Unison Audio has just launched its first free plugin, and it’s a Lo-Fi one called Zen Master.
As a reader, you may be submersed by many questions and doubts.
Firstly, is it legit?
There’s been a lot of talk about Unison Audio online, and their reputation isn’t perfect, to say the least.
You might also ask yourself, do I need another Lo-Fi plugin in my collection?
And finally, what’s the catch?
Unison Audio doesn’t have the best reputation inside the audio community, including popular forums, YouTube channels, and subreddits. This is mainly because of the company’s often overpriced products and questionable marketing strategies.
The product that made them very popular was the Unison MIDI Chord Pack, which has been extensively promoted for many years as their flagship product.
Tantacrul did a great critical analysis of it in this comprehensive video:
However, Unison Audio just released a freeware VST plugin, and we took it for a spin to see if it’s worth your attention.
The TLDR is that Zen Master is a decent lo-fi multi-effect plugin with simple macro controls and an animated interface. It offers bit-crushing, reverb, tape-style pitch wobbling, detuning, and noise blending.
It’s not an original concept since we’ve seen numerous similar plugins in recent years from other developers. Also, the interface looks very similar to the infamous Delay Lama plugin.
But it can’t hurt to add another lo-fi multi-effect to your arsenal if you’re into this type of sound design.
Following the increasing popularity of lo-fi music genres, many developers have tried to summarize a selection of audio processing tools for intentional audio deterioration in a single plugin. These plugins add organic textures, pitch imperfections, saturation, and similar effects to grasp that crunchy lo-fi vibe.
Zen Master follows this trend, and the included effects have been creatively renamed, so it’s not immediately obvious what the knobs are doing.
“Hypnosis,” for example, is a detune and stereo widener effect, while “Electrify” is a simple bit-crusher.
The fourth knob starting from the left, is the easiest to understand since it presents the name of the sampled texture you can add to your source signal, with options of Vinyl, Crackle, and White (implicitly white noise).
The effect modules are not interchangeable, and the signal path is fixed.
However, the plugin provides handy options on the bottom right of the interface where you can blend the overall processing in parallel with the Mix knob, filter the processed signal with a lowpass/highpass filter, and adjust the output Gain (it shows a red light on top when approaching 0dBFS, but there is an internal limiter to avoid clipping).
To download the plugin, you need to sign up for the Unison Audio newsletter and create an account on their website.
Also, if you fancy having 50 extra free factory presets for Zen Master, you must follow a series of social media actions to promote Unison Audio.
So, to answer the questions from the beginning of this article. Yes, this is a legit plugin. There’s no catch, apart from having to sign up for Unison Audio’s newsletter and share on socials to download extra presets.
Do you need Zen Master in your DAW? Not necessarily, but it’s worth trying if you like lo-fi effects.
Before buying any products from any company, including Unison Audio, always read reviews and ask other producers for their opinion on forums and other communities. Our comments section is a great place to get answers from fellow music producers.
Download: Zen Master (requires subscribing to the Unison Audio newsletter and creating an account)