Transient shaper plug-in (also known as transient designers) are very useful dynamics processors that enable us to quickly focus the initial level of impact and sustain of sound. These are very popular plug-ins to reach for in a mix. They typically work wonders on percussive sounding tracks helping us to apply just the right amount of size and proportion.
In this article we explore a number of popular transient shaper plug-ins available today that you can try out in your next mix. We give you an idea of some general mix applications that suit transient shapers as well as describe a number of controls that you typically find in most plug-ins of this type.
What Is A Transient Shaper Plug-in?
Transient shapers generally have very easy to use controls loosely related to ADSR envelopes in synths. We use transient shapers to focus the onset of sound (the attack) and the presentation of the sustain of audio. Transient snap can be exaggerated to give a more immediate punch and impact to the sound of a track or backed off to soften, push back or even wash out the sound. The sustain aspect (being the decay sound after the transient) can be lessened to reduce boom or increased for extra intensity.
The effects of transient shapers lend themselves well to percussive tracks such as drums, though other instruments can also benefit from light touches of transient shaping such as acoustic guitars, vocals and percussion.
What Mix Applications Best Suit Transient Shaper Plug-ins?
Transient shapers are used to quickly manipulate and reshape the dynamic presentation of audio outside of what traditional dynamics processors, such as compressors, can achieve alone. Transient shapers can be used to:
Reduce excessive room ambience or boom from a track
Add impact, focus and aggression to weak sounding drum hits
Add a sense of clarity and definition to a track in a busy mix
Soften hard edged sounding transient material
Add length and sustain of sound
Typical Transient Shaper Controls
Most transient shaper plug-ins have limited control sets as the processing these style plug-ins provide is generally quite simple though there are a number of transient designers which boast extended controls which enable users to be able to really dig deep into transient shaping.
Below are brief descriptions of three controls you typically will find in transient shaper plug-ins:
Attack (also known as Punch) This is a transient designer’s main control. Use it to increase or decrease the level of the transients in your track. Enhance transients to give the impression of a performer playing harder, such as a drummer hitting a snare drum or soften the attack to give the impression of a performer playing more gently. Attack works best on tracks with fast sounding transients such as plucked instruments or drum hits.
Sustain (Also known as Decay): Decreasing the sustain in a track is an effective way of reducing bleed or even ringing in drum hits. Increasing the sustain can results in effects not too dissimilar to how dynamic expanders sound.
Output: If you have dialled in a fair amount of attack then you may need to reduce the output level to avoid digital clipping in the plug-in.
Extended Controls You Find In Complex Transient Shaper Plug-ins
Mix: Mix controls are great for backing off the overall effects of transient shaping by blending in some of the original unprocessed audio in with the effects of the plug-in, this is known as parallel processing.
Crossover: You will find crossover controls in multi-band style transient shapers such as Softube’s Transient Shaper.
Limit and/or Clip: Some transient shapers include built-in limiters or clippers to help you avoid clipping the plug-in’s output with extreme attack values.
Top Transient Shaper Plug-ins You Should Experience In Your Next Mix
Beatformer - Accusonus
Beatformer is an all-in-one beat processing tool by Accusonus which isn’t a transient shaper plug-in in the traditional sense as it features controls for basic low & high EQ and dynamics processing. The transient shaping capabilities are nestled under the hood by use of the punch control which pronounces or softens transients in the mids and highs of audio.
Watch our review of Beatformer to hear it in action of a drum mix.
Visit Accusonus for more information
Multi Transient - Audio Assault
Audio Assaults offering to the transient shaper plug-in world is Multi Transient, a multi-band transient designer with four bands ranging low, low mids, high mids and high each with independent mix blend controls. Its multi-band design will enable you to fine tune the perfect transient and sustain effects. Say you have a boomy kick drum that you want to sound tighter and more clicky. This is simple to dial in using Multi Transient. Lessen the sustain in the low mid range and increase the attack in the high mid band and you’re good to go. The crossovers are fixed and are as follows:
Bass channel crossover range: 22 Hz - 1 kHz.
Low mid channel crossover range: 1 kHz - 4 kHz.
High mid channel crossover range: 4 kHz - 22 kHz.
Visit Audio Assault for more information
Transgressor - Boz Digital Labs
Transgressor by Boz Digital Labs is unique as it provides two independent 3 band EQ modules, one for the attack, the other for the sustain. These enable you to shape the sound of the attack further in ways most traditional transient designer plug-ins can’t. Transgressor also gives you the ability to audition each of the attack and sustain components separately, which can help you to forensically listen to the values you are setting.
Watch our review of Transgressor to hear it in action.
Visit Boz Digital Labs for more information.
Physion - Eventide
Eventide's Physion plug-in (initially released under the name Fission) enables users to split audio into transient and tonal parts for independent processing. Physion makes it incredibly easy for users to add effects such as reverb to let's say just the transient of a snare track while also adding dynamic processing to the tonal sustain element of the snare. The split signals can then be mixed/blended back together to produce some very unique results. Think of Physion as a transient designer powered multi-effects unit.
Watch: Review of Physion
Visit Eventide for more information.
Punctuate - Eventide And Newfangled Audio
Newfangled Audio describe Punctuate as a transient emphasis plug-in. It’s transient shaping on an entirely new level as users can use up to 26 bands, which is insane! Unique adaptive transient and adaptive length controls allow the algorithms to tailor each band’s transient shaper to what the human ear wants to hear.
Punctuate works wonderfully on drums and other instruments where the percussive aspect of the attacks are important. The multiple bands allow you to use it subtly rather than in a “heavy-handed” way which other plug-ins of this type can encourage. The addition of transient length and adaptive length controls give us bundles of control that you don’t typically find in plug-ins of this ilk.
Price: Available in Elevate Mastering Bundle $199
Visit Eventide for more information.
BitterSweet Pro v3 - Flux::
BitterSweet Pro is a fully featured frequency dependant transient designer that was built upon the success of the freeware version of BitterSweet. The effects are quite soft so look no further if subtlety is important to you in a mix. A dynamic control is where you expect an attack control to be, but don’t worry the dynamic control does what you need to do. Twist the dial to bitter for transients to sound more in your face and counter clockwise towards sweet for softer results.
Watch our review of BitterSweet Pro v3 by Flux::
Visit Flux:: for more information.
One - IK Multimedia
IK Multimedia’s One plug-in is a one-stop-shop mastering suite for IK’s T-racks system. It includes a raft of cool tone shaping abilities, one of those being a single dial approach for exaggerating or reducing the impact of transients in a full mix or master. With One you can take lacklustre mixes and transform them into polished sounding mastering in no time at all. The transients control is quite useful, though we recommend you use small amounts as tiny values go a long way here.
Visit IK Multimedia for more information.
Neutron 3 Transient Shaper - iZotope
The Transient Shaper module in Neutron is a multiband designer providing three global modes per band. Set precise, balanced or loose controls along with sharp, medium or smooth contours to precisely shape the impact of your audio. The Transient Shaper is available as one of the many fantastic mixing modules within the Nectar 3 Standard UI and is also available as a single instance plug-in in Neutron 3 Advanced.
Price: Neutron 3 Standard $249, Neutron 3 Advanced $399
Visit iZotope for more information.
PUNCH - Mastering The Mix
ANIMATE by Mastering The Mix is a powerful tone shaping plug-in for mix bus processing and mastering. It provides four main modules, one of which is a transient shaper section called PUNCH which Mastering The Mix has available as an individual plug-in. Apply PUNCH’s processing in either mid/side or stereo by use of the central control and hear your mixes leap forward out of your monitors in ways you haven’t yet heard before. This is a very good tool that we can only describe as an instant gratification plug-in. PUNCH is by far the most affordable third party transient plug-in you can buy today.
Visit Mastering The Mix for more information.
MH TransientControl - Metric Halo
MH TransientControl by Metric Halo has been around for many years and has a lot of fans. It’s easy to see why so many producers love this plug-in as it’s bare bones control set provides just the essence of what makes a good transient designer a great tool to reach for when impact is needed. The advanced envelope controls provide a extra layer of control that can help you to get tasteful results in a matter of seconds.
Visit Metric Halo for more information.
Transient Master - Native Instruments
Native Instruments Transient Master plug-in is as simple as they come. Attack for shaping the transients, sustain for decay and output gain, along with a basic limiter, for output. Plug-ins as simple to use as this one are more times than not all you need to get the job done.
Visit Native Instruments for more information.
Spiff - oeksound
Spiff is described by oeksound as an adaptive transient processor plug-in that enables users to either boost or cut transients, big deal, there are plenty of plug-ins out there that can do this type of thing. What makes Spiff different? In a nutshell, Spiff analyses incoming audio and only applies transient boost or cut processing to parts of the signal that has transient information in it which is very smart and unique to Spiff.
This article proves there are lots of transient processor plug-ins out there, some are extremely simple to use, other are quite complex… Spiff is effortless to use and sits mid-table in the learning curve camp. Spiff can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be.
Watch our review of Oeksound Spiff to hear it in action.
Visit oeksound for more information.
Transient Shaper - Softube
Softube’s Transient Shaper plug-in provides split-band operation. This enables users to manipulate the treble or bass elements separately for attack and sustain. A single crossover dial determines the bass and high bands. The attack (punch) and sustain controls have switches to the right that can be set to hi, lo or wide. Use these to set the attack and sustain controls to either the low or high of the crossover. These control together are very useful for bringing out just the attack in the higher range of kick drums while reducing the thump and flab in the sustained low end.
Watch our free tutorial of Softube’s Transient Shaper to hear it in action.
Visit Softube for more information.
Envolution - Sonnox
Envolution is described as a frequency-dependent envelope shaper featuring separate transient and sustain controls that when used in anger can totally reshape the impact and presentation of your audio. The built-in EQ and tilt can help you to really hone in on particular frequencies you want to process. A useful DIFF button also enables you to monitor just the attack or sustain, or even both components.
Watch our review of Envolution to hear it in action.
Price: $230 for Native
Visit Sonnox for more information.
SPL TD Plus
Like Native Instrument’s Transient Master, SPL TD Plus is an absolute doddle to set and sounds mighty fine on just about anything you through at it. This isn’t the first transient designer plug-in born from the collaboration between SPL and Plugin Alliance. SPL’s Transient designer, Attacker and Attacker Plus are also very good and worth checking out. TD Plus is the latest iteration featuring a new soft-clip limiter before the output gain which saves you from having to lower your fader when you dial in extreme levels of attack.
Watch our free video tutorial: Using The SPL Transient Designer Plus On Drums
Visit Plugin Alliance for more information.
Smack Attack - Waves
Waves Smack Attack features all the usual controls commonly found in transient shaper plug-ins but this really takes things up a notch or two. Both the attack and sustain components feature extended shape, duration and sensitivity controls that when used together provide a wide variety of creative options for transient shaping outside of the norm.
Watch our review of xxx to hear it in action.
Visit Waves for more information.
Stock Transient Shaper Plug-ins In Popular DAWs
Logic Pro X
Logic Pro’s Enveloper plug-in is a much loved tool in the Logic community as it simply works. The basic graphic provides you with a quick visual representation of what shaping you are applying to the attack and release controls. This is so good you may not need to buy a third party transient designer plug-in.
Studio One And Pro Tools
Both Studio One and Pro Tools do not include dedicated transient designers in their stock plug-ins though there is one very good free plug-in you can download which is available as AAX, VST and AU:
Flux Bittersweet Freeware
Bittersweet v3 from Flux:: is a free plug-in that can be used to manipulate audio transients. Turn the big wheel control to the sweet side and you will soften the sound of transient, turn it the opposite way towards the bitter side and the transients will be amplified.
BitterSweet v3 also features a control for determining how signal will be processed. If main is selected the process affects the stereo signal. If Center is chosen only the M signal of the internal MS matrix is processed. If stereo is selected, only the S signal from the MS matrix is processed.
Three transient detection modes are of offer can be selected with varying periods of integration for transient. A Link function is provided to compensate the output gain with respect to the transient processing setting.
What Transient Designer Plug-ins Do You Recommend?
Do you use transient designer plug-ins routinely in your mixes? If so, which of these do you reach for? This list is by no means complete. If we missed any let us know in the comments below and we’ll update this article.