Technology

Field Test: Waves Transform Plug-In Bundle

We've always thought of Waves as a manufacturer of solid, straightforward studio tools, but recently, the company has branched out with some really creative sound-shapers. 3/01/2004 7:00 AM Eastern

We've always thought of Waves as a manufacturer of solid,straightforward studio tools, but recently, the company has branchedout with some really creative sound-shapers. The aptly named WavesTransform bundle offers four all-new plug-ins for innovative audioprocessing through pitch and time alteration. The package includesSoundShifter, a pitch/time expander/compressor; TransX, which changesthe temporal expiry of percussive sounds' attack portion; Doubler,which is a multitap delay with pitch modulation that maintains theoriginal length of sounds even with radical detuning; and Morphoder, afull-featured vocoder with eight-voice synthesizer and formantcorrection.

MY RIG

I installed and tested the Transform bundle on two differentcomputer DAWs: Pro Tools|HD 3 running on a Mac equipped with 10.2.8 andOS 9.2; and a PC VST 2.0/DirectX host running XP Pro and Nuendo 2.1. Mytesting was mostly confined to the Mac OS X TDM rig at 48 or 96 kHz.Under Nuendo, not all of the VST and DirectX versions are fullyfunctional. Variable I/O is required for parametric SoundShifter andgraphic SoundShifter to work offline, and VST/DirectX does not (at thistime) support sidechain, causing Morphoder's operation to be limited tomono only by using one track of a stereo pair as modulator and theother as carrier.

Transform runs under Waveshell 4.0 but will not coexist with earlierversions of Waveshell, so earlier Waves plug-ins must be upgraded.Check this before installing in Mac OS 9, because 4.0 will install over3.0, causing your 3.x plug-ins to not show up. However, OS X Waveshell3.5, which I used for all of my Waves Renaissance plugs, ran finealongside Waveshell 4.0.x. Both the Mac and PC installations went fine,including the new Waveshells and the iLok dongle Mac extension. PCusers can download an iLok driver at www.ilok.com; Nuendo 2.1 required a newer Waveshellversion from www.waves.com.

DOUBLE YOUR FUN

The Doubler plug-in comes in mono and stereo versions with eithertwo or four outputs called voices. I used it both as an insert plug-inand, to save DSP, as a send and return effect similar to a reverb. Asan insert, you can keep the track's original timing or“align” it to the inherent latency of the plug-in. Withalign on, you can set any of the voices' delay time to 0 ms; otherwise,the minimum delay is 7 ms with the Range set to 80 Hz or 24 ms when setto 20 Hz. Range sets the detuning range of the voice outputs. Shiftinglower-frequency instruments such as a bass guitar requires higherlatencies.

Doubler offers many adjustable parameters that make the effect soundmore like an actual double- or quadruple-tracked vocal or guitar. Byslightly detuning the different voices by a few cents (up to ±100cents) and panning them left and right, you can go anywhere from a wide“harmonizer” multivoice effect to a very tight monauraldouble track. Using Doubler to process background vocal tracks makesthem sound like more people are singing — if you don't play thiseffect too loud — and I think is this processor's best effect. Ipreferred the tighter settings: 1 to 3 cents up and down, less than 5ms of delay and panned narrowly. I used the Align mode and slid theoriginal track earlier to compensate for latency. Maintaining thesource audio's original length is most noticeable with wide detuning— there is no hang over, which is especially good for theoctave-down mode. The octave's quality is not designed to be a featuredvoice, but sounds best when used as a shadow. I used two octave-downvoices panned left and right with 0ms delay on a standard-tuned metalguitar track, making it sound like a drop tuning.

ATTACK!

TransX reshapes the attack transient of any percussive sound bydetecting the rise time of a sound's waveform and then boosting orreducing its level for that moment. I found TransX to be excellent forsnares, kicks, drum mixes, loops and bass guitar tracks. I also used itto reduce the amount of snare drum “hit” in my room mics,letting the closer mics on the snare predominate the overall drum mix:mighty, big and roomy-sounding drums, but also very present.

TransX comes in Wideband and Multi-Band versions. Wideband uses lessDSP and works remarkably 80% of the time by detecting the attacks ofthe total program. Wideband successfully fixed up a final mix bypulling up the snare drum's attack; this could be a masteringengineer's newest secret weapon. Multiband, with its Waves C4 crossoverdesign, splits the sound into four adjustable bands. I could thenmodify any drum's whole spectral makeup, perhaps adding more punch inthe lower frequencies or removing low-end wallop without making thedrum thin-sounding. This plug-in works wonders on any loop.

The controls are simple to use, and there is a good group of factorypreset “training wheels” to get you started. The four mainparameters are Duration (to set the length of the attacks);Sensitivity, which sets the plug-in's level threshold; Range, forsetting the amount of gain change; and Release (to adjust the time ittakes the gain change to return to the original level).

MORPHING VOCODER

Morphoder is a full-featured stereo vocoder — a cross betweena processor and a musical instrument — and by far my favorite ofthe bundle. I found so many good ways to use this plug-in: subtly mixedback to create a dynamically changing guitar double track, or right upfront for eerie, otherworldly a cappella vocals during a dancebreakdown section. When Morphoder is instantiated on a keyboard orguitar track, that track becomes the carrier — the musicalcomponent — to be modulated by another track. The default carrieris the included eight-voice synth with an onscreen, four-octavekeyboard and 10 factory sounds ready to go. To play this synth, clickon the keys that you want — you can use automation to buildchords, etc. — but, unfortunately, there is no way to route yourMIDI controller, like a synth plug-in. Waves plans to make thisavailable soon via a MIDI upgrade through the Waves Update Plan (seesidebar).

The modulating track is routed to the key input, like a key sourcefor a noise gate. Sending on a bus, I could mix and match differentmodulation sources from across my mix. Morphoder uses a fullyadjustable 5-band dynamic filter to track the modulator's frequencyconstituency and instantaneous level, and then conforms or“morphs” the carrier's spectral content and dynamic shapeto it. I found that getting good vocoder sounds was easier and muchfaster than using hardware units. Many subprocesses — somelittle-known engineer/producer “tricks” to good vocodersound — are either automatic or provided within Morphoder.

For example, in addition to more advanced filter control —frequency, shape, Q and level — there is pressure, a way toconfine the dynamics of the modulator signal for better Morphintelligibility. Higher pressure settings were especially necessarywhen using a vocal track as modulator. The Formant Ratio control shiftsthe frequency contour of the modulator up or down before application tothe carrier. Shifting up or down increases brightness and clarity bybetter matching the carrier and modulator's timbres.

Morphoder has a 4-channel output mixer that allows you to adjust thelevel of the carrier, modulator, morphed signal and noise. Noise, whenused with a vocal modulator, traces the envelope of the vocal withwideband noise. Mixing in a little enhances intelligibility; using alot brings out the Ghost In the Machine.

SOUNDSHIFTER

SoundShifter has three main components: SoundShifter Pitch, areal-time pitch changer that is good for statically correcting pitch;Graphic SoundShifter, for graphically “drawing” dynamicpitch and/or time changes on a graph; and Parametric SoundShifter tochange pitch and/or time of any music track or finished mix.

Parametric SoundShifter is a powerful “meat andpotatoes” DSP with two main controls: Time Ratio and Pitch Ratio.Both time and pitch can be shifted up and down to become twice as fastor slow or an octave up or down from the original. In TDM hosts, Ifound that it was easy to use this plug-in, with offline processingtime approximating real time. Sound quality is excellent, and there areabsolutely no problems using this plug-in for moderate up or downchanges. I had no pitch glitching, clicks or timing bumps, even withbig changes of over three semitones or at 15 bpm. This feature alonecould pay for the Transform bundle in one session.

Designed to be familiar and immediately useful in all facets of thepost-production industry, parametric SoundShifter relates a selection'stime length in six ways: time, tempo, bars/beats, samples, SMPTE andfeet/frames. Windows show the original source time and the destinationtime, or where you'd like the music selected to end. Nomenclature forpitch is in familiar semitones/cents, musical intervals (minor 2nd,major 3rd, etc.), and a pitch center referenced to the A = 440 Hzstandard.

After selecting a region of music and opening parametricSoundShifter, any of these ways of defining a track's pitch or lengthcan be used to modify its pitch and/or time. You can also strap thetime and pitch functions together via the Link button.

SoundShifter Pitch is a real-time pitch corrector that maintains themusic's original length. It uses the same interface as the Pitchsection of parametric SoundShifter and introduces a fixed latency thatcan be dealt with in Pro Tools. Graphic SoundShifter is the graphicalversion in which, after a selected region is displayed, you can putbreak points across the waveform where you want changes in pitch ortime. Whether for an occasional tuning or timing fix or extensive vocaltuning and correction, both these plug-ins worked and soundedgreat.

I'M TRANSFORMED

The Transform Bundle is a creatively stimulating collection oftechnological marvels with pitch and time transformational abilitiesthat are not easily obtained by existing software or hardware. As aserious utility, I especially liked SoundShifter with its easy-to-useGUI for simple control of complicated, simultaneous processes. For fun,I liked Morphoder because of the way it adds its signature to musicalperformances. The group is part of the Waves Diamond Bundle or can bebought separately. The TDM version, which includes native versions(VST, MAS, DirectX, etc.), sells for $1,800; the native-only version is$1,200.

Waves, 865/546-6115, www.waves.com.


Barry Rudolph is an L.A.-based recording engineer. Visit hisWebsite at www.barryrudolph.com.

Check Your Platform

Transform comes in versions for TDM, AudioSuite, RTAS, VST, MAS,Audio Units, DirectX, and for both Mac and PC platforms. To find out ifyour system meets the bundle's requirements, download the compatibilityreport at www.waves.com/htmls/prods/transform/Transform_compatibility.pdf.

All four plug-ins feature full automation and run up to 48 kHz and24-bit, but check www.waves.com/3_5_hd.htm for platforms and plug-inhosts that support higher sample rates. Transform is part of Waves' V.4 product line and available with the new Waves Update Plan (WUP),giving you access to version updates for a full year on all of theproducts registered in your account.

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