UJAM add sonic movement to the themes explored in their popular Finisher series.
Alongside their range of ‘virtual musician’ guitar, bass and drum instruments, UJAM have in recent years been establishing an interesting Finisher range of effects plug‑ins, all of which are available for Mac (10.14 or later) and Windows (7 and above), in VST, AU and AAX formats, and authorised via an emailed password.
The idea of these plug‑ins is that they all offer processing to suit a specific theme and, while there is absolutely no compromise in terms of the quality of the processing on offer, the UI prioritises ease‑of‑use and instant results over the ability to dive deep into extended parameter lists. The latest in this series is Finisher Dynamo, reviewed here, and this multi‑effects plug‑in has the strapline ‘The Magical Movement Machine’. The effects are all intended to combine animation with sonic/rhythmic manipulation.
Keeping It Simple
Dynamo shares the basics of its UI and engine with other titles in the Finisher range, and sports a control set that’s deliberately kept simple and uncluttered. The input and output level controls are joined by five macro‑style knobs (including the large Finisher knob) in the bottom half of the interface, while the upper half provides access to the preset system (nearly 300 presets are helpfully organised in eight categories) and 50 of what UJAM call Modes. Each Mode is essentially a pre‑configured multi‑effects chain, and for each one the five macro knobs are linked to one or more key parameters. The Finisher knob acts as a wet/dry control but, like the other macro controls, it’s also linked to other parameters. Each of the presets is built from a combination of one Mode and different starting‑point settings for the five macro knobs.
This stripped‑down control set might seem too simple for some, particularly those who like to dig into the nitty gritty of their effects chains, but for most of us there’s a lot to like here: Dynamo allows you to tweak the behaviour of the underlying effects quickly and easily, while preventing the user from getting bogged down in parameter paralysis or needing to consult the manual. That said, you really should read the manual, as the list describing the style of processing offered by each of the 50 Modes is very informative, and the nerdy music‑production jokes make it enteratining (and suggest the development team might be good fun to hang out with!)
Under the hood, the 50 Modes are evidently built from some pretty complex effects combinations, with some fairly routine effects, such as reverb, delay and/or EQ, joined by things like sweeping filters, distortion, pitch‑shifting, various glitch/stutter options and, in many of the Modes, host‑tempo‑sync’ed modulation.
The Modes are arranged in five groups (Remix, Solo, Rhythm, Sustain and Vocal), each designed and/or optimised with a particular type of source in mind. Remix is intended for an instrument group or master bus, and there are some cool options for creating broad‑brush strokes on a full mix that might suit an ear‑catching, mid‑track, drop. The Solo Modes are designed to work better with single sounds, such as a bass or a melodic instrument, while Rhythm Modes have drum or percussive sounds in mind and will often add further rhythmic interest or complexity. The Sustain Modes aim to add movement and interest to sounds such as pads, while the Vocal Modes provide options for creating chopped and glitchy results on vocals. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from applying a Mode to something other than its obvious target, and I suspect the good folk at UJAM would actively encourage you to experiment in that way.
Three of the five macro knobs retain their main function across all of the presets. I’ve mentioned the Finisher knob already, and the last of the four Vari controls acts as a sort of global Tone control (I suspect it is tweaking more than just a conventional EQ in most cases, though). The first Vari knob, Pattern, offers five different rhythmic styles (half‑time, polyrhythmic, standard, triplet and double‑time) and these each interact with whatever rhythmic element is built into the effects chain that underlies the Mode; there’s plenty of fun to be had (and often a good dollop of chaos to be caused!) by twisting this dial away from whatever setting a preset has supplied.
The other two Vari knobs are pre‑configured to adjust the key parameters (often multiple parameters) in the Mode’s effects chain, but their function varies according to which Mode is in use. Usefully, the knob’s labels change where appropriate to reflect what their influence might be. Labels such as Stutter, Echos, Filter and Doubler are fairly self‑explanatory, but others, such as Hallucination, Smurfbass, Kraftwerkness or Skrillexness, will perhaps be less obvious to many users. Still, it’s a lot of fun to find out what more Smurfbass can do to your track, and if nothing else such labels do encourage you to experiment. As with the other Finisher plug‑ins, all the macro controls can be automated.
...if your focus is on contemporary dance/electronica styles where you need every bit of sonic trickery you can lay your hands on, or electronic scores for drama, sci‑fi or horror, then you could well find Dynamo both fun to use and very useful.
Dynamo is not an effects plug‑in that is aimed at those who want to make conventional singer‑songwriter ballads! But if your focus is on contemporary dance/electronica styles where you need every bit of sonic trickery you can lay your hands on, or electronic scores for drama, sci‑fi or horror, then you could well find Dynamo both fun to use and very useful.
I was particularly impressed with what it could do to transform drum and pad sounds. For example, applied to a fairly simple electric drum loop, the Action Loop preset (found in the Drums category) splits the original signal into three frequency bands and uses some form of resampling to resequence each band. You can adjust the rhythmic feel using the Pattern knob, change the pitch of bands with Vari knobs 2 and 3, and blend between the dry and processed sound via the Finisher knob. Add a sweep of the Tone knob and you have an ‘instant ear candy’ drum break.
With a simple, static, synth pad, I found that almost any of the Synth category’s presets could inject something interesting to liven it up. For example, the A Bit Nervous preset adds a rhythmic pulse and a tempo‑sync’ed modulated filter. The Tone knob lets you adjust how aggressive the filter sweep can get, while the Confuse knob (Vari 2) adjusts the character of the pulse in some interesting ways. In contrast, taking exactly the same synth source and applying the Calm House Sequence preset instantly turns the sound into a perfect tension bed, creating a filter‑shifted drone mixed with subtle rhythmic elements. Haunted Thing takes the same synth and adds creepy overtones (courtesy of the aptly named Ghost 1 and Ghost 2 Vari knobs) — ideal for that part of the scene when you know something horrible is about to happen but it hasn’t happened quite yet!
Those are just a few examples, but whatever your sound source Dynamo always seems to be able to offer something that will make it pop out of a mix (or your mix pop out of a speaker), giving it extra rhythmic elements or a sense of tonal motion through some combination of conventional spatial effects, modulated filters or distortion and various resampling tricks for added chop and stutter. The results can be super‑cool and, thanks to the streamlined workflow Finisher forces you into, it’s easy to end up somewhere cool very quickly: just pick a preset, tweak a knob or two and see what happens. Repeat as required.
I was particularly impressed with what it could do to transform drum and pad sounds.
The Glitch List
Of course, Dynamo is not the first effects plug‑in to provide this kind of experimental sound mangling. For example, Sugar Bytes’ Turnado or Effectrix provide a similar sort of sound processing. Output’s Movement, or Lunatic Audio’s new Narcotic (review in the pipeline!), are also in the same sort of sonic ballpark. But while all those plug‑ins provide some amazing processing options and ship with some instant‑gratification presets, things can get pretty deep pretty quickly. That may be exactly what some users want, but in preventing you disappearing down the rabbit hole, Dynamo offers something a little different from those.
For those that want their sonic mangling to come with a minimum of fuss, enough control to keep things interesting, and a dollop of good humour, then, UJAM may just have delivered the perfect combination: Finisher Dynamo sounds great, is easy to use and competitively priced and, at the very least, I’d encourage you to take advantage of the free 30‑day trial.
- Great combination of creative effects ideal for electronic music production and sound design.
- As with all the Finisher line, super‑easy to use.
- Comes with a sense of humour included.
- None, though some might prefer more tweakability.
Dynamo manages to combine sophisticated and creative sound mangling with ease‑of‑use. UJAM’s Finisher line continues to impress.