. With many modes to choose from, emulations from Neve, EMI, Thermionic CV & Ampex.
If there was one plugin bundle that a producer should own, it is this one. It's that good!!!