Today’s audio processors tend to fall into two broad categories: Those that try to recreate the past, and those that tire of it. iZotope’s new Trash 2 plugin falls squarely in that second camp.
iZotope released the original Trash plugin in back in 2003, and it was marketed as a multi-band distortion unit.
The new version, nearly 10 years in the making, is less an update, and more a complete overhaul based on that same general theme of complete audio annihilation.
What It Does
Trash 2 is a multi-purpose sonic mangler, comprised of more than a half-dozen individual audio processors.
Rather than mimic a single piece of equipment, this plugin is an entire toolbox that would require at least a 3-foot-high rack of outboard gear if you wanted to even begin to replicate it in the physical world.
It can easily overdrive, pulverize, or otherwise radically re-morph your sounds. But used judiciously, and with help from a master wet/dry control, Trash 2 can also act as a subtle enhancer.
How it Does It
Although it’s marketed as sound distortion software, it’s hard to say which effect truly lies at the heart of this plugin, since each processing stage is so flexible and fully-realized.
Trash 2 consists of six discrete modules: Distortion (named “Trash”), Impulse Response Filters (called “Convolve”), Delay, Dynamics, and two separate Filters.
They can be placed in any order you desire, and then individually solo’d, muted, or combined.
The “Trash” Module
Trash 2 features more than 60 custom distortion algorithms that mimic everything from tape, tubes and fuzzboxes to AM breakup and the satisfying bit-smashing of a Nintendo Gameboy.
As with each processor that makes up Trash 2, the distortion module is almost endlessly customizable.
It offers the option to click and drag in order to create your own personal non-linearities, or to even assign different types of overdrive to each frequency band.
If you were so inclined, you might give your low end a little bit of subtle tube grit, while your high-end gets some tape-like saturation and your midrange is pulverized into smithereens of granular white noise.
Alternately, you could choose to saturate only a single band, for instance the high-end, effectively turning the Trash section into an aural exciter.
The “Convolve” module
The other uncommon component in Trash 2 is the “Convolve” section. It is a convolution or “impulse response” filter – the very same type of processing employed by many of today’s best software reverbs.
In order to lighten the CPU load (and to focus on what Trash does best) this plugin is loaded up with very short impulse responses that radically reshape tone rather than add long reverb tails.
The library comes packed with more than 100 IRs, dominated by things like guitar speakers, snare drums, wooden cabinets, and everyday household objects. There’s even a whole section of impulse responses culled from human vowel sounds and animal noises.
Ever wonder what that bass guitar would sound like re-interpreted through the snorts of a pig? Neither have I, but now we can find out.
It’s also worth noting that you can load your own samples, or even increase the maximum sample time of this section (provided you’re not too worried about CPU load) turning Trash into a convolution reverb unit on steroids.
The “Filter” Modules
Trash has two separate filter modules.
They are identical, and by default they appear both directly before and after the distortion module. Of course, you can move them anywhere in the chain that you like, or even arrange them in parallel rather than in series, if you prefer.
For me, this was among the most powerful and the most fun parts of Trash 2. I’d even say that you could just as easily call this “a filter plugin”.
Each of Trash’s filters offer six bands. Each of the bands can be assigned a filter curve from a list of more than 20 varieties.
You could, for instance, combine the low-pass filter of a vintage synthesizer with the low-shelf curve of a Pultec, and then add a midrange boost with one of the cleanest-sounding peaking filters you’re likely to hear.
The filter types are organized under names like “vintage”, “screaming” “clean”, and “saturated”, not one of which is misleading. There are even a couple of “vocal” filters than can give vowel-like tone and texture to your sounds
Some of these filters are so powerful, colorful, and ready to be pushed that I often found myself using just one or two of them to dramatically reshape tones. But what really impressed me most about this section were the filter modulations. This is where you can create wahs, tremolos and talk-box-like effects using LFOs of a variety of shapes and speeds. The modulations can also sync to the track’s dynamics or its tempo, and can even be triggered by a sidechain input.
The Delay Module
The delay module was another of my favorites. It’s not quite as full-featured as the other sections, but that’s only to say that iZotope stopped short of putting the kitchen sink into this one.
It might be nice to have a delay modulation or panning function built-in, but otherwise, pretty much any feature you’d want out of a good delay is in there.
There are a handful of delay degradation profiles based on things like tape machines, early digital delays, and there’s even one that sounds a bit like a Cooper Time Cube – an early analog device that used what was essentially a-garden-hose-in-a-box to delay signal.
They all sound surprisingly good (even when they are pushed to sound “bad”) and are endlessly fun to manipulate.
The degradation of each algorithm can be controlled with a separate “trash” fader, and there’s control for stereo width as well. The feedback circuit goes well past 100%, leading to instant dub-freakouts when desired.
The Dynamics Module
The multi-band dynamics module has just about everything in it that you could ask for in a basic digital compressor, sounds and works just fine.
For me, it is probably the least inspiring of the six modules. Of course, it is hard to keep pace with the over-the-top allure of all the other sections, each of which can be bogglingly powerful.
What I did like most about the dynamics section of Trash 2 was its fairly novel visual feedback. It shows gain reduction over time, overlaid on top of the waveforms of the source signal.
There’s no substitute for mixing with ones ears, but this could be a good learning tool for those learning to listen for the subtleties of different attack and release settings and slopes.
Finally the frequency-sensitive triggering of the dynamics section can come in handy when working with resonant filters, and a nice added touch is that a transparent limiter protects the final output stage. This allows you to crank up the saturation without worrying about unintended overloads or awkward gain-staging.
At first, what I liked least about Trash was its spartan and dreary GUI.
But soon into demoing this plugin, I had a complete reversal of opinion, and came to find that the spare visual presentation was actually one of its greatest assets. It’s rare to find a plugin that fits in so many features and controls in such a logical and uncluttered way.
Due to the sheer depth and flexibility of the plugin, Trash 2 could easily run the risk of becoming overwhelming. But such care has been put into the layout that this potential risk never emerges as a genuine threat.
It’s surprisingly easy to find what you’re looking for in Trash and mouse-over text easily explains the few unfamiliar knobs. If you’re comfortable with computers and truly understand audio, you will “get” how to use each of the modules in this plugin very quickly.