Every so often they bundle their software up, having made improvements and additions, and now we're up to Soundtoys 5. This new release feels more like a post in the ground than a complete revamp—there's more in common with Soundtoys 4 than there is new about it. 15 of the 17 standalone plug-ins are from the previous collection, and they've only had minor tweaks, the most immediately noticeable of which are just GUI layout changes.
Each of them has a lot of individual character, but some of my personal highlights follow. PhaseMistress, inspired by a range of hardware units, is regarded by many as the nicest software phaser on the market. As with a number of the other effects in the Soundtoys stable, the GUI is simple, but several buttons give you access to deeper features, including the ability to change the character of the whole phaser, select a range of motion modes, have it react to the gain envelope of the incoming signal, and so on.
Crystallizer is a more unique effect, based on the Eventide H3000's Crystal Echoes preset, a granular echo effect typically used in the '80s to give guitar or synth lines a brilliant, crystalline sheen. It can also be used to make dark, heady reversed sounds—something you can't replicate in many delay units. Speaking of delays, EchoBoy emulates a wealth of units including the Roland's RE-201 Space Echo (obviously), the EchoPlex and tape machine delay. The control it offers over the rhythm of the echoes goes way beyond the original units, though, including groove and swing control.
The FilterFreak 1 and 2 are flexible filtering plug-ins, which allow you to have filter cutoff and resonance controlled automatically in a range of ways, for one and two bands of filtering, respectively. My favourite thing to do with this is to have the resonance and cutoff respond to the gain of the incoming signal, which can divine some extremely squelchy bass sounds. Then there are a couple of warming plug-ins, Radiator and Decapitator. The first is an emulation of the Altec 1567a, and is good to be dropped liberally around your set. The second is an analogue saturation plugin that incorporates five different models of studio hardware, as well as a Punish button.
The main addition to Version 5 is the Effects Rack, which allows you to arrange any combination of the individual plug-ins into one rack. This is something that can most likely be done in your DAW anyway, but there are a few useful features that this incorporates, including a Recycle knob. This feeds back the output into the input, allowing you to increase the depth of the effect and do interesting things with delay-based effects, amongst others. Apart from this, it doesn't really offer a step change in what can be done with the effects, but it's a nice addition. The PrimalTap plug-in has also been added. It's a creative delay plugin that emulates the Lexicon Prime Time delay from the '80s, giving access to lo-fi and pitch-glitching effects, with features such as freeze and VCO modulation.
Across the plug-ins, the Tweak menus now drop out from the bottom, rather than hovering above the GUI, which is a nicer way to work with them. There's also improved MIDI timing and a few other expansions in things like delay time dotted about. So the improvements aren't extensive, but the upgrade price for the native effects bundle is only $50, which is good for what you get.
Something that belies the plug-ins' creative potential is their ease of use—you don't really need to read the manuals in detail to figure them out. That's because when you open them up, you're presented with a subset of their total controls, all of which are pretty self-explanatory. Then, if you want to dive deeper, there are expanded feature sets offered up via the Tweak buttons and some other menus (these are more likely to require a read before you'll understanding them). The Little Radiator, for example, only has two main controls, Heat and Mix, and it's a ten second job to simply drop it on a channel and add some warmth.
The Soundtoys 5 bundle costs about the same as three or four of the individual plug-ins, and if you like one of them you'll probably like them all. They nail an authentic sound, and they're creatively focused as well. Soundtoys 5 is a package that's a joy to use, filled with a wide range of the most genuinely gratifying effects on the market.
Ease of use: 4.8