Buoyed by Sandman’s success, Sandman Pro pushes its little brother’s versatility up several notches. Sandman Pro proactively sets a benchmark for developing delay plugins, paving the way for elaborate effects like stereo pitch shifting, reverse echoes, and frozen delays. Peeling back a layer reveals Unfiltered Audio’s mind- bending modulation system in all its patchable glory -- guaranteeing a near-infinite world of aural possibilities.
You know what I mean. There’s the vintage-inspired fare, there are pristine digital taps, there are virtual tape echo machines and most nearly everything else imaginable, available to us now-a-days. Unquestionably, there’s no shortage of delay/echo/multi-tap accessories to choose from.
But . . . just when you think that it’s all been said and done, Plug-in Alliance affiliate, “Unfiltered Audio”, unveils one of the vibe-y-est, and most interesting, delay/tap/echo thinga-ma-bob-a-roonies that has even been dreamt up.
As with most Plugin Alliance collectibles, Sandman Pro doesn’t exactly come cheap. However, considering that its basic “Classic Tape” mode alone sounds just as good as other dedicated tape delay plug-ins in the same price range, plus all the really, really cool alternate modes if offers, it makes for a very attractively-priced choice -- $99 USD.
What are these aforementioned “really, really cool alternate modes”, you ask? Stick n’ stay. Let’s open it up and see what’s inside . . .
Unfiltered Audio ups ultimate delay ante with latest Sandman Pro plugin update to Live for
I like vintage looking photo-realism as much as the next guy, but truth be told, I’m also an ardent admirer of flat, vector designs such as those developed by Sean Costello, creator of Valhalla DSP’s product line. Sandman Pro deviates from its fellow (Plugin Alliance) partners’ GUI designs, presenting itself with a decidedly more “scientific” appearance.
As a corollary to photo realism, Sandman Pro pops off your screen with starkly contrasted black & white, vector-like elements and bright, conspicuous blasts of magenta/pink. The GUI can be switched from its default black background to that of a rather stark white iridescence. Actually, this is not only kinda kooky ‘n kool looking, but it’s also smart branding. There’s no mistaking Sandman Pro for a Soundtoys or Waves plug-in when it’s up on your screen – that be fo’ sho!
There’s a comfortable amount of space between each control element. The controls all respond very nicely to mouse movements in linear mode. Personally, this is always my preferred mousing technique since I find “Circular” and ”Relative Circular” modes to both be quite fiddly.
Double-clicking any user adjustable parameter returns the element to its default value, as does alt + left click (⌘ + click on MAC). Fine, granular adjustments are actualized by keeping the “ctrl” key depressed on your computer’s keyboard (Command key on MAC). Hovering your mouse over any of the user-adjustable controls displays a contextual ‘help’ popup, describing what that particular control is purposed for.
Sandman Pro comes to us in a vector-like motif. Owing to this fact, it is resizable in increments of 25% per setting. This is a most welcome interface asset; one that keeps everything visible and easily tweakable --even while being viewed on high resolution monitors. I find that the GUI’s text elements remain clear on each scaled adjustment.
Preset Management? – Check! ✔
Along the top we finally have a built-in preset manager from Plugin Alliance. As with any capable preset manager, here we can load custom presets, save personal patches, choose from any of the categorized factory presets, delete, reset and randomize. All in all, it’s a very robust patch handling system. Fingers crossed that other Plugin Alliance partners will consider implementing such a system into all their plug-ins as well.
Input: Your basic gain knob. Its assignment ranges from silence to an additional +9dB of input gain. A mute button rests below the gain control. Underneath the input knob is a Pan control, underscored by a convenient ‘Mono’ switch.
Next we find a unique appointment – the ‘S. Rate’ knob. This determines the sample rate of the entire DSP algorithm; affecting delay times, filter cutoffs, and more. For example, if you set a tempo synced delay rate of 1/8, and then set the ‘S.Rate’ dial to 50%, you’ll hear the sampling rate has been precisely halved. This relates to audio quality as well as delay time. At the slowest settings, you can coax some nifty “Lo-Fi” effects out of Sandman Pro. Left at its default value of 100%, the delay timings function in a typical manner -- at full resolution.
On the bottom right, we find the ‘Modulation’ button. Clicking on this will expand a drop-down panel, exposing Sandman Pro’s dizzying modulation frontage. * We’ll take a look at these parameters later in the review.
Delay Time: This control is pretty much self-explanatory, yes? It’s the single largest element on the interface. It defaults to a tempo-synced value of 1/8, but it can range from 1/64 triplets all the way through to one full measure. Conversely, delay timings can also be set to free ranged amounts; starting at five milliseconds, all the ‘round to a ridiculous 10 whole seconds.
Left and right delay lines can be linked to share identical echo timings. Alternately, they can be configured with offset values -- or as completely individual process streams.
Finishing off this section we see a ‘Lock Time’ button. When this feature is activated, delay timings won’t change while the Sample Rate control is being adjusted. Remember the cool “Lof-Fi” effects I mentioned above? Well, with ‘Lock Time’ enabled, we can retain our delay timings, yet still employ bit crushed repeats if so desired.
Now we come to the bread ‘n butter, albeit extensive, collection of delay modes. I’ve reached my jubilee birthday this year and as such, I’ve not kept abreast of modern electronic music as well as I could have. I lean towards other genres of music that don’t tend to use as many highly creative effects processing techniques. Nonetheless, I’ve been enjoying the immense range of creative potential that Sandman Pro harnesses. For those who are always on a quest for cool, creative sound design tools, Sandman Pro will not disappoint.
I realize that my following admission of blissful ignorance might bring a smirk to the faces of our younger and/or creative readers, but beyond tape-style echo, and Lexicon inspired dotted 1/8 digital repeats, I’d never considered delay to be an especially creative tool. I’ve pretty much always thought of delay and echo effects to be ambience and space utensils. Of course, there has always been a certain degree of creative usage with tape echo boxes – remember Hendrix’s echo antics, for example? Thankfully, Unfiltered Audio’s offering here has educated me well. *Wink.
Here, we not only have a very respectable, fully loaded classic tape-style delay system, but there are six more interesting and nectarous delay modes at hand - these range from traditional trappings to absolutely wild shenanigans. On tap we find: “Modern Instant”, “Pitch Shifter”, “Glitch Shifter”, “Multi Tap”, “Reverse” and “No Echo” **. In tandem with the wealth of modulation goodness, inconspicuously tucked under the “modulation” tab, limitless degrees of creative mayhem are always within easy reach. You can literally wile away the hours playing with this plug-in.
** By the way, just in case you’re puzzled about the “No Echo” mode, it simply means that whilst activated, you won’t hear any real-time delays. It does however, put the processed audio into the Sleep buffer.
Just in case you're curious about what the multi-tap mode brings to the table, Unfiltered Audio have bestowed upon us (16) simultaneous delay lines.
Echoes: A tidy grouping of five knobs awaits our perusal in this zone. Offering substantially more than standard, old skool delay plug-ins typically apportion, here we also find “Diffuse” and “X-feed” appointments. Diffuse produces blurred repeats that aptly approach emblematic reverb tails – albeit with somewhat of a vibe-y, grainy quality.
The “X-feed” function actually feeds the output from one delay channel into the other, pleasantly exaggerating the normal feedback. Used judiciously, this function adds lush depth to the effected audio. I do recommend caution with this one . . . delay chaos syndrome could easily engulf your senses. *Grin.
Keeping your delayed signal unclogged from kludge-y low mids and muddy lows, a 12dB High pass filter is provided. Likewise, we’re also equipped with an effective, smooth sounding Low pass filter.
Lastly, we have the Output segment. Suitably accompanying the usual suspects, Output level and Mix, is the inclusion of two more worthy additions: the Width knob and an MS (mid/side) button.
Incredibly wide, stereo ping-pong delays can be experienced herewith. The default width position of 100% is a full stereo setting; however, increasing its value up to its maximum range of 200% results in super-hyped stereo imaging. Otherwise, fully rotating the width knob to the left most setting of “0” puts the signal smack dab into mono-ville.
Tasty soft-clipping can be applied to the output stage by activating the handy “Soft Clip” button.
Herein is where Sandman Pro pulls way out in the lead, leaving other delay plug-ins scratching their code headers in bewilderment. There are a dizzying number of modulation options at our avail here – this thing can be programmed, tweaked and automated to just go krazy -- krazy kool, that is.
First off, you can add multiple modulators into the tank -- six of them, to be exact. Each modulation block can be configured to operate by sine, saw, or square LFOs. If those don’t tickle your creative fancy, feel free to alternatively select input following, macro controls, noise or step sequencing. Steering the modulators are mini knobs to set Amplitude, Frequency and Phase. Overall output (or intensity if you will) of each modulator can also be adjusted.
Interested in checking out the modulation capabilities? Rather than my attempts to recreate the wheel, as it were, here’s a video posted by one of Sandman Pro’s sound design contributors, Simon Stockhausen.
CPU & Memory Consumption:
CPU consumption is moderate. I estimate that any average-powered DAW PC, from 2013 and onward, is capable of running a few instances of the Sandman Pro plug-in without too much trouble. I loaded up (5) instances of “Sandman Pro” into an empty Studio One 3.5.1 project on my Core i7 7700HQ. The PreSonus performance monitor indicated a 10 percent CPU hit. Understandably, instantiating many simultaneous modulation processes will increase the resource demands accordingly.
I like Sandman Pro. Actually, I like it very much. When I first received the press release, I was tempted to dismiss it as nothing more than a novelty item that only the “electro” crowd would be amused with. However, I trust Plugin Alliance products and decided to give this new upstart the benefit of the doubt. I’m glad I did. I was very pleasantly surprised with the lovely, lush, vintage-esque sounds that the “Classic Tape” mode can produce. To my ears, “Modern Instant” is also second-to-none – capable of producing exceptionally clear, clean ping-pong delays or tastefully ‘jittered’ repeats.
Even as a 50 year old traditional music recordist/producer, I find myself easily engrossed while experimenting with the myriad of modulation options and user-adjustable parameters that Sandman Pro provides. This speaks volumes regarding the efficacy of Unfiltered Audio’s programming and forward thinking design, as I tend to be the sort of engineer who reaches for my favorite, tried-and-true, “go to” plug-ins. I’m not usually one who likes to fritter away my time experimenting.
If you're willing to spend some "quality time" with Sandman Pro, you will have gotten the hang of working with it's slightly daunting modulation virtues. It will be time well spent -- this golden nugget becomes more valuable as you continue to dig below it's surface.
Kudos, Unfiltered Audio!
5 out of 5 Stars !
- Easily navigated interface.
- Convenient inline contextual help.
- Superb sound quality.
- Boundless, interesting modulation options.
- Resizable GUI.
- Impressive “Sleep/Hold” function.
- Not one, but multiple tricks pony!
- Modulation options and potential for experimentation could be
hazardous to productivity. *Grin.
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Brother Charles is a freelance writer, Gospel music artist and minister. Charles had been a professional touring musician during the nineties; working primarily as a lead guitarist in the Canadian country music industry. Brother Charles is also involved with music production and quality home recording.
Intellectual Copyright - 2017 - All rights Reserved. This review may not be copied or reproduced in whole, nor in part, without express written permission from the author.