Soundtoys VST3 public beta is here, for both macOS and Windows but crucially with Apple Silicon VST3 support on the Mac. And since I use their stuff an embarrassing amount of the time, let’s round up some tips.
I mean, seriously, I do use their stuff a lot. There’s a project that’s not out yet where I really couldn’t have gotten by with the vocal recordings without Soundtoys 5. Wait… I sound like an influencer. (“Hey, guys! I like to smear Decapitator on my face every night before I go to bed at 4AM after messing with the modular to reduce acne and stay looking young!”) That was about right, yeah?
Of course, if you’re a Cubase 12 user with a new Apple Silicon Mac, you may have found yourself very much minus proper support for this plug-in suite. So VST3 with Apple Silicon is especially important for those users in particular.
The public beta is out now – and all Soundtoys software has an unlimited 30-day free trial version, including with the beta, so you can give it a try.
Sign up here:
Now, on to Soundtoys 5 – yeah, again. Some stuff is sort of evergreen.
More impressions and vocal tricks
There are a couple of reasons Soundtoys stuff is one of those go-to sets. A big one that I’ll admit I mostly missed at first is the EffectRack. The advantage here is, working in that suite you can come up with some combined effects that allow you to tweak something to perfection and have quick recall on it. I just edited an interview where a Grammy-nominated producer was talking about surviving sessions in the studio with this (that’s not out yet, hence my secrecy). But this can also frankly be a handy cure for endless tweaking of your own sessions and projects by keeping a starting point. And it also moves between hosts, which is important for some of us.
I’m also hugely addicted to Little AlterBoy. It’s deceptively simple, but having the combination of vocal formant, pitch shifting, old-school hard-tune, and a vocoder (which also has MIDI), plus tube-emulating drive is just terrific for
And yeah, if that sounds a lot like a BOSS VT-1, that’s not an accident. The dev team worked on PurePitch TDM, too, as well as the Eventide H3000. So the funny thing is, you can now blow a lot of money on massive toolsets for tuning and vocal sweetening with a bunch of features. Nothing against that – some of those are worth the money for particular cases. But what I find is, Little AlterBoy covers what you want about 90% of the time, and you pay subscription fees for certain (cough) tuning platforms for what really adds up to about 10% of the time. Maybe that’s me – feel free to discuss on comments.
But yeah, Little AlterBoy continues to impress. And it’s fantastic for tuning / formant effects on everything, not just vocals:
The MIDI control on the “robot” mode is in fact not obvious, so it’s worth checking this video:
Here is an excellent, excellent example of why I enjoy Little Alterboy, MicroShift, and Crystallizer together. And yeah, totally H3000 stuff, but well within reach cost-wise and in a native suite that is very light on modern CPUs (which also means you can get away with using it live / live tracking fairly easily).
This particular chain is fantastic; I’ll be giving this a try tonight, even on some instrumentals. As shared earlier this summer:
Harmony. This is a more familiar example.
And also from last month, yes, their octave-down stuff sounds great:
It sounds enough like the VT-1 that I’ve also wound up stacking up
And yeah, honestly, this sounds way better than some of the new stuff everyone is trying to sell a lot of the time. Just because you can do something new in DSP doesn’t mean you always should. Plus I think because the coloration of this stuff is so appealing, it means that instead of leaning on the plug-in to do something new, you can get creative with your actual material, which is rather the point.
Jamie Lidell is a fan, too, which tells you something if you’ve followed his productions over the years:
Soundtoys did some nice presets and quick-tips last month you can check on their channel. This is fairly EDM-ish in the first example, but the point is that you can use Tremolator not only for what I’d associate it with, tasteful if conventional electric piano effects, but rhythmic modulation, too:
For more rhythmic effects, and a reminder that you really need to remember to his that “TWEAK” button to take full advantage of these plug-ins:
See also a bunch of experimental vocal effects. This does almost make me wish for a Soundtoys stompbox.
In case you are wondering what to do with that 30-day trial, Hyperbits did a solid run-down last year:
Decapitator also gets a tone of press, but you need to actually hear why and how people use it – and Manchester Music did a great, detailed walkthrough. (Hey, something is wrong with the sound of their 808s! Also, what are “drums”?)
Okay – here’s what it sounds like on the TR-808 – massive, basically:
Also, yeah, back to Crystallizer – maybe it really needs something other than the faux wood-grain panels and vintage interface, because here’s what it actually sounds like. This is one of those where you do wind up using presets, partly because half the time they sound too recognizable, but one quarter of the time they do something with source material that you didn’t expect at all.
And some hot rhythmic slicing, also with preset download (click through to the description). They dial this up a little hard so you can hear it, but I think you’ll hear that it is very useful – and a great shortcut to when you need exactly this effect. (Again, that Effect Rack is handy.)
From a couple of years ago, this is a nice walkthrough of organic modulation:
Well, whether this was useful to anyone else, it sure was useful to me to get this refresher. This stuff is light enough that you can even play with it on the road.
I swear, I was just going to mention the VST3 beta.
Enjoy; let us know if you’ve got more tricks / tutorials – or other plug-ins you’d like to see.
Addendum – wish list
There’s some good chatter on Twitter which I absolutely agree with.
It does feel like Soundtoys could benefit both from new sound engine features (oversampling) and UI (something less skeuomorphic and scales easily, please). In the game world, developers now frequently bring back titles that have mechanics that work, and offer simple “quality of life” improvements – and a switch. If you want the old-school operation and look, it’s there. If you want to switch on a “modern” mode, you can. I could imagine this working really well in evergreen music software, too. Think of a future Soundtoys with a “classic”/”high-quality” switch for oversampling, for instance. (Ableton have done exactly that recently.) Or a UI with new skins – but the option to swap back to the old one for those that prefer it.
Thanks for the inspiration: