Today we’ll talk about what a transient shaper is and when to use it in your mix. We’ll also give you a list of the 10 best transient shaper plugins, with two free plugins!
Transient shaping is a mixing technique in which the engineer manipulates a sound’s initial attack. You can increase or decrease the strength of a transient. Increasing it helps bring dynamics and punch to a recording. Alternatively, decreasing will create a better sense of depth within a mix.
Transient shapers are used to increase or decrease the attack and release sounds, especially on drums. Sometimes drums lack the initial punch that we want. Even after adding EQ and compression, obtaining that punch seems nearly impossible. That’s where a transient shaper takes place.
Pro Tip: Sometimes, instead of using a transient shaper, use this simple free Noise Gate plugin to add a snap and precision to your drums especially kick and snare. It works very well and it removes any potential artifacts. It adds saturation and makes the highs in your mix sound darker. Other than that, you can check more advanced noise gate plugins here.
In a nutshell, here are the best transient shaper plugins in 2022:
There are two types of transient shaper plugins: single band and multiband.
- Single-band transient shapers are recommended for single drums like kick, snare, clap, etc. You can still choose a multiband shaper if you want to keep your kick boomy on the low-end and fast on the high-end. There are a handful of single-band shapers which we will also include in the list below, like accusonus’ Beatformer, SPL’s Transient Designer Plus, XLN’s DS-10 Drum Shaper, Schaack’s Transient Shaper, and more.
- However, multiband-transient shapers are great to use in your drum group track, where you can add the direction of your drums and make them play together nicely. Those are W.A. Production’s Imprint, surreal machines’ Impact, MolecularBytes’ AtomicTransient, and iZotope’s Neutron 3 Transient Shaper.
The 10 Best Transient Shaper Plugins 2022
1. Surreal Machines Impact
Impact by Surreal Machines is a detail-oriented plugin that gives up to three bands of control over the attack and the sustain.
With a 4-band graphic EQ for extra focus, Impact is the ultimate drum bus transient designer. With four distinct sections, transient shaper, saturator, equalizer, and dynamics, this plugin is a versatile tool that you can also add to the master chain. The plugin lets you change some sections’ order, allowing you to sculpt the sound to your liking. You can place the EQ before or after the saturation, as well as the transient designer anywhere in between. The only one that doesn’t move is the output section.
- Three-Band Transient Crossover
You can choose how many of the three bands you want to use. Picking only one turns the plugin into a classic transient designer. Picking all three gives you the intended control offered by the plugin. You can set the crossover frequencies by dragging the orange lines in the EQ display below. Under each Sustain knob, there’s a solo button that lets you listen only to that frequency range. The Wide/Narrow button to the side of the EQ section controls the crossover openness, making the transients feel tight or blended.
- Four-Band EQ
Each band has three controllers, plus a shelf or bell selector on bands 1 and 4. You can adjust Q, gain, and frequency for each band and set the EQ to pre or post, which places it before or after the saturation. Using it before the saturation allows you to use Impact as a 4-band harmonic distortion plugin.
This last section of the plugin gives you four output methods: Clip, Thru, Limiter, and Maximizer. This is the smaller section, but it can have a huge effect on the sound. The clip output shortens the loudest transients. Thru adds gain and is great if you’re planning on adding an extra compressor or limiter later in the chain. The Limiter is a brick-wall, medium-release dynamic processor with an output set to 0dB. And finally, the Maximizer is an experimental tool that tries to maintain levels at 0dB, regardless if they are low or loud. For fine adjustments, you also get Gain and Trim controls.
Character and Sound:
Impact offers four saturation types. Console 1 and Console 2 are analog-like clipping. For these two, the saturation slider becomes a gain control. The last two are called Folding and Trashed, and they bring some harmonic distortion to the sound. You can play with the slider until you find the sweet saturation spot, or you can drag it all the way and turn the plugin into a multi-band saturator.
Surreal Machines’ Impact is available in VST and AU formats for macOS 10.11 or higher and Windows 8 or 10.
An absolutely versatile plugin that creates a true signal chain for transient shaping. The ability to move sections around is excellent for tone-shaping, while the extreme possibilities allow for creative use. This is a great plugin to have, especially given its price. A brilliant transient designer that should be a standard in producers’ collections.
2. W. A. Production Imprint
W.A. Production’s Imprint is a multi-band transient designer with adjustable crossover points and over 20 factory presets.
Its flexible and intuitive interface lets you boost or tame transients separately in three different frequency ranges. Each band has its adjustable area in the waveform graph that controls its output volume. You can also adjust the percentage of transient shaping for each band with the circular controls below. The plugin lets you focus your attention on whatever frequency band needs it the most with the artifact-free bypass button.
- Advanced Panel
In this hidden panel, you can format the transient shaping algorithm, adding to the plugin’s flexibility. It gives you control over attack, release, width, and smoothing for each frequency band. Access it by clicking the triangular button below the mix controls.
- Adjustable Crossover Points
Imprint lets you adjust each frequency range by size and volume. Drag the white circles sideways to enlarge or minimize the frequency range. Drag the circles at the top to emphasize the volume for any of the three bands by up to 12dB.
There are over 20 built-in factory presets in this plugin, custom-designed by the producers’ team at W.A. Productions. You can choose from a wide array of instruments, effects, and mastering situations to get started. You can also save your own presets in the plugin menu.
Character and Sound:
Overall, Imprint’s a very transparent plugin, great for adding punch and power to any part of your audio. The wide range of presets is excellent for showing the plugin’s versatility and adaptability to different input sounds. You can make dull bass lines sound alive and tighten up loose mixes.
It is available for 32- and 64-bit Windows 7 and up and macOS 10.7 and higher in VST, AU, and AAX.
You can use W.A. Production’s Imprint on single instruments or on the master track to emphasize the rhythm. Its transparency makes for artifact-free transient designing. The multi-band approach and the advanced panel controls make it a versatile plugin that all producers should have at hand.
3. XLN Audio DS-10 Drum Shaper
The DS-10 Drum Shaper by XLN Audio is a straightforward transient shaper that offers incredible precision over the resulting sound.
This plugin pairs minimal controls with three algorithms that emphasize different sounds in your drum pieces. The plugin curates a specific tonal focus for each mode, adjustable by the Mojo knob. Besides the transient shaping, you can also add mild distortion by clicking the Soft Clip button.
DS-10 offers three algorithms, each with its distinctive feel. Classic delivers a raw sound, with emphasis on pumping effects. Natural is the default algorithm that suits most types of sounds due to its more transparent decay. Smooth sounds softer than the previous two, with a longer sustain.
- Modes & Mojo
There are three modes, each with its own Mojo flavor, fine-tuned to help you achieve specific results. Kick mode changes Mojo to “Tightness,” which helps you transform a boomy sound into a controlled punch. Snare mode changes Mojo into “Body,” which brings up the snare’s low-mid frequencies, emphasizing the hit’s sound. Lastly, the Bus mode changes Mojo into “Presence,” a high-mid frequency control that tames harsh cymbals or makes the drums cut through the mix.
- Gain & Soft Clip
When used separately, these functions are simple and not very expressive. But if you engage the soft clip algorithm and drive the gain knob, it will work as a limiter, creating a harmonic distortion effect leveled at unity gain.
Character and Sound:
The DS-10 is as much a sound designer tool as it is a transient shaper. The developers made the three modes to help you get the best tone out of your transients. The fact that the Mojo knob lets you dial in or out as much character as you need puts you in control of your sound. You can reduce the ambiance in the drum bus, define your kick and snare, or even experiment with other instruments.
It is available as a standalone application or as a 32- and 64-bit VST, AU, and AAX plugin for Windows 7 and up and macOS 10.9 and higher.
XLN Audio’s DS-10 is perfect for adding that extra punch to your drums and loops. The minimal user interface helps you find your sound effortlessly, saving you recording or mixing time. It’s a rich-sounding plugin that will make your life as a producer easier.
4. Waves Smack Attack
Smack Attack by Waves is a latency-free transient shaper that gives you extended control over your sound.
You can go further into transient-shaping with this elaborate plugin by Waves. It makes you feel like you’re drawing the transient’s attack and sustain curves, given the number of controls it offers. The Guard selector lets you choose how to handle loud output signals, and the Sensitivity knobs set thresholds for attack and sustain.
- Attack Shapes
These three options control how edgy the attack will be. Out of the three options, the first two, from left to right, are best suited for drums. The third one works for other instruments as well as drums. The option on the left is called Needle. It rises and falls sharply, with a very tight attack. The one in the middle’s called Nail. It has a sharp rise and a slower, sloped fall, making it softer than the Needle. The last shape is called Blunt, and it’s the softest of the three. It rises a bit milder than the previous two, with a long fall. It’s important to notice that however fast the fall is, the rise is always faster.
- Sustain Shapes
With these options, you can control the way the processed signal falls. Again, the first two options are drum-oriented, but the third was designed for anything but drums. From left to right, the first option is called Linear, and it provides a continuous decay. The second option is called Non-Linear and it can provide a gentle or rapid curve, depending on the Sustain level. Finally, the third option is called Soft Linear. It moves the attack sound to the transient’s tail, creating a softer peak and a linear fall.
This section works as a brick-wall/speaker protection final step in the plugin’s signal chain. It gives you three options on how to handle the output level. By default, it’s Off, meaning loud transients will pop over 0db. When that happens, red lights will point it out. You also get a fast Limiter that controls the dynamic range by placing a -0.1dBfs limit on the track. The last option is called Clip, which doesn’t change the dynamic range, but clips everything above 0dBfs. This option changes the character of the sound.
Character and Sound:
Smack Attack lets you do soft transient-shaping or hard-hitting distortion without crossing 0dBfs. The Guard controls combined with Attack and Sustain durations, sensitivity, and the Output knob let you intuitively find the sweet spot for any sound you’re looking for. The Smack Attack is a great plugin to use creatively. You can use the drum-oriented setting on other instruments for unpredictable results.
This plugin is available for 64-bit macOS 10.13.6 and above and Windows 10 in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
Waves Smack Attack is a must-have plugin that delivers thorough transient designing by putting all control in the user’s hands. The fact that it’s zero-latency makes it applicable in live situations to enhance the experience for concert-goers. It might not be easy or fast to set it, but finding the perfect sound is worth the extra tweaking time.
5. Oxford Envolution Native
Sonnox’s Oxford Envolution is a hybrid envelope and transient shaper with a frequency-dependent approach.
The Envolution is split into two main sections: Transients and Sustain, each has its own set of controls. These parameters are measured in percentage because the plugin adjusts its time constants based on the input signal’s characteristics. The frequency buttons engage an EQ filter that lets you focus on where to apply the processing.
- Transient Parameters
Beyond the expected Attack and Release knobs, Envolution gives you two more controls: Hold and Sensitivity. Hold works just like the hold in a gate, in which it extends the duration of the processing before it decays. Increasing it when boosting can give the impression of an extra punch in the low-end, for example. The Sensitivity knob controls how many of the transients will be affected by the processing. If it feels like the plugin is distorting the sound, decreasing the sensitivity will solve the issue.
- Sustain Parameters
The names of these parameters are the same, but they work differently. Both Hold and Attack work together to delay the beginning of the Sustain. The higher the percentage, the longer it takes for the sustain to kick in. The release knob determines how fast the envelope returns to 0dB after being triggered by a transient. If the Transients part of the plugin is focused on a different frequency range, you can turn up the release and the Sustain knobs to make it give more punch to yet another frequency range.
- Spectral Shaping
If you decide to use this plugin’s Frequency controls, you will come across the Spectral Shaping graphic. In it, you can adjust the EQ curve in two modes: Tilt Mode and Focus Mode. Tilt Mode starts at a smooth default 6dB/octave slope, great for gentle tone-shaping. You can harden the slope until it becomes a high- or low-pass filter. Additionally, you can choose Focus Mode to give more precise control over a specific frequency. You can use it to add weight or presence without increasing the ambiance in that particular range.
Character and Sound:
With its frequency-dependent nature, the Envolution is a transparent plugin if not pushed too hard. You can distort like in most transient shapers, but the secret weapon this one presents is the Warmth knob. When set to 100%, it will allow input peaks to go up to +6dBFS without the sound of hard clipping while still limiting the output to 0dBFS. It also allows some of the harmonic content from these peaks to come forward, enhancing the natural warmth of the material.
It is available as a 64-bit VST2, AU, and AAX plugin for macOS 10.7 or later and Windows 7 or later and for macOS 10.4.11 – 10.6.8, and Windows XP as a 32-bit plugin.
Sonnox’s Oxford Envolution is not such a user-friendly plugin since mastering it takes some time. But once you understand it, it’s effortless to extract awesome-sounding results from it. It works as a transient shaper and as an envelope designer, making it a two-for-one plugin that greatly adds to a producer’s toolkit.
6. SPL Transient Designer Plus
The SPL Transient Designer Plus is based on the world’s first transient designer, created by SPL in the late ’90s.
With its simple commands and user-friendly interface, this plugin offers only the essential tools for manipulating transients. The TDPlus provides internal and external sidechains and a mix knob for parallel processing.
- 15dB of Attack
You can add or subtract up to 15dB on the attack knob. This amount was designed to give you enough headroom to mix at lower levels and still have the instruments hit through.
- 24db of Sustain
The plugin lets you amplify or attenuate the sustain by up to 24dB. This amount is here to let you experiment with extreme settings, but also so you can add the plugin to an effects bus and largely enhance it.
- Side-Chain Filter
This knob allows you to choose the frequency at which you want to aim the transient designer. Use it to sweep through the audio and pick the sound that will trigger the plugin.
Character and Sound:
The SPL TD Plus is a clean-sounding plugin that, even though it emulates an analog effect, doesn’t dwell on copying all the analog quirks. The highlighted transients sound full and punchy, all with the turn of a knob. The addition in this version of a soft clip limiter is the most distortion we’ll get out of it. Important note: this button isn’t a brick-wall limiter, it only clips the loudest peaks gently. It does not work as a safety-net limiter for the transients so, be aware of your headphones and speakers.
This plugin is available in AU, VST2, VST3, SoundGrid, and AAX formats for Windows 7 through 10 and macOS 10.9 through 11.0.
The SPL Transient Designer Plus is a trusted tool used by many engineers in both hardware and software forms, and the price tag carries that weight. Its simple interface saves a lot of time during mixing, and the latency-free operation is very appealing for live situations. Turning the attack knob up brings out a very prominent transient shaping, which is why this plugin is so beloved.
7. oeksound spiff
Oeksound Spiff is a wildly impressive transient shaper plugin that became very successful after its initial release.
Oeksound’s Spiff is an “adaptive transient processor.” The plugin’s intelligent algorithm interprets the signal and applies the processing only where it recognizes transients. The plugin’s frequency analyzer is a side-chain interface. There you get 5-band control over the sound, with individual parameters for each band.
- Depth & Sensitivivity
Depth is the most important knob on the plugin because it controls processing. Whether you have Cut or Boost modes selected, you’ll use Depth to adjust them. But you can also use the Sensitivity knob to calibrate how accurate the Depth button and, therefore, the processing will be.
This knob determines the Q value of cuts and boosts applies by the plugin. Lower values make the sound more natural, while higher ones are best suited for heavily polyphonic instruments, such and pianos or clavinets.
- Decay & Decay lf/hf
The first knob determines the recovery time after a transient is found. The second acts as a direction pointer, telling the plugin which frequency range should take longer to decay. Turn the knob to the left to process the lower frequencies and to the right to process the top-end. This allows for awesome low-end extensions while the highs hit harder, for example.
Character and Sound:
This full-featured plugin comes with a solid selection of presets and mid-side processing. Thanks to the FFT-based algorithms, you will find additional sharpness and sensitivity within Oeksound Spiff that you could not find in traditional transient shapers. The overall sound is pristine, and you can also use the advanced menu to enhance it even further. Spiff is a transparent plugin that adds no warmth or character to the sound, making it suitable for mixing and mastering all music genres.
oeksound’s Spiff is available as a 32- and 64-bit VST, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin for Windows 7 and up and macOS 10.10 and up.
Compared to most transient shapers on the market, Oeksound Spiff provides producers with the ability to achieve incredible detail and articulation. You can use the side-chain interface to sculpt your EQ and the left parameters to control the transient-shaping. A versatile and useful plugin to have around!
8. FLUX BitterSweet Pro v3
Flux’s Bittersweet Pro is a frequency-dependent transient shaper that acts as a dynamic equalizer driven by transients.
With its wide array of controls and user-friendly interface, the Bittersweet Pro is excellent for mixing and mastering. The Speed and Lookahead parameters ensure you get control even over the fastest transients, while the Geek Panel lets you dive deeper into the transient-shaping.
- Mode & Dynamic knob
This section defines what the plugin will do to the sound. You can choose from a wide range of options that encompasses transient and sustain combinations for the main, center, and sides, as well as a few phase options. The amount of processing is controlled by the Dynamic knob, with Bitter reinforcing bite and punch and Sweet hindering it.
- Bandwidth Filter & Static Gain
You can select the frequency range you want the parameters to affect and the shape of the slope generated on each side. In other words, if you drag the slider on the high-frequency side toward the middle, you’re creating a low pass filter. The Frequency Order controls on the right let you adjust how tight you want this slope to be and, consequently, how narrow or wide your shelf is. You can click the button above the frequency slider to hear only the affected frequencies. The Static Gain knob changes the volume of the selected frequency range.
It’s easy to get saturation by turning up the output gain knob while the clipper is engaged. But you can also use only the clipper and produce odd harmonics with the Cubic mode or even harmonics with the Tube mode.
- Geek Panel
With this almost hidden feature, you can take even greater control over your transients with the Attack, Hold, and Release knobs. The bandwidth controls change the EQ shape affected by the rest of the signal chain. Besides, you can listen to the difference between input and output with the Diff button.
Character and Sound:
Bittersweet Pro delivers astounding transparency, allowing peaks to cut through the mix effortlessly. This smooth-sounding plugin works perfectly while mixing, but its larger set of controls enables it for mastering operations as well. You can choose from any of the several modes to pick which transients need to be energized, whether in the mid, sides, or stereo, in any given frequency range.
The Bittersweet Pro is available for 64-bit only machines running Windows 7 or newer or macOS 10.11 or newer in VST, AU, and AAX.
The evolution of Flux’s original freeware transient shaper has brought enormous capabilities into play. With Bittersweet Pro, you can really make transients pop, in whatever frequency range, any way you want. Without second thoughts, this astonishing plugin can be a great addition to your mastering chain.
9. accusonus Beatformer
Accusonus’ Beatformer is a modern transient shaper made to enhance beats and serve beatmakers.
With a low latency of 4ms, transparent limiter, and subtle-to-extreme capabilities, the Beatformer is a plugin that allows transient and tone shaping. The four semantic knobs describe what you’ll hear as you turn them up, while you can combine the input and output knobs with the limiter for dramatic dynamic reduction. The plugin’s signal flow is split into three bands, and the transient shaping is applied only to the mids and highs, giving the low end a single boost control.
You can choose to boost or subtract the high frequencies with this knob. Turning it up kicks in the transient shaper, and a soft limiter while bringing it down dampens the sound. Basically, increasing it makes it sound like a high-frequency exciter while decreasing its value turns it into a suppressor. The Air button has different settings for M/S and L/R processing.
One-knob transient shaper for the mid frequencies. It automatically adjusts the attack and the sustain, favoring the attack as you turn it up and the sustain as you turn it down. You can also work the L/R or M/S fields for different effects, adding or subtracting presence from either option.
Can also be turned up or down for contrasting effects. Increase the dynamics of your beat by turning it down. This will create more space between the loudest and softest peaks. To counter that effect and bring all peaks to a similar level, turn the knob in the opposite direction. Using Punch and Squash together can have interesting effects.
- High Split
This feature lets you select the crossover between the Air and Punch/Squash parameters. The frequencies range from 4 to 12kHz. This can be very helpful to separate instruments or sounds between the controls.
This knob only goes up and works as a low-frequency boost, adding dynamic harmonics to the low end. The dropdown menu at the knob’s feet lets you blend the generated harmonics with your project’s key, essentially tuning the low end.
Character and Sound:
You can choose to use Beatformer as a clean transient shaper or drive it with harmonic saturation and give it a fat sound. The built-in saturators working independently in the three bands can be leveled first. In case you want more drive out of the plugin, just push the input and output knobs with the limiter turned on.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.10 and up and Windows 7 and up as a VST, AU, and AAX plugin.
Accusonus’ Beatformer was designed for the modern producer, being a great tool not only for beatmakers. You can add this plugin to a drum bus of any genre, and it will sound amazing. A great plugin to have around when that extra fatness is needed.
10. Schaack Transient Shaper
Schaack Audio Transient Shaper is one of the most beloved transient shaper plugins on the market today because of its intuitive interface.
The Schaack Audio Transient Shaper idea is that you can throw it on a clip and get nearly instant results. Beyond the traditional attack and release controls, Schaack Audio’s Transient Shaper provides a selection of attack and release shapes to customize dynamics. The old-school VU meters are easy on the eyes, and the handy analog drive feature lets you precisely control your peaks.
- Attack & Release Shapes
There are three shapes for each parameter, and they work similarly. On the left, there is Sharp. It processes faster transients and is recommended for single monophonic instruments. Mid is the most versatile option that doesn’t handle super-fast transients well. Lastly, there is Soft on the right. The most natural option of the three, it is great on summed material or auxiliary busses. It controls rounder, slower transients. Since you get Sharp/Mid/Soft options on both the attack and release controls, you can mix and match them all you want until you find the best balance.
- Knob Precision
Holding Shift on your keyboard while turning the knobs with the mouse makes the knob more precise, allowing you to make fine adjustments.
Character and Sound:
You can add colorful analog saturation to the sound by turning the Drive knob. Whenever the sound gets affected by the knob, a red light will flash underneath it to indicate it’s clipping the sharpest transients. Since this effect happens after the Attack and Release parameters, it’s important to set them first, including their shapes. This will ensure the harmonic saturation does not affect your judgment while looking for the perfect sound.
Shaack’s Transient Shaper is available for Windows XP and up and macOS 10.9 or newer in VST and AU formats.
A user-friendly plugin with a minimal interface but extensive sonic potential. Great for beginners and seasoned producers. Shaack Audio’s Transient Shaper is not the fanciest plugin out there, but it will get the job done harmonically. A great addition to your collection!
The Best Free Transient Shaper Plugins 2022
1. sonic anomaly transpire
With only four knobs, Transpire is Sonic Anomaly’s intuitive take on transient shaping.
Although mysterious at first sight, the UI is very straightforward. The two upper knobs are the transient controls while the two lower control the dynamics. You also get two meters up top. The one on the left indicates how dull or sharp the attack is. The one on the right shows how short, or long the decay is. In between the meters, there’s a clip indicator.
The knob on the lower-left corner controls the plugin’s accuracy towards smaller transients. If you turn it all the way up, the plugin will attack all transients with similar intensity. In the middle, tall and medium-sized peaks get processed. Lower sensitivity is best for non-percussive instruments because it doesn’t have to process as many transients.
Character and Sound:
Transpire is a clean-sounding plugin overall. The only feature that can add subtle coloration is the output clipper. You don’t need to turn the attack up too much before you can see the clip light on. It rounds out the sound’s spikes without heavy distortion, even though it’s a hard clipper.
Transpire is a Windows-only VST plugin that works in 32- and 64-bit machines.
This is a simple yet capable tool that does everything it promises. If you’re on Windows and a budget, but you desperately need a transient designer, this should be your go-to. Sonic Anomaly’s done a great job creating a reliable, CPU-friendly plugin that solves your transient problems.
2. Flux Bittersweet v3
iZotope Neutron 3 Transient Shaper
iZotope’s Neutron 3 Transient Shaper transparently alters transients in a multi-band environment.
At first, the UI can look cluttered and confusing, but it’s actually simple. At the top, you have the Module Header, where you’ll find the three Envelope Modes, the Learn button, and the Multiband Crossover Spectrum View. The section below, which takes up most of the interface, is the Display and Meters section. Here you’ll see the Gain Envelope Trace and the Waveform display, with the metering section to the right. Finally, the last section is the floating HUD controls. The Neutron 3 Transient Shaper operates in multi-band mode, allowing you to rearrange and solo individual frequency bands.
- Envelope Modes
You can control the plugin’s ADSR parameters by choosing any of these three modes. Precise mode is a fast recovery envelope that responds best when changing the signal’s attack. Balanced is a neutral mode with a quick attack and medium release. Loose is great for adding lots of sustain to the track.
- Learn button
You can press this button to let the plugin read the frequency spectrum and determine the track’s best crossover points. From there, you can. Independently adjust the gain and focus on the most important frequencies to apply transient shaping.
- HUD Controls
This change the color depending on the frequency band you’re working with, so you can set individual attack, sustain, and contour to each band. Both attack and Sustain can be raised or lowered by 15dB. Contour, similarly to the Envelope Modes, also has three modes. The one at the top is called Sharp. It’s great for short, attack-heavy, staccato audio due to its fast and tight response. Medium is the one below, and it’s useful on most audio due to its linear envelope. Lastly, there is Smooth, the slowest response of the three. It stretches the sustain in a gentle yet continuous way.
It is available in 64-bit VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats for macOS 10.11 through 10.15 and Windows 7 through 10.
If you’re familiar with the Neutron 3 application, using this plugin is a no-brainer. By managing transients without adding coloration or affecting the overall loudness, this multi-band plugin is an excellent choice for mastering and mixing. A useful addition to a producer’s arsenal, regardless of experience.
Smart Solution For FL Users
FL Studio Transient Processor
The Transient Processor comes as a Demo with the FL Studio software, but you can buy the full version separately.
The straightforward interface looks very user-friendly. You can measure your input and output levels at the bottom, and each gets assigned a different color. If you want to check the difference in levels, the colors overlap and become grey. If there’s a most apparent one, input or output, it gets its original color back.
- Split Frequency Knob
This knob cuts out unwanted low frequencies that can distort the plugin’s sound. Use it to find the sweet spot where low frequencies from a bass or kick drum aren’t causing undesired artifacts. The signal is split, and the high frequencies get processed while the lowers don’t. At the end of the chain, the signal is regrouped, so you don’t lose any information.
- Split Balance
Here, you can balance the two split signals before they’re rematched. This knob works together with the Split Frequency one. Turning it all the way to the left will cause only the lower frequencies to be heard. Alternatively, turning it all the way to the right will do the opposite, and you’ll hear only the higher frequencies. You can use this knob to balance the information as you please.
Character and Sound:
FL Studio’s Transient Processor sounds pristinely clean until you engage the drive knob, which adds a bit of clipping to the overboard transients. If you do not want to clip the sound, you can turn down the gain knob. It is the last step in the signal chain and does not affect the clipper, working as an output/master volume control.
This plugin is available for FL Studio users with macOS 10.13 and above and Windows 8 or 10. No VST version is available.
An inexpensive option to FL Studio users that might not want to invest in third-party plugins. Its native application status guarantees a smooth performance with the rest of the software and the same great sound quality. If you don’t already have a transient shaper, give this one a go.
What Does a Transient Shaper do?
A transient shaper analyzes the initial attack present in a waveform and manipulates it for various results. Increasing the attack will make a sound more impactful, while decreasing it will make it more distant. A transient shaper also manages the decay of a sound, affecting its sustain.
Transient shapers manage the loudness of a wave’s first hit, as shown in the images below:
After we added an attack in the transient shaper
Consequently, reducing the attack causes the opposite effect on the wave. Similarly, turning the sustain knob up down makes the wave’s tail increase or decrease in volume. These two parameters give producers full control over the waveform’s shape and, consequently, the sound. Some transient shapers can even do more than that by managing a sound’s tone or affecting transients only on a specific frequency band. We’ll see some of them on the list below.
When To Use Transient Shaper?
- Softening Attack on “Spiky Sounds”
You can use transient designers in the complete opposite way of what we mentioned above. Rather than adding snap or punch to a sound, you can decrease the attack of a sound’s transients to soften it up.
Let’s say that you record an acoustic guitar part where the microphone was placed too close to the neck, and most of what you are hearing is the sound of a plectrum. That plectrum sound may be far too sharp or spikey for your mix.
Traditionally, one might reach for a dynamic processor, such as a compressor, to tame those spikey transients. Some might even consider re-recording the sound altogether. Instead, slap on a transient designer and dial back the attack just slightly.
Note that this will decrease the overall volume, so make sure to volume match once again. Als0, be careful not to go overboard with attack reduction, as it could start to sound unnatural or ruin the groove of your mix. Keep it as subtle as possible and use compression or EQ to tame anything left over.
- Removing Room Sound
One secret way to remove excessive or ugly room sounds on recordings is with a transient designer.
Most bedroom producers are working at home in untreated environments. If you are using software instruments exclusively, this may not be an issue. However, if you are recording your own vocals or instruments, you might want to get rid of nasty room tones that show up on your recordings as a byproduct.
All you need to do here is reduce your transient designer’s sustain to get rid of the unwanted room tone. This technique is very similar to gating, though the final product sounds far more natural.
Do note that if your transient designer has a release control, you should reduce it as much as possible. This way, you won’t have any instance of room tone appearing after your initial signal.
- Adding Sustain
You can produce some pretty interesting effects by increasing the sustain control on your transient designer. The sound of increased transient designer sustain is often compared to that of a driven compressor. You can think of this as a creative effect to increase volume and add character rather than solving a particular problem.
Let’s say that you have a tom fill that is feeling quite small in the context of your mix. Rather than using compression or reverb to increase the toms’ size, try and increase your transient designer’s sustain instead.
Do note that you can potentially screw up your groove if you do not time your sustain properly. Carefully add in sustain while listening to your affected sound in your track’s context so that it breathes in time with the groove.
What Does Transient Mean In Music?
In music, a transient is the initial spike of a sound, which has high amplitude and short duration. It is a fast burst of energy caused by the musician’s impact while playing. Transients are present in most instruments, but more notably in attack-heavy ones, such as pianos, drums, and guitars.
Transients are not note-dependant since they only represent the sound of impact. This impact can range from a few milliseconds to near-instant in some hard-hitting instruments. These super-fast transients can cause loud popping noises that clip the metering, even though we don’t perceive them as loudly.
Out of this thorough list of options, there are a few plugins that deserve extra credit.
The DS-10 Drum Shaper and the SPL Transient Designer Plus are two powerful plugins. The first with different modes that enable interesting textures, great for drums. The second with high-quality transparency and lots of sustain range, great for drums and most other instruments.
We also recommend the Bittersweet Pro V3 and the Envolution Native. The former is an amazing tool for mastering, with a simple UI and a great range of sonic possibilities. The latter is perfect for creating frequency-oriented sustain since it’s also an envelope designer.
In conclusion, we know not all these plugins on this list are inexpensive, but having any of them in your collection will extend your transient-shaping options for the better.
Other Plugin Roundups:
Reverb & Delay Plugins:
Amps & Preamps:
Audio Restoration, Calibration & Utility:
Processing & Sound Design:
Pedro Nascente is an artist, record producer, and mix engineer, currently operating his own studio and working with his band, Yellow Boulevard. Believing that music should convey experiences and feelings, Pedro is known for applying design thinking to his workflow to achieve different sounds and deliver the right messages.