FXpansion's plug-in range continues to expand. And with the likes of Etch and Maul receiving positive reviews, Bloom, FXpansion's take on a creative delay plug-in, has prompted plenty of excitement. But if you're convinced that you already have echo treatments covered within your mixes, let me assure you that there's plenty here that's unexpected. As with FXpansion's other effects titles, it's compatible within VST, AU and RTAS hosts.
The GUI is divided into three main horizontal sections, with the middle one providing most of the common parameters you'd expect from a delay plug-in. On the left is a modeling toggle switch to select between digital, bucket-brigade device and tape treatments, while a dial to the right allows you to enhance whichever selection you make with an appropriate parameter. If you select tape, for instance, this dial controls "tape age," with grainy, less predictable results offered the further back in time you travel. Delay time syncs to tempo by default, so this parameter selects from a series of quantized options. The other side of the central screen shows global controls and level meters, and it's there you can choose feedback amount, input/output gain, pan offset and mix dials. Despite a great sound and some quality modeling, it's nothing beyond the unexpected.
The next section down, where you enhance your delay chain with additional effects, hints that Bloom might be something rather special. These are envelope shaping, frequency shifting, chorus and drive, and they all feature amount dials as well as toggle switches for easy engaging/bypassing. On top of that, both low-pass and high-pass filtering are offered, so very quickly you can create delays that change or widen pitch, enhance initial transients (or lessen them), add copious amounts of saturation or distortion, enhance or redefine tone content and plenty more besides.
However, the most significant development in this section lies in the bottom-right corner and is formed of three dials that make up FXpansion's diffusion network. This provides access to FXpansion's own reverb algorithm, which allows you to choose a size for its simulated space, a decay time and an amount. Remember, this is designed to enhance the delays generated by Bloom rather than act as a reverb plug-in in its own right, though there'd be nothing to stop you achieving such a result with an almost immediate delay time, generous amounts of mix level and your reverb settings of choice. But with all three diffusion network parameters cranked high, the net result is an incredible cloud effect over the delays, where even the most percussive input sources can quickly be turned into a shimmering, last-forever texture.
But as with previous FXpansion plug-ins, Bloom's true power lies in its TransMod system. This allows almost every parameter within Bloom to be animated via your modulation source of choice. These are copious, with two LFOs, envelope follower, noise, three step sequencers, velocity, pitch and randomizing modules capable of outputting signals you can patch in at will. Here's how it works. Suppose you wanted to create LFO control over the delay time. First, you'd press the source button on the left before adjusting LFO1's parameters for rate, shape, morph, phase and gain to the settings of your choice. Then, you'd click on the LFO1 button to let Bloom know this was the parameter you wanted to assign. Then, you'd click on the static arrow position of your target parameter and drag up or down to set the range of LFO1's assignment. This process will be familiar to anyone who has used NI's Massive, and it can be repeated on multiple targets from a single source or across a diverse range of sources/targets. To access the sequencer modules, you'll need to click the equivalent tab in the top-left corner, with three (up to) 16-step sequencers creativing positive or negative offsets that can then be matched to parameters as you wish. So, if you want to sequence delay times, spot reverse or freeze effects, you'll find what you need here.
There's plenty more control, with standard or HD (more processor-intensive but better-sounding) processing, all the MIDI assignment control you could wish for and a great-sounding collection of presets that demonstrate Bloom's capabilities impressively. Creative delay effects are popular now but many of them specialize in a particular era of echo treatments, whether they're tape, analogue simulation or crystal-clear digital delay. Bloom offers all three, but its real power comes from its greatly extended effects chaining and comprehensive modulation systems. Whether you want gentle delays to subtly underscore a part or crazy sound-designed mayhem, Bloom has a creative treatment waiting for you.