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Creative Intent Remnant Review at Audio Plugin Guy

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Audio Plugin Guy's Verdict: 8/10. All in all, this is a nice little plugin to have available for signal mangling purposes. It’s very unique in its approach and sound.

The Whole Grain

We’ve been a little slack on reviews for the last few months so it’s a lucky coincidence that right when we’re making a comeback, Creative Intent do the same. As mentioned, we were right there when it all began, checking out their first releases, Temper and Tantrum. A couple of cheeky distortion modules that we seriously enjoyed.

Now there is a new baby… Remnant. This plug takes audio destruction beyond regular distortion and into granular territory with a unique approach that yields interesting results. In the first play video above you’ll see that this plugin takes a bit of time to understand and get decent results from (which I don’t!). But it’s worth sticking with. There are a couple of more successful demonstrations later in this review.

Smashing the Granular

Yeah, I’m very rusty with the puns. Bear with me. Let’s get back to talking about the plugin in question. 

Remnant… is a little hard to understand for the regular punter like me and, at the time of writing, the user guide doesn’t actually contain any instructions on how to use it. There is a guide built into the plugin though, and I’ll have a go at explaining it as if I were a pro.

There are two main elements involved, the delay line and two grain engines. Each grain engine is represented by the yellow controls and the blue controls respectively. These controls can set the levels for Frequency, Spray, Spread, Pitch, Reverse and Feedback for each grain engine.

There are also global controls for Mix, Delay, Cutoff, Warp and Crosstalk as well as a Mid/Side switch, a Filter Type switch, Duck switch and the Freeze button and Envelope Threshold dial.

As this is a unique effect with unique controls, some of those may not have immediately obvious meanings. So I’ll paraphrase the guide that can be found within the plugin.

The Global Controls

  • Delay – Sets the delay time from input to output. This also defines the maximum grain size. It is set in milliseconds and doesn’t appear to have an option to sync to the host tempo
  • Cutoff – Sets the frequency of a simple filter that can be switched between low-pass and hi-pass using the Filter Type switch
  • Warp – Adds tape style wobble to the  output
  • Crosstalk – Controls how much output from each grain engine is fed back into the other
  • Mix – Usual wet/dry stuff
  • Mid/Side – When this is off, the two grain channels operate over the left and right of the source, when switched on, that changes to mid and side

I will tackle the Envelope Threshold, Freeze and Duck controls separately as they’re a bit more complicated to explain...

The Envelope Threshold doesn’t come into play unless either the Freeze or Duck switches are on. When Freeze is on, Remnant stops pulling in new grains from the delay line and locks onto the one it’s already working with. If you’ve used granular effects before this will be familiar. The extra cool feature in Remnant is that, by adjusting the Envelope Threshold, you can set a source volume level at which the plugin will grab a new grain. Pretty cool on drums and other percussive sounds. (See vid further down for an example).

When Duck is on the output level is lowered when the input level exceeds the threshold (this is not as much fun as the Freeze button).

The Grain Parameters

These can be adjusted for each of the two grain engines by clicking and dragging within the respective Yellow or Blue boxes.

  • Frequency – Sets how frequently the grains are emitted and sets the length of the grains proportionally
  • Spray – Sets the level of randomness as to where in the delay buffer the grain is grabbed from
  • Spread – Sets maximum amount of random panning for each grain
  • Pitch – Sets the playback pitch for each grain
  • Reverse – Sets the probability of a grain playing backwards. At 100% all grains are reversed
  • Feedback – Sets the amount of feedback

The way the controls look and move when adjusted is a bit off-putting. The levels are represented with a line that has a circle in the middle, but you can click anywhere within the rectangle to adjust it and the line doesn’t exactly follow the mouse movements. The circle in the middle of the line would indicate that you might be able to ’tilt’ the line, or something… but it appears that it’s just decorative. There’s also the odd choice of graphics below each line that warp and wiggle awkwardly when you adjust the controls but don’t seem to represent anything specific.

The audible effects are just fine though, once you work out what you’re doing.

Against the Grain

So what are we gonna use this for?!

Well, Remnant is certainly not some bog-standard mixing tool or classic analogue emulation (I don’t review those… not my bag). It’s a sound design tool with a unique take on granular effects that lends itself to experimentation, rather than necessarily knowing exactly what result you’re going for every time you reach for it.

The ability to pitch the two grain engines separately is useful to add some gritty, evolving harmonies to an otherwise basic sustained source. Such as this choral sample, where I add a minor third above and an octave below:

The cool, level detecting freeze function means this can be a lot of fun on drum loops and percussive sounds. In the little demo below I have a go at setting op something that changes the grain content on the louder hits of a drum-break. It takes some tweaking to get there but a good effect can be achieved.

I’m sure you sound design junkies are already thinking of ways to mangle your input with this. And if you’re a preset junkie, there are a few of them too.

I really like this plugin but I also feel it’s a bit let down by the interface. As mentioned, the controls are not intuitive. It’s difficult to represent controls for something unusual like this, but even bearing that in mind, they look, react and move in a way that just feels a bit wrong. There’s no visual representation of the signal at all which, although it has no effect on the sound, is something I feel it could benefit from. Most of the text in the interface and the guide is dark-ish grey on a black background and although the interface is scaleable (massive kudos for that!) the font size stays the same. So on larger screens, it is going to be hard for some to read.

Why Does it Always Grain on Me?
That said, I’ll certainly be making use of this in a few of my own projects. I’ve only just started playing with it and definitely think I need a bit more time to really get the hang of it. Despite the shortcomings of the interface, the sound quality is perfectly good to my ears. If you’re looking to add something new to your productions or sound design then I would recommend trying it out. 

Summary

Pros

  • A unique effect
  • Easy to obtain interesting results
  • Encourages experimentation
  • Mid/Side option is cool
  • Level freeze triggering thing is cool

Cons

  • No sync to project tempo
  • No visual feedback
  • Not very intuitive to use

Sound Quality  - 9/10
Ease of use - 7/10
Interface - 5/10
Presets - 8/10
Value for money - 9/10
Grainy Smashing - 10/10

Overall - 8/10

Original source: Audio Plugin Guy

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