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THE SOUND GUY SFX Machine RT (MAC/WIN)

November 1, 2003
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SFX Machine RT ($150) carries on the tradition of Earl Vickers'sextremely versatile SFX Machine plug-in (formerly in Adobe Premiereformat). RT stands for real time, which is the big change in this newversion that now comes in VST (OS 8 and 9, OS X, Win) and Audio Units(OS X) plug-in formats. The upgrade was programmed jointly by Vickersand Destroy FX developer Marc Poirier, and it's solid as a rock. Someof the effects are a bit CPU hungry, but any modern G4 or Pentium IIImachine can easily handle them.

TheSFX Machine RT control panel has a browser for effects preets that isorganized into categories. A bank of sliders controls each preset'sparameter values. Descriptions of the sliders and the preset appear atthe bottom.

The one feature of the original SFX Machine that didn't make itthrough the upgrade is the effects editor, which let you build your owneffects. However, you can still design your own effects in the Premiereversion of the program (free with the RT version). There appears to besignificant demand for the editor, so it may be added to the RT versionin the future.

Preset Playground

SFX Machine RT comes with close to 300 effects in 21 categories.Because of the nature of the underlying engine, the effects emphasizedelay, filter, and modulation processes, but the variety coverseverything from utility effects, such as compression, EQ, and reverb,to off-the-wall effects with names like 16mmProjector and Boings. Itshould be emphasized that these are individual effects and not merelypresets of a multi-effects plug-in. Under the hood, SFX Machine is amodular effects-construction kit, and the included effects areindividually constructed from that kit. As mentioned earlier, you canbuild your own effects in the Premiere version of the program, and youcan also import new effects from the company's Web site.

electronic musician webclips additional contentEacheffect has up to six parameters (the number varies depending on theeffect) that are adjustable using onscreen sliders. The sliders can beassigned to MIDI controllers for remote control and automation. Theparameter ranges can also be adjusted; setting extreme ranges oftentransforms an effect into something completely different. For example,changing the maximum vibrato or tremolo rate from a few hertz to a fewthousand produces audio-rate FM- and AM-style effects. Because of thesmall number of controls and the uniform setup, using the effects isextremely easy: just select an effect and start moving the sliders.Labels for each slider and a brief description of the effect (at thebottom of the plug-in window) are all you really need, which is a goodthing because there is no manual to speak of.

SFX Machine RT includes a large number of effects that don't requireany audio input, but instead produce sound effects of their own.Examples include Chopper (helicopter), Water Drips, UFO Descending, andSurf Noise. Although you've heard most of these before, they make greatsource material for a second instance of the plug-in. For example, youcan spend hours (and I have) making all kinds of self-playing tunedpercussion instruments by passing Water Drips through various filter,tap-delay, and resonator effects in a second SFX Machine RT plug-in.The file EauNo.mp3 shows some of the results.

Flexible Effects

The broad assortment of effects programmed into SFX Machine RT makesit usable on any kind of audio material. Effects that emphasize delayand resonance can completely transform a percussion loop; for example,you can impose rhythm on pads and ambiences using gating, fragmenting,and multitap effects. Widely varying chorus, flange, and phase effectsproduce actions ranging from subtle to in-your-face. Reverbs range fromnatural-sounding to other-worldly; one of my favorites, Train Station,falls somewhere in between. In general, the sound quality is very good,although it won't likely replace your favorite dedicated reverb, EQ, orcompressor.

A large selection of motion effects — pitch shift, panning,vibrato, and tremolo — are also provided, with many incarnationsof each. In short, you can mangle any sound beyond recognition, createyour own sounds from scratch (using two SFX Machine RTs), and do a goodbit of classic sonic adjustment with this one plug-in. SFX Machine RTis one of those plug-ins that you will think you understand in minutesbut won't fully grasp for years. It's well worth downloading the demofrom The Sound Guy Web site, and at $150, it's a lot of plug for thebuck.


The Sound Guy, Inc.;
tel. (831) 425-0448
e-mail sfx@sfxmachine.com
Web www.sfxmachine.com

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