Review: SoundToys MicroShift by Zach McNees

February 27, 2014 by  

These days, as audio plug-ins have become more of the standard than the alternative in the pro audio community, a few brands have become ubiquitous with the DAW experience. SoundToys, for example, makes plug-ins I rely on daily to make my mixes better in every way imaginable. And I know I’m far from alone on that!

In early 2013, SoundToys made a big splash releasing the phenomenal Little MicroShift for free. Now a year later, SoundToys has released the full-blown big brother: MicroShift.

Let’s see what it’s all about!

SoundToys MicroShift

SoundToys MicroShift

TECH SPECS: MicroShift is a Native-only plug-in for Mac and PC and retails for $129 (with a special intro price of $89 until March 4, 2014). Current Little MicroShift owners can upgrade until March 4 for only $49. Formats include 64-bit AAX, RTAS, AU, AudioSuite and VST.

WHAT IT DOES: Makes your tracks wide! Through a combination of delay, detune and focus, MicroShift adds space and depth to everything from guitars and drums to vocals and more. A classic tool used by the worlds best mix engineers, MicroShift is modeled after some of the most widely used presets from the H3000 and DMX 15-80 units.

THE INTERFACE:

Controls for MicroShift are very simple with three main STYLE buttons to choose from:

I – Modeled on preset #231 from the H3000 (including the analog saturation)

II – Modeled on preset #519 from the H3000 with a varied pitch shift algorithm and delay variation from Style I.

III – Modeled on a widely used setting from the AMS DMX 15-80. Wider delay variation and saturation characteristics set Style III apart as the most audibly different of the three Styles.

Four knobs make up the remaining MicroShift controls:

MIX: Mix allows users to dial in the overall amount of effect. 100% wet is ideal when using MicroShift as a traditional FX return where the blend will come from the amount of dry signal sent from an aux send. When inserted on a particular track, adjust the mix to taste for more or less of a chorused sound.

FOCUS: Focus acts as a 2-band crossover filter or high pass filter allowing for FX to be applied only to frequencies above the set focus point. This allows users to apply MicroShift effects to the mid and high frequencies of a given instrument or vocal without disrupting the low end.

DETUNE: Detune applies more or less micro-pitch shifting to the sound in percents. For instance, at 50% the amount of detuning is halved. At 200%, the amount is doubled.

DELAY: Delay simply increases or decreases the amount of delay happening within each particular style. As with Detune, Delay works in percentages with the default being 100% with 200% max and 50% minimum available.

See and hear the MicroShift in action in the following demo video…

IN USE: It’s important to note that MicroShift is a stereo output only plug-in. MicroShift will act as a mono to stereo plugin when inserted on mono tracks.

I first learned about the beauty of MicroShift FX while assisting Neil Dorfsman who I consider my mixing mentor of sorts as well as a close friend. Many of the techniques I use when mixing I learned directly from working with closely with Neil. One of those techniques was using the trusted H3000 or Roland Dimension-D FX return on many different instruments including lead vocal. In fact, when mixing my own projects at Saint Claire, I used to cheat and go through Neil’s recall sheets to remember exactly what preset he was using! A great example of micropitch FX in use on a classic record is the nylon string guitar intro of Sting’s “Fragile”.

So, I had to laugh a little when reading the manual description for Style II on the MicroShift as I distinctly remember writing down “H3000 – 519” many, many times on recall sheets over the years.

The beauty of plug-ins like MicroShift is there’s really no right or wrong way to use it. I tend to apply MicroShift-style FX lightly across a number of different tracks within my mix to add depth and character. I’ll default to blending a little on the lead as well as a little on the bass guitar as a parallel return. Clean electric guitars are also a natural for MicroShift for providing instant shimmery chorus FX.

An effect almost identical to the chorus setting in a plug-in like Waves CLA-Bass can be achieved in MicroShift using Style III with Detune set to 80%, Delay set to 53%, Focus all the way on (20Hz) and the mix blended to taste (normally around 20-30%).  If setting up the effect as a traditional parallel FX return, mix should be set to 100% and adjusted to taste by blending the original sound with the FX return fader.

One of the things that make all SoundToys products so great is their built-in presets which helps users get close to the sound they want extremely quickly. MicroShift is no exception as there are over a dozen presets for everything from lead and background vocals to synth and slap bass and even a wide snare slap, which sounds fantastic. Pick a vocal or instrument in your mix and drop MicroShift on and scroll through some of the presets to get an idea of the wide palette of sounds available in this plug-in.

A little easter egg found in most SoundToys products for those who don’t know: Control clicking any knob in MicroShift will overlay the numerical readout of the knob’s parameters over its described function. For instance, control clicking the FOCUS knob will give you an exact readout in Hz. Mix, Delay and Detune will give you exact % readouts. This makes life much easier for those who are fans of precision control. (SoundToys has also updated their knob click in MicroShift so here, you can also simply click the control name for the numeric readout.)

Lastly, if you’re having trouble distinguishing the difference in sound between the three STYLE buttons, fear not!  Depending on the program audio in question, each STYLE type can sound extremely similar in MicroShift.  I would suggest simply choosing the setting that you instinctively gravitate towards the most when auditioning and experiment with varied levels of Detune and Delay while moving back and forth between Style types.

Most of the success I’ve had using Harmonizer and micropitch style FX in mixing is by blending in a way that the effect itself is almost invisible unless soloed individually.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the sound and ease of use of MicroShift!

TO BE CRITICAL: It would be very helpful to have the PDF manual accessible by a click directly from the plug-in itself. Although I’ve been a SoundToys user for years, I wasn’t clued in specifically to where the manuals exist on my system for each plugin. And I find it very useful when I can access the manual quickly and easily from right within the plug-in.

IN CONCLUSION: The SoundToys team has outdone themselves once again!  MicroShift is a spectacular sounding, easy to use plug-in at a price point that’s within every musician and engineer’s budget.  Do yourself a favor and add this to your plug-in arsenal.  It’s already become a staple on my mixes.

Buy, demo, or upgrade to MicroShift at SoundToys.com!

Zach McNees is a Brooklyn-based producer/engineer/mixer and live recordist who’s worked with Björk, Rob Thomas, Julia Nunes, The Gregory Brothers, Pixies, Liars and Alice Cooper. Get in touch with Zach via www.zachmcnees.com.

SoundToys Launches MicroShift Plugin – Widening & Much More

February 19, 2014 by  

The joy is palpable, all the way from the frosty hills of Vermont.

In a major development, SoundToys’ long-anticipated plugin MicroShift has arrived. Not only will it bring magic width, thickness and space to the tracks in your mix, but there’s a plethora of additional sonic tricks available via its Detune, Delay, Mix, and Focus controls.

MicroShift will make a big splash in your tracks.

MicroShift will make a big splash in your tracks.

The business end of this release makes for some more happy. SoundToys is offering it as a limited time upgrade special from Little MicroShift for $49 (regularly $89), or via a limited time intro price of $89 (regularly $129). Both offers end March 4th.

Additionally, no iLok USB key will be required. Instead, SoundToys is employing a new method of license activation that does not require the iLok License Manager to be opened up (more details here).

MicroShift is compatible with AAX Native 64 for Windows, and VST 64 for Mac, as well as Audio Units and RTAS.

Here are more details on MicroShift, straight from SoundToys:

Yes, the big brother to Little MicroShift is finally here, and it’s going to make a BIG difference. As in big wide vocals, synths, guitars, and even drums and loops. MicroShift takes this classic but simple studio trick a step or two further by giving you control over the DETUNE and the DELAY to quickly dial in just the right sound for your track. Combine those with the MIX control for some classic chorus effects, and use the unique FOCUS control to move the effect to a specific frequency range for high end shimmer, or air. It’s a SoundToys spin on this classic studio trick, and now it can be yours.

SoundToys Launches Free Plugin: Little MicroShift, Plus H3000 D/SE Contest

March 15, 2013 by  

It’s like Xmas in March – SXSWXMas, that is.

The Little MicroShift is the Next Big Thing from SoundToys.

The Little MicroShift is the Next Big Thing from SoundToys.

While everyone’s in Austin, SoundToys has made their new Little MicroShift plugin available for free, for just a little while. Plus, they’ve launched a groovy contest to capture a classic piece of hardware.

The promotion ends on March 29th, so get a move on. See more glorious details below, straight from SoundToys:

Little MicroShift is three classic versions of the widening/spacial effect of micro pitch-shifting in one super easy to use plug-in , and it’s totally free (for a limited time).

Plus by sharing with your friends, you also get a chance to win a classic piece of gear that featured some of the early classic micro pitch-shifting sounds that inspired this plug-in: An original Eventide H3000 D/SE autographed by two of the original designers (that just so happen to work at SoundToys).

The top runners up will also get prizes like free SoundToys bundles, plug-ins, free upgrades to MicroShift, and cool SoundToys swag.

Visit this page at SoundToys to pick up Little MicroShift, and enter the contest.