KiloHearts Plugin Review : “The Works”

Out of the heart of Sweden, KiloHearts is the software company that brought “The Works” to the table. This plugin suite lies in the audio arsenal of acclaimed artists such as DeadMau5, Zomboy, FuntCase and Freemasons. While the plugins can be bought separately, they shine the most together; each effect can be loaded into one of two hosts as “snapins” for further control, and linking effect parameters.
891e5770a15729i7x91z.png

First Installing

Heading into the installer, I can say this is one of the most reasonable EULA’s I’ve seen in a while. It has a decent size font, and is short enough to actually read through. I can honestly say there is nothing too offensive in there, and a few lines are specifying rights to the User, not only the company. (Like the right to back-up your software, and choose between installing for “One user on many computers” OR “Many users on one computer”.)

I’d only had to punch in the code for one of the thirty plugins I have listened, and the installer immediately detected all other owned software, and began installed. This was BEFORE creating a user account.

 

Overall

There’s a handful of features throughout “The Works” that contribute to ease-of-life. UI scaling is something I hadn’t realized I wanted implemented until I first saw the KiloHearts plugins/hosts immediately adjust to my plugin window.

Each snapin/host has a handy little textbar along the bottom, with tooltip explanations for whatever parameter the mouse is over. You can even get an explanation of the function of the plugin as a whole with a mouse over the title.

(Reason users: KiloHearts also has their full toolbox available in the PropellerHead Shop)

Right clicking knobs allows you to type in the value, as opposed to the usual click and drag. Without cluttering the screen with a bunch of extra text-entry boxes, this was a clever solution to the annoyance of trying to set a knob to a specific DB/Frequency without a .9/.1 leaving those with a meticulous mindset twitching.

Double-Click to reset to unity can be used on each and every knob; something I don’t realize how much I appreciate until I find it not implemented on a particular plugin.

The KiloHearts plugins are a lot like the multi-function watch that can do anything, except tell time. For the expansive list of tools in the suite, there doesn’t seem to be a multiband EQ; just the one filter plugin that allows single band boost/cut/filter/shelf

Update- After posting this review, KiloHearts sent me a message to let me know that they’re releasing not just one, but THREE Equalizers, one of which for free. Hang tight guys, the Parametric, Three band, and Graphic EQ are on their way!

 

What’s a Snapin?

Kilohearts “snapins” are VSTs, that can also be loaded into the company’s Host plugins. (Snap Heap and MultiPass). Snapins can also be loaded in like every day plugins by their lonesome.

 

Visual

Perhaps a bit basic, but sleek, dark and functional. For those of you who know how much I enjoy the REAPER plugins, the utility driven layout of the GUI is a large plus in my eyes. If you work late into the night, (like all mix engineers do), the dark palette will be a small but appreciated consideration.

All the plugins you would hope to have amplitude/waveform visual representation for, you do; a visual waveform input bouncing around of the EQ filter, and input/GR/Threshold display on the compressor filter. No complaints here!

The only two plugins that do not follow the slick black and blue theme are the Faturator and the Disperser, which have a more modern looking plugin UI. (with the Faturator being reminiscent of a commodore 64). Both of the fancier plugins have a basic GUI as well, to fit in to Snap Heap and MultiPass.

Reason users are also in for a treat, as the ReFills (Reason Plugins) both have the color scheme and design of the regular plugins, but transformed into thin 1U Rack units that Reason tends to use. The layout of the options are redone to suit Reason’s unique interface, and the software definitely looks “prettier” in Reason.

2015_bundle_twitter

 

Bitcrush

A little more than your average bitcrusher! I’m used to seeing bit resolution and dither, but this one gives you a few more ways to de-rez the input. You can get a bit musical, setting the sample rate to something low enough to have a harmonic overtone of the frequency the sound is played back. Full control over AD converter and DA Converters give a handy way to adjust the destruction without fiddling with the wet/dry knob. The dither can be used moderately for a little softening, or heavily for some fuzzy digital sustain.
bitcrush_twitter

Chorus

There’s not too much to say about Kiloheart’s Chorus, as the math behind each chorus unit is quite similar. Duplicate the sound, delay it just a little, and modulate the delay with a LFO. The option for stereo spread is a strong positive.
chorus_twitter.jpg

Comb Filter

Notch a filter and its harmonics, time nudge another instance, and behold the results; Constructive and destructive. Nothing new to anyone who’s used a comb filter before, but if not, now you’re equipped!

What can be really fun with this plugin, is the stereo option. It gives the track a jarring stereo effect that can be worthwhile when you really want an effect to cut through, but in the event of a mono-summed medium; It sounds like the track did before the effect at all. Very handy, with the constant threat of stereo separation losing information over the wrong medium.
comb_filter_twitter.jpg

Compressor

I used the Cockos ReaComp to compare against the KiloHearts Compressor. At the exact same paremeters, there was a noticeable difference. Testing on a kick drum, the KiloHearts plugin was a lot sharper around the transient, creating a little less note sustain than the REAPER counterpart. While the ReaComp was truer to the original sound, the KiloHearts Compressor created the punchier sound on impact at the same dB range.

My only complaint is the percentage value for the makeup gain knob. I’d have much rather seen that display DB gain, as opposed to the more mysterious percentage measure.
compressor_twitter.jpg

Delay

A gentle, musical delay. Can be synced to MS or tempo. The ducking is a welcome feature, being able to lower the volume of the echos when the input is high. Definitely a worthwhile option when dealing with vocals. A ping-Pong option is available for stereo effect, and feedback for the duration of the wet sound.

The KiloHearts Delay sits the best on some vocals and lead guitars. It would be nice if the plugin was a little better at handling single/double discrete repeats, but for the spacier, blended-together delay sound, this one is a winner.
delay_twitter.jpg

Disperser

The Disperser adds miles of extra sustain locked onto a pitch, with a color of its own. Set aggressively, this plugin can take a raw kick track and turn it into a modern laser-gun sounding beast you’d expect to hear on the most monstrous modern metal. On a bass track, it can play the role of a smooth compressor-sustainer.

Depending on the note you’re accentuating, and the amount/pinch, you can go anywhere from adding a little extra impact to a sound, to giving it a “pew-pew” feeling sound at the end of each transient. This is a “studio magic” plugin that’s quite difficult to replicate. This thing is made of magic. Between the targeting transient shaping, the phase flipping, and whatever else is operating under the hood of this unique creature, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly how this thing works.

More than most any other plugin on this list, the Disperser is one that’s worth picking up by it’s lonesome.
disperser_twitter

Distortion

A shortcoming I’ve found with even the higher end distortion plugins, is it’s disability to be moderate. This is the exception. Though it can rip a sound to shred if set high enough, it is primarily equipped for a well measured shock through a track.

Though it’s not the tune everybody’s singing to, I found this does an excellent job as a little boost to metal-scream vocals on the saturate setting.
distortion_twitter.jpg

Formant Filter

A different take on a boost EQ. The Formant Filter boosts two frequencies, based on the X/Y position of the marker on the grid. What’s interesting about this software, is across the grid, are the phonetic symbols corresponding to vowel sounds. Rather than the usual EQ method to shape a tone of an instrument, this can be a quick way to make an guitar sound “nasely” with the two boosts that you would find in an “E” or an “I” Or possibly emphasize the sound of an “O” in an organ track.

Where this plugin can really start to shine, is when you link the vowel selector to Envelope or Oscillator controls in Snap Heap/ Multipass. Have a guitar shift from “O” to “A” based on the amplitude of the input signal for an AutoWah type of effect.
formant_filter_twitter.jpg

Faturator

Retro fuzz with beautifully nostalgic UI. If I worked with more electronic music, I’d be putting this on any clean synth I wanted to make mean. …The stereo width the Faturator can add on that final parameter is what really makes it stand out. I was working on a track with a reversed cymbal effect halfway through, and a little fuzz with the “stereo turbo” brought it to life in the mix.
faturator_twitter

Frequency Shifter

A simple, single parameter plugin. Dealing with Hz, instead of cents and semitones, this tool isn’t meant to transpose audio to another key. Due to the exponential nature of increasing octaves, this is meant to “ruin” the harmonic content of the signal, giving it a dissonant, out of tune feel. It’s not hard to imagine some crazy, unique sounds coming from automating the Hz Parameter.
frequency_shifter_twitter.jpg

Gain

One parameter, and one parameter only.. dB  of Gain!
gain_twitter.jpg

Gate

This gate has a little more in store than I’d expect from a utility plugin of the sort. Three options I haven’t seen on other gates has me thinking it will be the new tool for the job. I like the thinking behind using a tolerance knob, as opposed to an open and closed threshold. While functionally the same concept, it makes life much easier when you are moving around your threshold. The flip option is a handy addition, especially when dealing with sidechaining. When the linked track passes a certain threshold, the effected track will open up. The range is the third option I’ve yet to see on another gate VST, which allows an amount of the signal through while the gate is clamped.
gate_twitter.jpg

Haas

For those not in the know, the Hass Effect is the human ear’s inability to distinguish two separate transients within about 1-40ms of each other. While we cannot distinguish the two separate impacts, the additive nature of waveforms leads to a different tonal effect when the same sound is played in such immediate sequence. This tool is often used for a stereo effect, like on a rhythm guitar by panning the original audio and a duplicate hard left and right, while nudging the playback of the duplicate audio by about 5ms.

The “Haas” plugin by KiloHearts does all that for you with a little less work! The only two parameters to worry about are which side gets delayed, and the ms delay of the effect.
haas_twitter.jpg

KHs One

Well, for the only VSTi that KiloHearts released, they sure made sure it was versatile! For the synth-tweaking impaired, it will be much appreciated that it comes loaded with all the presets you will need to get the best out of this plugin.

Getting into this plugin, it’s getting quite clear why this suite comes Reason compatible. The KHs One is very reminiscent of the Reason Malstrom Graintable Synthesizer’s workflow and sound generation… Though with a very different colored output. While Reason’s Malstrom sounds a little more “retro”, and digitized, KHs One sounds like the modern synth invented tomorrow.

I’m largely pleased I don’t have to load in Massive for my hard-hitting synth tracks anymore. My CPU will thank me.
one_twitter.jpg

Ladder Filter

Emulating the lowpass filter on old hardware synths, this one kicks in a variable amount of extra resonance at the cutoff frequency. This can be handy in shaping the tone of a kick track, as well as the intended purpose of popping it on synth tracks for a familiar feel. Comes with a saturate option, controlled by drive and voltage bias parameters. While the bias is subtle, the drive can be used for a little extra kick at low levels, and bitcrushing digital destruction at high levels.
ladder_filter_twitter

Limiter

A little less automatic limiting than we’ve become accustomed to, the threshold is completely separate from the output gain. The In-gain option makes a lot of sense, no reason to clamp down on your sound before it is exactly at the level you want to be dealing with.  I can see this plugin being used to squeeze a little more volume out of individual tracks and chopping transients more often than finding its way onto the master buss.
limiter_twitter

Phase Distortion

On electronic music, this could be used nearly anywhere to give it a bit of an 80s FM feel. On rock and roll however, I’ve found it really shines on lead guitars. Keeping the drive low, the bias at 100 degrees, the spread and mix at 50%, this can bring a lead guitar to the very front of a mix with the aggressive modulation of the stereo image of a mono source. Not to mention the 80s feel is well at home on a guitar track.
phase_distortion_twitter.jpg

Phaser

Handy for both the moderate modulation, and the completely alien sound of a high rate/depth/order. Popping this on your guitars exclusively for a few bars would not be a mistake.
phaser_twitter.jpg

Pitch Shifter

Much like the frequency shifter, but this is the one built for musical tonal adjustments. With the classic correlation algorithm and a high jitter, this can be a handy tool to create extra voices from a sound, or to be used as an “octave pedal” on a guitar.
pitch_shifter_twitter.jpg

Resonator

A different option to an EQ boost. When the selected frequency (set by note) sounds, a square or tringle wave will play along, emphasizing the frequency selected.

This can sound a bit surreal on most real instruments, this can be an elegant way to pop a sub on a kick drum. This could also be used to really carve out frequency ranges for electronic elements to dominate.
resonator_twitter.jpg

Reverb

A deceptively simple look, for how much I liked this reverb right away. I’ve been looking for a silver bullet reverb for a long while now, and this just might be it. Crystal clear, and a more appealing color than I’ve found in even the higher acclaimed plugins.

I’ve found this one works wonders on drums, either bussed or individual. This can take a clear snare input, and bring it to life.

Best suited to genuine, natural room sounds. The lower CPU demanding algorithmic reverbs tend to have a bit of a digital/unreal sound, this one fills the niche quite well.
reverb_twitter.jpg

Reverser

The name will give you a good idea about what you’re stepping into. The Reverser reverses clips to a set tempo, if you like turning regular sounds into psychedelic or satanic ones, this one can be great for making sounds your own. Crossfade is adjustable between the chopped samples, to keep the output sounding smooth, and free of audio artifacts.
reverser_twitter

Ring Mod

This one is absolutely built for destruction. A word of warning, it is NOT sonically appealing. It is the sound of your sound falling to static. It can make a vocal track sound demonic, with hard tonal shifts with each pitch. Definitely to be used with care, this effect does not exist in a moderate way.
ring_mod_twitter.jpg

Stereo

Stereo enhancer, calculates the audio differences between the left and right channel, then accentuates them. In the same vein, this can also be used for mono summing.
stereo_twitter.jpg

Tape Stop

Pretty simple, but pretty fun! Tape start and stop speed are your parameters, as well as a Boolean on/off for the “tape” to be playing or stopped. Exists for the sole purpose of automating/printing when you choose to start/stop the tape.

If it’s a question in your mind, yes.. It sounds good.
tape_stop_twitter.jpg

Trance Gate

Fantastic for giving a funky, sequenced feel to real instruments, that is more often bound to the electronic realm. Or just use it like an arpeggio with a rhythmic twist.

ADSR controls for audio chunk transition is at your control, to manipulate the speed of the fade in/out transitions between the gate being on and off.
trance_gate_twitter.jpg

Transient Shaper

This one can take a lot of the guesswork and math out of making a drum stick out dynamically throughout the mix. Whether you’re looking for a sharper transient, more sustain, or a pulse between the impact and sustain, you get exactly what you ask for.
transient_shaper_twitter.jpg

 


Snap Heap & MultiPass

On top of just being another collection of VSTs, the KiloHearts collection all loads into the Snap Heap and Multipass hosts.

Snap Heap – This is the one you’ll be loading up the most, when you want KiloHearts snapins on a track. Snap Heap gives you four empty lanes for effects, as well as well as LFO/Envelope/Macro control options along the top. Each effect lane lane can be soloed/muted, and switched from working in series, to working in parallel. Lanes also have gain/pan/mix knobs, for further control.
snap_heap_twitter.jpg

MultiPass – This one will save some bussing out to other channels… Every once and a while, we only want an effect to hit a certain length of the audio spectrum. So we will buss our sound off to another track, place and EQ, and get to work. No more of that.

The user interface looks a lot like Snap Heap, but instead of operating in series, each lane hits a user defined frequency range. Distortion on just the low-mid range of your bass?  Done. Bandpassed reverb? Done. Stereo widening targeted towards the high-end alone? Done.

When you find yourself wishing you could load other company’s plugins into this software, you will realize how handy the function is.
modular_madness_twitter.jpg

 


In conclusion, I’ve been hugely impressed with the number of tricks in the toolbox of the KiloHearts plugin suite. From the astoundingly high quality of their reverb unit, to the absolute magic that is the Disperser, “The Works” has earned its place as a regular part of my everyday workflow. Five of the plugins are free, and all plugins can be tried free of charge for 30 days. Find out for yourself the use you can get of KiloHearts’ hard work.

 

 

KiloHearts Home Page

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s