Dmitry Sches’ Diversion synthesizer made a fairly big splash a while ago, with it’s 2D morphing oscillators, waveform effects inspired by sound design mainstay Zebra, high quality sound and a lovingly crafted user interface. Mr. Sches has decided to prove he’s no one-hit wonder with Tantra, a sequence-based multi-effects plugin.
At a glance, we can see six main effects blocks – Filter, Distortion, Delay, Lo-Fi, Flanger and Glitch, plus a Tremolo and Panning automation stage and master effects to the tune of a global parametric EQ, reverb unit, and simple limiter.
Love At First Sight
While we’re eyeballing the plugin, I’d like to discuss my initial impression here. Tantra looks absolutely gorgeous! A vision in charcoal and cream, with a hint of 3D light and shade, a splash of multicolour dashed conservatively in key areas, and appetizing, chunky knobs with a rubbery look. Tantra screams “You want me!” with every pixel it possesses.
The layout of the plugin features two main views. The first is the main one, with the effects blocks, envelope or step editing at the top, routing controls in the thin ‘L’ shape across the middle and down the right side, preset options at the top right, and Master FX at the bottom. The second view, which is a hovering pop-up, is the Matrix page, affording no less than 24 modulation patches which is where you get to look at and decide what modulates what. While a synth-like modulation page is an old paradigm, it works; and beyond that, you can assign modulations to parameters on the main page via right-clicking and setting modulation amounts via circular bars around the knob – very similar to how Massive works. Those who dislike matrix pages may find this very helpful, and it’s great for getting a scene going before holistic adjustments need to happen.
Your Flexible Friend
Remember when I said there were six main effects blocks? Well, I kinda lied. There are twelve – divided up into two channels or busses. The two sets of six blocks plus panning and tremolo, are completely independent and can be switched between using the A and B buttons, providing simple multi-band operation over a signal, or other tricks such as using the volume of one layer to feed a delay to create dub-style echo drop-ins.
The flexibility doesn’t stop there. Each layer’s effects can be completely re-ordered in an arbitrary manner by dragging the icons around. This is important because music is maths and the order of operations is important: the way effects interact with each other depends upon the order they are stacked together. Feeding a filter into a sample-rate reducer gives vowel-like sounds as the resonant peaks are mirrored upwards across the spectrum. As previously mentioned, putting volume control before a delay allows you to use the buss as a send amount. These permutations are limited only by your imagination and/or willingness to experiment, and the only effects you can’t move around are the Master effects, which happen before the output stage of the plugin, after both busses have been recombined.
As if that wasn’t enough, you can also choose to place the two busses in series or parallel, and you have to remember that every knob can be modulated – including the little ones, the on/off switches, Master FX, etc. Everything.
Six Of The Best
The effects themselves are very good, and pack just the right amount of features to keep things moving along without excessive complexity or simplicity. The filter block is particularly impressive, sporting three filters – a multi-mode resonant filter is the main course, offering all the usual filter types, plus ring modulator, pitch shifter, dual peak pass-band, phaser and vowel filter. The other two filters are simple but steep low- and high-pass filters for rather radical tone control, which are useful for tidying up the signal or adding extra modulation. They are also useful for splitting up the A and B busses into two different frequency bands, freeing up the more colourful resonant filter for other duties within each band.
The other effects are pretty much as you’d expect for a high quality plugin of this genre and nothing is hidden from view, so just look at a screenshot to see what you’re getting. I particularly liked the ‘noise’ parameter in the lo-fi block, which injects noise only when a signal is present and can add dithering to the sample-rate reduction and bit crushing effects which really change the character of the sound.
There is no send amount for the delay, so, as mentioned earlier, you have to use the buss system if you want to only echo certain parts of a track yet still have the tails die out. Other than that, there was everything that I wanted. The effects are flexible enough such that, for example, the delay can double as an extra comb filter or flanger, the glitch effect (which is a buffer repeater) can, with a mix level of 50:50, add a time offset to the wet signal and create slap-back echoes and mutant phasing, in addition to the usual “bub-bub-bu-bu-breeee” stutters. In short, you have a freedom of creativity bordering on the modular.
I Spy The Blueprint
The effects are great on their own, but really come to life when forced to dance by the eight modulators you can design in the panel with numbers running along the top. Each of these modulators can modulate anything, can be stacked, run at different times and lengths, and have individual smoothing amounts. Each modulator has two modes – a simple step sequencer represented as a bar graph with adjustable width per step, or a multi-point envelope system with flexible tension for each stage. On top of this, a global tension control can add or subtract tension from the curves, plus shuffle and gate length parameters let you modify the shape of the step sequencer.
As you can see, the editing window is long and thin, affording up to 32 steps per sequence, but I would have liked a zoom mode for more accurate editing of the height of each step or ramp. This is really the only gripe I had with the editing system, and it’s a minor one, but it can make creating modulator shapes such as even stair-steps a bit fiddly. If I were pressed for suggestions, a variable vertical snap for editing values would also be a valuable addition for creating more exacting modulations, and might facilitate drawing in melodies for resonant filters or delays – but this isn’t really an oversight so much as my own thinking aloud and obsession with exacting wave sculpting.
The Complete Package
All in all, Tantra is a modulation and multi-effect powerhouse. It’s great to look at and operate, the sound quality is very good, the filters are gorgeous, and there’s enough customization along each step of the way to satisfy the most experimental architect. Extra touches such as the output limiter, the phase correlation meter, the excellent manual and presentation, the triple filter stage and ability to modulate literally anything you can see make this plugin well worth the asking price and a joy to use and listen to.
More info: Tantra ($69)
Dmitry Sches Tantra Review
Tantra is a modulation and multi-effect powerhouse. It's great to look at and operate, the sound quality is very good, the filters are gorgeous, and there's enough customization along each step of the way to satisfy the most experimental architect.