Built to look like an old-style oscilloscope that you might find in Frankenstein’s lab, the vision of mad science is not too far off when talking about AudioThing’s new Wave Lab. Built for complex and tweakable distortion waveshaping, this is going to be a plugin I spend a lot of time playing and experimenting with.
Wave Box is a distortion plugin built for symmetrical, and asymmetrical waveshaping.
What exactly does that mean? Well, if a wave was symmetrical, the wave would go down (negative) just as much as it goes up (positive) visually. If it were Asymmetrical, the wave will look different on the positive and negative side of the grid, leading to odd harmonics,
On your general distortion plugin, your shape is preset. Sometimes you have a few different shapes to choose from, but from there, you’ve only got control over the amplitude of the wave (gain), and sometimes the attack/release times of when the distortion curve hits the signal. Overlaying two waves over top of each other (symmetrical mode) and the interplay between them gives you a whole other creative level of control over how you distort your sound.
If the wave shaping wasn’t enough to be excited about, the plugin also has two oscillators which can be targeted towards different sections of the wave, to change the shape at a set rate.
Much like the oscillators, but triggered by the input volume, as opposed to a rate, is the Envelope Follower. With this, you can either amp up, or dial back the amount of the distortion (or any of 4 separate parts of the waveshape) to the input of the track. Have a nice calm distortion when the track is just a hum, and crank up when the performance kicks in… or just the opposite.
Something to consider when getting into this plugin, is that it is unforgiving. In the complete control you are given over the waveshape, you are given the control to create sonically unappealing sounds. If you’re looking for the “right” distortion with a few quick clicks, you might be better off picking one of your more conventional distortion units.
With more options than is time-conscious for serious work, you’ll want to spend some time setting presets, and really finding what tones sit well with you out of this plugin. The timbre varies largely with every little shift of one waveform over another.
In Symmetrical Mode, you choose two simple waveforms to layer into a complex waveform, adjusting the bias towards a waveshape, and the amplitude of the each wave, while juxtaposing one shape over the other for tone.
In Asymmetrical Mode, each set of wave parameters affects one half of the wave. (or an adjustable ratio, controlled with the bias knob ). While a bit abrasive for the length of a song, this can be a unique, glitchy sound for effect in short section, especially so with the use of clever automation.
Largely suited for the electronic community, this is a tool that will look like none other in your toolbox. It’s not for everyone, but those who like it will like it a lot. Give it a listen to the Soundcloud samples below, and decide for yourself!
A big thank you to AudioThing for giving me an NFR lisence to evaluate Wave Box.