I had been using a few select Soundtoys Plugins quite extensively for a very long time. However, when the company announced in 2012 that they were selling the whole plugin bundle and all the proceeds were going to Storm Relief for Hurricane Sandy, I decided to buy the lot.
And what a great decision it was; not only was I helping the cause thanks to Soundtoys, but I was also getting a great selection of incredible plugins.
Since then, they have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities with similar promotions, and who doesn’t love a company that gives back.
And that’s one of the reasons I decided to take an in-depth look at the 5 Best Soundtoys Plugins in 2022 and let you know how I use them and on what instruments.
So, let’s get started with…
This is probably my most commonly used Soundtoys plugin across a variety of mixes and genres. In fact, depending on the song, it may end up on nearly every track!
In essence, it is a saturation plugin, but it is much more than that and models the sound of analog saturation/tube saturation to replicate the sound of tubes, transistors, and electronic circuitry being pushed to the max. This takes it to a higher level than your standard distortion plugin.
It’s fantastic for beefing things up, adding warmth, giving them an edge to pull them out of the mix, and creating your own unique sound design.
Want your kick drum to have extra weight, just add Decapitator, and if it’s too much, simply use the Mix knob to blend in some of the dry signal for a more subtle effect.
Amazing results! It is also superb for weak-sounding snares, bass guitars in need of some girth, heavy guitars that need more body, synths that are just sounding too ‘digital,’ etc., etc.
However, it also works on instruments that you wouldn’t expect; need a violin or flute to pop its head out through the mix? Then Decapitator is a natural choice. It even adds magic to a grand piano recorded in a great-sounding room, subtlety is the key here, but just a little saturation brings it even more to life.
These include five highly detailed models of classic studio saturation equipment to give you the exact type of saturation you need for a particular instrument. And if it isn’t enough, simply press the ‘Punish’ button to really push the saturation. The analog-modeled tone control is also excellent for shaping the saturation contour to make it fit perfectly in any mix.
If you want to add the natural vibe of analog gear to any track, then there really isn’t a better choice than Decapitator. I honestly can not recommend this highly enough; it’s definitely my favorite Soundtoys plugin.
There is a reason they call this the secret weapon of pro mix engineers; try it, and you’ll quickly find out why.
- Reproduces the natural vibe of analog gear
- Five Detailed models of classic studio for dynamic analog saturation
- Punish button to take our tracks over the edge
- Analog-modeled tone control to shape the saturation contour
- Mix knob for complete parallel control
Moving on to a much simpler but just as effective plugin, Microshift, which replicates the classic Eventide H3000 widening trick.
All you old-school engineers will be very familiar with the micro-pitch-shifting trick that we used to do with hardware H3000’s where we take a vocal and then shift it 3 cents up in pitch and 3 cents down in pitch and add them to the main vocal. If that wasn’t enough, add 6 cents up and down as well, etc.
This created a lusciously wide and thick vocal track that was widely used on a massive number of hits across multiple genres. And that’s exactly what the Soundtoys Microshift replicates.
But apart from just lead vocals, it’s also superb on backing vocals, lead guitar parts, and synths that need that certain something to come to life.
Move that bass!
One interesting way that I use this plugin is on bass, pitch shifting a bass I hear you cry!
Well, sort of, split the bass into two different tracks, then remove the high frequencies from one of the tracks and leave it in the center of the mix. Now, with the other track, remove the low frequencies and add Microshift to create some movement in the bass. Then mix the two together to fit beautifully in the song.
I have found this to be particularly effective when mixing post-rock or for minimal songs with very few instruments that need an overall boost and some low-end movement.
- Quickly widen your vocals, synths, guitars, etc. using the simple interface
- Great for spotlighting important instruments or blending them into the background
- Three different widening flavors based on classic hardware
- Focus knob adds width to a specific frequency range
Next in my rundown of the 5 Best Soundtoys Plugins, it’s time for a delay plugin.
Echoboy combines modern versatility with the classic sounds of some of the most revered and sought-after delay units of all time, from a Memory Man to a Space Echo.
But it’s more than just a delay monster; it also features a chorus based on the holy grail of chorus pedals, the CE-1, as well as tape saturation based on the Ampex ATR-102 two-track. These combine to give you just about every delayed sound option you can imagine.
Endless options but simple to use
Regardless of the number of options, the interface is very clearly laid out and easy to understand and use. This allows even beginners to create expressive musical delay effects quickly. Perfectly timed delays are a few clicks away, just lock in the song’s tempo and select your note value.
But what takes this plugin to the next level is the Groove, Accent, and Feel controls that allow you to fine-tune the echo’s rhythm. By adjusting these, you can make the echo drag or rush against the beat. Or add some swing or shuffle to perfectly match the groove of your song. If you can imagine it, Echoboy can create it.
- 30 different styles of echo, ranging from Echoplex to Space Echo, Memory Man to DM-2
- Tape sound modeled on the classic Ampex ATR-102 to warm up a vocal track
- Complete control to produce amazingly analog-sounding effects
- Dual and Ping-Pong stereo delay modes
- Get into the “groove” with adjustable shuffle, swing, and accent controls
- Easily create inventive rhythmic delay effects
Let’s add some quality plate reverb, and there is no easier way of doing it than with Soundtoys Little Plate. And by simple, I mean insanely simple. Inspired by the classic EMT 140 plate reverb, this audio plugin produces rich, warm and spacious reverbs in no time at all.
Based on the reverb that changed musical history
Introduced in 1967, the EMT 140 created a smooth, dense reverb that no one had heard up until that time. Unlike the technique of capturing the reverb in rooms or chambers that had been used up until that time, the 140 had an inherent beauty that has made it such a widely used effect to this day.
Using a magnetic transducer, the EMT vibrates a massive sheet of metal and then sends the signal via a pickup back to be recorded.
Sounds simple, and in fact, it is, but have you got the room for a 2 meter by 3-meter box weighing 600 pounds in your studio? Probably not, but you have got room for the Little Plate. This plug faithfully captures the stunning vibe and sound of the vintage plate with a few little extras that make it even more usable in the modern world.
Never fade away
One of those additions is an extended reverberation time from the five seconds of the original all the way to… infinity! Yes, if you need the reverb to never fade away, it won’t. Obviously, this isn’t practical in an actual mix, but it does add some amazingly creative ways of manipulating the reverb of an instrument that stops playing while the rest of the mix continues, which is one of the main ways I use it.
It also features a built-in Low Cut filter that will keep your mixes clean by controlling the ultra-low frequencies of the reverb. As well as the ability to include some slight modulation to keep the reverb tail moving.
These improvements add up to a thicker, smoother sound, especially when using long decay times on instruments like guitars, keyboards, and on vocals.
- A superb recreation of the sound of a vintage plate reverb
- Infinite reverb effects that will never decay
- Add modulation to create natural-sounding variations in the reverb tail
- Tame low-frequency build-up with the Low Cut filter
- Get the sound you want quickly with the 25 distinct presets
I was taught by a number of A-list music producers that movement was one of the most important factors in creating a professional radio-friendly mix. And one of the easiest and most effective ways of getting your mix to breathe is by adding some tremolo.
Tremolator recreates the classic circuits of vintage Fender amplifiers and Wurlitzers to produce a range of exciting effects that will make any instrument move to the beat. Simply adjust the dynamic speed and depth controls to dial in the exact sound you want.
Subtlety is the key
Tremolo is often overused, and if that is the effect you’re after, no problem at all. But I think the key to using it is subtlety. If you can clearly hear that an instrument has the effect when in the full mix, then it’s too much. In solo, it won’t matter, but when the whole track is playing, you should feel rather than hear the effect.
Luckily Tremolator does both brilliantly. Whether you’re after an in-your-face signature tremolo guitar sound or just some subtle movement within the track, all it takes is a few minutes to get a sound that sits perfectly in the mix.
From MIDI sync that locks your tremolo to the tempo of the song to the programmable Rhythm Editor that allows you to write custom patterns, there really isn’t much this plugin can’t create. And the Analog mode once again ensures the classic sounds that you have heard on so many records are at your fingertips.
Plus, the dynamic controls I have already mentioned let the source signal control the depth and speed of tremolo, adding even more movement as the effect pulses differently on harder and softer played sections.
Create your sound from scratch or use any of the presets as a starting point to get your track moving in ways you never thought possible.
- Amazing auto-gated rhythmic control
- Dynamic controls to create musical and emotional expression
- Locks to MIDI to create rhythmic tempo and beat-synced tremolo
But which is the very best of Soundtoys Plugins?
As someone who uses most of them on just about every mix I do, this is a really tough choice. But if you asked me which one I could simply not live without, it would be…
It just works brilliantly on so many instruments, bringing them to life and adding much-needed warmth, especially to virtual instruments and digital-sounding synths.
What about a Soundtoys bundle?
But before you rush out and buy Decapitator, take a look at the Soundtoys Effects Rack, which is only $100 more and includes the superb saturation plugin plus 13 others! A fantastic deal!
Or, if you are thinking of getting a few of the plugins I’ve reviewed, it’s well worth considering the Soundtoys 5 bundle. With it, you get all 21 of their excellent products for an incredible value for money deal.