I particularly enjoy sound design tools that allows you to stretch, torture and destroy the sounds you already have on your library, giving them a second life. Envy, by The Cargo Cult allows you to analyze your audio’s features, modify them and then re-apply them.
It’s like an audio sculpting tool which also works like a morphing plugin, which is interesting since I reviewed Morph 2 not too long ago.
The plugin only works in Pro Tools in AudioSuite mode since it is too process-heavy to create results in real time. The basic workflow uses the “Analyze” button to capture any desired audio features and then the “Render” button to apply them to any sound (even the same one!).
So what can we capture? Basically the plugins has 3 sections: amplitude, spectral and pitch. Each of them can distill each of these audio characteristics from a sound and modify them to create something completely new. Let’s see each of these sections:
It allows you to extract the amplitude envelope or “ADSR”. As you can see, you have similar controls to a compressor (attack & release) that you can use to tweak how tight the resulting envelope is. Smoothing is particularly useful if you want to get a bit looser, more natural result.
The filter sliders on the bottom of the plugin will affect to how the amplitude envelope is measured, so keep them in mind if, for example, you don’t want the low end to shape it too much.
We can also steal the frequency distribution or “spectral weight” and apply it somewhere else.
This is quite useful to, for example, beef up the low end of a sound, add more shine to it or just apply a certain spectral timbre to a sound.
This is probably the deepest section on the plugin. Firstly, as with the previous sections, we can copy the pitch envelope of our source sound. To do this, there are two different algorithms to choose from, a and b, as you can see in the “SCAN FRM SRC:” section. They work in different ways so is always worth trying both to see which one gives you better (or nastier, if that is what your are looking for) results.
Also, you can create your own pitch curves from scratch and apply them to any sound. To do this, you can just draw them with your mouse, which is pretty cool. You will be able to then modify the curve in different ways using:
Shift + Click: Moves the whole curve up or down in the pitch scale.
Double Click: Switches the pitch mode. More on this below.
Control + Click: Increases or decreases the pitch amount while keeping the same curve shape.
Option + Click: Resets the curve.
Right Click: Draws a vibrato curve. The higher your mouse is on the graphic the higher the frequency of the resulting curve.
Once you have your pitch envelope, you can apply it using several algorithms. Note that these are completely different to the algorithms you use to capture pitch. These are used to apply the envelope to a new file. So, this are:
Varispeed: It uses old-fashioned pitch processing, so length will be affected. It would be equivalent to speeding up tape or vinyl. The rest of the algorithms won’t affect the length of the sound.
Smooth: This is the “optimal” one for most stuff if you want to minimize artefacts.
Rhythmic: Same as the previous one but works better with fast transients.
Bad: Less clean but maybe in an interesting way. Embrace the artefacts.
Worse: This is the one you use when you are just going for crazy sounding sounds.
The best way to go would be to try some of the algorithms just to see what kind of result you get.
Additional features & Interface
Other than that, the plugin has a general gain slider (bottom right), a bigger window mode (plus sign, top, right corner) and a very handy undo/redo function.
Keep in mind that, being an audiosuite only plugin, any change you make to the parameters won’t be heard until a new cycle is reached. You can see this in the graphical interface which shows you both the progress of the original sound captured (vertical line) and the progress of the target sound (bottom grey bar).
Here are some examples of possible usage in very different applications, directly from the creators.
Envy is a very versatile plugin, maybe more so than Zynaptiq’s Morph 2. Being able to transfer envelopes to other sounds while keeping everything in perfect sync is a blessing for layer focused sound design. I also love how you can use the timing of a foley recording and change the materials easily. This application reminds me of Reformer Pro, which I’ve also reviewed, but without the performance and real-time aspect.
Pitch shaping is the other strong feature Envy offers. It just gives you all the tools you need for sound design and dialogue work. I love how easy pitch curves are to draw, specially since this is something that most DAWs don’t do out of the box. Having “clean” and “dirty” pitch algorithms is also great.
Is a bit of a drag that the plugin only works in AudioSuite and in Pro Tools and I imagine that is the biggest drawback Envy has for most people. I personally don’t mind it, since I do all my sound design in Pro Tools and I could accommodate it in my workflow easily. Envy costs $359 at the time of this writing, which, on one hand, feels a bit pricey to me. On the other hand, I can see how that price could be justified: they are offering you a complete sound design tool, foley replacer, morpher, plus advanced pitch capabilities, all in one box. The demo is complete and gives you plenty of time to play around, if you want to give it a go.
So, in summary, Envy feels to me like a Swiss Army knife plugin that you would want to bring to the jungle with you. My tests didn’t always yield the results I was expecting and the sound is sometimes a bit artefacty (in a bad way) but I believe this is how a plugin like this should behave: some experimentation is needed to get cool stuff that works and when you find it, you feel like you have created something completely unique and new.