Today we’ll talk about what a Comb Filter is and what it sounds like. Additionally, we’ll explore what a Resonator does in music and take a look at the best comb filter and resonator plugins for 2021!
But first, a little background information so everyone’s in phase… I mean, on the same page. Take a look!
What Is Comb Filtering?
Comb filtering is when two identical sound waves are slightly delayed due to sound reflections, multiple microphones, speaker positioning, or manually during post-production. This results in some of the wave’s frequencies adding together and some canceling out, resulting in a comb-shaped wave.
Depending on the frequency and rate of delay, sound can completely cancel itself or enhance the comb filter effect. If the delay is longer than 25ms, the effect gets significantly reduced, resulting in echo. As it’s impracticable to record a single frequency in the real world, sound recordings usually carry thousands of frequencies. Therefore, if two or more microphones capture the same sound source, chances are some frequencies will suffer from comb-filtering.
What Does Comb Filtering Sound Like?
Comb-filtering sounds very similar to a flanger effect, in which you hear frequencies sweeping through the source sound. Depending on the frequencies being affected, it sounds different. Usually, you can expect a hollowed, robotic sound due to the cancelation of some frequencies.
What Does A Resonator Do In Music?
Resonators pick one or multiple frequencies and vibrate in accordance with their amplitude, generating sound. Depending on the input signal’s intensity, resonators also change the frequency overtones’ strength, modulating its tonality. They’re used as effects in music post-production.
The 4 Best Comb Filter & Resonator Plugins 2021
1. MeldaProduction MCombMB Review
The MCombMB by Melda Productions is a multi-band comb filter with extensive sound-shaping controls.
The plugin splits the audio into up to six frequency bands, each with four filters. You can easily adjust the frequency, gain, and panorama of each filter in the main view. If all this control is too much, you can choose to randomize your filtering. This option is available inside each filter or globally for complete randomization. As with most Melda plugins, you can access a settings menu for each section of the plugin that gives you more controls and possibilities.
- Band Editor: On the outside, the band editor might seem like a simple frequency analyzer. However, it hides several essential features. As mentioned, you can add up to six bands in the MCombMB. These bands are divided in the band editor by a long vertical line. You can reposition each band by dragging its central dot or adjust its gain by dragging the horizontal line. At the bottom, the short vertical line allows you to change the band’s panorama when in stereo mode or its depth when in mid-side mode. In the band menu, you can thoroughly adjust each band’s crossover, redefine the bands you’re working with, create new bands, and include different types of analyzers on top of the frequency spectrum. All this helps you not only focus on where and how you want the plugin to act but also how much information you want from it.
- Band & Filter Panels: Below the Band Editor, you’ll find the band-selection area and the main comb-filtering controls. Use the arrows at the upper-right corner of this section to select the additional bands. For each band, you get four different filters. You can use all four or bypass a few. Alternatively, you can bypass an entire band to check how it sounds. You get a Dry/Wet knob that lets you blend the unprocessed signal back with the modulation. The Gain, Frequency, and Panorama knobs work individually with each filter, letting you shape the sound as you want. The Feedback knob controls the amount of processed signal that returns to the input, and it has a limiter of its own to avoid the typical feedback squeal. Attack and Release knobs are used to shape the feedback limiter. Finally, you also get high-pass and low-pass filters for the entire band, named Min and Max. This large set of controls lets you filter your sound in virtually any possible way.
- Presets & Randomization: The MCombMB comes with several factory-made presets, all with creative and intriguing names and functions. You can select a preset or Ctrl-click the preset grid to load a random preset. Alternatively, you can use the intelligent randomization features of the plugin to come up with unexpected results. You can apply the Random function by clicking on the dice icon, choosing to randomize the entire plugin’s settings, or focus on bands and filters. You can also Ctrl-click the dice icon to restrain the engine so it only slightly randomizes the chosen parameters or Alt-click it, which will result in extreme randomization.
Character and Sound:
The MCombMB doesn’t add any saturation to the sound, neither does it distort the output. The safety-net limiter prevents loud peaks generated by the frequency modulations from ever crossing unity gain. Furthermore, you can enhance sound quality with up to 16x of oversampling. It is a transparent plugin that responds cleanly to your settings.
This plugin is available for 32- and 64-bit PCs running Windows Vista or newer and 64-bit-only Macs running macOS 10.9 or higher. It is available in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
MCombMB is a thorough application designed to put all comb-filtering power in the hands of the user. The randomization engine and the hidden settings menus are the icings on this plugin’s cake—a versatile and user-friendly comb filter for the modern producer.
2. lmdsp Superchord Review
Superchord is an excitingly new plugin by lmdsp that emulates virtual strings’ resonation.
It can texturize your sound and create entirely new soundscapes. Superchord is made of 12 string resonators that can be pitched to any key or create any chord. You can create interesting effects by setting two resonators to the same note and slightly detuning them. Moreover, you can pan each resonator individually across the stereo field for great depth and fatness results. The plugin also lets you play the effect as a MIDI instrument.
- LFO: Optionally, you can engage the low-frequency oscillator. This function can be synced and modulated to taste. It also has three Target modes, which modulate different controls: Frequency, Pitch, and Gain. This last one being applied to the main output for tremolo effects. You can also change the shape of the LFO. The plugin offers classic waveforms, such as sine, triangular, saw, and square, as well as unexpected patterns. Some of these are Sample and Hold (s|h), which jumps to a random value on every cycle, and Shot emits spikes at random intervals.
- Model Panel: Located at the right of the resonators, these are the plugin base controls. Damping controls how much resonation occurs. Shimmer opens up the upper harmonics. Darkness is a low-pass filter that muffles the sound. Mistune controls the string’s relative tuning, helping emulate real-life strings. Feedback makes notes ring for a longer time, also increasing their fullness. Lastly, Coupling simulates how nearby strings would resonate sympathetically with each other.
- Advanced Controls: By clicking the button beside the Model name bar, you’ll access the advanced controls. These settings generate more subtle results on the sound and can create interesting special effects. Tracking controls how the resonators react to lower frequencies from the input signal. Pluck Position changes the sound according to the area of the string that’s being plucked. The three H.V. sliders adjust the horizontal to vertical polarization, with Damp H.V. creating a more complex decay envelope. Buzz simulates the humming sound generated by instruments with non-rigid string attachments.
Character and Sound:
Superchord effortlessly offers organic resonation, but you also adjust the plugin’s parameters to make it sound otherworldly. The Saturation section gives you the ability to add saturation to each resonator individually or at the summed signal’s output. The saturation knob lets you dial in from soft, tube-warm saturation up to heavy, amplifier-like distortion.
This plugin is available as a VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX for 64-bit Windows 7 and up and macOS 10.11 and higher.
Superchord is an amazing resonator plugin. Its rich set of controls and parameters allow you to take full advantage of the plugin’s high-quality emulations and put your creativity to use—a great tool for experimental producers looking for a different sound.
3. Kilohearts Comb Filter Review
The Kilohearts Comb Filter is a simple-to-use plugin that works independently or as part of the Kilohearts Snapin hosts.
Like all other Kilohearts Snapins, this plugin is very minimalist-looking, offering only the basic functions expected from a comb filter. You set the cutoff frequency, and the plugin will carve all multiples of the base frequency, creating repeated troughs and peaks across the spectrum.
- Polarity & Stereo Controls: the Polarity button lets you choose between positive or negative polarity, changing the processed signal’s phase. The Stereo control flips the right channel phase, enabling the plugin to be used for mono compatibility.
Character and Sound:
The subtle sound produced by this plugin reflects its clean aesthetic. It greatly enhances the stereo width with zero artifacts. You can also blend the dry signal back into the processing with the mix knob for parallel comb-filtering.
The Comb Filter is available as a snapin for all Kilohearts’ hosts, as well as an independent VST, AU, and AAX plugin for Windows 7 or newer and macOS 10.7 or newer.
Kilohearts’ history of great plugin-making isn’t lost on this simple yet effective comb filter. The stereo mode is great for creating a sense of width without compromising mono compatibility and the user experience is effortless. Comb Filter is a nice addition to your collection, especially if you’re in the Kilohearts ecosystem.
4. Kilohearts Resonator Review
The Kilohearts Resonator adds harmonic resonance to any sound you want.
Define the pitch you want to resonate, set the decay and intensity and change the timbre with the wave selector. This is how simple it is to turn any sound into a harmonic frenzy. If you want to back down the effect, you can rely on the mix knob.
- Wave Shapes: The plugin offers you two timbres represented by two different waveforms. The one at the top is the saw-tooth wave, which will resonate with all sound harmonics. The option below is the square wave, which will resonate only with the odd harmonics.
- Decay: This controls how long the resonance lasts after the input signal stops. Unfortunately, you don’t get a sync mode, so if you want to make it breathe with the beat, you’ll have to set it by ear. Also, you can mix low pitches with the Decay knob to create interesting delays.
Character and Sound:
Another transparent-sounding plugin by Kilohearts that leaves plenty of room for your creativity to take control. Use the intensity knob to set how much the resonance will amplify the input signal.
The Resonator is available as an independent VST, AU, and AAX plugin for Windows 7 or newer and macOS 10.7 or newer, and as a snapin for all Kilohearts’ hosts.
This is not a versatile plugin, but it does its job perfectly. Put it in your signal chain and combine it with other effects if you want to take your sound to extremes. If you already have other Kilohearts plugins, this will be a great addition to the family.
Best Free Comb Synthesizer
5. u-He Triple Cheese Review
Triple Cheese is u-He’s 16-voice comb filter-based synthesizer with 170 factory presets.
Unlike most synthesizers, Triple Cheese uses three comb filters to generate sound. The first module can only create sound, but the other two can further modulate the previously generated tones. Additionally, you get a few delays, flanger, chorus, and a phaser to add extra texture to your sound.
- Modes: Each comb filter has eight modes which are controlled by the Tone and Damp knobs. There are different options for filter one than there are for two and three. The Damp knob will mostly work as a low-pass filter, but Tone will change the mode’s character, adding or subtracting elements, as well as changing pitch.
- Empty Knobs: You can also assign a modulation source to any knob showing a “…”. This will allow you to control the mode’s expression using the built-in Vibrator, LFO, Envelopes, or MIDI. Right- or control-click the knob with this indicative symbol and choose a modulation source from the menu.
- Vibrator: This function adds an LFO for each of the three voices, allowing you to adjust the wave format, the amount of phase, delay, and another modulation you choose. Alternatively, you can set an LFO to act globally, but this parameter’s only possible modulation is the phase.
Character and Sound:
Triple Cheese sounds very digital, almost 8-bit in some presets, but you do get awesome sounds if you push it hard enough. You can use three serial modes to make it a versatile modular-like synthesizer, great for sound design and effects.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.7 and up and Windows 7 and up in VST and AU formats for 32- and 64-bit computers.
Triple Cheese is a surprisingly versatile synthesizer, unique due to its comb filter approach to synthesis. It’s almost unbelievable a plugin this good is free. Add it to your arsenal just in case you ever need to add some cheesiness to your sound.
Comb filters and Resonators generate different effects, but you can combine them for extra texturization, as we’ve seen on this list. Some plugins offer more possibilities than others, but we tried to cover the very basic to the mindblowing ones. Unleash your creativity and take your sounds to uncharted territory with any of the plugins from this list.
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.