VolumeShaper 4 review: design and inspiration

Cableguys have just updated their popular VolumeShaper plugin to version 4. Unsurprisingly, this plugin uses waveforms to shape the volume on a track, providing several potential uses, from emulating sidechain compression, gating, sample shaping to rhythmic looping and stuttering effects.
It’s a simple and clean looking affair, with the majority of the plugin taken up with the waveform shape (that affects the volume) on top of the sample accurate oscilloscope that shows you the waveform of the music playing on the track. Intuitive controls allow you to edit the waveform, adding envelope nodes that can be soft curves, or sharp angles, that can snap to a grid, or be free from tempo.

If you’re lacking inspiration, there’s a simple menu on the bottom right of the GUI that shows 5 banks of 8 presets in graphic form, according to the type of shaping you want to do. If you like a wave shape you’ve created, you can take a snapshot and add it to the user bank for later. You can then set the loop of the waveform, from unsynced to looping to a set bar length, or fraction thereof. If you’re still creatively in a rut, then, of course, there’s a single click to the online library that Cableguys use as with their other plugins – giving you a theoretical infinity of presets. So far, so brilliant. It’s very intuitive.

That is not where it stops, however. The element that took it over the top for me was the MultiBand separation. It’s so well designed for ease of use. At the bottom left of the GUI, the multi band window contains one full frequency band. But move either arrow on the left on the right and you have a two or three band shaper. You can adjust each band roughly to the frequency you want using the simple secondary oscilloscope behind it as reference. And then you can decide what shaping happens to each band. You can, for instance, have ‘pumping compression’ style ducking on the bottom end of the sound, a stuttering rhythmic vibe in the mid frequencies, and leave the top alone. It immediately sets you up for some really creative rhythmic manipulations of the sound.

The other element I really loved about this plugin was the Midi capabilities. You can trigger one-shot volume shaping, or trigger the loop. You can assign every midi note, or just one – making it easy to assign sidechain emulation to trigger every time the kick is played on a sampled drum kit. Brilliant.

If nothing I said made sense, check out this video – it encapsulates some of the various possibilities of this excellent plugin:

‘But you can do all this with automation!’ I hear you cry. Yeah maybe, but the amount of time it would take to get close is fairly ridiculous. It’s a much quicker workflow this way. I am very impressed with the balance between accessibility, and depth of possibilities on this plugin. I was previously using a similar style plugin by a different company, but volume shaper is just streets better in every department.

I absolutely loved this plugin – it’s my favourite of the plugins that Cableguys have written so far. It’s one of those effects that just immediately inspires creativity for me. It’s good looking, there’s no parameter bloat, no glitches or bugs. It just works well.I would say that if you’re writing any kind of electronic music, this plugin is a must-have. Well done Cableguys!

Volume shaper 4 will set you back $40: an absolute steal for this creative plugin in my opinion.

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