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Published in SOS November 2008
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Reviews : Software: ALL
Stillwell Audio BadBussMojo
Mac/PC VST
BadBussMojo starts life as an emulation of a perfect class-A amplifier, whose transfer characteristic (graph of input against output level) is initially displayed in the central 'oscilloscope' as a perfectly straight 45-degree line. However, using its various controls you can give this virtual amplifier saggy power-supply rails and introduce non-linearity, symmetric or asymmetric clipping, all of which are reflected in the transfer characteristic, but more importantly in the sounds you hear. You can mimic the effects of solid-state or tube amps in various states of disarray, introducing pleasing harmonic warmth, through overdrive to distortion, and even make your audio sound totally broken.
The simplest way to get started is twisting the Mod A or Mod B knobs, which add richness to sounds at all input levels, courtesy of two distinctly non-linearities that each generate a different combination of odd harmonics. But the fun really starts once you start twisting the four knobs across the centre of the interface.
Threshold determines whether only the peaks are affected, or most of the waveform, while you can decide how much the affected portion deviates from the straight-line response with the Nonlinearity control. Both have their own Asymmetry controls, which default to the central position, so both halves of your waveform are treated identically, to produce the mostly odd-harmonic distortion generally found in solid-state amps, but if you move these to favour one or other half of the waveform you also generate even harmonics, for more tube-like results.
The transition between linear and non-linear areas of the curve can be softened for a more subtle effect, using the Knee control (again, with its own Asymmetry knob). There's also a wet/dry Mix control, so you can, for instance, add small amounts of distorted sound to your otherwise clean input signal, while Gain lets you ramp up the amp settings for gratuitous overload.
There's a fair amount of interaction between the various knobs, which can be initially confusing, but, as with many of the more unusual plug-ins, you don't necessarily have to understand what real-world function the various controls are emulating — just dive in and start tweaking the controls until you find an effect you like!
BadBussMojo isn't all about mayhem, either, since you can achieve plenty of subtle warming effects with generous dollops of pleasing second- and third-harmonic distortion that might work across an entire mix. However, if you pull the Threshold right down and then increase the Gain (don't try increasing this control by itself if you value your loudspeakers, as output levels can rise alarmingly), you can instead achieve great 'Schmitt trigger'-like sustained fuzzbox effects on guitar/bass. You can also get great new effects by abusing combinations of controls. For instance, I really liked a mostly dry combination of lots of Mod B plus extra Gain, which sounds like a combination of raygun and anvil on drum loops.
As with all level-dependent effects, you ideally need to adjust the plug-in's input level, using the associated meter, until you get 'into the zone', so an input-level control would have been helpful, and you do need to put in some effort before the controls make sense, but I was well pleased with the results I achieved. There may be great smouldering heaps of tube/tape/distortion plug-ins already available, but BadBussMojo genuinely offers something different, sounds good, and at $39 is an absolute bargain! Martin Walker
$39
.
$ $39
Abbey Road Brilliance Pack
TDM, RTAS, VST (Mac & PC), Mac AU
The clever people at Abbey Road Plug-ins have been busy creating yet more plug-ins based on custom hardware from the world's most famous studio. The three plug-ins in the Brilliance Pack are all single-band equalisers designed to boost the high-frequency content of a signal, but there are some differences between the three, reflecting variations in the design of the three most important treble-boost units built by the Abbey Road studio engineers.
The rackmounting RS127 and its more portable 'box' derivative both provide up to 10dB cut or boost, in 2dB steps, at a choice of three corner frequencies: 2.7, 3.5 or 10 kHz. RS135 makes that look positively indulgent, providing only a stepped boost control operating at a fixed turnover of 8kHz.
Like the EQs in Abbey Road's Mastering Pack (reviewed in our August issue), these processors have a definite character of their own, which I haven't encountered before in plug-in form. With the right source, the 10kHz setting on the RS127 plug-ins somehow manages to liven up the signal without adding any harshness or losing any intrinsic warmth, while the 2.7 and 3.5 kHz settings have a more radical effect on the sound. This isn't always what you want, but when it works, it does something all of its own. I found myself using it most often on vocals, where it can bring a voice to the front of a mix without losing its low-end weight or exaggerating sibilants. The colourful brightness of RS135 is likewise perfect on vocals, but perhaps less suited to other applications such as a drum submix, where it made the hi-hats sound hissy.
In all, I think it's fair to say that the Brilliance Pack is a desirable luxury rather than an everyday workhorse. It certainly won't be your only EQ, and the unique flavour it offers won't suit every source — but there will be times when that flavour is exactly what you need to lift your mix out of the ordinary. Sam Inglis
$499 (TDM) or $249 (native).
$ $499 (TDM) or $249 (native).
Cableguys Filtershaper
PC VST
Rhythmic filtering is an effect that has many applications, from adding subtle movement in synth pads to creating sonic mayhem from drum loops, and there's no shortage of plug-ins out there that can apply it. However, Filtershaper from German developers Cableguys has some unique tricks up its sleeve.
The most distinctive visual element of Filtershaper is the large sheet of virtual graph paper at the top half of the window. This allows you to draw and edit rhythmic envelope curves with impressive precision, using three different varieties of breakpoint. 'Hard' breakpoints produce sharp bends in the curve, while the softer ones create more gentle transitions that are less likely to cause clicks in the resulting audio; so, for example, you would use the hard breakpoints to create typical square or sawtooth waveforms, while their softer counterparts make it easy to produce more rounded, sine-like curves. All this is done very intuitively by clicking, dragging, and using the right mouse button to change a breakpoint's status. Clicking on the little icons below the graph allows you to scale the curve, move it in any direction, and select a starting point from a short list of templates.
A single instance of Filtershaper can store up to 10 separate curves, but only four can be applied at any one time, since the donkey work is done by its four LFOs. Each of these can use a curve scaled over time intervals ranging from 32 bars to a 128th fraction of a beat (how many hemi-demi-whatevers is that?). If you want to use more than four curves in a song, you can automate LFOs to switch between them. In many ways, Filtershaper's graphical editor resembles its counterpart in Sound Toys' superb Filter Freak and Tremolator plug-ins, but on a larger scale. This is a Good Thing.
Perhaps surprisingly, there are only five possible destinations to which the LFOs can be routed: master volume, and the cutoff and resonance controls on Filtershaper's two filters. Each filter offers a healthy range of responses, from 6dB to 24dB per octave, with high-pass, low-pass, band-pass, notch and peaking shapes all available. Most of these sound pretty good, and the extra care Cableguys have taken with their envelope generator makes it unusually easy to get clean, smooth sweeps going on even at fast LFO speeds. Filtershaper also makes an excellent tremolo unit, and if Cableguys got down to creating a decent range of presets in this department, it'd be a vastly more affordable rival for Tremolator.
That's not to say that it's immune from criticism, however, and I have to say that Filtershaper's usefulness could be significantly enhanced by a few additional options. Currently, the two filters are fixed in a serial configuration, which tends to produce very extreme results. In other plug-ins of this type, such as FabFilter's Volcano, it's possible to configure the filters in parallel instead, which opens up a wide range of subtle effects that can't be achieved here. The other major omission in Filtershaper is panning. It would be great to be able to pan the two filters independently, or to use the LFO curves to pan the output from side to side, but at the moment, all of this is on Cableguys' To Do list, as is the ability to de-link the tempo of the LFOs from that of the host application. Nevertheless, if you can live without these options, Filtershaper is a neat effect with plenty to offer, at a bargain price. Sam Inglis
29 Euros ($44).
$ 29 Euros ($44).
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