The SPL Transient Designer: So Many Solutions, So Few Knobs

July 22, 2009 11:15:11 AM PDT by Mason Hicks
UAD SPL Transient Designer
UAD SPL Transient Designer Plug-In

This month we’re revisiting an older favorite, the SPL Transient Designer. When Universal Audio partnered with Germany’s Sound Performance Lab (SPL) to produce this plug-in, we knew people would appreciate the way its Differential Envelope Technology can shape the dynamic response of a sound. Don’t let the simple control scheme fool you; this thing is well known as a secret weapon mix tool for world-class engineers like Joe Chicarelli, Ross Hogarth, Michael Brauer, and many others. In fact, Jeff Balding recently checked-in from Nashville to offer his thoughts on our licensed SPL Transient Designer plug-in, and Ed Cherney shared with us his SPL Transient Designer use in his UA Artist Interview.

"It’s really good on a snare drum, especially if you have a dead one. It just livens it up. Using it on the ambient microphones is really great as well, to pull the harmonics out, pull them forward or back and adjust the amount of attack versus envelope. I actually have the hardware versions, too, and I've had them side by side and compared them, and it's very close. So I ended up using the plug-ins for recall-ability." — Ed Cherney

When SPL first introduced the Transient Designer, they literally introduced a whole new category to the mixing world: Transient Shapers. To call it a compressor is to do it a disservice; it’s different from many other transient modification tools. Specifically, it uses several different types of signal envelope detectors to work on a signal. This allows the processor to work effectively without the need for a Threshold control. When a signal has a transient extending above the base level of the signal, the transient will be processed without regard to the overall level of the signal. Transient processing is instead determined by the relative levels of the transients as compared to the steady-state amplitude of the signal. Both the Attack and Sustain controls are designed with psychoacoustics in mind; the response times of the envelope detectors correspond to human perception, eliminating the need for “time” controls.

This is where the magic of the SPL Transient Designer lies. Since you can process the transients separately from the base levels, a number of useful applications become apparent.

In this way, you can shorten or lengthen the attack and sustain of percussive signals such as kick drum, snare, or toms. You can easily take the bleed from open mics, or expand the room sound of overheads. Try using it to amplify or reduce the picking sound of an acoustic guitar, to hold the sound of strings longer, or to increase/reduce the reverb time of a choir. Attack can be amplified or attenuated by up to 15 dB, while Sustain can be amplified or attenuated by up to 24 dB. The Output control allows quick gain matching with the unprocessed signal. Finally, the SPL Transient Designer is highly useful as a gate substitute, a transparent tool for minimizing mic bleed.

Original SPL Transient Designer Hardware


See and Hear the UAD Powered Plug-In SPL Transient Designer in Action