Zynaptiq Wormhole Sound Design Plug-In
By Barry Rudolph
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Mix Magazine "Compression And Compressors"
Wormhole is capable of sonic treatments ranging from radical up/down pitch shifts to otherworldly and surrealistic alien/monster/robotic voices but also beautiful and delicate doubling/widening studio mix effects.
I reviewed Wormhole ver 1.0.2 in Pro Tools 12.7.1 HDX and Mac OS 10.9.5. It runs Native in VST, AU, RTAS/AAX hosts and runs on either mono or stereo tracks but always outputs in stereo.
I found the GUI excellently organized with Zynaptiq's unique Trackball slider control and circular "halo" value display taking center stage. There are also conventional sliders, bipolar sliders (with +/- extremes), and text fields for direct parameter entry. Besides toggle switches and pull-down selector menus, there is the clever Randomize button.
When you click the Randomize momentary button, a seemingly random set of parameter settings invades Wormhole. The resulting changes settings could be something wonderfully unexpected or not. More importantly, I found this unusual feature a great way to build a collection of your own unique presets. After choosing one of 190 factory presets and modifying it to a specific task, I would first name and "save as" and then cycle through some of these random settings for a "roll of the dice." Any section can be bypassed and quarantined from the Randomizer.
Warp, Shift, and Reverb Sections
The Warp, Shift and Reverb sections are the three main features of Wormhole and are usable all together or in any combination. The chain order of Warp and Shift can be swapped and the Reverb section can be used before, after or before and after the Blend section at the same time. Clicking on the block diagram icon shows the plug-in's signal path.
The large Warp Tilt Trackball knob shifts the "spectral features" up (CW) or down (CCW) as the manual says: "somewhere between formant, frequency and pitch shifting." The Warp Depth fader adjusts the range of frequencies to invert with low values affecting the high frequencies for lo-fi effects and higher values invert fundamental frequencies upwards.
On first listen, Warp sounds like a very good ring modulator or a Bode frequency shifter; it will produce inharmonic metallic tones and other sonic oddities. As spacey as Warp can sound, it produces timbres more musically useful and stable than an analog ring modulator.
I liked the 'portamento' effect caused when Warp slews to the inverted pitch when there are big jumps in the input source's dominant pitch. I had a guitar part that slid up into the note on the downbeat and Warp inverted it to sound like a bass guitar downward slide.
Warp's Poles fader adds a series of resonant points (peaks). Along with the Low Pass filter, I found Poles to add a tight, filtered doubling effect to percussion instruments such as finger snaps or drum hits--most of the good settings are at the bottom of its range. I liked holding down the Shift key for fine-tuning the Filter and Poles parameters--the slightest changes can be dramatic.
There is interaction between all the controls in the Warp section and, when creating a new preset, I start with the Warp Mix fader at 100% to completely hear what is going on and then back it down to taste.
Frequency Shifting and Pitch Shifting
The Shift section combines a frequency shifter, with +/- 4,000Hz of clean frequency shifting, with a pitch shifter capable of a range of +/- 48 semi-tones. This frequency shifter has no aliasing artifacts and with 96dB of carrier/sideband suppression, there are no weird tones and shortwave radio-like noises.
The Decay Time parameter determines how a long pitch shifted tones last--critically important for short percussive hits like toms, snares, kick drums; you can also experiment to create sustaining treatments for plucked instruments.
The Shift section's Pitch Shift can be use separately--just put the Frequency Shifter to zero and maximum Decay Time. I would like to see separate bypass buttons for both the Frequency and Pitch Shifter sub-sections within the Shift section.
The Smooth, Tight, Detune A and Detune B modes are four different pitch-shifting algorithms. Smooth is for vocals and chords; Tight uses less CPU and better for drums and effects. Detune A and Detune B each use the L/R channels outs for modulated stereo micro pitch-shifter effects. This section is the ultimate pitch shifter effect for vocals--very beautiful!
Reverb, Blend, Delay
Wormhole's Reverb section is so awesome and unique-sounding reverb that I often use on its own! I like its simple controls for reverb size, damping and wet/dry mix--it sounds very much like the reverb in Zynaptiq's Adaptiverb. When the reverb section is placed before and after the Blend section, a second instance of the reverb comes in and is controlled by the same set controls.
The Blend section is unique and has three modes with X-Fade a simple wet/dry control. Morph A and Morph B modes use some of the input signal and the wet signal as a hybrid to meld the source and processed sounds together more evenly. This is unlike conventional wet/dry controls where the processed and source can sound like two sounds playing at the same time rather than a real blending of the two.
I set up the reverbs both Pre and Post Blend and used Morph A. The Blend knob now controls the reverb amount but also widens the stereo image with what sounds like early reflection coloration. Just changing to Morph B sounds like a lower density and more subtle reverb. Adjusting the reverb parameters changes the sound of the Morphs considerably and switching the reverb to either Pre or Post Blend changes everything again.
Located just after the Input to Wormhole is the Delay section with up to 500-ms positive or negative delay. Positive values delay the effect output whereas negative values delay the dry path--so it is possible for the effect to play before the input signal! Wormhole makes maximum use of delay compensation in Pro Tools and I had no problem with multiple instances in big track count sessions.
I tried using the Delay on a quantized 75 BPM drum loop with a loud snare on the beats 2 and 4. I set the delay time to -400ms--a negative eighth-note delay. What a wholly new effect this is!
Lastly there is the L/R Invert button. With the L/R button down, the left channel will have the effect delayed and the right channel will have the dry channel delayed. This is another expansive sounding effect.
Zynaptiq Wormhole Wonder
With its large factory preset library, MIDI control of main parameters, and 27 parameters automatable, Wormhole is definitely another Zynaptiq wonder and no decent sound designer or modern mixer should be without it! Every time I open Wormhole in a session, I fall into the 'event horizon' and spend extra time creating and saving new presets for this captivating and mesmerizing plug-in!
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