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Review: The Snapin Eco-System by Kilohearts

In anticipation of a new synth called PhasePlant to be released sometime before Summer 2019, I decided to have a look at The Works Bundle, a collection of 33 modules called snapins and two hosting plugins offered by the Swedish developer, Kilohearts. Snapins can be implemented just like a standard plugin in a DAW. Or, they can be configured inside the hosting plugins: Snap Heap and Multipass (a frequency band specific host) to create complex effects chains with series and parallel routing capability and modulation generated from within the host.

The basic snapins have a clean, no-frills look that reduces their CPU footprint. But this austere aesthetic is in no way indicative of their sonic capability.

Each snapin from the comprehensive array of effects does primarily one thing extremely well. The learning curve for anyone with even modest experience is not at all steep and each effect has just a few essential controls with help comments that appear with mouse-overs.

Many individual modules do not have existing presets, but users can create them as desired. There is also a dice icon that will randomize all parameters with a click. Randomizing things like EQ or Bitcrush settings can yield unusual results and can be a way to break free from approaches that may have become habitual.

Here is a complete list of what comes with The Works:

Effect Snapins

  • 3-Band EQ
  • Chorus
  • Delay
  • Gain
  • Limiter
  • Stereo
  • Bitcrush
  • Comb Filter
  • Compressor
  • Distortion
  • Filter
  • Formant Filter
  • Frequency Shifter
  • Gate
  • Haas
  • Ladder Filter
  • Phase Distortion
  • Phaser
  • Pitch Shifter
  • Resonator
  • Reverb
  • Reverser
  • Ring Mod
  • Tape Stop
  • Trance Gate
  • Transient Shaper
  • Carve EQ
  • Disperser
  • Faturator
  • Slice EQ

Virtual Instruments:

  • kHs One (Subtractive Polyphonic Synth)
  • PhasePlant (soon to be released)

Snapin Hosts:

  • Snap Heap
  • Multipass

I took some time and explored every one of the snapins individually on some modular synthesis content I’ve been working with. Below are some that were particularly satisfying to work with:

Distortion

Phase Distortion

Ladder Filter

Transient Shaper

Some snapins that have more parameters and extensive interfaces worth noting are:

Carve EQ — has a drawable EQ curve and mid/side processing capability

Formant Filter — an XY pad where you can mouse over phonetic symbols

Trance Gate — a circular gate sequencer that chops up a sample for glitchy goodness

Snapin Hosts

The real fun happens when you use the Kilohearts snapin host plugins.

Snap Heap

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The interface features:

Four effect busses (or lanes) which can be routed in series or parallel

Programmable Macro controls

Two LFOs with six waveforms that can be synced or free

Two Envelopes

Pitch Tracker (similar to Key Follow)

MIDI programming controls

There is an extensive set of factory presets organized by category.

Multipass is a frequency band specific host that has expanded capability beyond Snap Heap.

In addition to the modulation and macro controls, it includes pre and post effect lanes and can divide the spectrum into as many as five bands for isolated band processing.

The Works Bundle, which includes everything, is offered at $489, an incredibly reasonable price in my opinion. You can also purchase smaller application-specific bundles based on your needs, or individual snapins for as little as $19, and some are actually free! The devices are available for VST/AU/AAX/RE hosts.

Kilohearts has developed a unique effects processing paradigm that is definitely worth exploring. Their ever-expanding collection of snapins are inexpensive in terms of both CPU and cost — yet they sound unexpectedly great. The clean aesthetic and uncluttered interfaces are responsive and provide an instantly usable mechanism for experimentation and ultrafast workflows.

The Multipass host plugin allows for frequency specific processing chains not easily achieved in any other way. I’ve been told by the developer that their soon-to-be-released virtual instrument called PhasePlant (mentioned earlier) will also have the capability to use snapins in the context of a synth. I’m looking forward to trying out the Beta version at NAMM this year. More to come…


Check out my other articles, reviews, interviews and my video tutorial series, Synthesis 101 available exclusively on The Pro Audio Files.

Follow me on Twitter: @PMantione
Instagram: philipmantione

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Philip Mantione

Philip Mantione

Philip Mantione is a composer, synthesist, guitarist, educator and sound artist active in the LA experimental music scene. His music has been presented in festivals, museums and galleries worldwide. His current project is TriAngular Bent, an electroacoustic trio featuring Don Preston (founding member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention) and circuit bending virtuoso, Jeff Boynton. Details at philipmantione.com

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