Soundtoys has announced full support for its complete suite of effects on Apple Silicon. So let’s use that as an excuse to go over some favorite tools here, as I’ve been … just rinsing these things again on projects.
There is a small wrinkle here – on macOS, developers are catching up not just with Universal Binaries native to Apple Silicon as well as Intel, but also the shift from VST2 to VST3. And so as Steinberg just added their own Apple Silicon support with Cubase 12, they also removed VST2 support from that version, so you need plug-ins to support VST3 and Apple Silicon – or just run in Rosetta 2. Soundtoys says VST3 will hit public beta very soon.
Your best starting point is this technical note, which covers a lot of DAWs (too many DAWs!) and covers the Rosetta workaround:
Speaking of Rosetta, the weird thing about bringing this news is, I’ve been punishing Soundtoys 5 in Rosetta mode for months now. I even built a 1-hour live show with so many Soundtoys effects stacked up all over the place I lost track. So to me – and a lot of other users – this support is almost more about being able to run in Logic again.
But things do tend to go more smoothly with native support – performance aside, just the confidence that the plug-ins appear all across your system and operate without a hitch. So it’s good news.
Anyway, about Soundtoys. They really do hit that category of stuff I come back to repeatedly. I’m sure the favorites will be different for different folks, but for me, that’s a few favorites:
EchoBoy just combines a lot of different echoes in one tool – EchoPlex, Space Echo, Memory Man, DM-2, and Tel-Ray oil can (Gibson Echo-Reverb), plus a CE-1 chorus and a mode that’s based on the Ampex ATR-102. We have a lot of delay models out there; the advantage here is being able to pull up some of the best-known effects, and a bunch of what-if scenarios, plus saturation. I use the Jr. model a lot, too, just because it’s so accessible.
It’s so versatile and such a multi-effects unit that it’s invaluable for a lot of other doubling and coloring effects, too. It’s total desert-island material, and the absence of it was really hurting in my M1 Logic sessions.
Little AlterBoy is also just insanely useful. It does vocal formant, pitch shifting, hard-tune FX with a robot mode. But it’s hard to describe. You can use it on vocals and really crank it, and other unexpected stuff like percussion, and I just haven’t found anything else like it. It also really feels like hardware with its simplified layout.
Maybe the best rating for it is, vocalists I’ve worked with fell in love with it, too, sometimes even without being able to describe what they wanted.
There’s a reason it’s so good – it was developed by the team that worked on the Eventide H3000. Now, I have that in my plug-in arsenal, too, but here they went back to the raw simplicity of the BOSS VT-1. Frankly, this is the one piece that makes me wish Soundtoys did hardware – just for this one box, please. (Roland’s new stuff is nearly there, but … not quite.)
Little Plate – yeah, sure, you have other plate reverbs now, you have convolution reverbs that also have plates in them, but… this is the one I come back to when I want the plate-iest of plates, still, partly because of that beautiful, beautiful “infinity” setting. And the mod. So it has survived all the additional plates around.
MicroShift is just a perfect, vibe-y H3000-ish pitch shifter / thickener. And I’d say the same as I would of the Little AlterBoy. You just keep cheating and coming back to this one. It feels like hardware. Maybe it embodies the Soundtoys feeling most of all – it has fewer controls than most of the other stuff in your plug-in folder, but you just use it intuitively for its sound. It fixes a bunch of tracks that are lifeless otherwise.
Crystallizer also gets H3000-ish – with granular – pitch shifting – reverse echo “reverse shift.” What makes it special is, it really does sound like the hardware effects we know so well, but it is far more tweakable, and Gate and Duck mean that you can get those beautiful sounds out of the damned way of the rest of your mix, which is what more or less every other recreation has missed.
Also, unlike most other tools, you can get it to a lot of unrecognizable but beautiful creations, not just the feeling of “oh, there’s that granular H3000 thing again.”
I have to say, also, Soundtoys’ stuff is some of the only plug-ins where I routinely dig up the presets. That’s not necessarily because of my awesome sound design skills so much as a lot of plug-in presets are kinda unusable.
But these are also far more controllable than other options, so paradoxically it’s also easier to dial in the sounds you want.
There’s a lot more in the Soundtoys suite, including some really nice saturation and whatnot, but these ones here do see a lot more use for me. I think the funny thing is how easily you can convince people sounds were produced with hardware – but you have the freedom to work anywhere, and the freedom to… do this yet not be fantastically wealthy with an enormous studio full of gear you need to cable. So there’s that.
You can choose these a la carte or get the Effect Rack with 14 of them. Everything has the same M1 compatibility.
But yeah, I’m not just making it up; there’s something that remains special about this collection. I almost feel I should regularly come clean about how much I wind up using them. It’s also great that they’re a small developer that has gone this long.
And yeah, now that Logic folks are happy, will keep you posted on VST3 for the Cubase crowd.