Liquid is described as a ‘live granular effect’ and, in common with other granular processors, it buffers the input, then extracts small sections or ‘grains’, each of which is then looped individually. These grains of audio may then be modulated and/or pitch‑shifted in various ways, and in this instance we’re informed that some of the equations used are based on fluid dynamics, which results in the creation of liquid‑like movement. AU, VST and AAX formats are available (macOS and Windows), and authorisation is through a user key that allows the plug‑in to be run on up to three computers.
As the various parameters are adjusted, the background pattern of grains, which are represented by small dots, moves to reflect their motion and stereo position. There are relatively few controls, with just 11 knobs and one Freeze button, so there’s no steep learning curve. Unusually, there are no user presets to get you started, but it’s so easy to come up with something of your own that this really isn’t an issue. As you’d expect, all 12 parameters can also be automated from the host DAW.
The Movement control adjusts the degree of movement in the fluid dynamics simulation, and this in turn modulates the pitch and pan parameters of individual grains. Turbulence adjusts how the speed of each grain affects its pitch — at higher turbulence settings you hear a kind of lo‑fi pitch wobble. Speed is a global setting that controls the playback speed of all the grains and it can be adjusted from ‑24 to +24 semitones, but this value also can be fine‑tuned if you hold down Shift. Freeze is an on/off button, freezing the envelopes on all the grains and preventing new grains from being created, producing a continuous sound.
Density sets how many grains coexist at any one time, so small values lead to more glitchy sounds and large values to smoother sounds. Grain size sets how long newly created grains are but this setting also has a subtle in‑built random factor. A smaller grain size equates to a shorter loop, in which case Duration determines how long the grain playback loops for before it fades out. Fade affects both the fade‑in and fade‑out times of grains so, again, longer times lead to smoother‑sounding results, especially with non‑percussive source material. There are also adjustable low‑ and high‑cut controls to tailor the end result, a master Stereo setting that controls how much pan is added to each individual grain, and the expected wet/dry mix knob.
The modulation gives the sound an organic sense of motion and complexity
The kind of effects on offer here range from deep and grumbly to high and shimmery or, sometimes, a hint of both at the same time. Meanwhile, the modulation gives the sound an organic sense of motion and complexity. I found treatments that worked well on whole mixes and on single instruments, and piano‑like sounds make good candidates for experimentation because you can then really hear what the grains are adding. If any trick has been missed, I’d say it’s that there’s no option to reverse the grains or to apply random octave shifts to them. But while the effects on offer are not as wide‑ranging as from something like Output’s Portal or Unfiltered Audio’s Silo, there are still plenty of worthwhile treatments to be had, from warm and flowing to fractured clusters and shimmers. Worth checking out.