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 terms such as transient designer, transient processor, and ‘transient shaper‘ used interchangeably for ease of writing. Don’t let this confuse you; they all mean the same thing.
Table of Contents
What Are Transient Shapers (Designers)?
A transient shaper is a dynamic effect that allows you to alter the amplitude of the attack (start) and sustain (ending) of a sound.
Basic Transient Shaper Controls
Attack: Increasing the amplification on the attack adds more presence to the transient, making the transients smack harder and or punch through, which is another term for ‘bring up front’.
Decreasing the amplification of the attack gives a softer sound to the transient. This would be useful for tucking one instrument behind another instrument and, as a result, avoids clashing. Perfect example, your plucked synth hits too hard and clashes with your kick. To fix this mixing issue, tame the transient by decreasing the attack to soften the hits, which will allow them to sit behind or under the kick. This results in a better blend.
Sustain: Adjusting the sustain increases/decreases the tail of a sound.
Some transient designers offer other features, which you will find below.
Transient Designers vs Compressors
Compressors are threshold dependent. When a signal crosses the threshold, the compressor kicks in. Transient shapers do not require a threshold, making them non-threshold dependent. This means you can freely adjust transients without interfering with the remaining dynamics of the sound source.
Compressors are threshold-dependent. When a signal crosses the threshold, the compressor kicks in.
Compressors and Transient Designers are both dynamic processors and can achieve the same goal, just in different ways.
Common Music Producer Issue
A common issue producers and beatmakers run into after compressing drums is losing punch! The percussion elements get smashed together, making them gel well but sometimes no longer cut through the mix.
Instead of 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. This will bring the presence back, allowing the drums to cut through the mix.
Some Of Our Favorite Transient Shaper Plugins
Transient Master (Native Instruments)
The Transient Master is modeled after the SPL Transient Designer 4. It’s the most straightforward transient shaper that exists. It has three core functions attack, sustain and gain compensation. The A/B banks are useful for comparing two sets of transient settings.
This is a dream come true for music creators who want simple tools that work but underwhelming for those who need more control and functionality.
For most, this is the only transient shaper you need in your arsenal.
You can find out more about Transient Master on the Native Instruments site
MTransientMB & MTransient (MeldaProduction)
MTransientMB has to be the most feature-rich transient designer I’ve ever seen. What you can do with it, the amount of flexibility and options that can be tweaked is insane. MTransient works the same way as the MB version minus the Multiband functionality.
What’s great about MTransientMB is that MeldaProduction splits this plug-in(s) into two screens, Easy Screen and Edit Screen.
Easy Screen Features
This screen is set up for those who want to adjust transients quickly and move on with the rest of their editing and music production. You have three Global options attack, output, and saturation.
There are two additional options you can adjust the Shape and the Resolution, and 6 presets to help get you started.
- Band Transient (3 Bands)
The Easy Screen will be enough, but if you need more control and flexibility, then you’ll head over to the Edit Screen.
Edit Screen Features
This is where all the additional functionality resides and where things can get crazy really quickly. We’ll highlight some less common but noteworthy features below.
- Resolution: The resolution affects the attack/sustain of the sound source. The default resolution is 20 ms but the range is 0 to 200 ms
- Detector Mode: Here, you have 3 different algorithms; accurate hybrid and approximate it. Neither is better but they all affect the transient design process in different ways.
- Output: Defines the output signal you hear. You can listen to the transient itself, the difference (what was added or subtracted), or normal.
At the time of this writing, this is, without a doubt, the most Innovative transient shaper I’ve come across. I don’t know any transient shaper with this amount of functionality.
You can pick up MTransient (non-Multiband version) of their designer here if you’re not interested in the MB version. Both transient designers are great.
Transient Shaper (KiloHearts): This Plugin Is Now Free
KiloHearts released its transient processor in 2017, and it’s still one of the best out today. Like other transient designers, there’s an attack and sustain, but Kilohearts offers a few other features that make their transient shaper a real gem (Pump, Speed, and Clip). The animated wave window is useful as well.
Kilohearts Transient Shaper Features
Pump: This feature allows you to control the attenuation after the transient (think of the decay)
Speed: This controls the Attack and Pump sections. Faster = more snap, and slower = more roundness.
Clip: This function clips the signal smoothly while never exceeding 0dB
Sidechain: Transients are governed by secondary input, and the effect is applied to the main input
Transient Shaper Walkthrough
DS-10 Drum Shaper (XLN Audio)
Over the years, XLN Audio has become known for its plugins Addictive Drums and RC-20. They also have a good-sounding transient designer, DS-10 Drum Shaper.
What immediately caught my attention with 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, offering 3 different modes (or algorithms) to choose from.
DS-10 Drum Shaper Features
MOJO Processor: MOJO opens the sound design possibilities allowing transients to be processed via specific frequency bands
Gain: Transient shaping can increase/decrease the overall level of your source, use gain to rebalance (gain stage)
Clip: Adds tasteful color and distortion while soft clipping at unity gain
Three Modes To Choose From
- Kick Mode: Optimized for kick drums to help bring out their best character
- Snare Mode: Similar to Kick Mode, but for snares. Get that snare to really snap or round out.
- Bus Mode: Optimized for processing the entire drum mix (bus or drum loops).
Three Great Sound Algorithms
- Classic: The classic setting is from XLN’s Addiction Drums transient tool
- Natural: Optimized for drum loops, but sounds great on just about any source. With a natural setting, you can push the attack really high and not run into any artifacts.
- Smooth: Buttery on all audio sources, longer release, has a parallel-like compression sound to it
XLN Drum Shaper Video Walkthrough
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 that 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 that 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.
Questions About Transient Shaper Plugins
Do You Need A Transient Shaper?
No, a transient shaper isn’t necessary, but it does come in handy and is easier to use in certain instances.
How Do You Tame Transients?
Transients are tamed by reducing the amplitude of a sound’s initial attack using a transient designer or compressor.
What Is A Transient?
A Transient is the initial stack (attack) of an audio file
More transient shaping plugins coming soon.