Wo! Build your own modular effect (BYOME). It’s Unfiltered Audio’s latest effect plugin. I’ve previously reviewed their Sandman plugin and I’ve always been impressed with the creativity their products inspire.
This one tops their pile, and you’re definitely gonna want to check it out. Fitting a trend in electronic music at the moment, BYOME takes a modular approach to applying effects to track audio. It’s a remarkably simple setup considering the sheer scope of the plugin.
Unfiltered Audio have shifted their sales across to Plugin Alliance, which I think is a great move. Plugin Alliance is a solid platform selling excellent quality plugins for the music community. It goes without saying that install and authorisation is smooth.
BYOME’s GUI is simple, colourful and pretty. It consists of 2 rows: the upper row contains effects that you can chain together. The bottom row contains all the modulation elements, that you can virtually cable up to create movement within the effect.
That’s BYOME in a nutshell. Sounds simple, but the potential complexity of modulation is just absurd. To get your ideas flowing there’s a bunch of excellent presets, delineated by effect. There’s also a large selection of artist presets, taking the plugin into territories familiar to that artist.
BYOME is compatible with NKS so you can flick through all the presets real quick, and if you can’t find something you like, there’s a controlled randomisation dice button that will generate presets for you to further tweak.
At the top of the GUI are the main mix controls – Gain in, Sample rate, Mix amount, and Out gain. The most interesting control here is the AGC – automatic gain control. This knob matches the wet signal to the dry signal using really fast compression and expansion. It’s a very interesting control that is worth playing with, as it adds different dimensions than just wet/dry control.There’s also a pretty waveform window that is more for good looks than anything – it’s really pretty though, and comes in 3 different flavors!
There are 44 different effect modules to choose from, catalogued into 8 different types: delays, distortion, mix, dynamics, granular, modulation, filters and reverbs. The vast majority of the effects modules are NOT standard. Yes, you’ve got your compressor and 3 band EQ, a ladder filter and standard overdrive. But the effects quickly move left field, and get very interesting.
I won’t get exhaustive on the descriptions of the effects – the excellent manual makes concise work of that. But some highlights for me are: Instant delay – a delay where you can modulate the delay time without any artefacts whatsoever – no clicks or pitching. Contrast: a weird kind of phase distortion that increases the brightness and presence of a signal. I guess it reminded the creators of contrast in film. It’s useful for adding punch to a sound without compressing or raising volume. Waveset – this is a technique developed by one of my ElectroAcoustic composer icons Trevor Wishart. It’s sort of like wave folding, but taking 3 waves at their crossing points and processing them. The sound is a broken, gritty distortion. Lo-Fi reverb – this has an awesome, er, lofi tone to it.
There are an abundance of different crappy digital reverb tones that instead of putting the sound in a space, just add some great grungey digital metallic ambience to the sound.
The effect bank is already deep in and of itself. But you get to layer them one after the other, change the order by click-and-drag, and then, most importantly for BYOMEe, you can modulate most of the parameters of each effect with a large selection of modulation engines. Selecting the output to the input is as easy as click dragging a virtual cable. Don’t like the connection? Click and hold the thick part of the cable, then drag it off the port. Your modulation box contains LFO’s S&H, Step sequencers, CHAOS, Gate sequencers, various envelopes, A probability gate, comparator, spectral follower, logic, exponent, and a variety of midi control options.
The only downside I could find was that you can only use 6 modulation engines at once. I think this will increase in the future, but it wasn’t affecting my CPU too badly, so I can see this number increasing.
Here’s a quick video of BYOME using sample and hold mod to change the amount of Automatic gain control on the plugin entire, making the affected sound breathe more. It’s wonderful.
As the system has the potential to get messy pretty quickly – it can be hard to see a way of making sense of automating any parameters in Ableton. But they’ve figured out a ‘macro’ system, that allows you to assign up to 8 macro knobs to any control parameter you want, by using a virtual cable.
Because you can use multiple cables, you can assign one Macro knob to a plethora of controls. Then it’s just a case of finding ‘Macro 1’ to ‘Macro 8’ in your DAW, and you have the automation.
BYOME is a fantastic plugin. For creative inspiration, especially if you’re already into modular processes in your music creation, this is a no-brainer. The routings can get massively complex, and the sound along with it. You can use it just for simple mix effects, and it works well for that, but it feels like using a Lamborghini to do the work of a tractor.
The true strength of BYOME is in the modulation – the organic evolving movement that you can add to the sounds you create through the use of Byome. Highly recommended.
You can purchase BYOME for $249, for more info see here and here.
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.