D16 Group Sigmund Review
Sigmund is a hardware inspired delay plugin from the classic grove box emulation artisans at D16. Four independent delay sections with a wide variety of routing possibilities, multiple internal modulation options, combined with virtual analog distortion and filtering raise it far above the bland utility or slavish hardware recreation found in the majority of the delays plugins on the market.
In nearly every area Sigmund exceeds expectations. Lets start with the meat of the plug in: The delays. Did I say there are four? Well technically each of the four sections includes a separate pre-delay before the filtered feedback loop delay, so it’s actually more like eight separate delays. Wait…. did I say eight? They are all stereo, so make that six-freaking-teen!!! I honestly think that there might be more separate delay lines in one instance of this plug than existed on whole island of Jamaica during the height of Lee “Scratch” Perry and King Tubby’s dub reign. Each of these delays can be independently set in milliseconds (down to two decimal places) or alternately tempo synced. The tempo sync has a handy numerator and denominator layout that allows you to easily work in whatever weird time signatures your heart desires without breaking out a calculator or your high school algebra notes. Each of the four delay sections can also be separately programmed to work in the default stereo, mid/side mode, or summed to mono, with a channel swap option as the cherry on top. The four sections are then combined in one of nine different routing options. You not only have parallel, cascading serial, and tapped serial, you all get various combinations of those routings. In short: this might not force everyone to download your latest record, but it can definitely turn the simplest riff into the kind of poly rhythmic stereo soundscape that the Edge would trade his beanie for.
This is all well and good but could also be achieved with a few simple delays and slightly advanced knowledge of your DAWS routing capabilities, especially if you have the kind of advanced routing recall functionality Ableton’s Racks or Reason’s Combinator provide. What really puts Sigmund over the top is that this level of routing madness is combined with beautiful sounding analog modeled overdrive and filtering. Once again these features can be set independently for each of the four sections. After passing through the overdrive circuit each line passes through a multimode HP/BP/LP resonant filter, whose setting are also applied to a passive filter within the feedback loop. I am a self admitted uber-snob when in comes to plugs that claim to recapture the magic tone of analog distortion and filtering, and I must say D16’s stellar past work in these areas continues in Sigmund. The distortion is rich and warm with the proper edge of non linear chaos, and the filter resonance can be cranked without devolving into the kind of annoyingly ring-y mess many digital resonant filter become.
Another area in which the sound quality of Sigmund excels is the tones you get when you tweak the delay times while audio is cycling through it. Like on hardware delays, this will alter the pitch of your repeats with results that can range from subtle “wow and flutter” Space Echo-esque chorusing all the way into wacky cartoon sound effects territory. High quality internal processing ensures that it neither gets too muddy or digitally quantized while pitching down, nor breaks into harsh aliasing when pitching up. Two internal global modulation sources are available for this duty, which are shared by the four delay sections. For each section you chose which modulator is affecting it and the amount it is simultaneously affecting the feedback loop delay time ( either linearly or logarithmically ), the filters cutoffs, and the section’s post feedback loop output volume ( labeled as Tremolo ).
The syncable LFO modulation on offer in the initial version of the plug in has been expanded as of the latest revision to be potentially swapped for a peak follower or an ADSR envelope, which can triggered via transient detection or MIDI ( NOTE: MIDI retriggering only works on the VST version, so Mac users might not want to use the AU version unless absolutely necessary ). The transient detection and MIDI input can also be utilized to retrigger the LFO, allowing for both more consistent phase control in free run mode, and more complicated rhythmic behavior when tempo synced.
A few nice GUI touches like state and retrigger “diodes” for the LFO and a bouncing “needle” display for the peak follower give handy visual cues to help you tune things into to your liking. The transient detectors GUI might be a bit confusing initially though, since it’s meter runs right to left, and it involves setting two levels to prevent unwanted “chatter” retriggering, but you get a nice bright orange flashing of the whole meter to make it very clear when triggering actually occurs. After a bit of experimentation you should be able to get it to perform as needed. The hardware inspired vibe remains in full force, as these modulation options all seem to have a bit of analog non linearity coded into them for movement that sounds more pleasingly musical than digitally precise. My only complaint in this area is that, due to the modulation destination controls being designed when the sources were limited to LFOs ( which can be inverted) , there is no ability to set a negative modulation amount. I would love to be able to use the peak follower or ASDR to “open” the high pass filter, or reduce the volume of a delay line until the clean signal has faded. Barring the kind of extensive recoding adjusting the destination controls would undoubtably require, even a global “invert” button added to the ADSR and peak follower would open up a ton of commonly useful modulation potential that is currently unavailable.
The final bit of processing goodness you get for your money is a limiter with automatic release. A handy addition since whenever you are dealing with this much potential feedback it’s good to have a safe guard in place to protect your playback devices and, most importantly, your ears. Personally I often produce while gently stroking a white cat ( to get me in the proper evil genius mind set ). I also don’t believe in declawing, so I especially appreciate the limiter. Avoiding sudden loud noises protects even more vital parts of my anatomy from misadventure.
If all this sounds especially complicated, rest assured that Sigmund comes with an extensive collection of well organized presets with a clear intuitive browsing GUI. Presets are nicely grouped according to application: “Bar Aligned” (tempo synced) presets are divided into those most likely to be useful on drums or synth riffs. “General Purpose” has an additional folder of more freeform and experimental delay set ups, as well as folders with presets demonstrating how the flexibility and rich feature set also allow Sigmund to function as a top notch sounding Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Distortion, or Filter. An additional feature of the browser is the ability to individually “padlock” any of the delay sections so that they are unaffected by browsing. It allows you to quickly experiment with mixing and matching parts of different presets, though due to the interconnected nature of the plugin and it’s global modulation sources ( which will change with preset selection, even if they are controlling locked sections ), your milage may vary widely on the usability of those experiments. More consistently useful is the ability to padlock the wet/dry setting, which means you don’t have to constantly adjust while browsing for whether you are running Sigmund as an insert or on a return track.
Key features like the wet/dry control, master output volume, and rates for the delays and LFO and given nice large knobs in the beautifully sleek hardware inspired GUI. Centrally located is a fully featured mixer/selection area for controlling the tapped output levels of the individual lines ( though it is handy to remember that these do not effect the volume of the cascading routings in-between the individual lines, just output. ) LED volume meters provide nice visual feedback but it my option the bottom LEDs could have a lower threshold as it is possible for low signals to be passing through without lighting them. Copy/Paste functionality as well as soloing and muting of the lines gives more options for navigating the vast potential of the plugin. This is also where you would commonly select which delay section is currently available for editing in the upper left portion of the GUI they share. While the big number display in the far upper right provides clear feedback, it might be a bit confusing to some which controls are shared, especially in the case of the two delay time controls, which are functionally shared by eight parameters each. A little time with the manual and mucking about building up delays from the default patch should get your head nicely wrapped around things though.
The manual itself is beautifully written and extensively illustrated. All signal flow is diagramed in a relatively clear manner. The only undocumented and potentially confusing omission I found was as explanation of the new Maximum Buffer Length parameter in the Options menu. It corresponds to maximum delay length by limiting the amount of RAM all those 16 possible delay lines can potentially use. Very handy for overall system economy. But in my case I immediately went to set up a synced delay with a rate of 32/1 cause I’m THAT guy that has to try and break everything to see if if does something interesting. So for a second I got a little confused and thought I had broken it, but once I increased the Buffer Length accordingly I received the almost impractically long delay i wanted. The Options are where you’ll also find extensive MIDI mapping features as well as parameter number remapping features for DAW hosts that support a limited number of automate-able parameters. But this leads to another problem for me since it seems that a few parameters ( tap tempo buttons and pre delay times to name a few ) are unable to be “Configured” for Ableton’s automation/controller mapping scheme. But Sigmund once again comes through with independent processing quality settings for realtime and rendering. This is an option popping up more and more on quality plugins and I’d love to see implemented industry wide. Non-linear analog emulating processes like resonant filters and saturation really shine in the mix when given the juice to provide the kind of detailed DSP that most laptops can’t handle in realtime track upon track.
To sum up, this is the ultimate hardware delay that would be prohibitively expensive to actually build as hardware. Incredibly flexible routing and the option of beautifully analog sounding character mean that it could very well be the only delay you will ever need, while providing it’s own great sounding take on many other common effects as well. And it all comes at a highly competitive price point well below any unit approaching it’s level of power and sound quality. Even if you have a powerful multi tap delay in your DAW, and a few boutique hardware recreations to boot, I would still consider this a must buy!
From where? Sigmund is available at PluginBoutique.com.
More Details/Buying Options: Sigmund[author title=”Author” image=”https://www.producerspot.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/aaron-zilch.jpg”]Aaron Zilch – I make electronic music for over 18 years and I’m a certified Ableton Live trainer.[/author]