Review: Sugar Bytes Turnado multi-effect plugin for real-time audio manipulation
With its colorful and playful appearance, Sugar Bytes’ latest effect plugin Turnado might look like a bit of a toy. And sure enough, like a proper toy this multi-effect is tons of fun to play with, but at the same time you get an incredibly powerful sound mangling toolkit.
The idea is simple: Turn a knob and the effect is on. Turn the knob further to adjust effect parameters and apply modulations. Turn the knob down and the effect is off.
Turnado comes with 24 individual effects, which can be assigned to up to 8 effect slots. Each slot has a single main knob to control the parameters of the assigned effect. The workflow is excellent. Just drag and drop an effect from the effect browser on the left into an effect slot and you’re good to go.
So what exactly are these main knobs controlling? Each effect slot has an “Edit Page” with effect parameters and modulation options.
The top part of the interface shows 5 knobs for setting parameters specific to the selected effect. The first four controls have varying parameters, the fifth one – the Dry/Wet control – is the same for all effects. Note that you can still set the dry/wet mode individually for each effect slot, so for instance you can have one effect in x-fade mode (linear transformation), while another mixes the effected signal into the original signal.
Right below effect parameter controllers are the “Amount Controllers”. These knobs allow you to define the range in which the main knobs operate on the effect parameters, and a set of three color coded modulation switches activate 2 LFOs and an envelope follower to modulate the effect parameter. The knobs and switches in this section have “-” and “+” values, so you either subtract or add to a parameter. The parameter changes follow the waveform in the middle of the knob – the so called transformation curve. A total of 24 curves are available to choose from.
In the same way the modulation parameters in the bottom of the Edit Page interface – Rate, Phase, and Amount for the LFOs; Attack, Release, and Amount for the envelope follower &nash; have amount controllers as well. This means that you will also be able to control the range of a particular modulation parameter with the main knob.
The LFOs have a graphic display which shows the selected waveform and displays numerical values for the LFO parameters set by the knobs below the display. Some standard and not so standard waveforms are available to choose from. Turnado does not import custom LFO waveforms, but a step sequencer will let you draw your own curve in 16 steps. LFOs can either loop or “one-shot” (play once after being triggered), synced to your host or free running, and quantized.
Sugar Bytes made a video demonstrating the Edit Page options.
Alright, so let’s take a quick look at the 24 effects included. The browser panel groups different types of effects by color.
- Delay – Pattern Delay (8 delay lines running in pre-defined patterns), Reverse Delay, Pitch Delay (classic delay with integrated filter and optional pitch mod of delay tails)
- Modulation – Flanger (classic flange/chorus), Phaser, Tonalizer (short delay for tuned delay tails)
- Reverb – Reverb and Freezeverb (reverb echo freeze)
- Transformation – Ringmodulator, Vocodizer (vocoder)
- Amplifier – Levelizer (compression, auto-pan, tremolo, gate), Guitar Amp (amplifier/distortion with multi-band equalizer)
- Loop FX – Looper, Pitch Looper (add pre-defined pitch sequences to looped slices), Pan Looper (pan and pitch), Reactor (“Transient Looper” self activating loop tool), Slice Arranger (real-time recording & slicing)
- DJ tools – Granulizer (grain effect control pitch and tempo), Stutter Effect, Vinylizer (tape/vinyl stop & scratching).
- Filter – Filter (multi-mode), Filter Pattern (sequenced filter patterns), Vowel Filter, Spectralizer (32-delay filter bank)
When assigning effects to the slots the signal path will follow down the sequence of slots. You can easily swap effects around to hear the difference in sound. There’s also the option to have the last activated effect sit in front of the previous one, making interaction between effects completely dynamic. This option can be saved per preset.
Turnado can be automated by MIDI so programming it can be done by sequencing MIDI parts in your host. Simply map the main knobs to your controller and you are good to play Turnado like a proper instrument.
To bring some more order to a plugin that can get chaotic pretty fast, Sugar Bytes has included the “Dictator”.
Basically, the Dictator controls all main effect knobs with one single fader. As the slider moves up and down 16 steps, it triggers effect slots recorded or drawn in corresponding lanes. This is great for creating more controlled effect sequences or if you’re doing things that require turning more knobs than you can manage with one set of hands.
Turnado comes with some Dictator presets, which are helpful in learning how to use this control. Global multi-effect presets are available from the top display, right above the global dry/wet control in the middle. Some 60 are included. The individual effects also come with presets, close to 500 in total.
A settings panel reveals some options that can be set globally, and some per preset. Some interesting ones include MIDI CC lock, which means MIDI learn settings will be locked so you don’t need to set them every time you select another preset. The Dynamic Signal Flow (the order of effects) I mentioned earlier is set here, you can set the effect to turn off at full both zero and full rotation values, and more.
Oh, one more thing! Did you happen to spot that little button to the right of the Turnado logo?
That’s a randomize button indeed! For instant inspiration press this thing and see what comes up. Effect slots and effect parameters are set randomly but it’s quite sane as not all parameters in an effect slot are affected.
The Dictator also features randomize buttons for each one of the 8 lanes, and one to do them all at once. Love it.
So what do I think?
Format: Effect plug-in for Windows & Mac (VST/AU)
Price: 139 EUR / $179 USD
Like: Fun & easy to use, flexible editing, quality sound
Don’t like: Steep price
Well, color me impressed! I am always interested in creative multi-effects but I did not expect Turnado to be this good.
The “One Knob” concept works wonderfully well, as does the Dictator. Just map these controls to your MIDI controller and you will be creating amazing effects on the fly straight away. Dynamic, unexpected, playful. Great for performing live, but also for in your studio since parameters can be automated with ease.
The effects palette is versatile, with well chosen parameters for each effect and a modulation system that is easy to use. It seems Sugar Bytes really took the time to think things through. With Turnado they provide a multi-effect with deep and flexible editing, without making things overly complicated. Creating complex effect chains has never been this easy.
If it weren’t for the price tag – which I think is a bit steep compared to the competition – I’d give this one full marks for sure. Turnado gets my creative juices flowing in a big way and I am already looking forward to my next session with it.