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Review: Soundtoys 5 Effects Bundle - EMusician

Review: Soundtoys 5 Effects Bundle

The whole lineup of creative processors
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Soundtoys has a well-deserved reputation for developing effects plug-ins that are anything but cookie-cutter. Remarkably, the Soundtoys 5 collection assembles the complete lineup into one bundle—18 plug-ins in all.

The full list includes three new plug-ins, Effect Rack, Little AlterBoy (vocal pitch shifting and manipulation), and PrimalTap (delay), as well as Crystallizer (granular effects and reverse delays), Decapitator (analog-modeled saturation), Devil-Loc Deluxe (a modeled auto-leveler that produces lots of distortion), Devil-Loc, EchoBoy, Filter-Freak 1 and 2, MicroShift (pitch-shifting), Little MicroShift, PanMan (autopanning), PhaseMistress (phase shifting), Radiator (modeled channel strip), Little PrimalTap, Little Radiator, and Tremolator (tremolo effects). In fact, all of the plug-ins that were in Version 4 have returned in Soundtoys 5, with the exception of Speed.

There are 11 more plug-ins in Soundtoys 5 than in Soundtoys 4, some of which share a name but offer different functionality. For example, Little Radiator is based on the Altec 1566a mic preamp and has only one drive stage, whereas the Radiator is based on the 1567a and is a tube mixer with input and output drive stages modeled separately. And Little PrimalTap is a single stereo delay, while PrimalTap requires both delays to achieve stereo.

Soundtoys still supports the iLok dongle for authorization, but now you have the option to authorize up to two computers directly instead, by using the iLok license manager software. That is a welcome change for those of us who switch between desktop and laptop units and don’t want to have to move an iLok back and forth. While RTAS is no longer supported, AAX 32-bit native is available for Pro Tools 10 users.

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SELF CONTAINED

One of the new plug-ins in the bundle is called the Effect Rack, a container for hosting up to six Soundtoys effects in one instantiation. Use it to create complex effects combinations that can be saved and conveniently recalled. Effect Rack, however, doesn’t accept the lite versions (though Soundtoys says that this may change in future updates). But with the exception of Little AlterBoy, which doesn’t have a full version, this is not much of a limitation.

The Effect Rack has a column on the right called the Gear List, which shows all the eligible effects (see Figure 1). You add effects to the main area of the Rack by dragging and dropping them from the Gear List into an open spot. Once they are loaded, individual effects in the Rack can be moved around within the rack, or replaced by dragging another effect in on top of them. However, once the rack has a few effects in it, and there is only a little open space visible in the rack area, it is difficult to bring in and position a new effect from the Gear List without accidentally replacing one of the effects already there.

At the top of the rack is the Control Panel, a global control area where you can select the tempo mode (Tap, Free, or MIDI sync) as well as set Input and Output levels. The Recycle control sends a copy of the output signal back to the input and is useful for creating echoes and flanging effects, among other things.

The Control panel also offers three size options for the rack: Small, Full, and Auto. The first two give you small and larger-sized racks, whereas Auto automatically resizes the plug-in depending on how many effects you have loaded.

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Fig. 2. PrimalTap offers unique parameters for shaping your delay effects.GETTING ALL PRIMAL

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PrimalTap is a delay plug-in that’s modeled after the Lexicon Prime Time Model 93 Digital Delay Processor, which was on the market in the late 1970s (see Figure 2). It’s a stereo delay with A and B channels that can be linked or set to independent delay times (and levels) for creating stereo effects. In addition to standard Mix, Output, and Feedback controls, PrimalTap has some unique features that differentiate it from other delays (including EchoBoy). The Multiply knob emulates a feature on the original Model 93 that extended delay time by lowering the sampling rate. The result is an increasingly low-fi delay signal as you increase the delay time from 2X to 4X to 8X settings. In the 8X setting, the delayed signal sounds almost distorted. Consequently, the Multiply feature lets you significantly alter the character of the delay.

Fig. 3. Little AlterBoy is a simple but powerful vocal processor. The Freeze function is another cool feature that Soundtoys modeled on the Prime Time. Pressing and releasing the Freeze button while signal is passing through the plug-in loops a short portion of audio. When used in tandem with the Multiply knob, you can create some very unusual sound-design-like effects.

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Little AlterBoy is a powerful, monophonic vocal processor with simple controls (see Figure 3). It includes knobs for Pitch, Formant, Drive, and Mix. The Pitch shifting is in semitone increments (though smaller increments can be accessed via automation), and the quality is quite impressive. By default, the Pitch knob is linked to the Formant control, so that changes in Pitch also change the character of the shifted voice. However, you can unlink them and keep the Formant at one setting, which is better if you’re trying to create harmonies. By setting the Mix control less than 100 percent wet, you will hear both the original and pitch-shifted content. If you want the melody and harmony on separate tracks, put the plug-in on an Aux track with the Mix up to 100 percent wet. You can use your DAW’s Automation to change the pitch and create moving harmony parts.

The Drive control allows you to dial in saturation ranging from light to rather heavy. You can switch Little Alter Boy between three modes: Transpose, for standard pitch shifting and creating harmonies; Quantize for T-Pain effects; and Robot, which produces a static pitch controlled by the Pitch and Formant knobs. One cool way to use the latter mode is to lower the Mix control so you hear the original vocal melody against the drone created by Robot mode; you can get some cool harmony effects that way. Little Alter Boy can also produce doubles, detuning effects, and a lot more.

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CHANGE LOG

In addition to adding new effects, some of Soundtoys’ mainstay plug-ins have been beefed up in Version 5. Perhaps the most significant change is the addition of a Feel knob in Tremolator. The two extremes of the knob are called Rushin and Draggin. The former lets you push the tremolo forward in time so that it starts a tiny bit earlier in relation to the beat, while the latter setting starts the effect a bit later. It’s a subtle change but one that lets you adjust the groove of the effect.

EchoBoy has also been tweaked, with its total delay time upped to 15 seconds. Crystallizer’s delay time has been increased to 20 seconds.

TOYING WITH AUDIO

All told, Soundtoys 5 offers a large selection of exceptionally designed delay, modulation, and distortion effects that provide a ton of creative control. If you’ve never tried Soundtoys products before, you can get a 30-day demo of the entire bundle. Describing the effects doesn’t do them justice: You have to use them to really appreciate their sound quality, power, and potential.

If you’re already a Soundtoys user, your upgrade price for the Version 5 bundle can be as low as $50, depending on how many Soundtoys effects you currently own.

Considering the new Effect Rack and effects, and the additional plug-ins you get in the Soundtoys 5 bundle, it’s definitely worth the upgrade and highly recommended.

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STRENGTHS

All Soundtoys effects included. Little Alter Boy provides high-quality vocal pitch shifting and harmonies. New feel parameter in Tremolator. New copy protection system. More delay time added to EchoBoy and Crystallizer.

LIMITATIONS

Lite effects don’t add any functionality. Speed no longer available. RTAS no longer supported. Tricky to position effects in the rack once it has several loaded already.

$499
soundtoys.com

Mike Levine is an editor, writer, and multi-instrumentalist who lives in the New York area.