This article will be reviewing Xfer LFO Tool and Cableguys Volume Shaper 6.
These plugins are envelope shapers that modulate different parameters through time. From simple sidechain technics to intricate rhythmics, both devices have great potential for sound design and dynamics control.
Instead of using it just for sidechains, ducking, and other fairly common tasks, we will be focusing on their special features since they have a lot. I’ve found them to be especially useful for electronic music because of their sound design capabilities. It is no surprise that many of the big names in EDM genres use both of them given their flexibility and power.
For this review, both plugins were tested by processing Ableton Live’s Analog as a classic EDM synth, Operator as a dubstep-style bass, and a drum loop.
Xfer LFO Tool
Cableguys VolumeShaper 6
Character and Sound
Easy to use and intuitive. More powerful than it looks.
Kind of complex but it is worth learning it. A lot of sonic possibilities.
Value For Money
Not so great. If it was cheaper, it would be a no-brainer.
Great. It costs way less and comes with more options.
Xfer LFO Tool
Despite its simple layout and low-pc usage, LFO Tool is one of the most powerful envelope shapers in the market. If you ever used Xfer Serum you will notice that both plugins have a lot in common in terms of modulation features and presets.
For all Serum users, you will notice the similarities between both filter sections. Xfer offers some really nice presets beside the typical ones, especially in the Misc menu. Combining these algorithms with interesting envelopes can result in a wide array of sounds. The fourth fader can be different parameters depending on the type of filter you select, so you can modify all classic parameters plus an extra feature.
I had fun using combined filters that could morph through time by modulating these with the LFO. Really inspiring and easy to use for EDM, Dubstep, and Drum and Bass sounds, but it could also work for classic house and techno melodic stabs.
You can activate several options to modulate certain parameters of the LFO and filter via MIDI notes and velocity. This section comes with a handy switch to display the waveform of your signal on top of the LFO graphic. Although I didn’t find myself using this a lot, I can tell that this module has great power for all of you who want to perform with a MIDI keyboard. Of course, you could just program your MIDI notes and velocities in your sequencer but I think it could be more fun by playing it by yourself and activating those parameters that you find interesting.
Modulating PWM with velocity values opens a new door in terms of possibilities for this device.
This module is where you will create the main rhythmic behavior of your sound. Not only do you get 12 different shapes per preset, but you can also modify them with the parameters shown at the bottom. The Snap value is very important when creating intricate rhythmic patterns. Instead of drawing several square waves, you can just hold shift and draw your lines on the grid. This feature allowed me to come up with cool ideas instantly.
The Shape selector lets you choose between classic and sidechain-type envelopes, which is handy especially for beginners. I’ve found myself using this module to create new sounds from a boring synth rather than sidechain effects, although it can work great both ways.
I love the fact that it is simple, practical, and intuitive.
This is the part where you do all your routing settings. You can see the modulated parameter’s behavior by the moving blue dot on the top of each fader. To assign these to different shapes you can choose which graph is going to be modulated.
Sound Capabilities and Presets.
Although this device may seem simple on the surface, it can be a powerful tool for electronic music producers if used properly. Given the fact that all of its parameters are mappable alongside its flexible envelope control, we get a really interesting plugin for designing sidechains, rhythmic patterns, and textures. Also, the fact that it can control other virtual instruments via MIDI is a bonus that can not be overlooked.
Another great feature is its low CPU usage. If you are stuck with an old computer you can still run multiple instances of the plugin and keep on working without the system dragging. Its window can also be resized! It may sound like silliness, but I hate when plugin windows are way too small or way too big by default.
The presets are really cool, delivering a vast array of options to work with. As expected, I had mostly the same results processing both synth and bass sounds. This plugin offers so much flexibility that I could get glitched sounds but also classic riser effects. It turned out to be very interesting when processing drums, especially those that had a lot of notes going on.
LFO Tool can be a great acquisition for those who are seeking an inspiring tool that lets the user change the behavior of a plain and boring sound. Scrolling through the presets is guaranteed fun, but you can also manually get to the sound you have been looking for with no effort.
Cableguys Volume Shaper 6
This plugin is even more powerful in terms of sound design than its competitor. With a fancy look and a wide array of options, Volume Shaper 6 is a beast when it comes to modulation due to its varied shaper options. The addition of crush, drive, and time parameters set the bar higher in terms of creativity.
This feature is so useful. I’ve processed drums and bass sounds successfully by modulating the higher frequencies to create interesting tones while leaving the low area for clearer boomy sounds. I’ve also tried this technique with synths but the change was not that evident unless I completely distorted the signal with both crusher and drive envelopes.
Here you can find and modify not only global parameters but also the parameters from each shaper. You can access them by clicking the shaper selector.
In contrast to LFO Tool, VolumeShaper 6 offers a much more detailed display for you to create a wide variety of envelopes. It is not as intuitive though. You can tell that the upper section of the image is full of buttons that are just for creating envelopes and resizing the display. To me, that’s a downside. Although you can create really complex envelopes, it wasn’t that easy for me to shape the behavior of the different parameters.
On the other hand, it compensates for its complicated way of making the envelopes by adding preset patterns for each envelope shaper. This feature could make the job easier for you, but it won’t be as personalized as with the LFO Tool. Of course, you can draw your envelopes with major precision on this plugin, but you have to put more effort into it.
Sound Capabilities and Presets
VolumeShaper 6 is amazing for designing glitchy sounds that could fit perfectly on any modern EDM genre, especially dubstep. I’ve found it to be very efficient for any kind of signal. Keep in mind that it can get very destructive when browsing through the presets. You will have to be patient until you find the one that is right for you if you are not up to creating your own envelopes. You can also get great dynamic control with its integrated compressor in the volume shaper.
The presets are awesome and they are labeled in colors that match the kind of envelope shapers are involved in them.
All of this aside, I found this plugin to be not as inspiring as Xfer LFO Tool because of its layout. This is a pity since it has a huge potential. Of course, it can get much more sounds than its competitor, but some processes can be done way easily outside the plugin.
To my ear, they are both great. I think the big difference lies in their workflow.
Xfer LFO Tool offers a super intuitive and easy-to-use layout where you can start editing your envelopes right away. If you are familiar with envelope shapers, this plugin will seem like an extension of your hand since every parameter can be tweaked instantly. Also, you get visual feedback of what’s happening with your modulations and your processed signal. It comes loaded with tons of useful presets that deliver great sounds. It is really fun to use.
On the other hand, Cableguys VolumeShaper 6 seems to be a more complex unit than its competitor. Although I am not keen on its layout, I can tell that its sonic capabilities are more interesting thanks to the addition of the not-so-common shapers such as Time, Width, Drive, and Crush. This plugin can be used in many different ways.
To sum up, I think the VolumeShaper 6 is more efficient than its competitor. Although it can take a while to get into the workflow of this plugin, it will reward you with a variety of sounds and dynamic control. I personally liked the LFO Tool better, but producers who are looking for a complete and modern envelope shaper could get disappointed with it. Also, it costs more than VolumeShaper 6 so moneywise it is a no-brainer.
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I’m a music producer, composer and drummer. I’m an Ableton Live trainer with expertise in electronic music and sound design. I’ve also studied electroacoustic music at Universidad Nacional de Quilmes.