Review: Soundtoys Decapitator
Positives:* Sounds really really good * Can add tone to a dull source. * Tone shaping controls available * 5 great sounding different modeled pieces of equipment * Mix knob for parallel processing * Can be subtle (With mix knob of course) or dirty * Punish Button!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The brutal beating of analog gear, for your convenience
Soundtoys is one of my favorite plugin companies. They are a relatively small operation in Vermont with a big impact in the audio world. Their bundle, in my opinion, is the best set of effects money can buy. Their line of processors have been highly praised and have remained a great set of tools. For years, the bundle carried the same line, but recently they began to introduce a new line of plugins. The first being “Decapitator.” With a name like that, you know it isn’t for the faint of heart. For years, people have loved the tone and sound of soundtoys plugins like filterfreak and echoboy and the way they emulate the analog output stages. The saturation is superb, and even I have found myself guilty of adding echoboy and shutting off the delays, just to use the analog section to control the saturation. So when Decapitator was announced, many people were indeed happy to hear the news. So what the heck is Decapitator? Very simply, it is a distortion plugin with tone controls. 5 different sounding units were modeled by the good folks at Soundtoys for our convenience. A is an old Ampex Preamp stage, E is a EMI/TG console channel, N is a Neve 1057 Preamp, T is the triode stage of The Thermionic Culture Vulture, while the P is the Pentode stage. All of these units have their own unique characteristics and tone/color and can add a world of difference to your sounds.
Decapitator shines on drums. Adding an instance to a drum buss can really make those drum sizzle and dominate your mix. Adding “N” console and bringing the “Drive” up is like magic. Imparting a sweet tone that grabs the transients in a very musical way. It almost instantaneously glues the drumkit together in a way I’ve never heard a plugin do. Using the high cut control, I can roll the top off a bit when the crashes and cymbals are too harsh. I used the low cut to clean up room rumble while adding the “thump” control, which adds a resonant peak at the cutoff frequency, effectively boosting at 80 while filtering everything below it. “Thump” is hit or miss, in this case it was a spectacular addition. The “Tone” control was able to add some clarity and crispiness, which added some bit to the snare. I loved this plugin on my drums. Next I tried it on bass. This is easily the best use of this plugin. Without even thinking about it, I hit the “Punish” button, which adds 20dbs extra to the drive input. It immediately crushes and crunches is such a musical way. It sounds just like it would having pushed the actual gear into this much distortion. It really lives up to it’s name with the punish button. Most of the time I hit the “punish” button and use it to really hear/feel what each of the algorithms impart. I use that to choose which one to use and I usually turn it off and add it in subtly . In this case, the Triod stage of the Thermionic Culture (T) was just perfect and I really like how it crunched the notes in a pleasing way, so I left the punish button on and use the “mix” knob to blend it in. This a quick and fantastic way to really push this plugin to death and still keeping some clarity. No more need for creating extra tracks and adding a bunch of new routing for parallel processing with this plugin, and most importantly, no need to worry about phasing anymore. Punishing and using the mix knob is great on vocals, while gently driving the input to add some color and saturation to a vocal, mixing a “Punished” version of the tone adds bite and just the right amount of harmonics for really bring something to the front of the mix. I love “A” and “E” on vocals. This plugin can really add warmth and a full character, it is almost as if you’ve recorded through that piece of equipment. One of my favorite overlooked features in this plugin is the addition of an “auto” switch which links the output with the amount of Drive. Now you can drive it all you want without having to worry about it clipping your DAW, or having to compensate to properly A/B the bypassed version with the processed version. Give Decapitator a try and you’ll end up picking up the entire bundle. trust me, It’s worth every penny.