Producers Spotlight: Soundtoys Crystallizer Brings Distorting Sound Design


Soundtoys crystallizer

Crystallizer is a granular, pitch-shifted, inverted, tempo-synchronized delay – AKA a distorting sound design journey, and believe it or not, it has a subtle side to it, too. Crystallizer’s sound originated in a preset of the acclaimed (and also created by the makers of Soundtoys) multi-effects hardware H3000 at the time. At the time, this preset, called Crystal Echoes, was the ‘out there’ effect of the 80s guitarist. But with the introduction of Crystallizer, Soundtoys took that effect to new places and a whole new audience. .

Soundtoys crystallizer

Eventide H3000, Crystal Echoes, part of the inspiration behind Crystallizer

Basically what happens is that the plug-in captures a ‘splice’ or sample of audio depending on its time setting and repeats that audio, forward or backward, and sends it back. through a pitch shifter, which is then recycled through the process. This allows for reverse rise or fall delays. Does this sound weird? Sometimes it does, but sometimes it’s a perfect addition to a track, and sure enough it can create those “What is this?” moments that can make a strong impression.

Of course, Crystallizer can do simple stuff like old-fashioned dubbing and intervals, chorus, and even an interpretation of the classic micro-shift technique. But, all in all, it shines when used to create huge spiral synth pads, huge thundering sound design soundscapes, or a trippy reverse-band guitar effect. Synchronized to the host tempo, it can bring in a whole new kind of rhythm or, by using the gate function, it can create funky ambiences for EDM-style drums. Crystallizer is a whole universe of new worlds to explore.

So, back to a bit more history. As mentioned before, if you were listening to the radio in the late 80s (or streaming old classics to your phone today), you’ve heard the Crystal Echoes effect from the Eventide H3000 effects processor. The sound is absolutely unique and has been used on countless records to turn simple chords into epic soundscapes. Once musicians and engineers got their hands on this unique effect and realized how instantly it transformed minimal guitar lines into shimmering symphonic textures, there was no turning back the clock. It can be heard on hundreds of records, from 80s hymns to ambient compositions, modern indie rock and today’s chillwave.

Because the founders of Soundtoys actually designed the original H3000, you can be sure that its sound is recreated perfectly. One of the key elements and character of the Crystallizer sound is its old-fashioned pitch shifting. Modern pitch shifters (like Soundtoys’ Little AlterBoy for example) use sophisticated mathematical algorithms to transform music and vocals as naturally as possible. The original old-fashioned material (like the classic Eventide H910 Harmonizer) used a simpler resampling and crossfading technique that introduced audible artifacts into the transposed audio. This retro technique from Crystallizer adds a glitchy character to the sound which is an essential part of its futuristic 80s charm.

As usual with Soundtoys, Crystallizer also offers enhancements to take the original sound into entirely new areas. Synchronizing the host tempo of splices and delay, Gate / Duck functions, tone controls, feedback option and offsets make this a super editable and much more flexible version of the original sound.

Soundtoys Crystallizer Menu

Soundtoys Crystallizer Menu

The easiest way to get into Crystallizer is to enter it. Really, pick a track, drop on Crystalizer, and cycle through a few presets. If you walk in without expecting what is coming out you might be surprised at what you find and it will help you know where to go the next time you need something interesting to spice up a trail. Organizing the presets is pretty straightforward (for something so sonically expansive), so you should be able to find something useful fairly quickly by choosing a folder that works for you. But exploration is really the key to Crystallizer, and it couldn’t be easier to just skip presets that don’t match and land on that perfect weirdness that makes everything work or inspires new direction.

And for the full experience, try Crystallizer in Effect Rack along with all the other plugins. It helps create iconic sounds like the Shimmer reverb effect and spacious spiral pads.

Find out how it fits into these effects rack presets.

Glimmer of hope

Glass block looking

80s cakes

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1. Open the Adjust menu. There you will see some very useful controls for sculpting your sounds. Rolloff up and down, extensive controls for Duck / Gate effects, and some lags that can drastically alter the sound.

2. If you load a preset and it produces a big spiral effect, give it a minute to settle. Splices can sometimes take a second or two to reach the good times if there is a lot of recycling.

3. Recycling is feedback. It just seemed that in the creation of Cystallizer, Recycle made more sense. The pitch shifter recycles the shifted sound itself.

4. Sometimes just a little work. If you choose a preset and it seems like too much, don’t just move on to the next one, try mixing it to dry it, and then adding it back little by little. Then it still may not work, but often times just a clue is the ticket.

Crystalizer The Beauty – Crystallizer on electric piano

Crystalizer – Crystal clear guitar effects

Crystallizer The Beast – On drum loops for talking ringmod style effects

Piano crystallizer

Crystallizer Turntable FX on vocals

Crystallizer on drum loops

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