21 feature laden and analog rich plugins designed by the geniuses who have shaped the sound of modern music, could this be the ultimate effects package?
Soundtoys is a boutique software company that are designing some of the most exciting plugins on the market today. Founder and designer Ken Bogdanowicz worked on the original Eventide Harmonizers back in the mid 80’s—creating the tools that producers and engineers have used to create the sound of many music genres. Ken has taken an innovative and maverick approach to designing some very creative plugins for us lucky producers. Analyzing ‘gold standard’ units of classic pro-studio hardware, Soundtoys have been integrating the sonics and behaviour of these revered audio processors into their plugins with stunning results. This is a hybrid design of ‘analog’ meets ‘digital DAW precision' all wrapped up in an intuitive and user friendly interface.
Soundtoys 5 features all of Soundtoys plugins, covering a wide range of processor types. Let’s have a look at some of these beauties.
EchoBoy is an echo-delay plugin but soooo much more. This is my favourite plugin in the SoundToys range. For starters, classic echo-boxes including Echoplex, Space Echo, Memory Man, DM-2 and the TelRay oil can have been emulated and included. There is also the warm saturated ‘studio tape’ preset inspired by the Ampex ATR-102, half inch two track machine. You can really hear the different sonic signatures of these classic machines. In delay mode, you can have a mono, dual or ping-pong delay and rhythm echo. This is very handy as the original Space Echo couldn’t do a ping-pong delay. With the feedback, low cut and high cut filters controls, you can tailor the delay tails from a subtle echo to a crazy feedback dub effect. Timing is easy to dial in with buttons for time, note, dotted and triplet.
My producer friend told me a great tip, set the mix all the way to wet, turn feedback off and time to 0 and you can then use the different sonic models to change the flavour of your audio signal. For example, run a guitar through the ‘Studio Tape’ in this way and hey presto…we have a tape machine emulator!
With an emulation of CE-1 chorus, the rhythm echo feature and diffusion settings, this unit can also masquerade as a chorus, reverb, non-lin reverb and vibrato plugin.
As with all the plugins, the preset menus are a pleasure to use. One click on the browser brings up a box with usable presets grouped into useful categories—like Vocal, Drums, Reverbs & Sound Design. There are many more features, well worth exploring in the demo version. Little EchoBoy is a scaled down version—but still packing the features.
Little AlterBoy does exactly what is says, it can make you sound like an alter boy with it’s pitch and formant processing. Pitch audio live +/- 1 octave, change the formant to make gender-warping sounds. Lock a vocal to a single pitch in robot mode or send in a midi signal to play in your own melodies. With warm saturation drive and dry/wet mix control, this simple plugin can produce a range of inspiring effects.
The pitch-shifting, granular reverse echo of Crystallizer will transform your instruments into another dimension of sound. Based upon a famous algorithm from the legendary Eventide H3000, this effect has been used on countless records to transform simple chords into epic soundscapes. Turn minimal guitar lines into shimmering, symphonic textures. It takes some experimentation to understand how this will affect your audio, so well worth putting on a cuppa and having a play with the crystal echoes from this extraordinary plugin.
Dial in some warm, analog saturation with Decapitator to bring the sound of tubes, transistors and overdriven circuitry to your recordings. Beef it up, thin it out, add warmth and weight, add edge and over drive the top harmonic to pull an instrument up in the mix. This works great on live snares to fill out the low end punch. Drive hard, and mix in for pleasing results. With five different analog saturation models, tone shaping and wet/dry mix control, this is a ‘goto’ plugin.
FilterFreak recreates the sound of classic analog resonant filters for smooth, silky sweeps or dirty, resonant squelches. With a responsive envelope follower, a LFO section and rhythm & groove editors, this is one funky beast. From simple low pass filters for your big break or complicated sweeps to completely change the nature of your sound, this is a powerful tool for audio manipulation. FilterFreak 2 has 2 filters for more sonic mangling capabilities.
One of my personal favourites is MicroShift, a deceptively simple plug-in to widen your stereo image. This works great on backing vocals and creating lush guitars. Modelled on classic studio hardware, this is a very powerful ‘goto’ plug-in to bring interest to the mix. I love the ‘focus’ control which applies the effect above a certain frequency so you can leave your fundamentals clear and bring shimmer to the selected upper frequencies.
Sie-Q is SoundToys first EQ, modelled on the Siemans W295b. The sound is smooth with warm mids and a soft, saturated, high EQ sheen. SoundToys recommend using this with Decapitator for the perfect remedy to warm up digital sounds.
Get lo-fi with PrimalTap for studio delay with plenty of 80s character. A recreation of the ‘Prime Time Delay’, PrimalTap is a hybrid of digital and modelled analog with the classic SoundToys twist. You will have plenty of fun playing with the multiply switch which doubles the delay time and halves the sample rate for each turn. This was a hardware limitation of the original unit as memory was very expensive back then. The algorithm is very well designed as you can turn the multiply switch in real time to get crazy pitch jumps, all with silky results. The VCO is a lovely feature, modulating the delay time for shimmering or ring modulated echos. The factory patches rock and show the versatility of this unit. PrimalTap will give you lush U2 guitar delays, flange your track to hell and back, or make you sound like an angry darlek. Hit the ‘Tweak’ button for an extra slide out menu for in-depth editing and if you are feeling reckless, hit ‘Freeze’ to buffer your audio and send your production to an alien dimension!
With a name like Devil-Loc Delux, you can imagine that any audio going in, will definitely be destroyed by the time it gets out! ‘Crush’ adds some punchy compression reminiscent of old studio gear. ‘Crunch’ adds evil saturation and ‘Darkness’ eases off the high frequencies. The original ‘Shure Level-Loc’ from the 60s was a brick wall limiter known for its extreme compression and gritty character—becoming a secret weapon of engineers and producers. SoundToys build on this heritage, for example with the ‘Mix’ control, we can dial in the effect for some super, crunchy, parallel compression. Great for Phat drums and gritty vocals…ohhh yeah.
Radiator is a tube input channel and EQ based on the classic Altec 1567A mixer from the 60s. Drive that input ‘hardware-style’ for some sublime saturation and then mix it in for an edge on your tracks. This is a beauty of a tube EQ.
PhaseMistress - PanMan - Tremolator
With the sublime PhaseMistress, wonderful stereo manipulating PanMan and the rhythmic Tremolator, Soundtoys 5 is an interesting and cohesive package. Some of the plug-ins come in a scaled down version to save your precious computer processing headroom.
Little Plate Reverb
While not currently in the SoundToys 5 collection, they now have a super Little Plate reverb which shows that they are in full blown design and development with new plug-ins.
And finally, the centrepiece of SoundToys 5, the Effect Rack which turns this lovely plug-in collection into custom effects chains. With drag and drop functionality, the ability to have many instances of the plug-ins in one chain and master controls for tempo, input and output, this combines all of the powerful sonic processing from all plug-ins into one beast of a plug-in! Its very easy to use. The patches are well organised and labeled, and sound useful and fabulous. You can have hours playing around with the combined power of Soundtoys. Once you know what works, it’s easy to get that sound you need with a couple of clicks.
Here are some examples of the Sound Toys effects. You can either jump straight to the effect you want to hear or listen to how the effects can be layered to create some truly out there audio.
0.0 - Vocal Straight
0.11 - Echo Boy ping pong 1/8
0.22 - Echo Boy Space Echo Dub Delay high feedback
0.34 - Echo Boy CE-1 Chorus
0.35 - Little Alter boy pitch moving between +12 and -12
0.57 - Crystallizer Accordian Crystals
1.08 - Decapitator
1.20 - Filter Freak1 FM Sweep
1.31 - Microshift
1.42 - Primal Tap ‘Good For Freezing’
1.54 - Devil-Loc deluxe
2.05 - Phase Mistress
2.17 - Little Plate Reverb
Do I really Need This?
Soundtoys are all about bringing that authentic, analog studio sound to your productions. The market is full of excellent plugin emulations doing exactly this. Where Soundtoys sets itself apart is how these emulation models are used in an innovative and creative way. The plugins are very versatile as they can simply emulate famous hardware or they can create new effects and textures, the like of which we have never heard before. Soundtoys are developing many new ‘signature’ effects processes. As a complete effects package, there are tools that are lacking, for example a deesser, versatile compression, transient control and dedicated multi-type reverb. I’m sure that these are in production but SoundToys does not have everything you will need to fully manipulate your audio without using other plug-ins.…yet. What is does have however is a boutique series of highly original plugins that many producers are using as their ‘go-to’ effects, big thumbs-up from me.
Great classic studio emulations
Get authentic analog sounds
Fun to use
No De-esser or transient control… yet!
Soundtoys 5 plugin bundle sounds amazing, will inspire you and is fun to use. Emulating classic studio hardware, some of these plugins are classics themselves.
Universal Audio with their UAD-2 range claim to have the world’s most authentic analog emulations. The library features more than 90 plugins co-created with brands like Fairchild, Lexicon, Neve, SSL, Ampex, Fender, AMS and MOOG. Available individually or as a package for £3799.
IK Multimedia have a strong product with T-RackS 5. They have emulated famous studio hardware and infused it into many plugins within a comprehensive package for mix and master. 38 plugins for a superb value of 149euros
About Marc JB
With over 80 #1s across the US and UK, and a history of rocking dance floors across the globe, pioneer and taste-maker DJ Marc JB is one half of remixers/producers BIMBO JONES remixing artists including Lady Gaga, Rhianna, Pink, Ke$ha, Kylie, Kelis, The Killers, Tinchy Stryder, Katy Perry, Alexis Jordan and working with the likes of Sergio Mendes (co-producer on Latin Grammy winning and Grammy nominated album), Cyndi Lauper, Beverley Knight, Simon Bartholomew (Brand New Heavies), Omar, KC and Jocelyn Brown. He is head of AnR for Soul Delux records, a seasoned song writer, multi instrumentalist, jazz pianist and DJ having headlined at Glastonbury, spinning across the globe at clubs, festivals and exclusive celebrity parties. JB has been pioneering the FUTURE DISCO sound since '09.
You can also check Marc’s interview with James.