SoundToys Native Effects Bundle Reviewed by Zach McNees

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As a mix engineer, I’ve spent increasingly more and more time in front of my home rig in the last couple years and less time in front of big mixing consoles in studios stocked with outboard gear.

Zach McNees. Photo by Rosco Weber.

Because of this, it’s essential that the tools I’ve grown accustomed to in the racks of my favorite studios be available to me in software form to use on my mix projects. Enter: SoundToys’ Native Effects Bundle. For the past several years, SoundToys has been at the forefront of the revolution to accurately replicate many of the most recognized hardware FX units for use in the box.

TECH SPECS: The Native Effects bundle by SoundToys is a Native-only plug-in package for use on Mac and PC and retails for $495.  It comes with installers for VST, AU, RTAS, and AudioSuite and is compatible with Pro Tools LE 7, 8 & 9, M-Powered, Digital Performer, Logic Pro, Cubase, Nuendo, Sonar and Live.

The bundle includes 8 plug-ins: EchoBoy, FilterFreak, PhaseMistress, Tremolator, Speed, Crystallizer, and the all new PanMan and Decapitator. All of these plug-ins work in the formats listed above except Speed which functions like many other pitch and manipulation as a non-real time AudioSuite- and Logic Pro Time Machine-compatible plug-in.

WHAT IT DOES: At the heart of the Native Effects Bundle are the six most popular and widely used plug-ins in the SoundToys family — EchoBoy, FilterFreak, PhaseMistress, Tremolator, Speed and Crystallizer. These plug-ins have become a gold standard in effects and manipulation tools for many mixing and audio engineers over the last six years. The two new additions to the bundle are the Decapitator, an analog saturation modeler, and the PanMan, a rhythmic auto-panner.

SoundToys Native Effects

SoundToys plug-ins are deep with complex functionality and intricate features that will keep the pros busy for hours. For those who may not be as technically inclined or experienced as mixers, not to worry — SoundToys plug-ins feature a huge array of presets that will allow even first time users to find the sound they’re looking for quickly and easily.

A great example of this is the ability to sync time-based FX to the MIDI tempo of your session and adjust the timing properties of the effect musically such as ¼ note and 1/8th note.  Hugely helpful to those who are more musically than technically inclined.

THE INTERFACE: All of the SoundToys plug-ins except Speed have a very simple white on black design with clearly labeled controls and switches. While all of the plug-ins in the bundle are packed with features, none of the individual units feel overly crowded or difficult to process visually which is refreshing.

IN USE:  One of the great things about SoundToys plug-ins is their ability to accurately emulate some of the things we love about our analog gear. A simple example of this would be the input and output control sections, which — just like their hardware counterparts — allow for easy gain staging and gentle overall adjustments to your effects.  This is particularly useful when you want to gently overdrive a particular effect or conversely to back off a bit.

ECHOBOY is the flagship processor in the SoundToys family and doesn’t disappoint in its wide array of uses. This plug-in alone boasts over 30 different built-in echo styles with instant access to a wide variety of classic delay and echo boxes including EchoPlex, Space Echo, Memory Man, DM-2, and the TelRay oilcan delay.

EchoBoy: The ultimate echo plug-in

Along with standard echo functions like Time, Feedback and Low/High Cut, EchoBoy boasts Tap Tempo, MIDI Sync, knob adjustments for groove and feel, and an adjustable saturation knob in the input section to give your echo effect an extra boost.  The most remarkable thing about EchoBoy is simply how unique each of their delay styles sound and how strikingly similar they are to the hardware that they are meant to emulate.

Excellent examples of this are the rolled-off and warm Echoplex, creamy-smooth Space Echo and Tel Ray and the hi-fi sound of studio tape. For the technically inclined, Echoboy — along with a number of other plug-ins in this bundle — includes a few extras: i.e. a switch called Prime Numbers on the EchoBoy keeps the repeating echoes from building up resonance that often occurs when every repeat is at exactly the same time interval. This is a big help for engineers who’ve found themselves reaching for a post-FX EQ to alleviate some of the frequency build up from vocal or guitar echoes that resonate within the key of the song.

CRYSTALLIZER is a wild FX unit inspired by the Crystal Echoes presets in the Eventide H3000. Crystallizer does everything from off-the-wall harmonizing and octave treatment to backwards FX as well as more traditional chorus and reverb.

Cystallizer: Retro Reverse Pitch Shifting

The main controls on the front face of Crystallizer include Input and Output, Dry/Wet Mix, Pitch, Splice, Delay, and Recycle.  Pitch allows you to drastically raise and lower the pitch of the effected signal. The Splice control determines the length of the section of audio being sent to the unit that is captured and played back and at what speed it’s played back.

For example, according to the Crystallizer manual, if you set the Splice control to 1000ms it will be looking to grab a slice of audio every 1000ms and there will be approximately a 1000ms (1 second) delay before the effect sound is played back. Delay adjusts the amount of delay time added to the signal. Recycle is a kind of feedback control and allows you to send the output of the effect signal back into the input at varying amounts.

As with most of the SoundToys plug-ins, Crystallizer is much more easily digested with your ears than your eyes. More than anything else, you will need ample time to experiment when using Crystallizer to find the settings that work best for the given application.  Settings for Drums, Echo (pitch and reverse), Guitar and Keys, Harmonizes, Melodic, and Spaced Out will help guide you quickly in a general direction.

FilterFreak: Resonant Analog Filter plug-in

FILTERFREAK is a resonant analog filter. Familiar controls for Mix, Frequency, and Resonance are joined by “Mod,” a control used to adjust the overall depth or amount of modulation applied to the filter’s frequency.  Some of the excellent presets in FilterFreak include: Basic Filters and Modulation, Bass, Drum Destruction and Mangling, Envelope Filters, FX, Guitar, and Sweeps.

I tried FilterFreak as a wah-type sound on electric guitars. The results are as close as I’ve been able to come to an actual wah pedal in a plug-in and it has proven its worth a number of times on electric guitars and keys. In fact, I’ve gotten in the habit of recording these types of tracks in the studio dry knowing that I have the option of adding wah with FilterFreak later in mixing.

FilterFreak is not a subtle plug-in, but one that can be used across a wide variety of instruments to create a new sonic landscape that what was perhaps originally intended. FilterFreak tends to find its way into my mix sessions most often with artists that are looking for the mix engineer to add another level of creativity to the project musically as well as provide a sound mix.

PhaseMistress: Analog phaser effects

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