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Twisted Tools is a company located in San Francisco that creates fun, professional, creative audio effects plugins for use within REAKTOR – a modular studio created by Native Instruments.
Buffeater is the 3rd Plugin in the Twisted Tools stable (read our Vortex review if you’d like to know more). It’s a real-time granular multi-effect plugin, that can be used standalone (within Reaktor), or sit on a track in just about any DAW host around, as an AU or VST plugin. Buffeater can take a hold of live audio, or recorded samples, and manipulate the time and pitch of the audio in various ways, to affect the audio from a subtle to extreme manner. The ‘sound’ of the Buffeater is in my opinion aimed squarely at electronica (although definitely not limited there!) with its glitch, beat-slicing, stutter, DJ scratch and tape-style effects. This is confirmed with the list of artists that have either contributed to, or complemented Buffeater – Richard Devine, Bassnectar, Toksin, and Tipper, to name a few.
Buffeater is a multi-effects plugin, and is dynamically ordered. The best analogy I can think of is a guitar pedal board with 6 pedals on it. The order you choose to wire the pedals together greatly changes the affect the pedals have on the incoming sound. Buffeater’s 6 effects can be ordered and reordered instantly, with just the push of a button. The sonic possibilities available at your fingertips suddenly becomes massive. I spent a little time on the maths, and quickly gave up!
To run Buffeater, you need to own a version of Reaktor 5 or later. This is an additional cost, but it is well worth looking in to, if you don’t already own it, as it is an amazing piece of software in and of itself. Setup’s a little trickier to navigate having Reaktor as the middle man. If you haven’t ever used Reaktor, there’s definitely a slight learning curve there. However the manual and setup guide that gets delivered electronically with the plugin are excellent, and once up and running, Reaktor has a great built-in ‘info’ button, that once depressed, will give you important information on everything you scroll the mouse over. Very useful. Twisted Tools also thoughtfully included templates for most DAW platforms, so it’s as simple as loading your DAW’s template, and away you go.
Buffeater is a clean, bold and colourful GUI. The six effects are laid out clearly, and there’s an internal sample-player that comes loaded with almost 400mb of loops (free commercial use) contributed by D’arcangelo and some of the afore-mentioned artists. There are a mass of presets to click through, to get you started tweaking. The samples themselves are tunable within the sample player: you can change the pitch, start position, length, and amp of all the samples.
The six effects are:
Stretch : A granular effect that acts as the title suggests. You can stretch your audio out to the point of standing still.
Tape : An effect that allows you to slow down or speed up the incoming audio. Sounds like a record deck slowing down or speeding up.
Slice Repeat: This is a beat repeat effect, that takes equal defined chunks of audio, and re-orders them as you’d like.
Deconstruct: This one’s not as obviously named as the others. It’s similar to the Slice effect above, but has some extra sonic mayhem thrown in, allowing the sound to be altered more dramatically.
Scratch: This one has some crossover with the tape effect – creating dj-effect scratches, cuts, slides etc
Feed Grains: This one’s interesting. It sounds like a reverb-ish type effect that occurs as particular sample grains are fed back on themselves. It creates a fairly different sound.
Each effect has this many parameters, and they are all automatable within Reaktor – so you can either use each effect as an on/off switch, or have it programmed to run through a little automated cycle. So for example, you can determine the order of slices in slice repeat, and how long they’ll repeat for, and how many times, etc. every time you trigger the effect. So the push of one button can trigger a complex sequence of events. As is almost standard now – everything is midi-controllable and a couple of clicks will have any parameter linked up with any knob or slider or button sending midi signal.
The sample player is great, but this plugin is definitely well tuned for live use. There’s a drop-down menu that allows switching between the sample player and external audio. Select the external audio, and whatever audio is on the track starts running through the plugin straight away. The CPU load was minimal – impressively so. I was using live with standard settings – 512mb sample buffer, and it never showed any signs of latency, slowing down, losing sync with the midiclock, or crashing. The immediacy of the plugin is very satisfying – it’s possible to subtly tweak, or destructively mash a simple drum loop instantly, by pressing 6 buttons, and the results are very musical, and useful. Here’s a simple drum loop that I tweaked live, and recorded:
There are 60 general presets for the whole selection of plugs, and then there are almost 300 presets for the automation of each of the 6 effects. So just using the presets alone you’ll probably create a sound that you’re looking for. One quirk that I found is that sometimes the buffer cache doesn’t clear when changing a sample, so mid-tweak, the previous sample suddenly appears. This happened mainly on the internal sample-player. Other than that, it was brilliant. Here’s another track that I used Buffeater on live, and recorded. 4 tracks, 3 with Buffeater on them, manipulated live. Simple, but you get the point, I think:
System Requirements First off, a computer running REAKTOR 5 at least. One test the company recommends, if you own Reaktor, is to run the Oki Computer plug that comes with Reaktor. If you can run that comfortably, then you’re probably ok. Buffeater runs fine even on PPC Macs, like the G5.
Conclusion In a market that’s starting to fill up – with plugs from Sugarbytes and the like, Twisted Tools’ Buffeater stands out as a plugin that is useful for tweaking any audio that comes your way in an intuitive and deep manner. Prepare to lose hours of life gloriously washing around in mangled sound.
…Prepare to lose hours of life gloriously washing around in mangled sound….
Excellent up to the moment effect plugin that enables solid sound mashing potential with a well-thought interface
Deep integration within Reaktor, enabling great flexibility, automation, midi-control
Great value for money
LOVE IT OR HATE IT
If you’re looking for a creative and stable way to mash sound live, or process music in a contemporary style, this is a great option. If you don’t have Reaktor 5, or don’t want to fork out the extra to buy it, then this probably isn’t for you.
For a beginner, it could be relatively confusing using a plugin within a plugin, although Twisted Tools have done an excellent job of making the GUI clean and clear.
If you don’t own Reaktor 5, it could be an expensive purchase (Although Reaktor 5 is great software too!)
Composer/Producer, and keyboard player. He has written and recorded soundtracks for a wide variety of media and co-owns DOsounds.com with Jake Owen, a music production company that gives him an excuse to buy more analog gear.