If you want your drums to knock, you’ll want to have a couple of different transient shaper plugins in your arsenal. Throughout this post, you’ll see ‘transient designer’ as well as ‘transient shaper’. Don’t let this confuse you, they’re the same thing.
What Are Transient Shapers (Designers)?
A transient shaper is a dynamic effect that allows you to alter the amplitude and of a sustain (ending) of a sound, and depending on which transient designer you have, you’ll be able to manipulate the middle section of the sound which on some transient designers is called ‘pump’.
One question that may cross your mind is “why use a transient designer when we have a compressor”? For a compressor to work there needs to be a threshold present or crossed before the compressor kicks in, making it threshold dependent. A transient shaper doesn’t require a threshold in order to function therefore it is non-threshold dependent.
A common issue producers and beatmakers run into after compressing drums is some or all of the punch gets lost. The percussion elements get smashed together, make them gel well but no longer cut through the mix. Rather than turning the drums up and potentially putting yourself in a situation where you’re re-leveling the entire mix, increase the attack on a transient shaper to rebuild those transients, thus bring the punch back, allowing the drums to cut through.
Basic Transient Shaper Controls
Attack: Increasing the amplification on the attack adds more presence to the transient thus making the transients smack harder. Decreasing the amplification of the attack gives a softer sound to the transient. Perfect example, your plucked synth hits too hard and clashes with your kick. You could turn the attack down thus taming the initial transient, softening the pluck’s attack.
Sustain: The sustain increases the tale of a sound. If you have a little bit of Reverb on the end of a snare or kick and you push the sustain up that Reverb will be exaggerated. If you decrease the sustain you can kill some if not all of the Reverb depending on how much is present.
Here are some of our favorite transient shaper plugins (in no order).
This is without a doubt the most Innovative transient shaper that exists today. It has attack, sustain, saturation, you can dial in the specific nuances of every single setting as well as build your own transient shaper within their engine.
The amount of control you have with this shaper is insane. I don’t know any transient shaper that would let you shaper the; left + right as well as the mid and side. The MB version = Multiband. You get the same quality and flexibility, but across multiple frequencies. There’s nothing on the market offering more flexibility.
MeldaProductions also offers a non-Multiband version of their designer here
Transient Shaper (KiloHearts)
Just like other transient designers there’s an attack and sustained, but Kilohearts offers a few other options that make their transient shaper a real gem (Pump, Speed, and Clip).
Pump: This feature allows you to control the attenuation after the transient.
Speed: This gives control over how soft or snappy the transient is. Higher or faster = more snap and slower = more roundness
Clip: Clip the signal to 0dB if you so desire
Transient Master (Native Instruments)
This is the easiest/most straight forward transient shaper that exists. All it has is three knobs; attack, sustain and gain compensation, that’s all you need most of the time.
For most, this is the only transient shaper you need.
DS-10 Drum Shaper (XLN Audio)
What stands out the most about this transient designer is how the attack works. When you push the attack all the way up you get a nice punchy sound without distortion or artifacts. Its sustain is smooth and gentle and it offers 3 different modes (or algorithms) to choose from. I wish XLN Audio offered a multiband option (HINT)! You can read more about the DS-10 Drum Shaper here
Diablo Lite Drum Enhancer (Cymatics)
Diablo Lite is a freebie, has a good punch and clip feature. The clipper reminds me of IK Multimedia’s Clipper offering soft and hard options. The Punch function is the attack. I believe the attack pushes specific frequencies maybe even some harmonics.
It has a mix option which allows you to blend the wet and dry. Unfortunately, there is no sustain, which is odd because it’s a basic parameter but still a good application to download and it’s free.
More transient shaping plugins will be added soon.