In Focus: Soundtoys 5

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In Focus: Soundtoys 5

Soundtoys 5

Build your own effects rack or harness the power of each of these plugins on their own. Soundtoys bring together the best of the digital and analogue realms into a range of unparalleled form and function.

Soundtoys V5.4

For those well acquainted with the thousands of YouTube videos of engineers breaking down their mixes for us all, you’ll surely know Soundtoys plugins. For those unacquainted, Soundtoys take some of the best analogue equipment, model it, and build modern tone shaping and control into the workflow, allowing us to harness the best of both digital and analogue domains.

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Their Soundtoys collection (currently on V5.4) boasts the entire collection of all their plugins available, from sweeping delays to gritty distortion boxes, phase and width tools and tremolos, flangers and reverbs. But how do they sound, and how does it all work together? Let’s dive in.

Standalone plugins vs. Effects Rack

Effects Rack allows you to build and refine your own sounds within a single plugin per se, harnessing multiple plugins like Decapitator, FilterFreak, EchoBoy and SuperPlate to create an effect, as well as having global input, output and Mix controls for the entire Effects Rack instance. The Recycle control allows you to mix the output of the rack back into the input for modulated or other over-the-top sounds if you wish!

In addition to Effects Rack, each of the Soundtoys plugins is available for use standalone.

Decapitator, Radiator, Devil-Loc & Devil-Loc Deluxe

Distortion is a huge part of production. Serving as a pseudo compressor, EQ and transient designer. Distortion can add grit to a sound, both bolstering it and boiling it down to its most pure essence, while also pushing the signal closer to clipping. Soundtoys’ Decapitator models a well-known preamp, known for its ability to drive and clip a signal, bringing forward attack and grit without having to overtly (or audibly) distort a signal per se. All that being said, the Decapitator has the ability to push levels over-the-top, as well as dial it back with a Mix control.

The Devil-Loc is a similar vibe, but all with its own flavour. Simple controls are available in a Crush and Crunch control, the Devil-Loc Deluxe offering Darkness and Mix controls as well. Slow/Fast release controls allow the distortion from the Devil-Loc to be more or less audible. I found myself switching to a faster release for faster sounds, the Slow release on a snare, for example, brought up more ring and noise than I usually wanted, whereas for a vocal the Slow release helps highlight emotion, breathing and balance out the vocal overall.

The Decapitator works well to help transients to poke out from a dense mix, i.e. for important elements like drums and vocals, where the Devil-Loc can help flatten and crush sources to be blended in parallel… or left blown-out for a unique tone!

For those after something a little more vintage and a little more refined, the Radiator (and Little Radiator) offer a more subtle, tubey overdrive, modelled after an Altec 1567A mixer amplifier. Simple enough Input and Output controls allow you control your signal, with a Mix knob available. The digital platform allows you to turn on and off the hiss that was present on the original unit, also accurately modelled, with simple two-band Treble and Bass controls.

SuperPlate, LittlePlate and EchoBoy

Now your signal is weighty, present and bolstered, you can give it some space with a few time-based effects from Soundtoys.

The LittlePlate is Soundtoys’ famed plate-reverb, recently receiving an overhaul that bought the SuperPlate. EMT plate reverbs are famously musical, their metallic sheen providing a great option for particularly audible reverb.

The LittlePlate provides the classic, lush EMT tone, with simple Reverb Time, Mix and Low Cut controls. The SuperPlate is all of this and more, adding five different plate voicings, Pre-Delay and Modulation controls. It retains the Low Cut of the LittlePlate, but adds a High Cut as well. Use this to recreate Abbey Road-esque reverbs, who famously high and low passed their chamber reverbs quite heavily.

For more delayed sounds specifically, SoundToys offer the EchoBoy and EchoBoy Jr. The EchoBoy is a delay plugin that offers multiple Styles and Modes, with an array of both digital and analogue delays sounds from classic, gritty tape to crystal-clear digital echoes.

EchoBoy Jr. takes all of this and streamlines it, offering three modes, seven voices and filter and saturation controls.

Soundtoys effects

Soundtoys 5 also offers a slew of both utility and creative tools for shaping, refining and adjusting sounds. Plugins like MicroShift, PrimalTap (and Little PrimalTap) and PanMan to shift your tone a little for additional width, depth and space. Use this to widen things like guitars, layer synths or help to delineate your delays and reverbs from the original source. While layered sounds can become phasey and mono-sounding, the MicroShift is a great tool to create enough of a difference to allow our ears to discern the additional information, either for overdubs or making sources feel more stereo. Their Sie-Q is a great EQ to have available, modelled after the Siemens W295b EQ, serving as a highly controllable EQ with a little analogue colour if needed!

For more overt effects, the Soundtoys 5 package has the FilterFreak, for “fat analogue sweeps”, as well as the PhaseMistress to help with soaring, sweeping phaser, and the Tremolator for tremolo like you’d find on some classic vintage guitar amps. Add subtle movement or more pronounced stutter effects with tremolo. The Crystallizer offers a granular reverse echo, for swells before drops, reverse effects or to help sounds poke their head out of a dense mix for a moment! The Little AlterBoy is an equally fun effect, providing hard-tuned, robotic and format shifting options to reign in background vocals or conversely, create a unique lead vocal tonality.

Soundtoys 5 is everything you need to start creating and mixing music. A huge array of creative effects can help sounds quickly evolve into something unique, with a growing list of utility sounds available as well to give your sounds width, depth and clarity. There’s a reason their plugins are used by the world’s best engineers, products and musicians, and you’d be remiss to pass them by.

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