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Soundtoys Decapitator
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S2D S2D

« Heads will roll »

Published on 09/09/14 at 06:17
There has never been such a suitably named plugin as the Soundtoys Decapitator, it really will take your head off with some of the sounds it can give to your tracks. Beginning with the installation, which is quite straight forward as most Soundtoys plugins are, no compatibility issues with Logic Pro 9 at all and when loaded up it is a very clear and engaging interface. The manual is always there for plugins of this nature but for this Soundtoys product i would recommend you just dive straight in and start playing around with the features. The Decapitator has an intuitive GUI and clearly labelled controls apart from the letters along the bottom but we'll get to that part later.

SUITABILITY/PERFORMANCE

I have been using the Decapitator for almost a year now and can confirm it works perfectly with Logic Pro 9 on a Mac computer with 4GB of RAM on OSX 10.6.8. It is very stable in my experience, no random crashes or anything like that. The performance is very good and is fairly light on CPU usage, although in any given project i can't recall using any more than 3 or 4 instances of the plugin but with no noticeable CPU spikes none the less. Some users may want to put 1 on every channel to get a subtle saturation effect for mixing into which i would recommend if you're CPU can handle it (bear in mind you would likely be using more plugins on top of the decapitators) otherwise try 1 on every sub mix or bus to get a taste of what it can do.

Now, onto the letters at the bottom. Each letter stands for a different saturation type that is based on real analogue consoles and hardware, so you can dial in settings for the other controls then switch between the letters and the effect will change slightly. Much like other plugins who are 'influenced' by real analogue hardware and consoles, they sometimes don't directly disclose what brand they have modelled because it hasn't been officially licensed, although in the Decapitator manual it does describe in some detail the gear that influenced the saturation types.
With the Decapitator, here are what the letters represent according to the manual;

A - Ampex 350 tape drive preamp (think Johnny Cash, Elvis, Sun/Stax/Chess records)
E - EMI TG console (think The Beatles, Pink Floyd)
N - Neve 1057 input channel (very thick low frequency content)
T - Triode (from the Thermionic Culture Vulture hardware unit)
P - Pentode (also from the Thermionic Culture Vulture hardware unit)

The difference between T and P is that T produces even harmonics and P produces odd harmonics.
So with all these different models, it really can be a one-stop-shop for saturation and distortion. As well as all of this, the plugin also features filters for cutting the low end and high end to remove some muddiness and high end fizz that can happen when really going for it with the drive setting. The thump switch is useful for kick drums or the low end of guitars because it adds a few extra decibels to the cut off frequency of the 'low cut' control. The Steep switch transforms a 6db per octave high end filter into a much steeper filter which can be used at a cut off around 4-5khz to simulate a guitar cabinet if desired. The Punish switch (as you can imagine) adds a ridiculous amount of distortion onto what you've already got, plus another 20db's of gain according the manual! If you're having a long day at the office then this switch will definitely perk you up a bit. Make sure to press the auto output switch in conjunction with the punish switch the first few times.

OVERALL OPINION

The thing i like most about the Decapitator is it does extreme but in a way that can be actually be used without sounding awful like some distortion plugins. The tone and low end/high end filter controls are very handy as well. Try it on a simple drum loop to hear the effect it has on each part of the kit, changing the letters at the bottom to get an idea of the character of the different hardware models. It is an incredibly useful plugin that can be used in every mix. You can use it sparingly if you wish, but The Decapitator is a lot like Will Smith, he did good just as a rapper but when he got into acting more and pushed the boat out that's when his true talent shone and things really took off... So sit back, max and relax and turn the drive up on this bad boy to really hear what it can do!

Overall, The Soundtoys Decapitator knows how powerful it is. Yes it can do subtle, but with a 'Drive' knob the size of Jupiter and a button that says 'Punish' - you know deep down that this plugin is truly in it's element when it's seriously distorting your audio. A fantastic saturation/distortion plugin with a not-so-fantastic price but still a must have when it comes to producing and mixing so start saving those pennies.
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