When it comes to electronic production, filtering is an essential process. Luckily for the beginners amongst you, it’s an area of production that’s pretty easy to grasp. With so many products on the market capable of excellent results, the hardest part of filtering your audio may be picking the right plug-in.
A lot of you will have your favorite pieces of software in this area, so without trying compile a definitive collection of filter plug-ins, the following round up should give you an idea of the different methods and processors available to you when it comes to filtering your sounds.
Although most of the plug-ins here are commercial products (i.e. not free!) most of them are really reasonably priced and have fully functional demos. I have offered a few free alternatives at the end for those of you who are on a tighter budget.
In the Play Pack, you can find processed audio clips from some of the plug-ins in each section and I’ve also included links so you can check the products out for yourself.
Note: this tutorial contains embedded audio that will not display in a feed reader. Click back to the site to read the tutorial with audio or download the Play Pack at the end of the tut.
Keeping it simple
If you don’t want to complicate things and you need a filter plug-in fast, that has the bare essentials and a great sound, you cant go far wrong with these two little gems.
Fabfilter Simplon — this little plug-in is simply awesome. Fabfilter create some of the best sounding digital filters around and they are very reasonably priced. The Simplon goes right back to basics and supplies two multimode resonant filters, each with different character settings so you can add a little edge or keep things clean.
There is an extensive input and output section, and best of all it has a large graphical interface with large ‘handles’ you can grab to manipulate the frequency and resonance of both filters. This is really useful for automating more complex filter movements.
Simplon Filtered Drum Loop
Sonalksis TBK1 Creative Filter — if you feel the need to simplify things even more and want a plug-in you can get a result from quickly, then the TBK1 could be just the thing you’re after. With what comes close to a single knob interface, things don’t get any easier than this.
Even though the controls are minimal you still have full control over the frequency, filter type, resonance and slope, enabling you to go from subtle to extreme in just a few adjustments.
Advanced and Feature Rich
There will be times when you need something with a little more firepower and flexibility. Of course it will help if you are familiar with the basic processors before you tackle these more complex plug-ins, but if you feel confident and crave the extra features then the following products should be suitable.
Audio Damage Dr. Device — With multi-mode filters, bitcrushing, distortion, delay and automated x/y pad, the Dr. Device really packs a huge punch in its small frame. This should do just about anything you need a filter plug-in to do and a little bit more.
The ‘kinetics’ features are extremely interesting, offering LFO like modulation capabilities with a twist. Once this feature is employed both filter and delay parameters can be automated to create wild sequences. All this is put together in a plug-in that is sold for an astoundingly cheap $49 from the Audio Damage site.
Fabfilter Volcano 2 — What we have here is arguably the holy grail of filter plug-ins. With its semi-modular, innovative, drag and drop interface, Volcano 2 is certainly not for the faint of heart. There is no denying this one may take some time to master fully but it is certainly worth the effort.
Sporting no less than 4 multi-mode analogue style filters, each with delay and panning, Volcano 2 can make some pretty intricate sounds. Add to this 16 possible LFOs, a 24 slot drag and drop mod matrix, envelope followers and 300 presets, and the only limit is your imagination. This really is well worth checking out.
Volcano Processed Guitar
Part of the Pack
If you feel that splashing out on a new plug-in is a little extravagant, or you just can’t be bothered to go through the hassle of installing and mastering another new piece of software, it might be worth digging around the plug-in folders that came as part of your DAW.
Many current software packages such as Logic Pro, Cubase, Live and Digital Performer all include excellent filter plug-ins capable of producing similar results to a lot of the third party products in this list. So before you part with your hard-earned cash, double-check your plug-in folder. Here are a few you might have.
Logic Pro’s Autofilter — This has been part of Logic for a while now, but you would expect to pay a sizable wedge of cash for a plug-in with these features. This thing is literally packed with LFOs, envelope generators and even distortion on the output and input stages. If you own Logic you may find this will get the job done.
Logic Autofilter Piano
Cubase 4’s Tonic - Again, a plug-in that has been around for a few years but don’t let that bother you because Tonic is really flexible and sounds great. With sonically pleasing resonance and drive algorithms this could be the answer for filter heads who own Cubase.
Some people would argue that for a filter to be authentic it has to be hardware. Well this may have been true a few years ago, but some of the digital filters on offer today are truly outstanding.
If you are a true hardliner and have to have that hardware sound, it might be worth checking out some products that use component modeling and hardware emulation before you shell out vast sums of money for the real thing.
These plug-ins tend to cost a little more to acquire but the sound is, in most cases, genuinely superior to their cheaper counterparts.
Univeral Audio Moog Multimode Filter — This plug-in may only run on the UAD-1 platform and it may take up a large chunk of your DSP resources when you use it but anyone that has heard this will know it’s worth it. This is pure gold and sounds 100% authentic.
With all modeling completed with Moog and the final result 100% endorsed by them, Universal Audio have really hit the mark with this filter. The drive circuit is possibly the best I’ve heard in software form and above all the unit is a huge amount of fun to use. With envelope followers, panning effects, stereo enhancement and self oscillation all possible, you can lose hours with just this and a drum loop.
UAD Moog Filtered Loop
Arturia Minimoog V — Another Moog emulation, but this time it’s native and it’s a virtual instrument. As with a lot of Arturia’s soft synths, you can actually load a specific ‘FX’ version as an insert and feed any audio signal through its extensive synthesis section.
This may cost you a little more than you average filter plug-in and there is a chance it will use more of your CPU overhead but this is much more than just filtering, it’s full-on synthesis for your audio, plus the noise it makes will give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
For those of you who like a free ride (and that would be all of us!) here are a few filter plugs that will cost you no more than the hard drive space you use to install them.
Camel Audio Camelcrusher — Some free plug-ins fall a little short in both the sounds they produce and their visual polish, but not this one. The Camelcrusher is simply a stripped down version of the companies Camelphat product. Same sound, similar interface, just fewer parameters.
This is essentially a filter, distortion unit and compressor all in one easy to operate package. It comes with some really usable presets and is available for Mac and Windows. Don’t just sit there! Go and download it.
Kjaerhus Audio Classic Autofilter — This one is just for Windows but I’m sure there are enough PC users out there looking for free stuff. This is an analogue modeled 4-pole filter, with an LFO and an envelope generator. It sounds impressive for a free plug and there is a good selection of other free virtual processors on the site, so it’s all well worth taking a look at.
- Example audio