Passionate about Plugins

Transient Designers: The New, The Old and the Free


With the news of a brand new transient designer plugin from Waves is seems like transient control is the latest fad for plugin developers! There have been a few interesting releases recently so lets take a look at them as well as some of the classics.

A transient designer is a plugin that treats the transient and the sustain of an audio signal separately. In a snare hit, for example, the transient is the initial ‘snap’ whilst the sustain is the quieter tail end of the sound. A traditional transient controller would simply allow you to adjust the volume of the transient to make the sound ‘clickier’. This is commonly used on drums and percussive instruments but has other uses, such as on guitars and pianos which also have an initial, louder, ‘hit’ followed by the rest of the note.

Over time, transient designers have emerged that are smarter and smarter, allowing for more control over things like transient envelopes and frequency ranges affected. More recently there have been some very clever twists on the transient designer concept, as you will see…

Here’s a list of the best transient designers on the market today. If you have any to add to this list then please do comment below. All quotes are from the developers’ sites.

The New Contenders

Recent months have seen a few new releases which, in some cases, add some nice twists to the transient designing concept.

Waves Smack Attack

This is the latest transient designer to hit the shelves, but it doesn’t appear to add any twists like some of the other new plugins available. Instead it seems to be a new version of the standard attack and sustain envelope and volume controls you’d expect from a transient designer.

“Add smack and bite to drums, loops, synth hits and all percussive sounds by designing the level, shape and duration of their transients’ attack and sustain – from surgical tweaks to savage effects.” – Waves

Boz Digital Transgressor

Transgressor is a personal favourite of mine. It comes with the standard volume and envelope controls but also includes the ability to EQ the transient and sustain separately.

This is incredibly powerful when mixing as it allows you to really control how the two elements sit in a mix. For example you may want your kick to hit with a satisfying low end which doesn’t linger and muddy up the mix… with transgressor you can EQ it to do exactly that.

“Transgressor is the ultimate drum manipulation plugin. You will no longer be limited by the sound of your drums. From subtle enhancement to complete overhaul, Transgressor gives you quick and easy access to dial in your drum sound without limits.”

Eventide Fission

Fission is a very unique plugin that really lets you get creative with transient design. With Transgressor you can apply various effects to the separated parts of your audio to create some really crazy sounds.

“Fission is the first plug-in to use our ground-breaking Structural Effects technology – A new method for processing audio. It allows you to split a sound into its transient and tonal parts, independently manipulate them using Eventide’s world-class effects and then fuse them back together. With the ability to add effects and dynamic controls to the transient and tonal sections, you can produce a wide range of effects, from the subtle to the extreme.”

HoRNet Spikes

Spikes from HoRNet gets a shout out because it’s new-ish but also very affordable. Plus it works! If you just want something to grab and quickly apply to a drum track to increase snappiness then this is a good one to have on hand.

“Spikes is a transient processor, thanks to it’s intelligent auto settings you need just one knob to manipulate the sound, but if you want to tweak it every control is there at your fingertips.”

The Old Boys

There are, of course, transient designers already out there that are doing a very good job. These are a few of the established plugins that you may also want to check out.

Waves Trans-X

The original Waves transient designer. You get two versions, a wideband and a multiband. The multiband is useful in that it lets you specify the frequency range that the plugin enhances,  so if you just want to pick up the high clicks of a drum bus, this is the tool to grab.

“Perfect for breathing new life into drum loops, accentuating or attenuating instrumental attacks, and modifying room acoustics, Trans-X is a revolutionary processor that shapes transients and revitalizes individual tracks and full mixes.”

Plugin Alliance SPL Transient Designer Plus

“In the late ’90s, SPL revolutionized the recording and live sound industries with their introduction of the Transient Designer. Birthing a sea change in dynamics processing, the analog Transient Designer and its plugin counterpart both use SPL’s Differential Envelope Technology to produce level-independent dynamics processing. Unlike compressors, Transient Designer can transparently shape the attack and sustain characteristics of sounds no matter their level—jet engine-loud or whisper-quiet, constant or fluctuating—and without the need to fiddle with threshold, attack and release controls.”

Plugin Alliance Elysia Nvelope

“The original nvelope hardware is a powerful dynamics processor capable of making subtle or drastic changes to a sound by providing control over its attack and sustain characteristics. This is extremely useful for reshaping all sorts of individual tones, and is a wonderful tool in any mixing situation as well. Designed by Ruben Tilgner, whose dynamic processor designs have revolutionized the industry, the nvelope is really three products in one: in Full Range Mode it’s a powerful transient shaping tool, in Dual Band Mode it’s a frequency-based dynamics tool and in EQ Mode, it’s a pristine high and low shelf equalizer.”

Native Instruments Transient Master

“Based on a studio favorite, TRANSIENT MASTER is a must-have dynamics effect — uniquely powerful, deceptively simple and extremely useful. It’s the go-to tool for positioning drums and percussion, letting you mix from front to back and dial-in just the right amount of space.”

XLN DS-10 Drum Shaper

“DS-10 is a transient shaper designed specifically for use with drums. The clutter-free interface lets you dial in just the right amount of punch in your drum mixes while three amazing algorithms provide great sounding results.”

Metric Halo Transient Control

“TransientControl is a plug-in that allows you to modify dynamics in ways that just aren’t possible with traditional compressors. You can directly change the transient (“attack”) and sustain of your audio; this allows you to make your tracks more punchy, or smooth them out so they sit in a mix.

TransientControl analyzes your audio and distinguishes between the onset of sounds (the attack), the sustain of sounds and the decay of sounds (the release). With three gain controls you can dial in the relative level of these three elements of the sound.”

The Freebies

Naturally, there’s a few free options available. Though they may be limited in functionality compared to the paid plugins, they can still do a good job for basic transient enhancement.

Flux Bittersweet v3

“Bittersweet v3 is a free software processing tool for managing audio transients. Turning the big wheel button on the sweet side, decreases the transients amplitude. On the bitter side the transients amplitude is magnified.”

Digital Fish Phones Dominion

“If you were searching for a tool to shape the envelope of a signal, giving you total control of the signal’s attack & sustain phase, dominion is certainly something for you!”

Sonic Anomaly Transpire


“Transpire is a transient processor. It can enhance or dampen the initial attack and the sustain (body) of sound. Transpire has been designed to work well with drums and percussion. It does not operate linearly, which means small transients are being affected relatively stronger than large transients. This is good for bringing up smaller details while not overloading on large hits. As a result, percussive tracks can sound more steady and controlled compared to traditional transient enhancers.”

Got any more?!

Stick them in the comments below!


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