Hot on the heels of the Instant Phaser MkII, Eventide have released an update to their Instant Flanger. Again, the company's main aims were to make the plug-in perform more like the original hardware — no easy task — and to extend the functionality. If you already have the Eventide Anthology bundle or an Ensemble subscription, Instant Flanger MkII will be added free of charge, but if not then I think it's well worth the asking price. All the popular plug-in formats are supported on Mac OS and Windows, and while an iLok account is required you don't need a physical iLok dongle.
The hardware Clockworks Instant Flanger was based on analogue delay lines or charge-coupled delays, plus some carefully tuned all-pass filters, and it created the flanging effect by mixing a modulated, delayed version of the input with the dry signal. The intensity of the effect related to the wet/dry mix balance, and in this plug-in's case this is handled by the Depth control. When set at 0 percent this outputs only the delayed signal and at 100 percent an equal mix of the input and delayed signal.
The delay chain in the original comprised two CCD devices in series, and separate outputs could be taken from the end of the chain (Main) or from the output of the first device (Aux). The Main output was 180 degrees out of phase with both the input signal and the Aux output, so by placing the two outputs left and right in the mix, a pseudo-stereo effect could be created. This possibility is modelled in the MkII plug-in, which, when the plug-in is used in stereo, offers Shallow, Deep or Wide modes. Deep mode takes both outputs from device two, while Wide takes one output from device one and one from device two, and Shallow takes both outputs from device one.
A typical flanger pedal uses an LFO as its modulation source and one of those is present, but there are additional modulation sources too, in the form of manual adjustment (using the large knob in the centre), an envelope follower, and a remote source. The remote input on the original accepted an analogue control voltage, and the plug-in mimics this by responding to MIDI CC1 (mod–wheel) messages. Importantly, it's possible to combine any or all modulation sources, a tactic which results in a much less obviously cyclic effect.
Bounce is an important control for replicating the effect of tape flanging, where the reel motor servos take a few moments to settle down after a speed change. The effect is applied when the modulation waveform stops increasing in level and starts decreasing. The LFO has a 0.01 to 20 Hz range and can also be tempo sync'ed, and when adjusting the manual control, 0 percent corresponds to the longest delay time. As with most flanger devices, the feedback control allows more resonant, obvious effects, and the feedback polarity may be inverted to pick out a different series of harmonics.
The MkII plug-in's Envelope control has additional knobs to set the triggering threshold and the release time, which can range from just 10 milliseconds up to 10 seconds. Each modulation section has its own In button with status LED. There's also the option to introduce an external side-chain signal so that the envelope section follows a different track in your project.
The MkI version sounds much more like a traditional flanger pedal, with its characteristic hollow 'whoosh', whereas the MkII produces a more three-dimensional sound that has more in common with genuine tape flanging.
So, the control layout has been changed from the MkI version and a couple of new features have been added, but the critical question is what it sounds like. I compared the new plug-in with the MkI version, dialling identical settings into each. The MkI version sounds much more like a traditional flanger, with its characteristic hollow 'whoosh', whereas the MkII produces a more three-dimensional sound that has more in common with genuine tape flanging. The MkII version also seems better suited to treating whole mixes or submixes in a way that doesn't sound too obvious, and it can create some very believable doubling effects. There are some lovely subtleties to the sound, especially when set to Wide mode, so this is a flanger you can use in all kinds of ways to add space, width and texture to a track without sounding as though you've simply 'slapped a flanger on it'. Even though you have!
As expected, the effect can sound quite 'assertive' at more radical settings but, let's face it, in-your-face flanging can sound a bit old hat unless applied as a spot effect. Used more subtly, though, the Instant Flanger MkII avoids that cliché, adding complexity, movement and texture without necessarily giving the game away. So if you thought flanging was dead, think again. This might emulate an antique, but it's capable of so much more than simply making things go 'whoosh' — and it sounds as fresh today as when it was first rolled out in the '70s.
Check out the Presets demo video on Eventide's YouTube channel.