Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble CE-2 Electro Harmonix D16 Fazortan 2 Instant Phaser Juno 106 Phase Mistress Pro-Q 3 Roland Small Stone Phaser SpaceModulator TAL-U-NO-LX

Sound Design Techniques & Tools Series: 10 Key Ways To Shape, Stretch And Transform Your Audio, And The Best Plugins For The Task: Part 4 – Classic Modulation FX

In Part 4, we’re taking a better take a look at what might be thought-about “classic” modulation effects: phasing, flanging, and chorus. Whereas these results have their origins in the era of tape machine recording within the 60s, 70s and 80s, don’t assume that they are only value understanding and including in your core manufacturing toolset should you make music that can also be rooted within the more conventional guitar-based pop and rock types of that very same era.

The truth is, these effects underpin a shocking quantity and vary of recent results processors, and their potential to help sculpt exciting sounds in even probably the most forward-thinking 21st century genres should undoubtedly not be underestimated. A number of the most iconic fashions of those results might undoubtedly nonetheless be thought-about secret weapons. The want for wider, thicker, richer and more excitingly shifting sounds will never go away, and the consequences we’re taking a look at listed here are where all of it began. Let’s dive in!

In case you missed the earlier elements in the collection, you’ll be able to make amends for them here: Part 1 – Delay, which also consists of an intro to the collection, Part 2 – Distortion, and Part three – Layering.

Part 4: Classic Modulation FX In Sound Design

These totally different effects are sometimes regarded as being in the same “family” of processor varieties, because they are truly all based mostly on variations of the identical primary signal-processing principle of blending a modulated (that’s, modified or changed ultimately) and slightly delayed copy again in with the unique source sound to create a collection of notches which are swept at various rates up and down the frequency spectrum. The specific sound of the effect is decided by two key elements:

  1. The spacing of the notches (whether they are evenly or harmonically spaced, for instance)
  2. How a lot the modulated sign is delayed from the unique one.

Phasing and Flanging

With no delay in any respect between the supply signal and the modulated model, you get the effect referred to as phasing. Because of this lack of delay, phasing is extra delicate and never quite as over-the-top dramatic an effect as flanging or quite as vast and thick as chorus – but this additionally typically makes it a most popular selection in trendy productions, where you may need to add some pleasure or delicate movement to key parts or moments in a monitor, however maybe without making every thing immediately sound like a 1969-era Jimi Hendrix flaming guitar solo, the best way heavy flanging can.

Anyway, phasing becomes flanging, and things do start to really get shifting, when a while delay is launched.

With a really brief delay of between 1-5ms, you’ll get probably the most frequency cancellation between the unique and modulated sign, thereby producing the best modulation depth and probably the most obvious-sounding, “wooshing” modulation effect… flanging.


When you begin drawing out the delay time above 5ms (however still protecting it brief enough, under round 25ms, so that our brains don’t but register the unique and delayed signal as two separate sounds – a psychoacoustic phenomenon generally known as the Haas Effect, far more on that right here), you start to lose a number of the very obvious and deep sweeping modulation associated with flanging, and as an alternative you create the pleasing thickening and widening effect referred to as refrain.

boss ce-2w chorus pedalBoss CE-2W Reissue stompbox

This twin capacity of chorus to both add lushness to a thin sound and push it out into the stereo subject has made it an obvious selection amongst production results on synths and guitars because the 80s. Traditionally, the evergreen favorite refrain stompboxes amongst guitarists are nonetheless the Boss CE Chorus Ensemble collection. Starting with the CE-1 Refrain Ensemble from 1976, the unique refrain field, Boss cemented their popularity for chorus effects with the CE-2 stompbox and it’s descendents, which as a result of it’s tank-like compact metal development continues to be found in alt-rock and shoegaze gear lists because the de facto chorus pedal. The current fashions, just like the CE-5 Stereo Chorus Ensemble and CH-1 Tremendous Chorus, are great for synths and sound design routing too.

For 70’s synthesists meanwhile, most famously Jean Michel Jarre, the Electroharmonix Small Stone Phaser was the phaser of selection, and the current Nano mannequin continues to be a fantastic selection in the present day for pairing with hardware synth patches and sound effects design.

Jean Michelle Jarre, 70s studio Electro Harmonix Small Stone PhaserJean Michel Jarre within the studio; EH Small Stone Phaser in all probability just out of shot…

Roland/Boss has a variety of type within the refrain area, as additionally they developed their legendary studio rackmount Dimension D chorus box, and in addition put what turned sought-after refrain sections into their analogue synths like those within the beloved Juno vary. Most certainly this was initially a method of introducing a few of the lushness of costlier synth fashions into the comparatively simple sound-generating structure, however the distinctive thickening of patches soon turned a celebrated sound in its own right. Now you’ll be able to even get a free plugin of just the Juno’s much-loved refrain section from TAL, the TAL-Chorus-LX, which is a by-product from their very own wonderful TAL-U-NO-LX Juno synth emulation plugin instrument (extra on these under).

Refrain doesn’t only have for use on sustained feels like guitars and synths. You should use it to nice impact so as to add an additional dimension of liveliness to drums, perc and impression sounds, notably snares and higher frequency percussion. (I in all probability wouldn’t advocate it on kicks and lower frequency drums because of the danger of introducing part issues – though refrain will definitely work on bass guitar and different bass sounds that have a robust low-mid element).


In fact, in the event you prolong the delay time nonetheless further, you ultimately cross the Haas threshold and it begins to sound like two discreet sounds. Nevertheless, any such doubling, with a easy delayed copy of the original sound at between 60-120ms, can be used to good thickening impact as a unique strategy than chorusing. This may be achieved with a primary delay plugin, or with a more specialised “doubling” emulation, however the impact is actually the same.

Another which means of doubling in recording parlance refers to the apply of actually recording and stacking a number of takes of the same instrument or vocal part. The concept is to play or sing as near the unique as potential. Clearly, you’ll by no means match exactly, and that is the purpose: the micro-inconsistencies (or fairly noticeable ones when you’re a bit sloppy) in timing and pitch add to the sense of depth, detail and measurement in a good way.

In sound design, you should use doubling and stacking of a number of takes of things like foley recordings of kitchen implement-sourced perc hits to make some really fascinating and rich drum layers.

The Best Classic Modulation Effects Plugins For Sound Design: Roundup Listing


Both of those plugins are based mostly on hardware models that have been a few of Eventide’s first forays into studio results. They quickly turned studio staples that might end up getting used on countless data by way of the 70s, 80s and beyond.

On the spot Phaser features an “Age” knob that simulates the effect of the interior circuitry having warped just a little and drifted from its unique values after having been left on for years in a studio rack.

Prompt Flanger has three totally different fundamental settings: Shallow, Deep and Extensive. The Oscillator management sets the velocity of the modulation, and the Enveope Follower allows you extra management than standard over how the sign is processed with the flange impact.

On the spot Flanger also includes a “Bounce” knob that references the follow that gave “flanging” its identify, when engineers would press a thumb on the edge or flange of one of the two tape reels to create the type of delay and modulation we discussed earlier. The Bounce knob mimics the impact of the capstan motor servo of an previous tape machine responding to this strain, because it tries to recuperate regular velocity.

Out there for: Mac, PC | VST, AU, AAX

Prompt Flanger Mk II and Immediate Part Mk II might be purchased separately and are additionally included in Eventide’s wonderful Anthology XI bundle (the bundle also consists of the H910 Harmonizer pitch-shifting results plugin that we’ll be overlaying in the next publish).

BUY NOW by way of Plugin Boutique.

valhalla dsp spacemodulator gui

Free for anybody who has purchased some other Valhalla DSP plugins direct type their website, SpaceModulator is their take on flanging.

It has a sometimes streamlined interface and features 11 modulation modes, allowing you to get anything from “regular” flanging to barberpole flanging (apparently infinite rising modulation slightly than rising and falling); detuning and doubling, as we mentioned above, in addition to going additional into reverb and other weirder modulation-based effects.

We coated Valhalla UberMod previously, nevertheless it also needs to be talked about once more here because it additionally covers modulating delay, and is a refrain and flanging beasty. Examine them each out!

Obtainable for: Mac, PC | VST, AU, AAX

BUY NOW by way of ValhallaDSP.

Softube Fix Phaser audio plugin GUI

Softube teamed up with legendary hardware audio processing designer Paul Wolff beneath his Fix Audio banner to create these three processor plugins.

Flexibility and musicality are the watchwords here, with every plugin capable of masking pretty much every conceivable tone and tackle phasing and flanging that have turn into favourites within the palettes of producers and engineers over the many years — and all with a distinctly trendy edge meaning they’re not solely good for nostalgic recreations.

Softube Fix Flanger and Doubler audio plugin GUI

The Repair Phaser comes individually, the Repair Flanger and Doubler come as a two-plugin set; and all are included within the first-class Softube Volume 3 bundle.

Out there for: Mac, PC | VST, AU, AAX

BUY NOW by way of Plugin Boutique.

D16 Fazortan 2 phaser plugin GUI

Syntorus is specifically designed to capture the analogue character of basic synths, such as the Roland Junos we discussed earlier, and the ARP Solina string machine and Elka Synthex.

D16 Syntorus chorus plugin GUI

A big facet of Syntorus’ sound is the truth that it has twin delay strains (labelled Path 1 and Path 2 on the interface). These might be set to run together or to feed one into the opposite, opening up an entire new set of chorus and sound design prospects within a single plugin.

Fazortan 2 is unofficially modeled more instantly on 70’s synth pioneer Jean Michelle Jarre’s favorite phaser, which is regarded to have been an Electroharmonix Small Stone phaser pedal. It’s awesome, and the version 2 replace is even better!

Each of these are must-haves for electronic producers trying to thicken synths, drums and basslines.

Obtainable for: Mac, PC | VST, AU, AAX

BUY NOW by way of Plugin Boutique.

Soundtoys Phase Mistress phaser plugin GUI

What actually units Part Mistress aside from the pack is just not immediately apparent: it’s a sometimes great-sounding and versatile plugin processor from Soundtoys, however you need to open the Rhythm and Form Editor drop-down tabs to actually get a feel for just how malleable you can also make your phasing. Here you will get into creating custom shapes and curves in your modulation, arising with phaser effects that just wouldn’t have been attainable with pre-digital fashions – but all imbued with a rich analog-style character.

Super-sculptural, however nonetheless easy in default view if you need it to be.

Part Mistress is a part of the Soundtoys 5 bundle.

Out there for: Mac, PC | VST, AU, AAX

BUY NOW by way of Plugin Boutique.

UAD Studio D Chorus plugin GUI

Not many controls here – simply 4 numbered buttons to select from (or press all of them in directly, 1176 compressor-style). It’s easy, nevertheless it works in addition to any chorus effect unit to make your sounds immediately extra lush, broad and deep.

Advisable for UAD / Apollo audio interface customers.

Obtainable for: Mac, PC | UAD DSP-hardware required | VST, AU

BUY NOW by way of Universal Audio.

TAL-Chorus-LX plugin GUI

Borrowed instantly from TAL’s personal celebrated software recreation of the Roland Juno 60, TAL-U-NO-LX, this free chorus plugin is an ideal start to bringing some of that particular 80’s polysynth texture and lushness to literally another sound you want!

Obtainable for: Mac, PC | VST, AU, AAX

DOWNLOAD by way of Plugin Boutique.

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 EQ plugin GUI

Is that this a mistake? No, I’m including Fabfilters widespread EQ plugin as a result of it’s the most effective plugin interfaces for experimenting visually with a few of the phasing and notching ideas we have been talking about initially of this article.

Simply draw in the notches wherever you need them, and regulate their width and spacing to taste. Then, click on and drag to pick all the node factors you’ve created, and with automation enabled to document your actions, sweep the notches manually up and down at various speeds and intensities for quite a lot of phasing and pseudo-flanging effects. It’s enjoyable, and there’s shocking scope for tailoring precisely the tone of the effect you need.

Pro-Q 3 is included in a number of of FabFilters numerous bundles, which are a good way to get vastly discounted costs compared to the solo plugin record costs. Our favourites are the Essentials and of course the Complete bundle.

Out there for: Mac, PC | VST, AU, AAX

BUY NOW by way of Plugin Boutique.

10. Bonus: A number of audio tracks in your DAW

Not to be confused with layering, where each layer occupies it’s personal distinct frequency range with little or no frequency overlap with the other layers, doubling includes stacking multiple variations of a really comparable sound, so that it’s the tiny variations in timing and pitch that create the thickening impact.

For this reason bands have been recognized to stack 40 takes of the identical guitar half when recording, and why the sound of a giant choir all singing in unison is so rich: it’s the micro-discrepancies between the totally different elements that add the warmth, width and depth.

Attempt it on synth leads, guitars, basslines, drums, something: the trick is to not cheat and take the standard lazy digital strategy of merely duplicating the identical clip several occasions. No, attempt truly manually enjoying in several totally different performances of the same half. For those who must use quantizing to keep things in any recognisable time, hold it to iterative solely, not rigidly snapping to the grid, as that is one time whenever you truly need to emphasise small timing differences between takes. You possibly can even go back and automate some very delicate pitch bend (it may be quite troublesome to play the very small amounts of pitch bend stay with a pitch bend wheel, until you possibly can set the wheel to a smaller-than-usual range). You may be stunned how things come to life with some real-life modulation effects!

Keep tuned for the subsequent elements in this collection, all coming over the subsequent couple of weeks, for a lot of extra ideas and inspiration on that.

For more on a few of the plugin bundles mentioned in this article, take a look at the Best Music Production Plugin Bundles.

For a definitive collection of ideas and methods for enhancing your music to knowledgeable degree – from advanced compression methods to shaping and putting your sounds in the mix with appropriately applied reverb and fine-tuned EQ adjustments – don’t overlook to take a look at our Final Guides e book collection:

Ultimate Guides Complete Bundle v2016

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