Review: Softube Transient Shaper

Two-band plug-in for sculpting attack and sustain
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Transient Shaper (VST, VST3, AU, AAX) is a dynamics processor that lets you increase or decrease the attack and sustain envelopes of a signal. But unlike a compressor or expander, Transient Shaper has no threshold control; it processes signals to the same degree regardless of their amplitudes. That allows you to, for example, put an equally sharp point on both loud and quiet snare hits or increase the sustain of all notes in a guitar solo that goes from a whisper to a roar.

Transient Shaper provides an adjustable crossover-frequency control that splits the signal into two bands before further processing shapes its attack and sustain. Clockwise rotation of the Sustain and Punch controls past their noon positions, respectively, boosts the input signal’s sustain and attack, while rotation counterclockwise from noon attenuates the same. Switches for Sustain and Punch select which of the two bands each will process and alternatively provide for executing wideband (full-bandwidth) processing. Split-band operation lets you, for instance add sustain to only the bass frequencies on a floor-tom track while increasing the attack of the stick strikes’ high frequencies.

Fast and Slow switch settings affect how Punch processing sounds. The Fast setting is best at detecting sharp transients and also processes a shorter portion of each transient; that makes the Fast setting produce a more pointy sound than the Slow setting when boosting transients. A Clip function causes the output signal to softly clip when its level reaches or exceeds 0 dB, adding subtle distortion and reining in levels; an associated clip indicator lights when clipping is occurring.

When you hover your mouse over a control, a readout in the GUI’s bottom strip displays its current parameter value. Two Gain Change meters show boosts and reductions in level in respective high- and low-frequency bands as a result of the plug-in’s processing. Two peak meters show respective left- and right-channel output levels.

Adding wideband punch and low-frequency sustain to kick and snare tracks enhanced their attack and made them sound beefier. Cranking Transient Shaper’s output-level control and activating the Clip function increased the drums’ average levels, giving them more oomph.

Transient Shaper also sounded great on stereo room mics for drums. I set the crossover to around 400 Hz and switched the Sustain and Punch controls to process only the low band. With this setup, I could crank both controls to explode the room without the cymbals’ high frequencies making my ears bleed.

Reducing wideband sustain and goosing high-frequency punch above 1,350 Hz enhanced the staccato effect of a palm-muted electric guitar vamp, solidifying its groove. The Slow punch setting prevented the accentuated pick strikes from sounding glassy, and the Clip function helped sit the track in the mix by giving it a consistent level.

Cutting the low band’s sustain and boosting punch above 4 kHz—using the Fast setting—attenuated an arpeggiated acoustic guitar track’s boomy upper-bass frequencies and added pleasing high-frequency sparkle and detail.

I wish Transient Shaper included A and B workspaces (for comparing different control setups). That aside, Transient Shaper is simple to use and a great-sounding plug-in. And the price is right!

Sounds great. Clip and Fast/Slow functions expand sonic possibilities. Easy to use. Inexpensive.

No A and B workspaces.

$99, $89 street

Michael Cooper is a recording, mix, mastering and post-production engineer and a contributing editor for Mix magazine. You can reach Michael at and hear some of his mixes at