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Eventide Physion review at Resident Advisor

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When producers talk about transients, it's generally in terms of dynamics and impact. For instance, we use transient designers, compressors and sidechaining to enhance, blunt and make space for the onset of sounds. Some go so far as to chop off the transient of a sound in order to process it separately from its body. Others squish them off with a limiter and replace them with tiny clicks. But again, this is generally done in the service of enhancing impact. Eventide's latest plug-in uses this same thinking for different ends. Physion uses what Eventide calls the Structural Effects engine to separate the transient and body of a sound, which can then be subjected to separate processing, be it spatial (with reverbs and delays) or dynamic and spectral (with gates, compressors and EQs). Apart from opening a new frontier in plug-ins, it's strength is that it encourages an approach that blurs the line between practical and creative sound design applications. 

Elements of Physion can be found in other plug-ins, or rather, groups of plug-ins. But nothing really does what Structural Effects can do and the implications for future products are interesting to say the least. The simple fact of being able to non-destructively adjust the balance between the transient and the body of a sound is huge in and of itself. So rather than using a compressor to increase the level of the body at the cost of compromising the transient, with Physion, you can simply use the gain controls assigned to the transient and body sections to bring up the level of the body without altering the attack. Even after just a few minutes of toying with the gain levels on a drum loop, it became clear that Physion is a simpler and more effective dynamics shaper than any transient designer I've used. 

The implications for maximising level with minimum damage to sound quality are considerable. I was surprised at how much attack I could remove without changing the perceived volume of a drum loop. If you're the sort of producer who is looking to use headroom as efficiently as possible, being able to gain an extra three or four decibels without squashing the transient of any given sound is an appealing prospect. 

Physion presents a few ways of achieving this. Apart from simply changing the volume balance between transient and body, EQing the body separately from the attack can create sizeable tonal shifts, leading to greater apparent volume without adding additional decibels. For instance, you can remove a few decibels of bass from the body while pushing the mid-range and the high-end, drastically increasing a sound's presence. Or you can apply severe compression to the body and mix it back in with the transient for parallel-style processing. You can also solo the transient and tonal parts, meaning you can place multiple instances on busses and apply even more processing to each element. 

Eventide has a sizeable clientele outside of electronic music and much has been made of Physion's appeal to engineers working with traditional instruments. Being able to repitch the body of, say, an acoustic drum kit without altering the attack would be hugely useful when producing bands. These sorts of engineering situations tend to demand far more corrective surgery than electronic production, and this is another realm in which Physion excels. Where making such corrections would normally mean balancing pros and cons, Physion often allows you to avoid compromise altogether. The Dynamics and Gate+EQ effects in the Transient Effects section can be useful for dealing with the unruly levels and unwanted noise associated with recordings of vocals and instruments, especially those made in less than optimal recording environments. As such, Physion could prove useful to those working with little or no budget. 

A good proportion of the effects found in each section encourage experimentation. Just flicking through Richard Devine's presets reveals a world of robotic, glitching textures and a diverse range of synthetic spaces. 

Physion is the sort of plug-in that can totally transform a sound, especially when automation is involved. The Structural Focus slider lets you blend between the transient and tonal parts—consider the possibilities of automating it and drifting between two flavours of self-oscillating delays on each part of the sound. Or automating the Trans Decay control (which sets the length of the transient) along with the Gate+EQ to create dynamic stuttering rhythms while the body is repitched into changing chords with the Pitch effect. The possibilities only increase when using multiple instances of Physion in groups and busses, which can quickly transform one idea into something completely different. 

With such extensive creative and technical possibilities at such a reasonable price, Physion hardly seems worthy of criticism. But part of me couldn't help but wish for different types of effects. A gate in the Tonal Effects section would've been quite interesting, for instance. But Eventide are using the Structural Effects engine to create a whole suite of plug-ins, and the technology is still in its early stages. It might be hard to get excited by a plug-in these days, but if Physion is just the beginning of the Structural Effects story, Eventide could be changing the way we work with audio in software


  • Cost: 4.1 
  • Versatility: 4.8 
  • Ease of use: 4.5 
  • Sound: 4.7

Original source - Resident Advisor

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