In 1971, a small New York — based company called Eventide Clockworks designed and sold hardware phasers and compressors to the biggest rock groups and studios of the day. Flangers and Harmonizer-brand effects processors were soon to follow. More than 30 years later, that company, now called simply Eventide, has re-created its original groundbreaking processors in plug-in form. The Clockworks Legacy Bundle for Mac-based Pro Tools TDM systems brings a 1970s vibe to a desktop near you.
Each of the five plug-ins — Instant Flanger, Instant Phaser, H910, H949, and Omnipressor — has a smart graphical look and feel that is virtually identical to that of its hardware counterpart. The plug-ins are uniformly straightforward and easy to use. You can be on your feet quickly without reading the documentation, although the enclosed PDF manual is well written and helps clarify several details. Eventide also includes scans of the original hardware manuals.
Each plug-in comes with a collection of factory presets that make good starting points for experimentation. The programs are complete and bug-free — I didn't suffer a single crash or hang-up during my tests. All of the plug-in parameters can be automated, and they all feel fluid, particularly with a MIDI or Ethernet-based control surface. In fact, all of the plug-ins except Omnipressor have at least one parameter that responds to MIDI messages.
The Instant Flanger plug-in (see Fig. 1) has a liquid, wobbly character that I haven't heard in other digital flangers. It imparts a distinctive sonic character reminiscent of '70s-style David Bowie and Genesis. This is not your typical “jet whoosh” type of flanger. Used sparingly, it could work well for vocal doubling. I liked it on acoustic guitar and sax, and it could also be a good choice for adding motion and vibrato to sounds that have fairly static pitches.
For modifying effects, Instant Flanger has Feedback, Bounce, and Depth knobs. Feedback mixes a portion of the output back into the input. Bounce simulates the effect of a tape motor changing speed. Depth adjusts the wet/dry mix. There are also four input controls: Oscillator Rate, Manual (for adjusting delay times), Remote Control (for accepting MIDI continuous-controller data), and Envelope Follower. The Envelope Follower has Threshold and Release knobs, letting you trigger flanging for loud passages while keeping quieter sounds unaffected. By simultaneously selecting multiple input controls, you can create complex, unexpected effects.
Instant Phaser's layout and rubbery, organic quality resemble Instant Flanger's. It's capable of extreme effects, but I preferred to use it sparingly, because overdoing it made instruments sound out of tune. I particularly liked using it to synthesize a stereo image from a mono source. The stereo image expanded and contracted in interesting ways with small adjustments of the settings.
Instant Phaser's controls are a subset of the controls on Instant Flanger. On the front panel are a Depth knob and Remote, Oscillator, Manual, and Envelope Follower input controls. Unlike Instant Flanger, however, Instant Phaser only lets you use a single input control at a time.
A bow to Eventide's first Harmonizer effects processor, the delay-based H910 plug-in (see Fig. 2) is grungy and perfect for turning nice, mannered sounds ugly and strange. It would serve well for techno and industrial styles of music or for creating sound effects with a distinct '70s character.
The H910's controls are few and easy to use, allowing anyone to master this plug-in quickly. The knobs control input level, feedback level, manual pitch-shift amount (as much as one octave up or down), and antifeedback level. This last knob adds a small amount of changing frequency shift to the output signal; it was originally designed to decrease the effect of room resonances in a live setting. Selection buttons along the bottom specify how the pitch shift is controlled: manually, with the antifeedback setting, or using MIDI. Harmonizer H910 can also serve as a digital delay, allowing slapback echoes as long as 112 ms to be added to a signal.
This plug-in was not my favorite of the bunch, but I can see it being useful for creating specific strange pitch-based effects. For example, I like to crank up the feedback in tandem with downward pitch-shifting to create instant Battlestar Galactica laser-beam sound effects.
H949 is a much improved version of the H910 Harmonizer effects processor. It includes many more controls and thus offers a wider range of sonic possibilities. Additional features include separate feedback levels for main and delayed signals, low- and high-shelving EQs, and a Repeat mode that freezes and recirculates the incoming audio at the time the button is pressed. Delay times can be a whopping 400 ms, and the pitch-shift range is three octaves (up one or down two).
In addition to standard pitch shifting, H949 has micropitch shift (for subtle doubling effects), standard delay, random delay, flanging, and reverse delay. Each of these quite distinct functions can be used to create a wide variety of interesting effects. H949 sounds better and offers far more control than H910, though H910's approachable simplicity does have a certain charm.
H949 is certainly not as clean or as convincing as modern pitch shifters like those in Eventide's current hardware line. But that's not its purpose. Like the rest of these plug-ins, H949 is meant to create a certain old-school vibe, and it does that well.
Unfortunately, that vibe comes at some cost. Both Harmonizer pitch shifters consume a lot of DSP power, and they're limited to a 96 kHz sampling rate. The rest of the plug-ins can work at sampling rates up to 192 kHz.
The crowning achievement of the Clockworks Bundle is the Omnipressor dynamics processor (see Fig. 3). This plug-in includes all the standard features of any compressor-limiter-expander-gate combo.
But what sets Omnipressor apart from the crowd is its compression-ratio Function knob. Turning this knob counterclockwise adjusts the ratio from 1:1 to 1:10, allowing the unit to function as an expander or gate. Turning the knob clockwise adjusts the ratio from 1:1 to •:1, causing it to function as a compressor or limiter. Pushing the knob past infinity (Can you do that? Where's Carl Sagan when you need him?) takes you into negative compression, where quiet sounds become loud and loud sounds become quiet. That can lead to all sorts of interesting sonic explorations. On a drum kit, for example, this setting creates a fabulous backward sucking cymbal effect — right in the psychedelic pocket.
Omnipressor sounds great with more pedestrian settings, too. It has an aggressive character perfect for rock 'n' roll or any recording that wants a bit of attitude. You have to watch your levels carefully, though. Omnipressor can easily add 30 dB of gain to a signal before you realize it. That can create some ferocious digital overs. You therefore must be mindful of your monitor settings, especially when switching factory presets.
Omnipressor handles input and output gain using a series of 10 dB calibration buttons. Various combinations let you lower your input level by 10, 20, or 30 dB, and to raise your output level by the same amount. While this system is true to the original, it's one case where I would have preferred form to follow function: input and output level knobs would offer a greater degree of control.
On the left side of the front panel are the standard Threshold, Attack, and Release knobs. A Bass Cut button is included along with meter-switching buttons that let you monitor the input, output, or gain reduction. The virtual meter's ballistics are animated realistically and look appropriately vintage. Because of Omnipressor's wide dynamic range and multipurpose operation, the default needle position is in the center, with a maximum throw of -30 dB to the left and +30 dB to the right. There are attenuation and gain-limiting knobs with accompanying LEDs; these two controls work with the Function knob to further restrict or enhance the amount of compression or expansion. Omnipressor also includes a sidechain input.
I can't praise this plug-in enough. It sounds unlike anything else I've heard, has loads of character, and can dramatically change the sound of an individual instrument or a full mix. If Eventide still made the hardware version, I'd buy two. As it stands, I'm satisfied with the plug-in.
In a market glutted with digital simulations of vintage instruments and processors, Eventide has done an outstanding job of creating something, well, “original.” The Clockworks Legacy Bundle imparts an instantly recognizable '70s character that I haven't heard in any other plug-in, and these effects sound musical and interesting, allowing you to process sounds in unexpected ways.
There are a few drawbacks to the Legacy Bundle. I wasn't wild about the sound of the H910, especially considering that the H949 is included in the set. The $795 price tag is also a bit steep, although you do get five plug-ins for that price. However, the bundle's biggest limitation is its lack of compatibility with any system other than Mac-based Pro Tools TDM rigs. Having said that, if you own such a system, and you're involved in rock, techno, industrial, or any other effects-heavy production, Eventide's Clockworks Legacy Bundle offers lots of new old sounds that are worth a serious listen.
Minimum System Requirements
Clockworks Legacy Bundle 1.12
Pro Tools TDM for Macintosh, version 5.1 or higher (Mac OS 9) or 6.1 or higher (Mac OS X)
Clockworks Legacy Bundle 1.12 (TDM)
vintage effects plug-ins
FEATURES3.0EASE OF USE4.5QUALITY OF SOUNDS4.5VALUE3.5RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Terrific sound quality. Easy and fun to use. Authentic vintage vibe.
CONS: Available for Mac TDM systems only. Effects in H949 and H910 are DSP-intensive and limited to a 96 kHz sampling rate.