SoundToys has introduced PhaseMistress ($249), an analog-style phase shifter plug-in for Mac-based Pro Tools systems. Phase Mistress includes RTAS, AudioSuite, and HTDM versions of the plug-in and is compatible with Mac OS 9 and OS X. An iLok hardware key is required for copy protection.
PhaseMistress provides extensive control of phase parameters and modulation sources, allowing for a wide variety of effects. The front panel has controls for wet/dry mix, center frequency, resonance amount, and modulation amount. The center frequency range is from 5 Hz to 20 kHz. A handy modulation meter shows the amount of modulation currently being applied to the signal.
A Style pop-up control selects the phaseshift algorithm. The styles range from emulations of vintage phasers (MXR Phase 90, DOD 201, Mu-tron Bi-Phase) to unique algorithms (WishWash, Scoopy, Primes). The factory patches are plentiful, well organized, and serve as useful starting points for dialing in a sound.
Use the Tweak button to open the Tweak window and create new styles. You can select the number of phase stages, notch and resonance phase direction, and intensity. The Modulation Tweak pane goes further, allowing you to adjust frequency modulation, resonance modulation, resonance offset modulation, and left/right offset.
Shape of Things to Come
The modulation section, which is comprehensive and well designed, offers six modulation types: LFO, envelope trigger, sample and hold, random steps, tempo-based, and an ADSR envelope. Only one modulation type may be used at a time, and each has a variety of specific parameters. For example, the LFO offers six standard waveshapes, as well as a shape editor for drawing your own. The Rhythm Modulation mode features tap tempo, selectable note values, a rhythm shape editor similar to the LFO waveshape editor, and a swing/shuffle groove control. According to SoundToys, the Rhythm Modulation, Sample and Hold, and simple LFO modes can all be synched to MIDI Clock.
Another nice feature of PhaseMistress is Analog mode, which models a tube amplifier by applying amplitude-dependent distortion and compression to the source, much as a tube circuit would. PhaseMistress's Analog mode is one of the best analog-distortion simulations I have heard in the digital domain. Although it's CPU-intensive, the improvement to the sound is worth the processing cycles. Analog mode offers seven flavors of tube modeling: Clean, Fat, Squash, Dirt, Crunch, Shred, and Pump.
I used PhaseMistress on a mono acoustic guitar track to create a wide, shimmery sound, with almost imperceptible animation. Using the envelope follower in conjunction with a heavy distortion setting gave a clean electric bass track a contemporary indie rock feel.
PhaseMistress can change drums radically, from adding a bit of whooshiness in the cymbals to transforming the kit into a techno gamelan. PhaseMistress also offers possibilities for lead-vocal processing, providing an alternative to the overly compressed, overly distorted, or telephone-filtered effects heard so frequently today.
Set to Stun
Within the realm of phase shifting, PhaseMistress covers a lot of ground. It's easy to use and loaded with features, but most importantly, it sounds musical in a wide variety of contexts. If you're looking to add some swirl to your sound, PhaseMistress delivers the goods.