Every so often, audio developers come along with a truly out-of-the-box idea that can change the creative processes for artists and producers.
Eventide, a company whose history is rich with these kinds of forward-thinking developments, have recently released Fission—a new plugin that separates transients from tonal information, providing individual control over these two elements of a given sound, promising to go far beyond the bounds of conventional transient shaping.
Fission is the first plugin to feature Eventide’s proprietary new “Structural Effects” technology. Its sleek and simply-appointed GUI features three sections stacked on top of one another—Transient Effects, Structural Split, and Tonal Effects—that allow you not only to separate your transients from your sustain, but to balance and even effect them separately as well.
”Structural Split”: Cutting Your Signal in Two
The “Structural Split” section occupies the center of the GUI, sandwiched between the upper “Transient Effects” and lower “Tonal Effects” sections. This is where the actual deconstruction of the signal takes place.
In this novel section, you’ll find a vertical fader labeled “Focus,” which directs the internal bias of the plugin towards either the Transient or Tonal audio channel.
You can think of this control as setting the “splitting point” between these two separated elements. The user manual reinforces this, stating that “the real separation magic occurs in the middle settings, where Focus sets the main transition decision point where audio splits into the separate Transient and Tonal streams.”
This section of the plugin offers real-time visual feedback during playback, which shows transient information in blue and tonal information in green on a pair of waveforms representing the signal that you are affecting.
This Structural Split section also features individual adjustments for “Smoothing” and “Trans Decay”.
Smoothing is primarily used to control any artifacts that may occur when using more complex source material, by slowing down the transition between the individual Transient and Tonal “streams”.
Trans Decay is an extension of Smoothing, and only works in one direction, effectively limiting how quickly audio transitions from the Transient to Tonal streams within Fission.
At the very bottom of the Structural Split section, you will find a horizontal slider and menu box for “Source Type”.
This section allows you to tell Fission the type of instrument that you are feeding into it (Kick, Snare, Tom, Full Drum Set, Bass, Piano, Synth, Guitar, Vocal), allowing the plugin to load up distinct “algorithmic tunings” to help refine the results of the structural splitting between transients and tone. You can use the drop down menu to select the source type, or simply move the slider from side to side to navigate through the different algorithms.
Although the manual encourages users to be adventurous in trying different tunings on source material, these settings are in built for the purpose of differentiating between signals full of complex polyphonic information and those that provide simpler transient information.
The last feature of the Structural Split section is a simple On/Off switch. When switched to Off, the internal Structural Split process of Fission is disengaged, and the Transient/Tonal fader becomes a simple volume crossfader between the two parallel channels.
This effectively turns Fission into a pre-effect mixer for each channel (similar to a DJ’s mix between two turntables) and the plugin becomes a parallel effects processor in this case. The processing done to either the Transient or Tonal stream still applies, however the plugin is no longer internally deconstructing the signal.
Dual Processing: Transient Effects and Tonal Effects
After the signal travels through the Structural Split module and is separated into its two components, you can then independently process them in the “Transient Effects” and “Tonal Effects” sections through a number of selectable “Effect Blocks”.
Using the drop-down menu in the Transient Effects section, you can select between Delay, Tap Delay, Dynamics, Phaser, Reverb, and Gate + EQ. Each individual effect has its own set of controls, unique to the effect type you’ve chosen.
For example, if you select “Dynamics”, you can tweak settings for Threshold, Attack, Release, and so on. If you select “Delay”, parameters such as Time, Feedback, Low/Hi Cut and Mix are available. Each effect is fairly robust in its available parameters, but with a tilt toward well-curated minimalism.
The Tonal Effects section is just as extensive. The Effects Block here features Delay, Compressor, Pitch, Chorus, Reverb, Tremolo, and EQ. Both the Transient Effects and Tonal Effects sections have adjustments for Gain, as well as a Solo function, and 14-point meters.
Fission offers much more than simply adjusting the balance between transient and tone—you can go fairly in-depth from an effects standpoint as well.
I had excellent results using Fission for transient balancing on bass, and I was able to remedy a track in such a way that I’ve only been able to partially achieve elsewhere.
As a mixer, I get a lot of work from sessions I had no part in engineering, and as such, sometimes tracks are delivered in less-than-stellar shape. One of the biggest offenders in this regard is a “soft” bass track, that needs more percussive definition from the finger or pick attack but is overshadowed by overwhelming roundness and note body.
Generally, my go-to tool here is Waves Trans-X, which essentially acts a reverse-multiband-compressor, allowing me to accentuate frequency-specific percussive elements of a sound with dynamics in such a way that EQ simply cannot. But this trick only works to a certain extent before it starts to sound unnatural.
Because Fission allows me to separate the transients from tonality, I was able to easily favor the percussiveness of the sound by simply dialing back the gain on the Tonal stream.
Similarly I often find I will want more “hammer” noise from a piano—not necessarily in terms of EQ, but more so in getting the full-frequency “impact” of the player striking chords. When I’m mixing, piano tracks tend to get a healthy dose of compression because I’ll aim to have chords sustain for quite some time. In doing this, I tend to lose more attack than I want to, even when adjusting the compressor’s attack to offset this effect, so I found that the option of emphasizing the transients with Fission is a great trick to have up my sleeve.
Next, I tried Fission for tuning drums, because I had seen some promotional videos demonstrating its uses here. I’ll give a bit of a disclaimer here by saying that generally, I’m a stickler for drum tuning. Very often, I’ll base kick and snare tunings on the key of a song (sometimes toms as well), and if I’m layering in samples, I’ll stay cognizant of how the pitches interact with each other and with the chord changes of the song. Oftentimes, I’ll even alter the pitch of drum samples to get them to play nicely with the recorded tracks.
The first thing I did for drums was to load up a full kit into Fission and start experimenting. It was a 2-track stem printed from a mix, so everything was pretty dialed-in already. I set the Transient Effect Block to Dynamics, and the Tonal Effect Block to Compressor, and solo’d the Transient Effects section. This revealed a pretty sharp, “spiky” set of transients (which was to be expected) and I noticed what seemed like some odd phasing artifacts in the overheads and hi hats when listening to the transient stream in solo. Fortunately, these artifacts were not present when the Transient and Tonal streams are both playing back together—only when listening to either stream separately in solo mode.