Softube Effects Bundle

Monday, September 28, 2009| by Jeff Baker

Some software packages are a mixed bag. It's not at all unheard of to buy a bundle just because you want half of what it's got, and the rest will sit more or less unused. The economics of bundles as a result isn't always straightforward. Thankfully none of that is the case with Softube's Effects Bundle. Consisting of Acoustic Feedback, Tube Delay, and Spring Reverb, each plugin makes a unique contribution to your virtual studio, and the package pricing is right on target for the functionality that they provide.

My introduction to the Effects Bundle was Acoustic Feedback, a plugin billed as a realistic guitar amplifier feedback simulator. There are three controls: one adjusts the mix of “feedback” to your dry signal, one controls how fast and strong the feedback comes on (including the upper harmonics that are generated), and one is a three-position threshold switch which lets you control how quickly it clamps down on the feedback or how wild it lets it run. Softube has allowed enough flexibility to use Acoustic Feedback as something like a harmonic tone generator at its more extreme settings.

Acoustic Feedback...[is] a must-try plugin, you might find that you can't let it go.

For realistic, controllable “cranked amp” feedback, I found subtle settings gave me the best results. While you do have to learn how it responds to your playing, after less than fifteen minutes with the plugin I was able to control the feedback very well. I really try not to gush over anything, because frankly very few products are perfect, but when you spend the time to get Acoustic Feedback dialed in it really does add a new level of dimensionality and authenticity to your virtual amp experience, and it works with any amp modeling software, free or commercial, Softube or otherwise. It isn't totally flawless, and you don't have quite as much room to play the feedback itself as you might like (because in the end it is still triggering on the input signal, which isn't infinitely sustained as with real feedback), but it definitely moves your whole modeling setup that much closer to virtual reality. A must-try plugin, you might find that you can't let it go.

The second plugin in the bundle is Spring Reverb, and it is modeled extremely carefully, simulating the whole operating range of a three-spring tank with adjustments to allow you to control the tension of the springs and even how many springs are engaged, as well as a mix control and a useful EQ section with a bass and a treble knob. The springs control adjusts smoothly and continually between just one spring in use, or a full three springs, and any ratio in between. I found that I like the in-between sounds quite a lot. The tension adjustment has a profound impact on the sound, just as it would in the physical world, and you should take care to experiment with the various options at hand. I appreciate the subtle spring reverb sounds available just as much as the clangier stuff, because many spring reverb simulations tend to emphasize the drippy and “big” reverb tones at the expense of a more nuanced range of reverberation. That isn't to say that really wet spring reverb isn't available, far from it – surf rockers shouldn't be disappointed. A unique feature is a fully automatable “Shake” control which replicates the brash, spontaneous jumble that happens if you jar a spring reverb (for instance, by kicking it!). Assign that to a midi foot switch and you can make your sound crash and clang on command.

The final plugin in the bundle is one that will take more getting used to for many. Called Tube Delay, the plugin offers all of the characteristics of a vintage tube-driven delay unit, including an extremely colorful preamp which is engaged whether the delay is adjusted wet or dry. Because the tube preamp has a very strong effect even on the direct signal, I preferred using this effect on its own track, blending the processed signal back in with the dry signal afterward. However I could see there being instances where you would want that really pronounced, vintage tube pre sound, and of course the option is there. Both the dry and wet paths have their own Drive control, providing control over the saturation present. The delay itself can be tuned with a number of adjustments, including a delay time from 1ms to 1000ms (which becomes different note steppings if the Tempo Sync option is engaged), a feedback control which sounds great wherever it's set, and Treble and Bass adjustments which impact the main sound as well as repeats. In any configuration, the sound is pretty lo-fi and characterful, but that's to be expected from this type of delay. It is a faithful recreation of a sound that isn't easy to get these days, and while it will take some getting used to for musicians used to modern, pristine digital delays, I think many will find it endearing after they give it a fair shake.

Softube's Effects Bundle is a powerful set of tools. Acoustic Feedback seems totally unparalleled, at least for now – they're the only game in town and they've done the job extremely well. Their Spring Reverb is natural and warm, with the appreciated ability to rumble and clang on command. Tube Delay is saturated in vintage mojo. While the price may seem steep at first glance, high-end effects plugins with this kind of sound quality can cost far, far more than what Softube is asking. Each plugin is $99 on its own, meaning if you really like the sound of two of them, you might as well get the bundle for $199 so that you have all three – and having all three will almost certainly add something to your studio that it could use. The one thing that might keep some away is the iLok requirement, even to demo the software. Still, if you have an iLok, I definitely recommend checking out the demo so that you can see for yourself what Softube can add to your sound.

Price: $199
Pros: Fully cross-platform, including a Deluxe version of Acoustic Feedback for ProTools users; Very fine effects quality, some of the best in the business.
Cons: iLok only

Filed Under: Softube, Reviews