Test Drive: Spectral Machine from The Sound Guy

by Steve Cunningham

Show me a plug-in that mangles sound in a unique fashion and is reasonably priced, and the chances are I’m grabbing my wallet. Spectral Machine is one of those plug-ins that screams to be installed and evaluated, and I’ve been doing that for much of the past week. What Spectral Machine does that is somewhat different is that it breaks down the frequency content of audio using FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) algorithms, then lets you manipulate the frequency components in ways you might do with time-domain plugs. The results range from well behaved, as with mild pitch shift and automatic tuning, to completely out of control (but fun nonetheless). At $75 USD it’s an impulse buy if ever there was one.

Spectral Machine comes from The Sound Guy, the same company that brought us SFX Machine; we last reviewed the RT version in 2003, and I’ve been using the Pro version since 2006. I don’t know about you, but some version of SFX Machine has lived on my work computer since the late 1990s, and gets used on a regular basis for creating or modifying imaging elements with odd delays, phasing, flanging, filter effects including phone, along with others that are somewhat indescribable, and a whole bunch more. About three or four years back I partook of the company’s Backwards Machine plug, which features three different flavors of backwards playback; this has also proven to be Big Fun.

REQUIREMENTS AND INSTALLATION

Like The Sound Guy’s other plug-ins, Spectral Machine comes in flavors for both Mac and Windows: VST for both the Mac and Windows, and Audio Units for the Mac. Supported operating systems include Windows from XP forward, and OSX from 10.4 onward on either an Intel chip or PPC processor. RAM requirements are low at about 100MB, along with about the same amount of disk space. Best of all, Spectral Machine is very light on the CPU considering how much processing is actually going on in what is essentially real time. You will need a host editor program; there is no standalone version of Spectral Machine.

Copy protection is via a serial number, which is in my opinion the least onerous of all methods. Spectral Machine is only available on The Sound Guys website, so the serial number is delivered via email within a reasonable period. Installation is about as simple as you’d expect for a plug-in; run the installer, open your editor, and you’ll be asked to enter the serial at that point. I might add that Spectral Machine only wants the serial number -- not your name, social security number, Facebook account info, or anything else. It’s quick and unobtrusive. For evaluation purposes, there is a 30-day demo version that has all the functionality of the full version, although it does insert the odd gap in the audio from time to time while it’s in demo mode. Don’t fret; there’s enough there to decide whether or not you like it.

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