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Review of Wave Box waveshaping effect by AudioThing — October 15, 2017

Review of Wave Box waveshaping effect by AudioThing

Introduction

AudioThing have introduced Wave Box, a dynamic dual waveshaping plugin in VST / AU / AAX formats in both 32 and 64 bit versions typically priced at 49 Euros although at the time of writing is currently on sale at 35 Euros. A demo version is also available.

I’m a big fan of AudioThing, they produce a range of different and interesting effects with a great sound quality and they are very reasonably priced too. I’ve previously reviewed Fog Convolver (Convolution Reverb); Outer Space (Vintage Tape Echo); Space Strip (Multi-Effect plugin); The Orb (Formant filter effect) and Frostbite (Ring mod / feedback / freeze effect).

Wave Box continues this line of development as a dynamic waveshaper plugin that can be used for symmetrical and asymmetrical distortion. In essence you have two separate waveshapers that can be mixed together whilst being modulated by 2 LFOs and an envelope follower.

Verdict

It’s very easy to use, it sounds great and produces a much wider range of effects than expected. It can produce a wide range of distortion sounds from subtle tube style overdrive to really harsh digital distortion. It can also produce other effects such as tremolo, vinyl crackles and compression type effects. The automation elements really enhance the usability of the effect. These can be used to create a range of movement from subtle to extreme and the LFOs at low rate settings can also be used to produce a very slow ‘step change’ or random type of effect. There’s also a very handy randomise option which can provide some inspiration for some unusual effects.

I’ve had great fun using Wave Box, I’ve created a 3 track EP embedded above using a series of loops from Function Loops / Sharp Label each of which are processed with Wave Box and some also use RP Verb 2 (Rob Papen). It also includes a remix was created using stems from burz II processed with SpecOps (Unfiltered Audio), Ultratap (Eventide), RP Verb 2 and RP Delay (Rob Papen).

In-Depth Review

As with other AudioThing plugins, the GUI is well designed and clearly laid out.

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The shaping section is the heart of the effect. By default the plugin starts in symmetrical mode and you can switch to asymmetrical mode by clicking the ‘+-’ button in the top left corner.

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There are 6 different shaping options for each of the waveshaping functions – tanh, sinh, sin, linear, floor and round. The adjacent control determines the amount of curve for the selected waveshaping function.

The ceiling controls the dynamic range of functions and the effect of the bias control is determined by what mode you are using. Symmetrical mode applies the waveshaping equally to positive and negative parts of the signal and the bias controls the mix between the two functions.

Asymmetrical mode applies the first waveshaping function to the positive part of the signal whilst the second waveshaping function is applied to the negative part of the signal and the bias control adds an offset between the positive and negative parts of the signal.

Next to the shaping controls is a very handy oscilloscope which allows you to visualise the resulting waveshape.

WB_oscilloscope.jpg

At the bottom of the display are the LFOs and envelope follower. These add automation to the waveshaping which can produce subtle or extreme movement in the sound.

The two LFOs each have a sync control, rate and amount settings. There are four destinations – bias, curve 1, curve 2 and ceiling. There are six different waveform options – sine, triangle, square, ramp up, ramp down, random and you can adjust the phase by clicking on the wave display and dragging to the right to increase and to the left to decrease phase setting.

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The envelope follower has attack, release and amount settings and also has the four destinations of bias, curve 1, curve 2 and ceiling.

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The master section in the top right has input, dry/wet mix and output controls. There is also a switch to enable a hard clip limiter and the option to choose one of four oversampling settings which avoids aliasing but increases CPU usage.

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Review of SpecOps spectral effects plugin by Unfiltered Audio — October 6, 2017

Review of SpecOps spectral effects plugin by Unfiltered Audio

Unfiltered Audio have announced the release of SpecOps, a complex, powerful, easy-and-fun-to-use plugin possessing 36 diverse and flexible spectral effects, ranging from subtle to extreme, so sound designers and electronic music producers can easily access a multiverse playground of special effects and sweeteners that can deconstruct sounds at the spectral level and reconstruct them in new and exciting ways.

SpecOps is available for purchase — as AAX AudioSuite-, AAX Native-, AU-, VST2-, and VST3-supporting plugin formats for Mac OS X (10.8 through 10.12), Windows (7 through 10), and Pro Tools 10.3.10 (or higher) — exclusively from Plugin Alliance at an introductory promo price of $89.00 USD until October 20, 2017, rising to an MSRP of $129.00 USD thereafter.

Fully-functional, 14-day trials are available to anyone registering for a free Plugin Alliance account here

Note that the proprietary Plugin Alliance Installation Manager means users can select, download, and install only the products and formats needed for their system.

For more in-depth information, including several superb-sounding audio demos, please visit the dedicated SpecOps webpage here

Watch Plugin Alliance’s tantalizing trailer for SpecOps here

Watch Urban Sound Studio’s Todd Urban’s SpecOpstutorial here

Verdict

This is an awesome and very cool effect. It’s one of those that is quite difficult to explain how it works but in some ways that doesn’t matter because it’s so much fun experimenting to see what happens. It comes with a lot of presets which are ready to use and highlight the enormous potential of SpecOps or if you take the fully experimental approach and start from scratch it won’t be long before you see results because it’s very easy to start using. You can spend countless hours playing around with SpecOps, it’s incredibly flexible and versatile and can be used as an insert effect, for mixing, mastering or sound design. It can do subtle things like add warmth to thin guitar tracks, fatten up weak frequencies in the bottom end or add subtle movement to pad or synth sounds. It’s equally at home destroying basslines with a bitcrusher / distortion type of effect, adding glitchy polyrhythms to drum tracks or mangling them completely. You can also use the ‘freeze’ function to create a spectral synthesizer and it also has very powerful modulation options.

I’ve created an album using SpecOps which is embedded above. I’ve used Polygon (Glitchmachines); Predator 2, Punch, RP Verb 2, RP Delay (Rob Papen); Synthmaster 2.8 (KV331 Audio) and have used SpecOps as an insert effect on every track. The album was recorded live in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 and some of the live edits did produce a few unexpected glitches for instance when I used the freeze function of the drums the timing wasn’t always spot on when unfreezing but I’m really pleased with the overall result. I subsequently mastered the tracks in MuLab 7 using bx_console E (Brainworx) or Neutron (iZotope) and Stage (Fiedler Audio)

In-depth review

The GUI has a very modern, clean and minimal look to it. There is the option of a black or white background and a number of different zoom settings. It’s important to remember that this is a frequency based effect rather than a time based effect and the best way to explain this is to use the signal flow which is shown below:

signal flow.jpg

The effect is rather complex but essentially uses FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) which basically uses maths to split a complex signal into its component frequencies which in SpecOps are called ‘bins’. These bins can then have their speed adjusted and ‘geometry’ edited which allows for pitch shifting, stretch and slide. You can select 3 effects from 36 in total which are processed in series. These are followed by the spectral compressor / expander which is the heart of the plugin. Following processing you can adjust the output gain, use a low pass filter to attenuate harsh frequencies and set the amount of wet / dry mix.

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The analysis section is the starting point. The FFT size determines how many bins the signal is split into. Low FFT settings such as 128 give a grainy, lo-fi sound whereas high FFT settings such as 32,768 give a higher fidelity sound but introduce latency. Note that high FFT settings are also likely to result in CPU spikes because the interval between applying effects at a higher setting is longer but more effects are applied. At lower settings there is less of an interval between applying effects but SpecOps is using less processor power so CPU usage is more constant. Overall the average usage is about the same but the range will vary considerably based on the FFT size.

The window setting determines how the sound is analysed. There are 7 settings each of which provide different results.

This section also has the input gain control.

speed.jpg

The speed control acts differently to how you might expect, it creates feedback between analysis frames decreasing the rate at which new frames are acquired.

Freeze locks the current frame and prevents further analysis. It’s the same as turning the speed control to zero which effectively creates an oscillator using the last group of samples. You can then adjust the pitch shift control to create a spectral synthesizer.

geometry.jpg

The geometry section has a big impact on the sound. The controls in this section comprise of pitch shift that is quantized from -12 to +12 semitones; slide which is an inharmonic frequency shift and stretch which applies compression or expansion to the bins. It’s like pitch shift but isn’t quantized or phase aware.

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The effects section comprises of 3 selectable effects from a total of 36 processed in series from top to bottom. ‘Start’ is the starting frequency the effect is applied at, width controls how many frequency bins are affected and there’s an amount setting for each effect.

The 36 effects comprise a number of filters (low pass, high pass, noise filters); mixing (affect the amplitude); geometry (similar to geometry section but can be applied to specific frequencies); Freezers (similar to the freeze control in the speed section with a number of variants); Effects (contains reverser, glitchers, clippers, smearing); Glitchers (a number of glitchy effects)

spectral compander.jpg

The spectral compander applies to every single bin so with an FFT size of 1,024 there are 1,024 separate companders running simultaneously and at the maximum FFT setting of 32,768 there are 32,768 separate companders running simultaneously. The threshold sets the decibel level at which each compander becomes active; Ratio sets whether bins are expanded or compressed when the bin’s amplitude exceeds the threshold; Knee changes the gain curve transitions from linear to non-linear; Attack determines how quickly the compander reaches its target gain level; Decay determines how quickly the compander returns to a neutral gain level; Mask sets the amount of bleed which can introduce artifacts or produce a less severe sound.

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The out section has a gain, low pass filter to remove some of the harsh spectral content in the upper frequencies and a mix control.

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The modulation options are flexible and powerful. It’s a modular system and the connectors are arranged so that outputs are at the top of the modulators and everything else is an input, shown by a white circle which have scaling settings. You simply drag from an output to an input and the cable will snap into place. It’s so flexible that the modulators can be used to modulate their own parameters which can create some interesting and unusual results. At present a maximum of 6 modulators can be used at once.

There are six different types of modulators – LFOs (sine/saw/tri/square); input follower; macro control; sample and hold; step sequencer and ROLI lightpad.

The modulation system provides 16 automation slots that can be assigned to one or more modulators and every knob and button on a modulator can be assigned to a slot.

Review of RP Verb 2 reverb effect by Rob Papen — October 1, 2017

Review of RP Verb 2 reverb effect by Rob Papen

rp verb 2.png

Introduction

ECHT, THE NETHERLANDS: virtual instrument and effect plug-in developer Rob Papen Soundware is proud to announce availability of RP-VERB 2 —updating its original RP-VERB effect plug-in, a firm favourite amongst many famous producers globally and a go-to reverb for many not-so-famous users, to boldly go where no reverb has gone before.

RP-VERB 2 can be purchased in a boxed edition — as an AAX (32-/64-bit), AU (32-/64-bit), VST (32-/64-bit) compatible audio software plug-in for Mac OS X (10.6 or higher) and Windows (Vista, 7, 8, and 10) — from authorised Rob Papen dealers worldwide or as a download directly from Rob Papen for €149.00 EUR/$149.00 USD from here (Owners of RP-VERB are eligible to upgrade to RP-VERB 2 for €39.00 EUR/$39.00 USD, while RP-VERB 2 is included in eXplorer4, the latest incarnation of Rob Papen’s all-encompassing software bundle, so owners of eXplorer4 can download the RP-VERB 2 installer for free.)

For more in-depth information, please visit the dedicated RP-VERB 2 product webpage here

RP-VERB 2 can be seen and heard in this informative introductory video here

Verdict

In summary, RP Verb 2 is a superb reverb effect. It comes with a number of banks and presets which you can use as is or as a solid basis to create your own sounds. The sound quality of the reverb itself is superb, whether you want small, medium or large spaces or the infiniteness of the space orbits. However, there is so much more to RP Verb 2, it’s a creative reverb or even reverb on steroids. The additional modules allow great creativity – distortion can add a great edge to your sound; EQ allows further shaping of the sound; Ensemble adds a great quality for some sounds; the superb reverser easily adds a brilliant element; there are superb modulation possibilities too.

Demo songs

I’ve created a demo album which is embedded above. I’ve used multiple instances of RP Verb 2 to demonstrate many of the different modules and sounds that it can produce. The album was created virtually exclusively using Rob Papen synths with RP Verb 2 and RP Delay, ‘lured away’ also uses glitch samples and groove steps in Hollyhock 3; vocals are from Function Loops. The songs were created and arranged in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock 3 and mastered in MuLab 7 using bx_console E (Brainworx) and Stage (Fiedler Audio).

Detailed review

The GUI is clean, well laid out and easy to navigate. The first thing you notice is that this isn’t a typical reverb. It has a number of additional features and controls.

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The top section contains the presets list. There are global parameters including orig and edit which lets you switch between the stored preset and edits you’ve made; access to the user the manual; ECS (External Controller Setup) to use a midi controller to control RP Verb 2 parameters; effect bypass; a handy option to reset all audio buffers. There are also VU meters and dry/wet controls in this section.

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The next row contains the ensemble, early reflections, reverb and late reflections.

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The next row contains distortion, EQ and the reverse section.

third section.jpg

envelope.jpg

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The bottom row is a multi-page section with envelope follower, envelope and LFO/mod/trigger.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the default signal routing is not linear as shown on the modules of the GUI but rather as shown below.

A number of these modules can affect the signal flow and these are described in more detail below.

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The EQ is 3 band with the low band fixed to 80Hz and the high band fixed to 12kHz. The mid band is parametric and has frequency, bandwidth and level controls. The EQ can be placed either pre- or post reverb effect.

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The ensemble effect uses multiple chorus units with slight variations in their parameters to give the impression of several copies of the sound playing simultaneously. There is a volume control and speed control which sets the frequency of LFO modulation. The ensemble can be placed before the source signal reaches the reverb or fed to the output directly as well as the reverb.

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The reverb is the heart of the plugin. There are 10 different reverb models:

Hall Clean: A clean hall sound based on a rectangular space with hard surface walls of traditionally built halls.

Hall Cave: this type of reverb displays more movement, since caves are more irregularly shaped

Hall Warm: warm sounding hall

Room Cold: clean room sound with hard surface square walls

Room Edge: represents an irregularly shaped room

Room Storm: inspired by the overhead recorded room sound

Vintage 1: classic reverb sound with limited reverb length (like a reverb plate)

Vintage 2: classic reverb sound with an irregular space and limited reverb length (close to a reverb plate)

Space Orbit 1: ‘Orbit’ is an unlimited space

Space Orbit 2: a few more galaxies are reflected in this one…

These reverb models have length and size which is determined by the chosen reverb model. There are also volume, damping, high pass filter, low pass filter and pre-delay controls. An additional unique feature is the pre-delay disorder which gives a different build up of reflections at the start of the reverb.

early reflections.jpg

Early Reflections are a set of complex delays caused by hard surface reflections in certain room types and spaces. They are audible before the full dense reverb part sets in. The volume, pattern and positioning of the Early Reflections depends on listener position,

room geometry and surface material of the reflecting walls and ceilings in the simulated room.

Early reflections are normally output direct but there is an option to send them into the reverb. There are controls for volume, length, damping and feedback. The side control determines the amount of sideways reflections between the two earliest delays and the cross control determines the amount of cross-over reflections between the left and right delays.

late reflections.jpg

Late Reflection adds a longer delay reflection which can be heard in certain spaces or room types. It depends on the listener’s position whether the Late Reflection is audible.

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Reverse is a very cool feature. It records the reverb signal and plays it back in reverse to easily create reversed reverbs. The display shows the reversed or input signal and allows you to monitor the appropriate settings for its parameters.

The Display Length sets the time that is visualised in the Reverser display. The default is Dynamic Mode which automatically reflects the length of the reverb.

Sync synchronises the length of the reversed signal to the DAW tempo and by default is on. This makes it very easy to fit the reverse sound in your music piece but can be switched off to allow you to experiment with manual time settings.

Reverb only is on by default which means the reverser uses the Reverb signal only. You can switch it off to include other modules such as Ensemble, Early Reflections and Late Reflections. When this control is off, the reverse effect is applied as the last component in the audio chain and everything will be reversed, not just the Reverb.

Trigger level sets the volume when the reverb signal starts the reverser. The reverse then records the reverb for the set

reverse time, and replays the recorded reverb backwards. It is shown in the display by the line with the T. The type of signal will determine the optimal setting so the Trigger Level may need reducing until the Reverser catches.

Offset can be used as a pre-delay before recording starts. It is shown in the display by the line marked by O.

Hold Time creates a pause between triggering of the reverser to prevent repeated retriggering. The hold time must exceed the Reverse time. When the reverser is retriggered, the audio buffer is cleared and starts recording. It is shown in the display by a

line marked with a H. You need to consider the hold time along with the reverse time. For instance, if you use a 1 bar Reverse Time it takes 1 bar to record the reverse time. So this whole process will take 2 bars. Therefore, if you want a repeating reverse at 1 bar you need to set the Hold Time to 2 bars.

Reverse Time sets the length of the reversed audio. It is displayed by a line marked with an R. In the graphic display, you see the arrow move until it hits the point R. This is the recorded part. Once it hits this R marker, the reverse playback starts.

The Attack control creates an Attack Envelope at the start of the reversed output to fade-in the reversed sound.

The Decay control creates a Decay Envelope at the end of the reversed output to fade-out the reversed sound.

Mix sets the balance between the reversed and normal output. A fully counter-clockwise position gives you the normal reverb sound. Fully clockwise gives you the Reversed sound. The Mix parameter adds a lot of dynamic and creative options to the reverb effect. Control it directly from your host DAW, by recording this parameter, or use the Envelope follower, Envelope or LFO.

distortion.jpg

Distortion has four different modes, each of which have two controls. Amount 1 always sets the amount of distortion whilst amount 2 varies depending on the distortion setting: foldover – it sets the balance between the clipping of the negative and

positive peaks of the waveform signal; fuzz – it controls the frequency of the fuzz distortion; power – it sets the balance between the distortion of the negative and positive peaks of the waveform signal; saturation – it sets the balance between the saturation of the negative and positive peaks of the waveform signal.

env follower.jpg

The Envelope Follower tracks the input volume and generates a modulation signal, which can be used to drive RP-VERB 2’s controls.

With Sync On, the Envelope Follower Attack, Hold and Release times are synchronised to the DAW tempo.

The envelope follower input is controlled by a mono signal. Use the Mono switch when the input signal is panned in a stereo field, but you would like an equal response of the envelope for both sides the input signal.

When the envelope follower is latched, it reaches its maximum level and stays there until the input volume returns to zero.

Envelope Follower Attack Time determines how quickly the Envelope Follower reaches its maximum value when triggered.

Hold determines how long the Envelope Follower stays at its maximum level. (Ignored in Latch Mode)

In Latch Mode, Release controls how quickly the Envelope Follower decays to zero when the input volume reaches zero. In Normal Mode it controls the release time after the Hold time has expired.

The Audio Control sets to which extent the Envelope Follower controls the volume of the reverb.

Amount / Destination 1 & 2 are two assignable modulation slots for the Envelope Follower. These let you directly control any of RP-VERB 2’s parameters via the Envelope Follower. Destination is the modulation target, and Amount sets the strength of the modulation path.

envelope.jpg

The Envelope generates a modulation signal, which can be used to drive RP-VERB 2’s controls.

With Sync On, the Envelope Attack, Hold and Release times are synchronised to the DAW tempo.

When MIDI Trigger is enabled, incoming Midi messages trigger the Envelope.

The Loop function repeats the Envelope cycle. The Envelope runs through its stages – Attack, Hold and Release – and starts again when the Release stage is completed.

Envelope Trigger sets the volume level that is required to trigger the Envelope. When the input volume exceeds the Trigger level, the Envelope starts

lfo mod trig.jpg

The LFO / MOD / Trigger tab has an LFO which can be used as a modulation source for any of RP-VERB 2’s parameters.

There are three modulation slots and trigger settings for the Envelope and the LFO.

With Sync On, the LFO Speed is synchronised to the DAW tempo.

The LFO is triggered by the LFO MIDI Trigger when Midi Trigger is On. The LFO is freerunning otherwise.

LFO Wave is a drop-down menu to select the LFO’s waveform for its modulation signal.

LFO Speed sets the frequency of the LFO.

The three modulation slots each have their own Source, Destination and Amount settings.

Source selects which modulation source is used to change the RP-VERB 2 controls. Options for sources include MIDI CC controls (Modulation Wheel etc.), MIDI Note values (Note and Velocity), a constant Offset, plus the Envelope Follower, the Envelope and the LFO.

The destination is the target parameter for the modulation slot. Amount sets the strength of the modulation path.

The Trigger menus select the type of Midi Message that is used to trigger the LFO and Envelope. You may choose from MIDI CC, MIDI Notes or the host status to trigger either the Envelope or LFO.