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.
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.
10 Best Transient Shaper Plugins To Shape Sound 2023
1. Waves Smack Attack (Best For Drums)
Smack Attack is a must-have transient shaper for drums.
The presets that come with Smack emphasizes Kick, Drum Bus. There are many presets, but each of them have its own character and purpose, which makes this shaper really helpful for shaping even when it’s only single band tool. 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.
If you are after shaper for drums, look no further. This tool will make your drums sound natural without sacrificing the quality. Whether you want to make your snares or kicks more punchy or add body, it will change the sound in very transparent way. You can use 7 instances of this plugin and shape the drum loop in a way that you would not recognizebefore, and doesn’t feel that it sound redundant in any way. You will even find presets for Guitars and Vocals.
The fact that it’s zero-latency makes it also 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.
2. 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!
3. Wavesfactory Quantum (Not Only Transient Shaper)
Modify your transients and tonal parts of your signal with Quantum.
Usually referred to as a transient designer, Quantum brings all the perks of a transient shaper plus some other exciting tools like unique processors and visual aids to control your dynamics shaping fully. On its smooth UI with clean animations, you will have every control displayed to get into the creative process right away.
- Automatic split
The essence of Quantum relies on its intelligent transient detector that splits your audio into two different sections: attack and sustain. Once separated, you can control the volume of each path and apply effects independently. Next to each section’s volume knobs, you have a “Solo” button to hear just the section you select for in-depth listening to help you make better decisions on shaping your sound.
- Transient reaction
The algorithm behind the transient detector has some exciting controls below the display to customize how it works. You adjust the transient detection sensitivity, the decay between the attack and sustain parts, and the time between each transient detected to avoid multiple transients in a short period. Also, you choose between Drums, General, and Soft mode depending on the incoming signal.
- Built-in effects
There are some built-in effects that you can apply to each transient path independently. You will find a set of 16 unique effects on each section, including a compressor, equalizer, saturator, reverb, and others. You can also organize them as you please to address specific phenomena on your transients, knowing that, for example, placing a compressor before a delay and the other way around can have a significant impact on the final result.
- Real-time visualization
You can visualize all changes in real-time in the top display of the plugin. Here you can see the attack and sustain sections separately for better analysis. Additionally, with the “Beats shown” dropdown, you can select how many beats you want to see in the overall display, allowing you to see the signal behavior in a more extended pattern or a more bounded loop.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AAX, and AU formats.
Given that Quantum does more than a conventional transient shaper, it’s hard to fit it in a simple category. It’s an easy-to-use audio device that provides more possibilities to shape your dynamics that are commonly used on the mixing stage but are not necessarily from a transient designer.
It would be nice to have a final limiter for each section to avoid clipping problems, but if you use it properly and are aware of your levels, you have to worry about nothing.
4. United Plugins Nanopulse
More Info & Price (Trial Available)
You can freely shape your dynamic range with this uniquely built plugin.
Some people like to take their transients seriously, and it’s nice to be able to shape them according to your taste or needs. United Plugins Nanopulse is such a sonic tool, with enough controls to make your signal be blended or even completely replaced with new attack samples.
United Plugins used a mix of IRs (impulse responses) with measured frequency profile data to coherently capture the character of diverse instruments and even random objects. It doesn’t matter if you’re a sound designer or a musician: Nanopulse works beautifully with both scenarios.
- Transient types
There are 64 transient types included in Nanopulse, each with a particular goal in mind. If you need a delicate hitting sound or a specific kick for your beat, you can easily have pre-captured sources shown to you in a varied list, with dedicated attention to the material of each object.
- Shaper section
This is where you can mold any sound you want. Containing three separate bands, this transient shaper deals with “Attack” and “Sustain” configurations for low, mid, and high bandwidths. It ranges from -12dB to +12dB. The “Cross” threshold is the limit in which each band will act, defining each split point for them.
Affecting the three bands simultaneously, the “Slope” setting is ideal for tailoring the appropriate crossover point between the “6dB,” “12dB,” and “24dB” values per octave.
Another option is included in the “Shaper” section, and this button allows for soloing each separate band or multiple ones at a time. This way, it gets even easier to fully understand what’s going on in your frequency spectrum and how your transients are reacting over the entire waveform.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.7 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in VST, VST3, AAX and AU plugin formats.
Transient shapers are complex to mess with, but United Plugins sought to simplify your life with an unlikeable organized interface. Yes, it kindly resembles a synth keyboard or some similar DJ equipment, but at least it shows coherently every parameter to be tweaked and how you can manipulate each bandwidth. The results are impressive, and every audio editor should have this tool nearby.
5. 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.
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. Newfangled Audio Punctuate
Using Newfangled Audio Punctuate, you’ll never let distracting transients get in your mix again.
Punctuate is a plugin based on the Transient Emphasis section of Elevate Mastering Limiter. It is a multi-band transient modulator that uses 26 critical bands in the human ear. Besides having these bands, it uses intelligent algorithms that set the parameters of a transient modulator for each band. This lets you manipulate the transients’ suppression or emphasis and timing across all 26 bands with just 4 controls.
- Transient Emphasis
This is the plugin’s main Transient Emphasis control, which works in tandem with each individual band control to set the Emphasis or Transient Suppression in each band.
When it is set below 0%, it suppresses the transients, and when it is above 0%, it emphasizes them. If we refer to this function per band, you can change each band individually, and it lets you invert the action either for specific bands or overall.
- Adaptive Transient
This slider allows you to set how much you let the plugin adapt each modulation band to the transients that the band sees or how much it should consider the other bands. When set to 0%, the algorithm will be turned off, meaning each band responds at the same level.
And if you set it to 100%, each band will ignore each other, and the plugin will only respond to transients in its frequency range. However, if you set it to somewhere around 50%, you will allow the bands to work together to identify which sections of the signal transients are working.
The plugin has some vertical bar meters that show the Input and Output of the plugin; these indicate Peak, RMS, and Peak Hold. Above the Input meter is a knob that refers to the Master Input Level and an Auto button that lets you automatically compensate for the level change induced by the EQ.
- Transient Length
The Transient Lenght slider allows you to set what length the plugin should consider being transient. If you set it short, the plugin will only detect the beginning of the modulated attack, and if you set it longer, the plugin will capture more attacks in the modulated sound. But if you set it very long, recovering may take longer and be very sloppy regarding fast transients.
- Adaptive Lenght
This function controls each band of the plugin, letting it adapt each parameter length to the signal it sees. This means the lower bands will have a longer length and react much slower, while the high bands will have a shorter length and react much faster.
Newfangled Audio Punctuate is available in VST, AAX, and AU formats (32-bit and 64-bit) for Windows 10,8,7 and macOS 10.12 – 10.15.
Even if the price is a bit high, it’s worth the money because it can take care of full mix transients with a very interesting degree of separation that wouldn’t be possible if you didn’t have Artificial Intelligence to help you.
It is suitable for drums; for example, you could increase the main harmonics of the snare while subduing the attack of the hi-hats or toms. Also, if a bass-playing slap technique doesn’t populate the mix, you could balance them separately to give them a more noticeable nuance.
8. Softube Transient Shaper
Transient Shaper is suggested because its two processing bands set it apart from similar products.
Using Softube’s Transient Shaper, the user may tailor it to modify only a sound’s high or low frequencies (independently for the Sustain and Punch parameters) while leaving the remainder unmodified. This allows you to crank up the Sustain knob and set the frequency control to Wide on drum overheads. This will simultaneously increase the sustain and boom of the toms while stretching the sound of the room and the cymbals.
- Gain Metering
This plugin’s gain metering shows Punch and Sustain’s overall gain. Thus, the total output gets more accurate settings and avoids using a compressor after the plugin to tame the peaks, which would cancel out the transient-shaping.
- Clip Switch
As you can see, a Clip switch lets you soft start or stop the output clip. Generally, it rounds off the peaks with distortion, but we recommend keeping it on because the company is well-known for its saturation skills, especially in loud punch settings.
It’s a cool addition; it adds crunch to any sound that reaches 0dB and has an LED metering that indicates the Clip when it’s active.
- Dual-Band Functionality
Although this feature is not new, it is a welcome addition. You don’t always want to increase the snap of the sound as much as the total. If you want to remove just the low-end sustain from the kick, for example, you can remove that boomy tail without removing the space of the snare or reverb.
But the functionality of this is much stronger in parallel. If you insert the plugin into an AUX and drive the Punch hard only on highs, you can make the drum buss come back to life with a cool bite.
Similarly, it works to do this on the bass voices as well; for example, if the sustain of the basses has been raised and the punch of the highs has been pulled back in parallel, they can be thickened without adding pops and cracks.
- Punch Control
Transient sliders (Slow/Fast) adjust circuit detection and transient shaping duration. The block diagram also indicates that the Punch detector analyzes stereo signals, and the Sustain detector analyzes two mono signals. If you use high Punch settings on drums, they combine a long or short sustain with greatly enhanced hits, which is good for bringing to life the click of the kick or snap of the snare.
Softube Transient Shaper is available in VST, AAX, and AU formats (32-bit and 64-bit) for Windows 10,8,7 and macOS 10.12 – 10.15.
A transient shaper won’t change how you make up music, but it will improve the quality of your tracks. If you use Softube Transient Shaper with a compressor, it can give you a nice effect. Its dual-band function is very good when you want to fix mix problems, and if you use it in AUX, it becomes an impressive tool.
The price is reasonable, and for those wondering if it’s worth the money, by just considering it’s a tool that can be used on most of your tracks (from vocals, drums, guitar, and bass), it’s worth the money, and this version from the folks at Softube is intuitive and easy to use one.
9. 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.
10. 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.
The Best Free Transient Shaper Plugins 2023
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.