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Soundtoys Native: When Plugins Become Fun

Brandon Drury —  August 5, 2011 — Leave a comment

In many ways, mixing for me lately has been more work than I’d prefer.  It seem that every client I’ve had in the past 6 months wants “weird vocals”.  Of course, they can’t put it into words any further than that.  Even if I knew exactly what these clients wanted, I’m not sure I could convey it to you in engineer jive.

On some levels, I actually halfway know what they are talking about.  They want their vocals to make a bold statement.  I’m cool with that.  It just stinks trying to guess what rules they are going to put on this bold statement.  You give them yellow and they want blue.  Bla!

While I’m quite content with my compression, EQ, and certain very specific reverbs in my arsenal, my “fun stuff” is slim.  I don’t really have any delays that distort more as they feedback or chorus that shifts pitch down into the Satan voice land.  For the most part, all my tools are good for all around mixing, but are low on the fun factor.  They are engineer tools and not necessarily creative tools.  For the kind of scum (clients) I’m used dealing with, I need something that gets me the sounds in my head and lets me do it fast.

I need tools that let me use the creative side of my brain to mix.

Here’s a good example of “weird vocals” as clients of mine have requested:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3S8uk-9uH9E

MGMT always has too much of something on their voice.  Some of my clients reference this song and say, “These vocals sound awesome.”  It’s easy to say that these vocals were achieved via superior skill in some kind of objective quality race.  I don’t think so.  They made this vocal sound without thinking about.  They were probably on drugs when they made it and maybe it wasn’t an engineer at all, but a band guy just pushing buttons.  Distort it, slap some crazy delay, soak it in reverb, and twist some knobs. Bam!  :beerbangX:

So how do I get where I can work that way?  Is hardware the answer?

SoundToys To The Rescue

I’m trying out the Soundtoys Native collection at the moment.  The first thing I noticed with these plugins was I wasn’t using them to make things sound “good”.  I was using them to mess things up…..and I was having  BLAST doing it.  It was an odd feeling.

I hadn’t felt fun and creative on this front for some time.

Their Decapitator plugin, which is the coolest distortion plugin I’ve ever used, has absolutely no practical use for anything “hi fi”.  However, after I spent an hour distorting drums, bass, synths, reverbs, chorus, and anything else I got my hands on, I set the distortion to be ultra bright/thin, and played with the blend %.  I immediately was getting the vocal air thing….the expensive thing…the hi-fi thing.

Note:  I’ve also found the Decapitator to be amazing on the drum bus for maximizing level in situations where maybe I’m hitting the 2bus brickwall limiter harder that I would prefer.  Adding just a hint of obvious distortion and pulling the drums back to their original level really takes the pressure off the 2bus.

The Echoboy is the best delay I’ve ever used.  The various voices and saturation allow you to do some wicked things.  The ability to adjust how the delays either push or pull the groove is like seatbelts on cars.  They should be required on ALL delays.  That kind of creative control is impossible to live with once you’ve had it.

The Crystalizer is one crazy plugin.  I’m still trying to get my head around exactly what it does.  Obviously, it’s a delayed pitch shifter…or maybe a pitch shifted delay, but the Splice thing is going to require a manual read.  It’s nothing like any other knob I’ve ever used on a plugin.  I’ve gotten the most disturbing sounds ever with this little thing.

The Tremolator is incredibly fun.  I know I’m just scratching the surface with it.  Again, the voicings and comprehensive timing options are incredible.

The filters are interesting too.  They remind me much more of the filters on my DSI Prophet 08 or Moog Voyager RME than the kind of thing I’m used to in audio land.

Speed Of Use
The best part was how fast I was getting these screwy sounds.  I think a good judge for the quality of an instrument/recording tool is how fast you find fun things within it.  For example, the other night a buddy and I looped the same MIDI part and twisted knobs on my Moog Voyager RME.  In that 30 minutes or so, I’d guess we found about 30-40 sounds that were BAD ASS….the kind of sounds that weren’t in the presets……the kind of sounds that should be in the presets.

I got that same vibe when toying with the Soundtoys stuff.

This article isn’t meant to be a review of the Soundtoys plugins.  In fact, I don’t think I could do one.  It would be way too subjective.  Either you need to run a kick drum through a Dual Rectifier with a chorus pedal on max depth or you don’t.  You can’t really review THAT….although maybe I should.

The Hardware Question

I’m conditioned to ask this question even though it is entirely illogical in this case.

Would a real hardware Eventide processor be better?

It’s an illogical question for a number of reasons.  The main one is the Soundtoys stuff doesn’t do one single thing that could be objectivized.  When you are going for a sound which the clients defines as “Sea Wrestler” the ease, speed, and fun in getting there are the only criteria.  You will not be able to fire up to Sea Wrestler patches to compare.

All the squint-mode junk that we do to compare mid-priced recording gear and high end recording gear is thrown out.  It’s meaningless in the world of stupidity. We turn off that side of the brain.  There isn’t better.  Just weird, weirder, and weirdest.

None of the Soundtoys Native plugins did that 3D widening thing that Eventide is so famous for.  I believe that is in the TDM version only, unfortunately.  That particular effect is one that I believe could be objectivized because there are tons of plugins that attempt to do it but most miss the mark so badly that I’d rather just not have the effect at all.

The rest of the Soundtoys Native bunch is beyond critique.  If you do music where you need to make stupid, unnatural sounds on a regular basis, I can’t how hardware could be better except for one exception.  When I deal with individual “modules”, I find that I’m often chaining multiple plugins together to get the really interesting stuff.  If the Soundtoys guys could do something to what the T-Racks guys have done and place a “plugin chainer” so that you could toss 4 or 5 different Soundtoys plugins into one and come up with presets involving multiple modules, the sky would be the freaking limit.  That would be one thing that Eventide hardware would have in it’s corner.  Of course, getting dependent on presets and scrolling for three hours has its own problems.

I can say that I’m absolutely and totally hooked on this idea that sound chasing can and should be fun.

That’s the point of the this article.  When I started worrying, I have a problem.  When I’m overthinking sound quality decisions, I’m trying too hard.  Sometimes I just need to remember to have fun, screw around, and see what happens.

I’m going to continually seek out more plugins that do ridiculous stuff.  I haven’t tried any of the Audio Damage plugins yet, but their name is dead on.  I see they make an emphasis on pitch on their delay.  That’s a good sign.

I’ve said for a long time that this hi-fi thing is just an illusion.  The sounds that we’ve defined as “bad ass” were most likely done by some ridiculous accident and someone holding on to conversative audio beliefs would consider these new sounds to be “awful”.  Somewhere in there, the tail chasers have to emulate it.  Then it becomes “hi fi”.  Boring.

Fight The Power!

If any of you guys have any recommendations for plugins that make you more creative and that aren’t better at mangling than making things pretty, please post a link.  I’d love to hear what’s out there.

Brandon

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paul999 – 08-30-2011, 12:50 AM
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Cool article. Now that I have opened the door to myself to buy some plugs these sound like what the doctor ordered.

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fHumble fHingaz – 08-30-2011, 06:15 AM
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Cool – I love this stuff! I discovered a while ago that Guitar Rig 4 is an endless source of sonic perversity if you ignore it’s obvious use as a guitar simulator… Dig into the “Effects” presets & it has all manner of signal chains that will put your sounds on drugs.

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sparqee – 08-30-2011, 09:46 AM
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Yup! I reach for my UAD when I know what I want but I reach for Soundtoys when I want to have fun/experiment. In fact I would say that I typically use Soundtoys plugins when I’m still in the arranging/tracking stages. Rarely do I add on when I’m down to mixing, but that’s just me.

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m24p – 08-30-2011, 11:49 AM
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“f the Soundtoys guys could do something to what the T-Racks guys have done and place a ‘plugin chainer’ so that you could toss 4 or 5 different Soundtoys plugins into one and come up with presets involving multiple modules, the sky would be the freaking limit.”Can’t you save FX Chains in your DAW?

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miccimiao – 08-30-2011, 01:18 PM
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“When I’m overthinking sound quality decisions, I’m trying too hard”. Awesome phrase!I agree with double fh. Guitar rig is a “weird animal”.Even did some unreal monster vocal stuff with it.Izotope Trash and Spectron may have the potential to get a spot in the light, too. I could not get anything “dead-serious” out of them.

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doom_Oo7 – 08-30-2011, 01:21 PM
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Another fine bundle is the Melda production bundle : they’ve got some pretty badass multi-band plug-ins, and there are freakin’ LFO’s to assign EVERYWHERE! You can even LFO the LFO’s xD And +1 for Guitar Rig, it can be especially fun with the “input level” and “step sequencer” modifiers

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mikkael – 08-30-2011, 01:31 PM
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If the Soundtoys guys could do something to what the T-Racks guys have done and place a “plugin chainer” so that you could toss 4 or 5 different Soundtoys plugins into one and come up with presets involving multiple modules, the sky would be the freaking limit.
Then you haven’t tried the Soundtoys in Ableton live which allows you to add as many plugins as you want in a stack and then assign your midi conroler to different parameters from the different plugin and then tweak on the knobs from your midi controller which will change the parameters of as many plugin as you wish. My description is confusing I’m sure as I’m really bad at writing English but I assure you that the result is really fun and the only limit is the sky !

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Prado Escondido – 08-30-2011, 02:06 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by mikkael View Post
Then you haven’t tried the Soundtoys in Ableton live which allows you to add as many plugins as you want in a stack and then assign your midi conroler to different parameters from the different plugin and then tweak on the knobs from your midi controller which will change the parameters of as many plugin as you wish. My description is confusing I’m sure as I’m really bad at writing English but I assure you that the result is really fun and the only limit is the sky !
I always giggle when the hardware boyz start ‘discovering’ plug-ins.

What Brandon wants has been around a long time for roll your own plug-in chain presets.

Look at Chainer, the one plug-in to ‘rule them all.’

Prado

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dikh – 08-30-2011, 02:20 PM
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About plugs, that make you mind more creative than bevore – l found out that the less buttons/switchers the more you concentrate on soind than on all this settings, so recently i watch some sort of “one knob” family plugs from waves – you don’t care about stuff, you just got one knob and since you cant relay on all this settings, you are pushed to be creativeOther all it’s good article!

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scubaninja – 08-30-2011, 03:48 PM
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I’ve tried a lot of these random free plug-ins. These are among the weirdest (but made to a high standard): Destroy FX : free VST plugins, free Audio Units Togu Audio Line has some other good ones too (they replicated the chorus from the Juno 62 synth and put it into a free stand-alone audio plug-in): TAL – Togu Audio Line: Products Happy sonic destruction!

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Hunter33 – 08-30-2011, 07:56 PM
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For me the creativity comes mostly from having a ‘hands on’ approach. The more direct input via knobs, faders, buttons and the less mouse dependency the better. So yeah having some cool plugins to mess with is great but if you only have a mouse then you are only getting half or a quarter of what you should be getting out of it.

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dudermn – 08-31-2011, 01:18 AM
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- Big Tick Hexaline – The Sonic Spot – Though it’s impossible to find….It’s the sweetest reverb I’ve ever herd, – VST Effect Plugins for Windows – I got the original filterbank-synthedit which isn’t even online anymore so it seems Retro, – Audio Plug-Ins – The ts-999 adds a texture to vocals, and it looks perdy, – SinusWeb – High Quality Audio Plugins – Freeverbtoo, originally got it to mees around with….it’s almost like a glaceverb, – Unique old-style audio reverb plugin (VST) – OldSkoolVerb – Voxengo – Dead Space. I also use guitar rig to mess with vocals, something about pitchedelica, screaming psyche (later turned into banshee scream) the pit, or krystal wind really make people say ‘wha’? Playing around and exploring what a song can do?? Wasn’t that the audio mixers job

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dudermn – 08-31-2011, 01:30 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by scubaninja View Post
I’ve tried a lot of these random free plug-ins. These are among the weirdest (but made to a high standard): Destroy FX : free VST plugins, free Audio Units Togu Audio Line has some other good ones too (they replicated the chorus from the Juno 62 synth and put it into a free stand-alone audio plug-in): TAL – Togu Audio Line: Products Happy sonic destruction!
I use the Tal reverb

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stavrosss – 08-31-2011, 04:05 AM
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You should try the Ohmforce plugs, that’s some freaky stuff..

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perpprog – 08-31-2011, 08:55 AM
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Definitely check out the Uhbik plugins if you haven’t. There’s an endless number of possibilites in there. i use them all the time. 9 plugins for 149 dollars. the reverb plug in is worth the price of the set. Uhbik

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Electriclight – 09-04-2011, 08:35 AM
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Great read. While I love the insight provided by professionals like you and Paul, much of your advice revolves around getting quality results in as little time as possible. Try to remember that for hobbyists with no pretensions of fame or riches like myself, much of the absolute freaking PLEASURE of home recording comes from the ability to run a track through a thousand free plugins at our leisure.

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Electriclight – 09-04-2011, 08:40 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by doom_Oo7 View Post
Another fine bundle is the Melda production bundle : they’ve got some pretty badass multi-band plug-ins, and there are freakin’ LFO’s to assign EVERYWHERE! You can even LFO the LFO’s xD And +1 for Guitar Rig, it can be especially fun with the “input level” and “step sequencer” modifiers
I’ll second that.
These are super quality plugins for hi-fi and FSU. Plus they are constantly improving their products while offering lifetime free upgrades.

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sparqee – 09-04-2011, 02:01 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by Hunter33 View Post
For me the creativity comes mostly from having a ‘hands on’ approach. The more direct input via knobs, faders, buttons and the less mouse dependency the better. So yeah having some cool plugins to mess with is great but if you only have a mouse then you are only getting half or a quarter of what you should be getting out of it.
Controlling plugins with real hardware knobs/switches is awesome. It totally changed the way I work with software EQ. Whether you build your own midi controller or buy one it will certainly change your experience of mixing ITB.

Attachment 20050

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bholst – 09-06-2011, 11:40 AM
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I’ve been a huge fan of Soundtoys stuff ever since I picked up Echoboy. Killer plugins, IMO

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brandondrury – 09-12-2011, 02:53 AM
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Can’t you save FX Chains in your DAW?
Yes, but I was thinking more in terms of routing modulated LFOs, filters, etc from one plug to another much the way that synths work. You are correct that a simple chain is fairly doable with FX Chains. I generally avoid these most of the time just to keep me always doing something new everytime.
Try to remember that for hobbyists with no pretensions of fame or riches like myself, much of the absolute freaking PLEASURE of home recording comes from the ability to run a track through a thousand free plugins at our leisure.
It’s like I always say, us guys doing this for a living are whores. It’s in/out and on to the next client.
Controlling plugins with real hardware knobs/switches is awesome. It totally changed the way I work with software EQ. Whether you build your own midi controller or buy one it will certainly change your experience of mixing ITB.
I MUST have THAT!!

KDavisAudio – 09-14-2011, 02:22 AM
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Use 2 crystallizers with a really light phase setting. This can help create that wider depth. We put it up to an Eventide processor (cant remember the model right now)which is whatwe normally use to create width and depth (like your swimming in it!) and we tried other plugins as well. Using the the two crystallizers brought very close results.

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rolando14 – 09-22-2011, 09:58 AM
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i’ve been looking to get the tremolator I can see having way fun with this one.!

 

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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