If you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you might just about be excused for failing to have noticed the SoundToys effects bundle, which has been growing in popularity for both TDM and Native plug-in users. This suite has now mutated into its fourth incarnation while maintaining its price point at $495, which promises to widen its appeal yet further.
For the uninitiated, I'll summarise the effects which were available in version 3 below but first and foremost, let's look at the two new effects. The first of these is PanMan, an auto-panning plug-in which outwardly might seem unnecessary, as almost all DAWs contain the capacity either to pan a signal using effects such as tremolo or auto-pan, or at least to provide automatable changes to pan position. PanMan goes way beyond these capabilities, however, as it's capable of internally modulated changes to create unique pan "patterns" as well as others which respond to dynamic levels.
This is possible as the plug-in features five dedicated modes: LFO, Rhythm Step, Rhythm Shape, PingPong, Random and Step. LFO is the most basic, with a Rate dial controlling speed, direction buttons for back-and-forth movement or your choice of left-to-right or right-to-left movement only. PingPong and Step Modes offer dynamic effects, in that pan movement is linked to volume threshold. A trigger dial shows incoming level and the pan movement you've designed using the dials only takes place when the threshold is breached.
You can add further layers of complexity using the Divider dial which requires the threshold to be exceeded a number of times (your choice between 1 and 12) before the pan changes kick in. This means that, amongst other things, pan movement can increase as a signal gets louder, which has huge musical potential for your productions. Otherwise, the Rhythmic algorithms allow you to get your signals dancing from side to side via a series of tempo-locked options, while Random lives up to its billing as the go-to mode for special spatial effects.
All modes feature a running light LED display to show the pan position while above this, dials control parameters relevant to the mode you've chosen, such as Offset to bias the result towards the left or right, Width, to control how extreme the stereo results will be and Smoothing, to control the flow of the pan from left to right. Over on the right, Input and Output dials are enhanced further by the Analog Mode which lets you add a tone colouration to the plug-in's results, with seven flavours available, such as Fat, Squash, Crunch and Pump.
If you've been waiting for SoundToys to venture into more extreme audio territory than the previous plug-ins had dared, your wait is over. Decapitator is a saturation effect which models the effect of analog equipment being pushed to its limit, to help you add warmth, crunch or grit to signals of your choice. Five devices have been modeled, with "A" a model of the Ampex 350 tape drive preamp, "E" modeled after the Chandler/EMI TG channel, "N" a model of the Neve 1057 input channel, "T" modeled after the Thermionic Culture Vulture triode setting and "P" a model of the same device's Pentode setting.
Once you've chosen a mode, the other dials then control its behaviour. The Drive dial ramps up the input level and controls the steady increase of distortion, while tone-shaping tools are offered via Low Cut (adjustable between 20Hz and 1kHz), an overall Tone dial which can be dialed between Dark and Bright settings, and a High Cut dial which rolls off frequencies between 1kHz and 20kHz. Both filters feature their own trick: The Low Cut dial has a "thump" option to add volume to the low filter's cutoff point, which emulates the head bump effect of analogue tape recorders.
At the top end, the Steep switch flips the curve of the high filter from its default setting of 6dB to a more extreme 30dB per octave. If you've dialed the Drive round to maximum but still want more, the Punish button is for you, as this adds an additional 20dB of volume, so watch your speakers. There's a Mix dial to let you decide just how much brutality you want to blend with your dry sound, while the Output dial can be adjusted manually or set to Auto mode, so that the plug-in keeps the output signal balanced automatically as more Drive is added. The results are wonderful. You can produce anything from gentle saturation or signal colouration to sheer unbridled mayhem. The important point is that this isn't an amp simulation plug-in, so it's capable of a huge range of sonic flavours, with each modeled device bringing its own approach to Decapitator.
So, that deals with the new plugs, but in case the SoundToys name is new to you, here's what completes the bundle. EchoBoy is an advanced delay unit with modern, vintage and tape-style echo capabilities while Tremolator offers classic tremolo effects, complete with rhythmic auto-gating style results. The FilterFreak plug-in offers single (FilterFreak 1) or dual (FilterFreak 2), resonant modulated filtering, with tempo-syncable "pattern" options and PhaseMistress is an analogue-style Phaser, again with extensive programmable modulation options. Crystallizer offers Eventide Harmoniser style granular effects, including reversing delays and last but not least, for TDM and Logic users, the off-line Speed algorithm is added to the time/pitch capabilities of your workstation for time-stretching purposes.
Overall, the SoundToys bundle is nothing short of phenomenal. If you're an existing user, the native upgrade to grab the two new plug-ins will cost you $99 (worth every dime), while for those wondering whether to purchase from scratch, V4 costs the same as its predecessor ($495), offering enhanced value for money. This is by no means an insignificant outlay but I honestly can't recommend the suite highly enough.