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Scratch, Trash, Freeze That Audio!

What if you're in the middle of the mix and your client says, “Can you make it sound a little more…exotic?” If you're at a loss for inspiration, effects plug-ins — able to morph your sounds with a single mouse-click — can come to the rescue.

What if you’re in the middle of the mix and your client says,“Can you make it sound a littlemore…exotic?” If you’re at a loss forinspiration, effects plug-ins — able to morph your sounds with asingle mouse-click — can come to the rescue. And while there’snothing amiss with standard delay, pitch shift, distortion or dynamicsplug-ins, of course, sometimes you’re looking for something more out ofthe ordinary. If verbs such as morph, carve, decimate, diffuse,granulize, transform, resynthesize, freeze, shuffle, trash, warp,scratch and freak pique your curiosity, then read on.

Certainly one of the more exotic plug-ins around is kantos ($299)from Antares ( Available for RTAS, VST,DirectX and MAS Macintosh platforms, kantos provides a range ofsoft-synth functions and new ones specific to audio control. Dualwavetable oscillators, envelope generators, LFOs and chorus generatorsare standard enough in nature, but controls over timbral articulationare unique to kantos. This module takes harmonic content and formantinformation from an internal or external input signal and dynamicallyapplies it to the synthesized signal.

Arboretum Systems‘ ( always-evolving Hyperprismeffects processing plug-in suite ($299 for Hyperprism Gold) is now inVersion 2.5. It has added OS X compatibility, plus some fairly twistednew effects in this X-Y parameter-controlled environment. New toHyperprism Gold is Dispersion, a frequency-dependent delay that addsdelay to specific bands, converts transients into useful“chirps,” and interpolates the delay of each frequency bandbetween user-controlled high and low values. Inharmoniques is aperpetually rising and falling flanger/phaser combined with multibandlimiting that acts as a comb filter to provide more variety and controlover modulation motion than a traditional flanger/phaser. Makka-Delayis an advanced filtered feedback delay incorporating a chain of filtersand waveshaping distortion.

BIAS ( released V. 1.2 of its Vbox ($99stand-alone and VST plug-in; Vbox SE included with Peak 4)multi-effects control environment for VST plug-ins. Now supportingWindows and working as a stand-alone Mach-O application on OS X, Vboxintegrates as a VST shell plug-in for any VST host program. Users cancreate millions of sonic solutions in the Vbox plug-in matrix, as wellas with a virtually unlimited number of VST plug-ins, dozens of whichcome bundled with the package. Effects are combined, routed and mixedin parallel, series and series-parallel combinations, and are instantlyhot-swappable on-the-fly when things get really exotic. Used as astand-alone app, Vbox, which comes bundled with BIAS Peak and Deck asVbox SE, can load and process .AIFF, Sound Designer II and .WAV audiofiles.

An X-Y parameter controller and 31 effects processors have beenadded to the loop-crazed Fruityloops environment in FL Studio 4Producer Edition ($209) from Image-Line and distributed byCakewalk ( Working stand-alone and as a DXisoft synth on Windows, FL Studio Producer includes Wave Traveler, a.WAV file DJ scratcher, and a granular synth fittingly called FruityGranulizer, which splits, stretches and morphs samples. BeepMapgenerates some wild stuff by creating sounds based on imported imagefiles. Recently added to Cakewalk’s Project5 soft synth, sampler,effects and loop-editing platform was Spectral Transformer ($429), a DXeffects processor employing phase vocoding and “frequencymutation” to come up with all things warped. It was designed as areal-time instrument with six effects of its own, including transposer,accumulator, exaggerator, lo/hi filter and tracer, the latter thinninga sound until only a trace of its original audio signature remains.

From Ireland comes Wider 1.2 ($299) by Cuan TechnologyStudios ( Just what does a “spatialaudio sculpture” plug-in do for Mac and PC Pro Tools? Plenty.Wider carves up and reassembles audio sources as time-, space- andfrequency-dependent elements, allowing users to spread thin-soundingtakes by utilizing band splitting, delay and panning controls to tunethe directional radiation pattern of a given instrument.Position-dependent ambient reflection patterns can be made to vary withthe pan of audio at Wider’s input. Pro Tools|HD, TDM and RTAS versionsare available.

Looking for lots of exotic, one-of-a-kind processors? There are 100such tools and more in Pluggo 3 ($199) from Cycling ’74 ( Macintosh VST, MAS and RTAS environments. Joining the original 74Max4/MSP2-developed plug-ins are Granular-to-Go, a granular synthprocessor for stuttered vocals or purely abstract timbres, andNoyzckippr. The latter actually multiplies an input signal usingbandpass-filtered white noise to provide nonlinear effects, includingfairly odd tremolos when the center frequencies of the filter are verylow. Included with Pluggo 3 is the Plugmaker 2.0 application for thoserolling their own Pluggos with the company’s MSP application. And duefrom Cycling ’74 this fall is MODE ($295), an OS X plug-ins suite ofthree synths and a pair of effects called Wash and Spin, the latterbeing a rhythmic processor with state-variable filter, panning, gating,delay, distortion and bit-reduction controls that promise to producesounds ranging from “subtle modifications to extremeabuse.”

Another DIY sound builder is PizzaFX ($50) fromD-Mute/Azymute (; Creamware Pulsar, Scope and Luna2users who want everything on their sonic pizzas can make their own bycombining any Creamware- or third-party-created inserts effects andsaving those combos as effects presets.

The legacy cross-synthesis TDM plug-in duo Bruno/Reso ($395) fromDigidesign ( turns any Pro Tools audiosource into a range of uniquely textured new sounds. Supporting Mac OS9 and X, and all Windows platforms with up to 96kHz sampling,Bruno/Reso incorporates 24 voices to layer and manipulate a widespectrum of tones. An on-screen keyboard allows users to latch keys andproduce multiple notes from each audio event.

DUY‘s DSPider ($1,195; dist. by Digi-design, is a modular Mac TDM/HTDMplug-in creation tool that comes with 40 modules that the user linkstogether to create virtually any sort of processing device. More than250 effects presets are included to get you rolling, includingcompressors, reverbs, EQs, and synthesized and special effects. Alsoavailable from DUY is ReDSPider, a read-only version of DSPider thatallows access to all of the latter’s preset effects.

Included with the latest version of Logic 5 is Spectral Gate, one ofEmagic‘s ( new 32-bit, floating-pointproprietary audio processing plug-ins. Users define a frequency range,and then make different parts of the audio source signal separatelyaudible above (called Super Energy) and below (Sub Energy) thethreshold level. The company describes the isolated monitoring of SuperEnergy as vocoder-like.

Effects don’t have to be new to be innovative. May-be you’ve thoughtup some crazy scheme to tweak your mix with a classic phasing effect.Or how about a flanger? Eventide ( released plug-in versions of its ’70s favorites — InstantPhaser and Instant Flanger — as part of its new Clockworks Legacybundle, which also includes the Omnipressor and H910 and H949Harmonizers. These virtual goodies take the studio classics to the nextlevel with features like automation and resolution of up to 192k.

From FXpansion/GForce Group and distributed by Digidesign ( is MindFX Volume 2 ($499) forMac and PC RTAS and HTDM users. Included with this six-pack of newplug-ins is Snippet Resynthesizer, a hybrid real-timegranular/wavetable tool that creates wavetables on-the-fly from anyaudio input signal; Hyper Channel, a standard gate/compressor/EQ/reverbchannel that assigns each of 12 internal states per processor to a MIDIkey for smooth effect morphs; and Evolver, a multidirection, FIR-basedconvolution filter with real-time morphing and transformationcapabilities that cut and boost selected frequencies “in waysboth surgical and bizarre.”

Developed by Ina-GRM ( and distributed worldwide byElectronic Music Foundation, the GRM Tools family of audio processingplug-ins is included with the GRM Tools Classic ($549), which is nowavailable for Mac OS X. Freeze allows users to freeze three-secondsegments of a signal and scrub them with a 2-D controller to revealunheard-of sounds and create loops of varying sizes and pitches.Doppler creates that classic “police siren” effect, andShuffling controls the durations and attacks of signal fragments— and their related pitch and density — to createdistinctive resonance or reverberation to fill audio spaces withoverlapping fragments of a sound.

If the unterminated wires of this plug-in’s cool interface are anyindication of what’s under the hood, Trash ($229; $199 download) fromiZotope ( can strip any incoming signal ofits protective sheath to reveal untold dirt, grit and distortion. This64-bit DirectX effects processing plug-in goes beyond a typical guitaramp simulator with 85 cabinet models, 48 types of multiband distortionand dynamics, and 36 LFO- and envelope-triggerable LFOs. Also fromiZotope is Spectron ($99), which employs a spectral-analysis engine tosplit incoming audio into thousands of independently affectablefrequency bands before resynthesizing it all into something entirelydifferent.

Midifier ($49 download) from knz-audio ( isa DirectX and VST Windows audio plug-in (Mac version in the works) thatconverts monophonic audio tracks to MIDI data in real time. Apolyphonic and percussion version is also expected. Need to generatesynth harmonies from a vocal track long after the synth player is gone?Midifier can also be used to convert existing audio material into MIDIlines, as well, and a simple built-in synth allows auditioning of theresults, even if the host program doesn’t support incoming MIDI fromaudio plug-ins.

Native Instruments ( announced a rewrittenaudio engine and enhanced performance features to NI-Spektral Delay 1.5($299). If tweaking feedback delays for 160 bands per stereo side andinteracting with drawable filter curves and an edit graph mouse windowaren’t enough to find your tone, then you might want to reconsider howyou’re making a living! Unusual processing options, such as rotation ofthe frequency bands or reverb simulations by smearing the amplitudecourse of each band, take NI-Spektral Delay far beyond your typicalmultitap tool.

Propellerhead‘s ( Reason 2.5 ($399) adds anumber of new effects processors. Joining the rack is a high-qualityreverb, a CV and gate signal splitter, an ’80s-era Unison button synthemulation and the Scream 4 Sound Destruction Unit. The latter’s 10different “damage types” are great for overdriving,distorting, fuzzing, tubing, tape-saturating, feedbacking, modulatingand warping the heck out of any audio or synth track you feed it. Aunique dynamic effect can be created using the amplitude-respondentenvelope follower to control the effect’s scale parameter, and Scream’sDamage Control knob pretty much says it all. For more, see the“Field Test” on page 112.

PiWarp (included with $449 VST Bundle) from Prosoniq ( isa unique VST/DirectX frequency-warping plug-in that creates generousamounts of special effects, atmospheres, dense ambient sounds “ofalien worlds or space ship environments” and more. Users canemploy PiWarp to generate interesting counter-melodies and effects whenit is applied to dry vocals and drum sounds. Version 2.0 of PiWarp,recently announced, now offers Mac OS X support.

SFX Machine RT ($99) from Sound Guy ( is a real-time version of theaudio effects plug-in platform. Hundreds of conventional andnot-so-conventional effects presets in SFX Machine make the creation ofjust about any sort of effect possible, many of which include a pitchtracker or envelope follower to allow the effect to respond to theinput signal’s characteristics. Notably exotic are presets such asVelvetChimes, a series of bandpass filters tuned to various chords;FreezeBoing, a granular synthesis; Theremin Envelope Follower, whichuses the pitch of a solo instrument to control an oscillator’s pitch;and PitchTrack, which translates a singer’s or solo instrument’s pitchup two octaves and then uses that to modulate the cut-off frequency ofa bandpass filter and add white noise and vibrato for a totallyconvincing whistle effect that follows the source track.

Does a massive 3-gigabyte core sound library with 3,000 patches andmore than 38,000 samples provide enough sound tools for a convincingturntable and DJ emulation? You bet. The Spectrasonics StylusVinyl Groove Module ($299; dist. in North America by IlioEntertainments,, available for VST Mac/PC, MAS andRTAS, is the first Groove Control instrument developed for Pro ToolsRTAS, LE, TDM and HD. Groove elements, loops, samples and a powerfullyintuitive user interface allow the creation of convincing DJ, turntableand scratch grooves.

If playing a nagara, bansuri, tanpura or other traditional Indianinstrument is what you’re looking for, then go no further than theSwarPlug VSTi suite of 21 instrument plug-ins ($195, Windows/Mac) fromSwar Systems ( in India. Built on theacclaimed 24-voice polyphonic LinPlug CronoX 2 sampler engine, eachSwarPlug instrument offers over 1,000 MIDI loops performed by renownedIndian musicians. Classical and folkloric repertoires are covered, andthe Swar Systems Website includes a rich Indian music and lifestylelinks page.

The recently upgraded Spark FXmachine ($199) and Spark XL ($599)from TC Electronic (formerly TC Works, allow users to build custommodular synthesizers, mastering processing and massive multi-effectsprocessors with the included effects and/or any VST effects orinstrument plug-in. Spark FXmachine 2.8 for Mac OS X and Windows— free to existing registered owners — now offers AudioUnit OS X support, mouse wheel support for enhanced para-meter controland 22 plug-ins, including the new Sonic Destructor, which is a freedownload upon registration. Built-in effects also include a resonancefilter with envelope follower, an analog distortion emulation, andGrainalizer, a modulated downsampling delay unit.

USB (Ultimate Sound Bank, released the latest in thecompany’s line of UVI Engine-based plug-ins: the Xtreme FX (Mac/Win). Avirtual Foley and sound effects box, Xtreme FX provides instant accessto a library with literally thousands of effects and sounds. The UVIinterface makes twisting and shaping each sound to taste a breeze forany music, multimedia, game, broadcast or post application. Mach Fivecompatibility allows MOTU users to open library sounds directly in thecompany’s new sampler, and all parameters can be saved and recalledwithin any Pro Tools 5 or higher session.

FilterFreak 1.0 ($249) is the first in a new series of exotic andeveryday audio plug-ins to come from the SoundToys division of WaveMechanics ( Inspired in design by theclassic Mutronics Mutator and Sherman FilterBank, FilterFreak takesanalog-modeled filtering to heights its predecessors only dreamed ofyears ago. The core of FilterFreak is a way steep 48dB-per-octaveanalog-modeling filter with adjustable filter slope, resonance andfilter-shaping tools. If the extensive routing features and the abilityto create radical filtering effects with the unit’s tempo-locked LFO,envelope follower, random LFO, ADSR and triggered random-steppercontrols with FilterFreak aren’t enough, users can also build customLFO patterns and shapes to lock to any tempo or groove.

Randy Alberts is a frequent contributor to Mix.

Something for (Almost) Nothing

There must be a law somewhere that says that the weirder a softwareapp is, the less it should cost. In the audio world, there are plentyof bizarre shareware and freeware plug-ins out there to help youconstruct — or deconstruct — your mix. Of course, thequality of these effects ranges from professional to home-grown, sochoose wisely! Here are a few free or low-cost goodies to get youstarted.

If you’re into digital delay processors, check out the MoreFeedback Machine from Urs Heckmann, who wanted more control delaycontrol than he “had available or could afford,” so hebuilt it himself, creating a VST application that offers four delaylines that can be fed back into themselves and each other via a4×4 feedback matrix. More than 100 parameters are available;features include delay filters, limiter/compressor/saturators, LFOoscillators and a step sequencer. Delay times are up to 2,000 ms. Go A donation of $20 isrequested after 14 days of use.

Coagula 1.6 Lite freeware from Rasmus Ekman is an“image synth,” meaning it can both create and manipulateimages and uses image information, such as color and pixel position, togenerate sound from those images. Use Coagula to generate complex synthsounds with drawing tools. Windows 95 or later is required. Download acopy at

Sound 2D Warper, a freeware application from VictorKhashchanskiy, takes the image-to-sound process a step further: Itloads .WAV files and converts them to images. Then, you can add imageeffects and resynthesize them as sounds. Free at When you’re onthe site, check out Enrhythmizer, which acts like an amplitude or phasemodulator by applying rhythm patterns over a source sound. It alsoprovides a built-in noise and sine generator for test purposes.

The CREATE group at the University of California, Santa Barbara,offers Pulsargenerator 2001, a real-time interactivesound-synthesis program that employs pulsar synthesis (which generatesand manipulates “trains” of sonic particles) and lets youuse your computer as a controller. For Mac OS 9. Download a free copyat

Last but not least, AudioNerdz (, a group of four students inthe Netherlands, is the team behind Delay Lama, a VST instrumentthat offers vocal synthesis via a 3-D “singing monk”real-time, animated interface. The plug-in emulates the sound of anEastern monk, with real-time, high-resolution control over the vowelsounds, complete with 3-D animation. A built-in X-Y controller (or yourMIDI keyboard) allows simultaneous control over pitch and vowel sounds.For Mac and PC. Although Delay Lama is freeware, AudioNerdz encouragessatisfied users to donate to the International Campaign for Tibet.