Granulation is not a new concept in music. However, it is one that leaves many people confused as to what it does and how it works. This article explains what granulation is and provides you with a selection of the 11 most popular Granulizer plugins on the market and their reviews to help you understand the concept.
What Is Granulation In Music?
In granulation, audio is broken down into small pieces called “grains” that are in the range of 1 to 100 ms in length. Several grains played in order to give us back the original sample. In music production, individual grains can be edited in many ways.
Think of it like an animation movie, which is made by taking many frames of action and playing them back to back at a specific speed to result in a “moving picture”. Grains can be layered, removed, looped, have their playing order changed, and so on. After manipulating and arranging the grains according to requirements, the next step is to blend the grains together. This is done through a process known as “smoothing”, whereby volume cross-fades are applied to help blend the grains. The resulting tone and sound highly depend on the shape and length of those crossfades.
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How Granular Synthesis Works?
Granular Synthesis allows users to edit the formant characteristics, pitch, and speed of samples individually and in real-time. It’s a primary technology used in modern-day pitch-shifting and time-warping techniques. However, its usage extends beyond that to create various unique soundscapes.
Granular synthesis is a tremendously powerful system for audio manipulation and sound design. Additionally, granular synthesis can also be used to create new shifting sounds by a very simple approach.
What is a Granulizer Plugin?
Granulizer plugin is a plugin that uses granular synthesis. The source material for a granulizer plugin is an audio wave sample that the user loads into the plugin. This audio sample is then chopped up into several grains and is then edited independently.
To attain different tonal effects, the length and spacing of the grains are adjusted.
The second alternative how to use the granulizer plugin is to open your favorite instrument in your DAW and put the granulizer effect to it, and then simply adjust the parameters in your granular plugin. This method doesn’t require audio samples.
1. Output PORTAL Review
Performing as exciting as it looks, Portal by Output is a remarkable granular synthesis plugin and is arguably the best on this list.
Portal is a multi-effect granular synthesis plugin with a focus on in-depth grain manipulation and modulation. Much like the rest of Output plugins, Portal comes equipped with a stunning looking user interface which makes its usage much more enjoyable. Its effects section which is the main section is made up of 2 processors in series located between the granulator and the master bus. The processors are used to affect both the dry/original signal and the granulated signal.
- 2 processors for control over both the dry and granulated signals
- Portal packs a massive number of presets (over 250 presets), each with a different sound design to help users understand the plugin’s capabilities
- Granular parameters are linked to a circular visualizer which enable the user to visualize the effect
- Portal has a grain delay which is capable of being tempo-synced to match the project BPM
- Pitch modulation that is based on the musical scale which is pretty unique for this plugin
- Portal provides the user with 7 built-in FX and an extra master compressor and filter
- A readout panel which allows the users to understand the controls in more detail easily
This plugin requires Windows 7 or higher for PC and OS X 10.9 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32 and 64-bit devices. Check Output PORTAL on Pluginboutique.
Overall, the Portal plugin by Output is a highly powerful plugin and is one of the most successful demonstrations of granular synthesis, and we highly recommend it as a long term use plugin. It’s pretty expensive that is a major setback for many users, but it’s worth it when you realize how this plugin sounds and looks.
2. Audio Damage Quanta Review
Audio Damage is well known for their range of colorful and unruly effects. Quanta is their fourth virtual instrument and hybrid plugin, offering granular synthesis with an analog feel.
Quanta has a unique workflow that aims to simplify the notoriously complex concept of granular synthesis. However, it does not compromise on its synth controls and versatility for advanced sound designers who specialize in pads, ambiences, drones, and other sounds that are related to granular synthesis.
- Quanta supports a wide range of sample formats, rates, channel configuration, and bit depth. Sample formats supported include MP3, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, and some more
- Quanta is equipped with a powerful grain engine that can generate up to 100 grains per voice, with a duration of up to 1 second. Additionally, it has control over grain pitch, panning, direction, rate, length, level, sound position, and shape
- Multimode filters in this plugin allow the user to use the filters in both series and parallel modes
- Sample and hold feature allows users to sample noise and process it at a user-defined rate or a different musical division
- Highly efficient factory presets with some designed by well-known producers and engineers like Joseph Fraioli, Richard Devine, and more
- The resizable interface which maintains its high resolution, making it highly versatile for use over different display sizes
This plugin requires Windows 8.1 or higher for PC and OS X 10.9 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats with support for both 32 and 64 bits for Windows but only 64 bits for Mac devices. Get more info on Pluginboutique – check details here.
Overall, Quanta by Audio Damage is a magnificent granular synthesis plugin that is packed with features. It serves as an alternative to the Portal by Output plugin due to its cheaper price and a similar sound. You would have to try it out for yourself through their free trial and compare them.
3. Inertia Sound Systems Granulizer 2 Review
Following the previous Granulizer plugin, Inertia Sound Systems has decided to do major refining and reshaping of one of their iconic plugins, and come up with the fresh and “icy” Granulizer 2.
On top of everything that the previous plugin had to offer, Granulizer 2 now allows users to have control over the grain size, speed, pitch, envelope shape, and timing randomization.
- An interactive waveform which allows users to view cycles individually by zooming in and also looping them
- “Magic” knob which functions just like the smart randomizer as discussed before in this article
- Hovering the mouse over the parameters brings up an explanation of what each parameter is in control of
- User can achieve droney soundscapes by utilizing the high-quality diffusion delay effect that comes in this plugin
- Grain warping is offered in the Granulizer 2 which is responsible for synchronization of the grain timing to the required tempo
- The most important feature of the Granulizer 2 is obviously its clean and simplistic user interface. Granular synthesis can be quite dreadful and complex for some users, so the developers for this plugin made sure to design it for fun use and interactive display
Granulizer 2 requires Windows 10 for PC and Mac OS 10.12 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU formats and only supports 64-bit devices. Check details from Inertia Sound System’s official site.
In short, Granulizer 2 is a more refined and sharper plugin than the original Granulizer. It offers all the features required for granular synthesis and sound design. Unfortunately, it is priced a bit too high relatively as it does not really offer any unique features when compared to other plugins discussed on this list.
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4. Sound Guru The Mangle Review
The Mangle is one of the few granulizers out there that allows the user to view the stream of grains in real-time.
Developed by Sound Guru, The Mangle is a granulizer tool developed with the main aim of “playing” with the grain stream musically and expressively. This led to The Mangle having a unique set of features.
- The main feature in this plugin is obviously going to be its animated granular display which enables the user to visualize the stream of grains as well as view their envelope, amplitude, and pitch in real-time
- The Mangle is fairly easy to use a plugin that offers the user the option to drag and drop the modulator on its target to create new modulations
- Another plus point to this plugin’s interface it its ability to be resized which makes it versatile for more displays
- The Mangle has dual sequencers which makes it great for creating rhythmic patterns and modulate the parameters
- In addition to its granular display, this plugin also has a multiband waveform display to allow users to view where exactly the low, mid, and high frequencies are in the audio
- The Mangle is multi-timbral and each section of the plugin has 8 separate slots with independent audio and parameters
This plugin works well for Windows 7 or higher for PC and OS X 10.6 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/AU/AAX formats with support for both 32 and 64-bit devices. The Mangle comes at a price of £19.99 or $26 from Sound Guru’s website.
All in all, The Mangle by Sound Guru is the perfect plugin for users who like to view the grain stream and its manipulation in real-time. It also does not fail to execute the usual granulation duties excellently.
5. Melda Production MGranularMB Review
Melda is a well-known plugin developer and we have previously discussed some of its other plugins. Their attempt on granulizers through the MGranularMB is another successful one that falls in line with the rest of Melda plugins.
MGranularMB is a resynthesis effect plugin that is able to introduce various granular modulations to audio tracks. Resynthesis is the process of taking an audio sample and synthesizing it by using sinusoidal tones. This is a multiband plugin meaning that the user has total control over the texture of extracted grains over 20 layers as well as band controls and many modulation settings.
- 6 independent bands that the user has complete control over
- This plugin has 2 graphical user interfaces which make it easy to use.
- Oscillator shape is continuously adjustable
- MGranularMB has 4 global modulators which are capable of modulating any parameters including other modulators. This gives the user more the ability to move the sounds in time, making it more interesting
- Just like the Litote plugin discussed above, this plugin has smart randomization
- Automatic Gain Compensation to ensure that the output volume is the same as the input. This is important because with many plugins, the loudness of the output audio is changed which makes it difficult to browse presets or even maintain gain staging for a more efficient mastering later in the process
- Despite being highly advanced, Melda manages to keep the interface for this plugin as easy to use as possible
- Most of the parameters on this plugin are fully automatable
The MGranularMB works on Windows 7 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.7 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32 and 64-bit devices. For more information about the plugin, check this link for more information.
Overall, the MGranularMB is another spectacular plugin by MeldaProductions that offers a complex, yet easy to use tool for granulation synthesis.
6. Delta Sound Labs Stream Review
Stream was designed to be an easy to use, CPU friendly granular synthesis plugin by the Ohio based company Delta Sound Labs.
From grainy polyphonic pad-like sounds and drones to tempo-synced textural delays, this plugin does it all. The way it works is by recording audio first into a buffer and then selecting portions of it to be used as grains.
- Stream has an immaculate sound which sets it apart from the usual spectral or frequency granulators
- The plugin is designed for minimum latency which makes it optimum for live performances
- Provides the user with up to 16 granular voices which can be altered in a ton of ways to produce a unique sound
- Tempo sync allows the user to sync the grains and their playback to match the project tempo for a better groove
- Through the Auto Record mode, users can find out the plugin’s buffer size by toggling the record button
- Capture and Overdub which takes audio and alter it to create harmonies and layer the audio
- Monophonic MIDI mode is used to set a uniform pitch and grain length for all of the granular voices in use
- Polyphonic MIDI mode is used to manipulate the pitch of granular voices like a normal virtual instrument
- Supports any MP3, AIFF, or WAV files. Users can drag and drop their audio files for faster access
- Optimized sample smoothing produces a smooth playback
Delta Sound Labs Stream works on Windows 10 for PC and MacOS 10.14 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and only supports 64-bit devices. View more on Delta Labs’s website.
Overall, Stream is an impressive plugin that does almost everything that granulizer plugins are capable of doing. At $49, this plugin is priced reasonably when comparing its capabilities to other plugins in this list. Obviously, its support for higher-end computers means that it is not available for every user, but it is highly recommended if you have a device that supports this plugin.
7. Inear Display Litote Review
Able to create dramatic textures from any sound, Litote by Inear Display earns itself a solid placement on this list.
Litote is made up of a mix of granulizers, diffusion delays, and resonators. Unlike the other granulizer plugins, Litote does not give the user the option to edit those settings but instead uses what the developers call a “smart randomizer”. Smart randomizer aims to eliminate any bad sounding effects that beginner users tend to often create.
- Clean, easy to use interface which is very welcoming for beginners as well as experienced sound designers
- 4 Audio Processing Engines
- Dedicated Sound Randomizers to process the 4 Audio Engines independently
- A pad which is also a visualizer on the center of the interface which allows the user to drag a circle around the pad grid to produce different effects
- Trajectory mode has an automation mode for each control knob which is amazing for selective usage and to create a fade-in effect for creative use
- Trajectory randomizer
- User has the option to set a new seed for any of the randomizers
- Litote offers 10 factory presets to help kickstart a project
According to Inear Display’s official website, this plugin works on Windows 7 or higher for PC and MacOS 10.7 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/AU formats only and supports both 32 and 64-bit devices. Get more information about Litote.
Inear Display Litote is a solid plugin overall. It is designed to be as straightforward and easy to use as possible. However, don’t let its simplicity fool you. Litote has in-depth sonic possibilities behind its clean and simple interface, making it a vital tool for sound designers and producers.
8. SampleSumo SaltyGrain Review
Next on the list is the SaltyGrain plugin by SampleSumo which is has a lot to offer considering that it’s a real-time granulizer.
SaltyGrain is perfect for creating horror movie effects, live sound modifications, lush pad sounds, weird background sounds, vocal effects, etc. The way it functions is by feeding incoming sound into a delay line, then choosing small bits of audio from different moments and applying envelope and transpose them to create grains. Grains are panned randomly in this plugin and are then sent to a stereo output.
- Users can choose to create up to 40 grains at a time
- Delay line freezing feature which as discussed before, freezes the input feed while extracting grains. This makes the plugin perfect for live sampling
- SaltyGrain supports MIDI control for the plugin parameters
- Users are able to create new melodies from the grains extracted
- The plugin can adjust the density of the grains and their playing duration
- Users get a massive 70 presets to help them find a good starting point. The presets were made by producer Matias Monteagudo and sound engineer Richard Devine
This plugin works on Windows 7 or higher for PC and Mac OS 10.7 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32 and 64-bit devices. View details on SampleSumo’s official website.
SaltyGrain by SampleSumo is one of the most useful granular modulation plugins that is straightforward and does exactly what is required by the user.
9. Creative Intent Remnant Review
Remnant by Creative Intent has 2 delay lines. A granular engine takes bits of audio from the 2 delay lines and processes them in many different ways to generate a ton of exciting and interesting sounds.
Both the delay lines are designed to emulate analog tapes. The amount of pitch modulation can be adjusted using the Warp Knob. Through the feedback control, the signal path resends some of the output to the input. A Crosstalk knob is present to send some of the grain delay signal to the other delay line.
- M-S button which changes the feedback of the delay from left and right to mid and sides. This allows for a wider stereo imaging feel
- Freeze feature whereby the signal in the delay line is frozen by the plugin, and then continue to derive grains from that sound
- Auto-ducking feature which is not very common among sound design plugins but is very useful to prevent muddiness as it allows the signal to play first and then fade in the granular delay
- Users can control the envelope threshold amount while using freeze and ducking. This means that while using Freeze for example if the input signal exceeds the threshold, the plugin unfreezes the signal and allows a new signal to add to the delay line again
- This plugin consists of more than 50 presets which are all very useful and gives users a good idea of what this plugin is capable of executing
This plugin works on Windows 8.1 or higher for PC and MacOS 10.9 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats but only supports 64-bit devices. Check for more details on Creative Intent’s official site.
Overall, this plugin is capable of producing some very unique sounds by focusing on utilizing granular synthesis on delay effects. This makes the Remnant plugin quite powerful and an important placement on this list.
10. Hvoya Audio Ribs By Eugene Yakshin Review (FREE)
Despite being a free plugin, Hvoya Audio Ribs is very complex and offers a huge amount of control to the user.
The complexity of this plugin is both its advantage and disadvantage. Users will have to spend some time to familiarize themselves with this plugin and to learn how it functions, but once the learning is done, users will come to realize that this plugin is incredibly powerful and full of potential.
Ribs require MIDI input to fill up at least one of its 32 buffers. This is quite difficult for usage on some DAWs like Sonar One, Pro Tools, etc where inputting MIDI notes is a bit more frustrating.
- Highly versatile plugin where users can edit the sound design in great detail
- Can be used as a synth as well as be used to generate glitch or scratch effects and textures
- 32 buffers that can be filled together or individually
- MIDI parameters are automatable
- Ribs offer on-spot information about what each control does to help users understand the plugin easier and faster. All you have to do is click on the “?” icon next to the logo and then hover every control to understand what it does
- For further understanding, the developers of the Ribs plugin provide a comprehensive PDF manual that is very helpful
Hvoya Audio Ribs By Eugene Yakshin works on Windows 7 or higher for PC and OS Catalina or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/AU formats and supports 32 and 64-bit devices.
In conclusion, the Ribs plugin is an impressively powerful and very “in-depth” plugin which is surprising given the fact that it is a free plugin. However, this plugin is definitely not for beginners as it has a steep learning curve which is complex even for some experienced users.
11. Michael Ourednik Argotlunar Review (FREE)
Argotlunar by Michael Ourednik is free to use multi-fx, delay, filter, time-stretcher, and a granulizer plugin.
Argotlunar is designed specifically as a real-time delay-line granulator. It does an interesting job of creating an exciting sound design from an audio stream. In this granulizer, the user has the option of controlling the duration, panning, delay, amplitude, glissando, pitch, envelope, and filter of the grains. The grains are then mixed together and sent for output.
- Parameters that are time-related like delay, etc. are adjustable to match the project tempo for pulsing and rhythmic textures
- Pitch shift and other pitch relate parameters are quantizable for melodic and harmonic effects
- Feedback can be adjusted to create distorted, chaotic, and densely layered sounds
- Users can correlate up to three parameters
- To reduce aliasing, a transposition is spline interpolated in this plugin
- Feedback is able to self-oscillate
- Comb filter to add delay sounding effects to the signal
This plugin works for Windows 7 or higher for PC and OS X 10.7 or higher for Mac. It also has support for Linux devices. It comes in VST/AU formats and supports both 32 and 64 bit systems. Get Argotlunar here.
Overall, the Argotlunar plugin is a pretty decent granulizer tool that a good number of settings for grains and is especially impressive considering its a free plugin
(Bonus) Fruity Granulizer Review
Fruity Granulizer is widely popular and one of the earliest releases among granulizer plugins mentioned in this review. It does not make the main list due to its unavailability in the market as it comes exclusively with FL Studio.
Fruity Granulizer is well able to exceptionally execute all the functions that other plugins do like time-stretching, pitch shifting, modulation, and so on.
- Fruity Granulizer has an easy to use, simple interface that compromises with the features but never fails to execute the basic functions spectacularly
- Drag and drop feature which enables users to directly drag and drop the sample needed for granulation
- Users are able to control the panning of the grains on this plugin to add more stereo control
- Since this is an FL Studio plugin, it has to come with automation for all the parameters which enable users to create exciting sounds
Fruity Granulizer is compatible with any system that supports FL Studio i.e. Windows 7 or higher for PC and macOS 10.13 or higher for Mac. It only comes in VST format and supports both 32 and 64-bit devices.
Granular synthesis seems to be a very complex concept to comprehend and fully grasp for many users. The mechanics and the endless possibilities of sound design are overwhelming for a big population of producers and sound designers. On the bright side, there are many books and tutorials to help you fully understand granular synthesis.
This article aims to provide users with a review of some of the most efficient and popular granulizer plugins both free and paid. The wide choice and the unique set of features that each plugin offers makes the market for granulizers an exciting one.