Pro Audio Files

9 Strange, Quirky and Unique Plugins

There are a lot of plugins out there, but most of them fall into a few simple categories: EQs, dynamics processors, time-based effects, saturation or pitch-shifting. However, there are a few quirky plugins that don’t quite fit into any category. Some plugins are capable of altering audio in ways that no other plugin can. Check out these innovative audio tools that can help take your mixes to a whole new level.

Brainworx bx_panEQ

At first glance, bx_panEQ may seem like just another equalizer plugin, but it’s actually a spatial equalizer that allows you to independently boost or cut at discrete pan positions in the stereo field. bx_panEQ features three parametric bell-curve filters with gain, frequency, EQ, and pan controls — as well as an innovative focus control that allows you to precisely regulate the panoramic width of your EQ adjustments.

You can even cut and boost at the same frequency on different points of the panorama to replace instruments within a full mix. The color-coded Panoramic Spectral Analyzer plots changes to pan position, frequency and amplitude in real time, making it easy to see how you’re affecting the signal.

Sonic Charge PERMUT8

PERMUT8 is technically a 12-bit digital delay with variable sample rate from 0 to 352 kHz. Since it can run two separate instructions triggered by eight different operators, it’s more like a step-sequenced delay unit/flanger/bit-crusher/circuit bender —but PERMUT8 has a nice ring to it.

And the madness doesn’t stop there — PERMUT8 can be expanded with new functionality through “alternative firmwares”, which allow you to extend or replace its signal processing algorithms. Sonic Charge currently offers 10 alternative firmwares ranging from wave-shapers to arpeggiators to speech synthesizers.

FREAKSHOW INDUSTRIES Backmask

FREAKSHOW INDUSTRIES is pretty much the greatest company on Earth — at least in this dimension. They pride themselves on being creators of “subversive and ridiculous audio production effects built for sound designers and experimental music producers.”

Their Backmask processor is a “chaotic reverser plugin that uses government-approved paradox processing technologies to export the hidden terrors of music”, and can be used to “uncover the plots of ghosts, aliens, and other rogue entities.” In addition to buying Backmask at the very reasonable price of $20, you can also steal it directly from their website. No, seriously.

Now that you’ve “illegally downloaded” Backmask, try this hot tip from Kaajh’Kaalbh: “When I am destroying the sanity of man, I like to apply Backmask at 81% wet and automate the size knob in chaos mode, it really adds to the depth of the horrors I can achieve.”

zynaptic ADAPTIVERB

ADAPTIVERB is a revolutionary “reflection-less” reverberation plugin designed to add depth without obscuring the source. ADAPTIVERB uses a revolutionary AI-based bionic sustain re-synthesizer to generate rich, harmonic sustain and noise-free reverb. The built-in harmonic contour filter removes dissonance between input and effect paths, which helps reduce mud and clutter. You can even use a MIDI keyboard to control which pitches ADAPTIVERB uses, allowing you to focus on a particular key. Although ADAPTIVERB uses highly complex algorithms, the interface is rather simple, making it easy to dial in the perfect reverb in seconds.

Learn more in this review from Phil Mantione.

Drawmer S73 Intelligent Master Processor

The Drawmer S73 is an incredibly complex plugin crammed into a super-simple package. Combining three top-notch compressors with transparent filters and mid-side processing, S73 is technically a multiband compressor, although it functions more like a semi-automatic mastering device. S73 condenses 10 separate plugins into four simple controls: amount, air, style and output. Select from dozens of presets, designed to make mixes brighter, louder and wider. There’s no wrong way to use this plugin — just place it on your mix bus and dial up the amount knob for instant improvements.

Illformed Glitch 2

Glitch 2 is technically a step-sequencer, although it doesn’t trigger samples or notes — it triggers effects. Designed to slice, dice, chop, screw, twist, turn and mangle your sounds, Glitch 2’s intuitive multi-lane pattern editor can be used to quickly trigger effects like modulation, tape stop, re-triggering, reversing, time-stretching, lo-fi effects, distortion, gating, delay and the “shuffler”.

Since Glitch 2 uses a multi-lane pattern editor, all 10 effects can be triggered simultaneously and tweaked to taste in real-time. Use the Mutate function to randomly tweak the parameters of a single effect, or the Randomize function to create an entire scene of unexpected, chaotic and inspiring results.

Glitch 2

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Eventide Physion

Physion (formerly known as Fission) is a “structural effect” that breaks up a sound into its basic components, processing them separately, and then combining them back together again. Specifically, Physion separates the transient and tonal elements of a sound for individual processing.

With six transient effects and seven tonal effects, Physion can alter sounds in ways that have never been possible. For instance, Physion allows you to radically re-shape drum sounds by processing the pitch of the resonance without affecting the pitch of the transient. Physion also works great for adjusting how aggressive the pick sound is in a guitar recording. But Physion is more than just a transient shaper — it also includes effects like reverb, delay, chorus, phaser and tremolo for adding depth to your tracks.

ohmforce Frohmage

Frohmage is a powerful resonant filter designed to deliver dirt, warmth, and color to your tracks. Featuring a resonant low-pass filter, multiple band-pass filters, and a distortion stage, Frohmage is designed to totally transform your tracks. Frohmage allows for up to 15 additional bandpass filters — all with fine controls for cutoff frequency and resonance. The EVOLVE knob uses multiple pitch-shifted delays for each band to create otherworldly effects — perfect for adding depth to static sounds. Plus, each parameter is controllable by MIDI so you can tweak everything in real-time with your favorite controller.

Wavefactory TrackSpacer

As the name implies, TrackSpacer is designed to create space for tracks within a mix. It works similarly to sidechain compression, but with much more detail. Trackspacer features an automated dynamic EQ that analyzes the sidechain input and applies a reversed EQ curve to your track.

Trackspacer splits the source signal in 32 bands and analyzes them individually, reverses the result and applies a 32-band EQ to duck those frequencies in real time for a more transparent approach.

Wavefactory Trackspacer

Honorable Mentions

Although the following plugins are more synthesizers than effects processors, they’re pretty interesting.

Krotos Dehumanizer

A powerful vocal processing tool used to achieve insane vocals by transforming your voice into that of an animal, a robot or some kind of monster …

Sinevibes Hologram Spectral Audio Resynthesizer

A creative effect processor that resynthesizes the sound in real time. It does this by splitting the input signal into multiple frequency bands, analyzing their dynamics and then recreating the signal’s spectrum with an array of sine oscillators.

AudioThing The Orb

A formant filter plugin which simulates the characteristics of the human voice. Featuring a set of three bandpass filters, The Orb can transform any sound into a vowel-like formant-filtered sound.

AudioNerdz Delay Lama

The world’s first software synthesizer that features both vocal synthesis and a real-time 3D animated interface. Simply play a note to make the monk start singing, then use the built-in XY controller to adjust the pitch, or slide between ooh, ow, ah, ahh, and eeh vowel sounds. Add a little extra depth to your Lama with the built-in stereo delay.

Now that you’re familiar with some of the most unique plugins on the market, there’s nothing left to do but get weird. Most of these plugins feature free demos — so get out there and start experimenting!

If you know of any other strange, quirky or unique plugins, drop me a line, please drop them in the comments!

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Brad Pack

Brad Pack

Brad Pack is an award-winning audio engineer, writer and educator based in Chicago, IL. He helps musicians become artists by creating sustainable careers in the music business. Brad holds a Master's Degree in Electronic Media Production from Central Michigan University. When he’s not in front of his laptop, Brad can be found in the mosh pit. Follow him on Instagram or get in touch on his website.

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