5 essential Modular FX plugins we use everyday from sound design to mixing. From tips and tricks to all round info this article will give you extended information on some of the best plugs for modular style processing.
01 – Cableguys Shaperbox 2
We must be some of the most prolific users of Cableguys’ plugins, from the first version of Volumeshaper, it is a go to for sidechaining and sample trimming/enveloping. Shaperbox 2 comes with a lot of new tricks and accumulates all those years of experience under its belt. The main plugin Shaperbox is just the host that you can load the effects in. There are 6 types of effects available Volume, Pan, Width, Filter, Time and Crush but more are planned to come. The main concept is that all those effects can be modulated from LFOs that you design. So it becomes very flexible as you can create custom curves, chops, pulses and any LFO shape you can imagine. All LFOs can be locked to DAW’s tempo with sample accuracy or triggered via MIDI. If all these are not enough all processors can work in multiband so you can for example sidechain just the lows from your bass or autopan only the top end from a synth. Latest version adds envelope followers so shapers can react to the dynamics of the input signal or an external sidechain, a compressor that offers extra control over the dynamics of your sound and introduces pens which are preset shapes that you can draw without having to add multiple nodes. Without diving any deeper seems like anything can be done with Shaperbox from basic stuff like trimming/side chaining to more complex such as scratches, stutters and haas panning. A real everyday workhorse.
Tip 01: Tighten your beats and remove any flabbiness or flams with precision that will lead you to cleaner louder mixes.
Tip 02: Use the presets on your sounds to create new interesting variations and overcome writer’s block.
02 – Kilohearts Multipass & Snap Heap
The key word here is Snapins. Multipass and Snap Heap are just hosts for the Snapins with different routing possibilities. Multipass is multiband while Snap Heap offers serial and parallel processing (and is also free). Both hosts include macros, LFOs, envelopes, pitch and midi mappings so you can modulate anything, any way you want. But what Snapins are? Snapins are regular VST/AU plugins that you can use on their own but the key thing here is that they can also work as modular FX processors inside the Snapin hosts. Effects vary from basic ones like filters and EQs to more unique ones like tape stop and reverser. Basically any effect you may think of is already there ready to use. Also all the other premium Kilohearts’ effects like Faturator and Disperser offer Snapin versions you can load inside the hosts. Working with Multipass or Snap Heap is very easy and the workflow is natural like working on an outboard modular. You add the Snapins you want, patch them modulate, automate them and easily save the whole chain for future use. 99% of the time the results are useful and interesting. Fantastically musical and amazingly good sounding plugins.
Tip 01: Don’t be afraid to take advantage of all the modulation possibilities the Snapin hosts offer.
Tip 02: If you want to blow off some steam Multipass includes a snake game you can play 🙂
03 – Sugar Bytes Looperator & Effectrix
Those two offerings from Sugar Bytes are based on the same concept, step FX. That means you can add different FXs the same way you add hits on a step sequencer or daw. Every step can have a different FX and modulation or you can combine the various FXs on the same step. Looperator is more focused in chopping and re-arranging the material on the fly with the Slicer before you apply the FXs while effectrix is more focused in the FX processing and modulation of it. In depth Looperator offers, in rearrangeable order, a slicer, a looper, an enveloper, a filter and two custom multi FXs. Effectrix offers 14 FXs for each step, ranging from loopers and stutters to delays, reverbs and bit crushers. Also has swing capabilities for the sequencers, two modulators for each effect and midi triggering. We love the randomisation functions on both plugins that helps to unlock creativity when stuck and the fact that while there are a lot of stuff in offer using those two tools is easy and before you know it you can reach results that can make you sound unique. Last but not least all processing is A+ quality while keeping the CPU really low and without adding any latency to your chains.
Tip 01: Use the carefully designed and useful presets.
Tip 02: RANDOMISE.
04 – Unfiltered Audio BYOME
Before BYOME, Unfiltered Audio created many plugins from delays, compressor and distortions to pitch shifters and spectral processors. They all have one thing in common, an extended modulation section.
Now take all these algorithms from the individual plugins, add a bunch more (over 40 FX in total) and an overhauled full featured modulation system and you get BYOME. Not enough? There is also a master panel with controls for in, out, sample rate, auto gain compensation and mix that affect the whole engine, a very informative metering display and more than 400 presets from well known designers. All modules FX and modulation as well as the presets are smartly organised in categories so you do not get lost when browsing. Everything sounds modern, unique and super musical and gives the opportunity for non stop experimentation.
If you are ever stuck and do not know what to do there is randomisation options for every module individually and for the whole plugin. Some of the standouts from the vast collection are the various reverbs especially the Deep and Renoun modules, the Frequency Shifter, the Granulator and the Stutter and Reverse delays.
Tip 01: Use the macros to make complicated moves easy.
Tip 02: It is not just a crazy sound design tool, includes some very useful effects for normal mixing too.
05 – Native Instruments Molekular
Molekular is an ensemble for Reaktor (or the free Reaktor Player) made by a collaboration between Native Instruments and Denis Goekdag the mastermind behind Zynaptiq. It contains 35 effects and 16 modulators you can patch any way you want so as to create your custom modular system in the box. It has 4 DSP slots which you can load the effects that vary from simple ones like EQs and delays, to dynamics, distortion, modulation, glitch effects, pitch effects and resonators. Last two are those that make it stand out from any other processor. Using them you can even transform percussive sounds to melodies. On the modulators side there are LFOs, Step Sequencers, Trigger Sequencers which are mostly found in hardware modular systems and Logic Modulators to add an organic feel to your patterns. All processing is done with exceptional quality (it is a bit cpu heavy) and really gives you the analog vibe with deep subs and lush reverb tails. Surely a tool that deserves its time to be deeply explored.
Tip 01: Experiment with the morphing function for ever changing patterns.
Tip 02: Includes some very nice sounding filters, reverbs and delays.