Soundtoys Crystallizer In-Depth Review By John

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In this article, we look at the Crystallizer plugin developed by the guys at Soundtoys.

Echo plugins are nothing new. They were created as an alternative to the bulky rackmount effects processors, often costing thousands of dollars. Of course, there are limitations with these plugins, being dependent on having a computer and audio interface to accept signals from instruments.

Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learned when using echo plugins, it is that they are not just for adding trails of echo to your sound, but they can also serve as an inspirational tool to create new songs or flesh out ideas. And I think the Soundtoys Crystallizer is no exception to this purpose.

Soundtoys Crystallizer In-Depth Review By John |

What is the Soundtoys Crystallizer?

The Soundtoys Crystallizer is an effect plugin that introduces granular echoes and pitch shifting to your signal. However, looking closely at the controls shows it is more than that. According to the user manual, this plugin recreates specific effects of the famous Eventide H3000 harmonizer.

While it doesn’t copy the whole H3000, this plugin focuses on reverse shifting. This effect combines feedback and delays to create “crystal-like echoes with reverb shimmers” for synthesizers and even guitars.

To create this effect, the Crystallizer plugin samples audio and plays back the signal normally or in reverse, shifting the pitch up or down. It can also add up to two seconds of delay and regenerate the signal into the input for added layers.

User Interface 
The user interface is easy to navigate, and it won’t be hard to look for a particular function. It’s also arranged in a more familiar format, patterned after the rackmount effects processor units.
This plugin is more than an echo plugin; it can also do other time-based and modulation effects. 
For the amount you pay for this plugin, it’s a good alternative for anyone looking for unusual or unique echo and time-based pedals or rackmount effects.

User Interface

The Crystallizer plugin interface looks neat, with few knobs or switches available upfront. However,there’s a submenu available under one setting At this point, using a sub-menu makes the interface look neat, although some terms are not self-explanatory.

The good news is that the manual itemizes what each control does and what you can expect with its parameters. You can always refer to the manual if you need clarification on what each control does.

One thing I liked about the controls is how they are organized. It’s easy to navigate the core functions so you won’t get lost easily. 

Soundtoys Crystallizer In-Depth Review By John |

Knobs and Switches

Nine knobs and two switches on the main interface are arranged neatly based on their purpose. The interface is similar to the controls on usual rackmount processors.

  • Input and Output Knobs
    The input and output knobs allow you to set the incoming and outgoing signal levels in the Crystallizer.
    By default, the input and output control is set at unity gain to equal gain levels on both sides. Each level control has LED indicators that indicate the signal’s loudness, including when it’s clipping.
  • Mix Control
    Like many other modulation and time-based effects, the Mix control allows you to blend between the original and affected signal of the Crystallizer. When using the Crystallizer in a send/return setup, it’s suggested to set the mix at full and control the overall mix using the return control.
  • Pitch Knob
    The pitch knob lets you adjust the pitch shift of the signal from three octaves down to three octaves up. A readout in cents gives you a readout in one-cent intervals. Shifting a note by 100 cents adjusts the pitch by half a step up or down. You can create chorus-like sounds by putting a slight drop or increase in the pitch by a few cents.
  • Splice Knob
    Using the splice control lets, you set the duration of the clip that is played back. You can set up to two seconds a delay time.
  • Delay Knob
    The Delay control lets you set how much delay is present. It works with the Splice setting as they are added together. You also get the same delay range.
  • Recycle Knob
    The Recycle control is a feedback control that lets you loop the output signal back to the input to process another time. Increasing the control will create longer or spiraling repeats based on the setting. These repeats may have increased or decreased in pitch.
  • Threshold Knob
    The Threshold control works together with the Gate/Duck control. The Threshold allows you to set the loudness of an input to activate the Gate/Duck control. An LED ring around this control shows you the input signal level to help you visualize the input level that will react to the Gate/Duck control.
  • Gate/Duck Knob
    Based on the Threshold setting, the Gate/Duck knob lets you lower or increase the affected signal. It’s like a dynamics-based gain control that triggers when the input level reaches a certain point.
  • Forward/Reverse
    This switch toggles between playing the effected signal forward or in reverse. You can create massive reverse echoes when used with the Splice and Recycle controls.
  • MIDI Sync
    The MIDI Sync is used to synchronize MIDI clock information. When active, the Splice and Delay readouts will shift to note values from milliseconds. Doing so lets you set particular note lengths and synchronize the effect with the MIDI clock.

Tweak Submenu  

There’s also a Tweak Submenu that allows you to deep dive further into the settings of the Crystallizer. Here you’ll find more knobs and switches.

  • Pitch Offset 
    The Pitch Offset control gives you different detuning settings. It will lower the pitch on the left channel and increase it on the other. If you’ve set the main Pitch Control, the Pitch Offset will subtract that amount on the left side and add that to the right side.
  • Splice Offset
    The Splice Offset lets you adjust the splice length on the right side by a percentage displayed on the readout. If you set it to 40 percent, the right side of the signal will be 40 percent shorter than the left side. Used in tandem with the Splice control opens up new stereo sounds.
  • Delay Offset
    The Delay Offset is similar to the Splice Offset and only works on the right channel.
    Adjusting the knob also shortens the delay length by a percentage. And like the Splice Offset, changing these durations also produces exciting sounds to add to your songs.
  • Smoothing Control
    The Smoothing control works as a crossfade control between the splices in the Crystallizer. You can set them to abrupt or smooth, which works wonders in ambient genres. The higher the setting on the Smoothing control, the longer the crossfades will be.
  • Low Cut and High Cut Control
    These controls put a 12db boost or cut on the high and low frequencies per octave. You can sweep the power from 1 – 5000 Hz on the Low Cut side, while the High Cut knob seeps from 20,000 – 500 Hz. Note that these filters only work on the processed signal.
  • Attack Control
    The Attack control works similarly to those found in compressors. This control works with the Gate/Duck function to adjust how fast the signal gets gated or ducked. Lower settings equate to faster ducking, while higher settings slow down the ducking or gating of the signal when it surpasses the Threshold.
  • Release Control
    The Release Control also works with the Gate/Duck control, just like the Attack Control. But in this case, the Release Control sets the speed of how fast the signal goes back to the original level when it reaches below the Threshold setting.
  • Feedback Mode
    The Feedback Mode sets the behavior of the repeats in the feedback loop within the stereo field. The Mixed mode lets both signals sound off equally. Dual mode allows the signal on each channel flows independently from each other. With each repeat, ping-pong mode lets the affected signal pan from left to right.
  • Ducking Mode
    This switch lets you adjust the dynamics of the effect.
    Using Out ducks or gates, the processed signal before going into the feedback section. Feedback duck or gates the feedback section, and Both combine this processing.


One thing to note about the Crystallizer is how it produces interesting sounds that become distinct with significant shifts in the controls. Simple changes in one control in the main interface yield a different sound when played back. Be mindful of how you set controls, as it may sometimes sound too processed.

Soundtoys Crystallizer In-Depth Review By John |

For one, a short splice setting produces a quick playback that may sound too artificial. However, that should not restrict you, as in the proper application, this setting can create exciting sounds and even create a “new” instrument. Changing the splice settings will allow you to understand how the Crystallizer captures and plays back the signal.

I tried setting the Splice to around 300ms, which played back part of the signal at around the specified time. On top of that, the delay between the original and affected signal was approximately the same. The actual duration is approximate as a slight modulation occurs, especially with how the signal enters the chain.

Splice and delay time are directly related to each other. Each splice has around the same time as the delay. So any shifts in the Splice will also affect the delay time. Even with the Offset controls, the total time processed remains the same.

Using the Recycle control gives you more repeats into the signal, blended with pitch shifting. The movement of these repeats may go up or down, depending on how you set the Pitch. Combined with the Feedback mode setting, the long repeats produce musical playback that works well for ambient and even psychedelic-inspired music.

As mentioned earlier, the Threshold and Gate/Duck have this correlation. To help you set the parameters, an LED ring indicator shows you how to set the Threshold to the Gate/Duck function.

Consider setting the Threshold at the lowest level if you want to set the Gate/Duck to be constantly active. To minimize the Gate/Duck, set the Threshold to the maximum. Note that this will not bypass the Gate/Duck, as any signal detected above the Threshold will enable it. Set the Gate/Duck to noon or in the middle to bypass.

I played around with the Gate/Duck and Threshold settings on an acoustic guitar. Playing individual notes, the echoes created an eerie decay, which reminded me of a distorted violin. Cranking the recycle increased further the eeriness, which reminded me of a screeching sound made by a car.

While the result wasn’t musical for my tastes, it gave me an idea of how these two controls interact. If appropriately tweaked, I’d say it’s also an excellent tool to have for sound design.

Soundtoys Crystallizer In-Depth Review By John |

The Gate/Duck setting might be hard to understand for some, but to give you an idea, moving the knob clockwise lowers the echo levels for signals above the set Threshold. Setting it counterclockwise reduces the overall effect, just like the mix control.

Getting a hold of these two functions can take time and effort. But to help you make something musical out of it, you can play softly and then hit a note hard for the echoes to trigger. That way, you don’t need to set two tracks for a clean and wet signal.

The Pitch Offset is also something you shouldn’t miss here. This setting is found in the Tweak submenu, which allows you to create polyphonic delays by creating different pitches that are harmonized. The result could produce chime-like tones, depending on what you record or send into it.

This function, according to Soundtoys, lets you expand your pitch shifting by adding another octave up and down. I tried the suggested setting, setting the main Pitch at zero and setting the offset to 11, which gave a wider stereo octave echo.

One thing nice about the Crystallizer is how you can create variations with splicing and delays. It’s like churning out different instruments in one track by shifting the splices and delay variants in the left and right channels. You can have eighth note type of delays on the left and quarter notes on the right.

An interesting observation of the Crystallizer is its input and output control. Unlike other processors, these controls only increase the signal on the affected signal. That means your dry signal remains the same.

While I did appreciate what this plugin could do, I also believe the Crystallizer isn’t as warm sounding as I would want. But, the people at Soundtoys made no mistake in marketing this as something to replace analog processors. What this plugin does is provide you with an alternative.


This plugin was fun to play with, with all the controls available. It took me a while to understand this plugin and how I could use it. I probably won’t be using this for my metal or garage rock band, but I’m looking at using this for my planned ambient and shoegaze project.

Now, this plugin isn’t for everybody. I’d say this works well for sound designers and producers looking for something unique or inspiring to build around. If you’re running out of ideas for a song, trying this plugin may open your creative juices to develop something.

Considering its price, it’s an excellent addition to any studio musician or producer. It’s much cheaper than buying high-end echo and delay pedals, yet it can produce good sounds.

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