NA­TIVE IN­STRU­MENTS CRUSH PACK

The fol­low-up to Mod Pack puts a bar­gain-base­ment price tag on a trio of pow­er­ful, char­ac­ter­ful dis­tor­tion plugins

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Ad­her­ing to the stylis­tic tem­plate set by their ex­cel­lent Mod Pack (10/10, 256), NI’s Crush Pack com­prises three cir­cuit-mod­elled dis­tor­tion plugins (VST/AU/AAX), de­signed with mu­si­cal­ity and im­me­di­acy at the top of the agenda. Let’s dive straight in…

Dig the Dirt

The most ‘gen­eral pur­pose’ dis­tor­tion in the Pack, Dirt is a stomp­box-style ef­fect mod­el­ling a pair of diode clip­ping stages: A and B. These can be routed in se­ries in ei­ther di­rec­tion (A to B, or B to A), or par­al­lel, where­upon the dry/wet Mix knob be­comes a Blend con­trol, mix­ing the A/B out­puts to taste. Each stage has its own in­put Drive con­trol, with out­put gain com­pen­sa­tion ac­tive by de­fault but de­feat­able if re­quired, and can be set to one of three in­creas­ingly heavy dis­tor­tion modes. The Amount con­trol di­als in sat­u­ra­tion for the first half of its travel, then be­gins to fold the wave­form back on it­self for the se­cond half, dra­mat­i­cally in­creas­ing crunch; and the Bias and Tilt knobs work in har­mon­ics­boost­ing asym­me­try and see-saw equal­i­sa­tion (high cut/low boost or low cut/high boost).

Dirt’s poly­chro­matic dual-stage ar­chi­tec­ture and earthy ana­logue sound make it par­tic­u­larly well suited to warm­ing up or bru­tal­is­ing bass and gui­tar, glu­ing drum busses and heat­ing up vo­cals. It’s also fiendishly ef­fec­tive on synths and drum ma­chines, de­liv­er­ing ev­ery­thing from pres­ence-en­hanc­ing bite at low lev­els to scream­ing ser­ra­tion when pushed into the wave­fold­ing range.

Bite the dust

Bite serves up dig­i­tal dis­tor­tion to em­u­late the ever-in-vogue sound of vin­tage hard­ware sam­plers by the likes of Akai, E-MU et al. What that means in prac­ti­cal terms is bit depth and sam­ple rate re­duc­tion, the first ac­ces­si­ble on the left-hand side of the in­ter­face, the se­cond on the right. The big, self-ex­plana­tory kHz and Bits spin­ners roll down from 44.1kHz and 16-bit to 100Hz and 2-bit, but there’s more to this filthy de­vice than just that, of course.

The Jit­ter pa­ram­e­ter ran­domly fluc­tu­ates the sam­ple rate around the spec­i­fied value in­de­pen­dently for the left and right chan­nels, not only mess­ing up the sig­nal quite de­light­fully but also widen­ing it. The Pre and Post low-pass fil­ters do away with alias­ing by sit­ting at the Nyquist fre­quency (half the sam­ple rate) at their

“Ev­ery­thing from bite at low lev­els to scream­ing ser­ra­tion in the wave­fold­ing range”

cen­tre de­tents, but can also in­tro­duce it for cre­ative pur­poses when twisted clock­wise.

Over on the right, the DC func­tion pre­vents bit depth quan­ti­sa­tion to zero, smooth­ing (for want of a bet­ter word!) the sound out to some ex­tent; and Crunch at­ten­u­ates the in­put level, thus re­duc­ing the quan­ti­sa­tion range, for con­tin­u­ous res­o­lu­tion changes with­out step­ping. Dither and Ex­pand, mean­while, add stereo noise and ad­just the bias of quan­ti­sa­tion res­o­lu­tion to­wards low-level sig­nals, ul­ti­mately turn­ing them into square waves for a less de­tailed, ‘nas­tier’ sound.

Lastly, the Sat­u­ra­tion knob ap­plies gain­com­pen­sated ana­logue-style dis­tor­tion; the HP fil­ter cuts the out­put off at 5, 100 or 200Hz for low-end con­trol; and the dry/wet Mix knob en­ables par­al­lel pro­cess­ing, which this fan­tas­tic sound de­sign tool would be far less prac­ti­cal with­out. Again, it’s the scope and ver­sa­til­ity of Bite that sets it apart from other, sim­i­lar plugins: whether you just want to in­fuse a beat with a touch of old-school hip-hop flavour or shoot for full-on chip­tune dig­i­talia, it walks the spec­trum.

Get freaky

Mod­el­ling a diode ring cir­cuit, Freak of­fers three fun­da­men­tal modes of op­er­a­tion – Os­cil­la­tor, Ra­dio and Sidechain (the last two are dis­cussed in Ra­dio star) – each one chang­ing the func­tions of the three con­tex­tual knobs on the left. For all modes, the Type knob morphs the mod­u­la­tion style smoothly from Am­pli­tude through Ring to Fre­quency shifting. Am­pli­tude mod­u­la­tion in­volves wob­bling of the vol­ume level, for tre­molo ef­fects at low fre­quen­cies and the gen­er­a­tion of au­di­ble ‘metal­lic’ side­bands at high fre­quen­cies. Ring mod­u­la­tion is sim­i­lar, but re­places the in­put with side­bands rather than adding them to it. Fre­quency shifting is rather dif­fer­ent, off­set­ting the fre­quency con­tent of the in­put sig­nal in lin­ear fash­ion – a bit like pitchshift­ing in that it makes the whole sound go ‘higher’ and ‘lower’, but far more de­struc­tive, colour­ful and cre­ative, as the rel­a­tive spac­ing of fre­quen­cies isn’t main­tained.

In Os­cil­la­tor mode, mod­u­la­tion for the Amp and Ring Types is con­trolled by a sine wave run­ning at up to 5kHz (pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive), the speed de­ter­min­ing the fre­quen­cies of the side­bands. With the Fre­quency shifter Type, Freq sets the amount by which the in­put sig­nal is shifted in Hz/kHz. For an in­crease in per­ceived stereo width, the bipo­lar Stereo knob di­als in phase off­set between the mod­u­la­tion of the left and right chan­nels; while the An­tifold knob thins out the dis­tor­tion by pre­vent­ing side­bands from fold­ing over at 0Hz.

Com­mon to all three modes, the Feed­back and Har­mon­ics knobs route the out­put back into the in­put, and add even har­mon­ics. Feed­back is par­tic­u­larly use­ful for em­pha­sis­ing phas­ing treat­ments, cre­at­ing the ‘bar­ber pole ef­fect’ with low-speed fre­quency shifting, and var­i­ous other kinds of trans­for­ma­tions.

A rich source of in­har­monic noises, sci-fi bur­bles, de­tuned sweeps, crazy fre­quency wan­der­ings and so much more, for us, Freak is the jewel in the Crush Pack crown. That’s not to say that its sta­ble­mates are in any way ‘lesser’, though – all three of these stel­lar sound­man­gling plugins sound wicked.

Dirt and Bite would ben­e­fit from the ad­di­tion of an en­ve­lope fol­lower or two, but at this price, we re­ally can’t com­plain, to be hon­est. Go get ’em now.

“In­fuse a beat with old­school hip-hop flavour or shoot for full-on chip­tune dig­i­talia”

DRIVE Boost the in­put into each of Dirt’s sat­u­ra­tion stages AMOUNT Push the dis­tor­tion from sat­u­ra­tion into wave­fold­ing BIAS AND TILT Boost har­mon­ics and fil­ter the dis­tor­tion A/B ROUT­ING Set up se­rial or par­al­lel rout­ing for the two stages MOD TYPE Morph between three am­pli­tude mod­u­la­tion styles MODE CON­TROLS These three knobs change func­tion de­pend­ing on mode FREAK MODES Choose Os­cil­la­tor, Sidechain or the wacky Ra­dio FEED­BACK Send the out­put back to the in­put for var­i­ous ef­fects

SAM­PLE RATE Re­duce the sam­ple fre­quency from 44.1kHz to 100Hz JIT­TER In­de­pen­dent stereo fluc­tu­a­tion of the sam­ple rate FIL­TERS Counter HF alias­ing – or make a fea­ture of it! BIT DEPTH Drop the qual­ity all the way down from 16-bit to 2-bit

Each of the three Crush Pack plugins comes with an ex­ten­sive ar­ray of task-spe­cific pre­sets

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