Best Transient Shapers – 2020 Review

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There is a way to design an already recorded acoustic drum sound by applying a single plugin.

That plugin is called Transient Shaper and it can make such a big difference to the overall sound that, in the end, you wouldn’t even guess it’s the same instrument on the record.

Our Top Picks for Best Transient Shapers

  • Complete channel strip tool
  • 3 Global & Contour Shapes Modes
  • Improved CPU resource intake
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  • Dual band transient tool
  • Up to 20dB boost and cut
  • Crossover ranges up to 4kHz
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  • Most easy-to-use plugin
  • Flat and Classic working mode
  • Integrated brickwall limiter
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Comparison of the Best Transient Shapers

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Complete channel strip solution
  • 3 Global Modes and 3 Contour Shapes
  • Improved loading time and resource intake
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  • Dual band transient processing tool
  • Up to 20dB boost and cut for Punch and Sustain
  • Selectable frequency spectrum from 100Hz to 4kHz
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  • Most easy-to-use transient processor
  • Two working modes - Flat and Classic
  • Integrated brickwall limiter on the output
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  • Best Multiband Transient Shaper
  • Up to 26 transients with 4 controls
  • Monitor each transient in solo
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  • Best Transient Shaper for Drums
  • Up to 18dB of volume change
  • Sample-accurate sub-bass generator
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  • Best Waves Transient Shaper
  • Fine-tune transient levels, shape and duration
  • Zero latency makes it functional for live usage
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  • Best Ableton Transient Shaper
  • Retrigger parameter eliminates false triggers
  • Dual 3-band EQ with lookahead detector
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  • Extreme shaper of transient attack
  • Up to stunning 24dB of signal boost and cut
  • Harmonic enrichment allows 6db boost without clip
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What is a Transient Shaper and What Does a Transient Shaper Do? 

Transient Shaper is a dynamic processor that modifies the peak's nature of your audio track. 

It may be a lot easier for you to understand what transient is if you imagine the sound of the single snare hit. Short peaks or impulses found at the beginning of every waveform are what we call transients. This initial strike refers to any other instrument as well.

So, simply put, Transient Shaper detects those transients and allows you to modify them - make them softer, crispier, longer, shorter, but, unlike other dynamic processors, it doesn’t affect the rest of the track or change the overall audio level at all. 

It treats every transient individually so it will provide your track with a certain punch and clarity other effects can achieve.

Vocal Transient Shaper

In theory, any transient shaper plugin can work on vocals, just like they would work on acoustic guitar or bass guitar. However, multiband versions are more suitable as it is quite possible that you may treat your syllables individually.

If you use it the right way, vocals can get more punch and with increasing the sustain the presence of your vocals, especially in hip-hop tracks can be improved a lot.

When Would I Use a Transient Shaper Plugin? 

Here are some tips when Transient Shaper Plugin may come really handy:

Percussive Tracks

Acoustic drums and percussion are probably the first calls for the Transient Shaper plugin. It will detect and treat every rhythm impact independently which will allow you to create punchier or more soft sound in general.

But, it’s not all about the impact. You can add a certain depth to your track by increasing the sustain which will work especially well with the snare and tom sounds.

Melodic Sounds

If you’re playing has a certain rhythmic pattern it could be audible even more if you apply some Transient Shaper processing. You will intelligently emphasize only small chunks of the audio file where the initial punch of the instrument is located and boost it up without affecting the rest of your sound.

Vocal Tune-up

Vocal recordings are made out of melodic and rhythmic parts. Depending on the song genre, the rhythmic part might be important or irrelevant. However, if you’re not satisfied with how certain consonants sound, you can shape-up them and create a punch that’s missing or add more presence in the mix by increasing the sustain of the Transient Shaper plugin.

Is a Transient Shaper Plugin Hard to Learn? 

Transient Shaper plugin is not very hard to learn. Much of its process is automated and it leaves up to you to decide how much attack and release you want to add or subtract. With the percussive sound, it will be really obvious how to apply it and it all depends on your taste what you would want to achieve.

However, a certain music production knowledge and a pair of trained easier will come really useful for making the right decisions, especially to preserve the natural sound of the processed track, especially with the melodic instrument tracks.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Transient Shapers

Here’s our choice of the best transient shaper plugins on the market:

PROS

  • Complete channel strip solution
  • Dual auto-learn crossover frequency mode
  • Improved loading time and resource intake
  • Unique Mix Assistant and Visual Mixer module
  • 3 Global Modes and 3 Contour Shapes for Transient Shaping

CONS

  • Not available as an individual plugin
  • Further in-depth editing options for transient shaping would be great

Features and Specifications

Neutron is a complete channel strip made from 6 modules stacked together in the single modern user interface. It contains Equalizer, Compressor, Gate, Sculptor, Exciter, and Transient Shaper modules all coming with the basic slider so you can blend the amount of effect you want to apply. 

Transient Shaper comes with three Global Modes and three different Contour Shapes that allow you to precisely shape up your audio.

If you would want to have all those modules available as an individual plugin, consider purchasing the Advanced version.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Neutron is much more than just a transient shaper plugin. Thanks to Mix Assistant and Visual Mixer, you will probably end up using it a lot, but we can’t deny the fact that besides being a complete channel strip it does a wonderful job regarding transient designing as well. 

So, besides having an advanced Transient Shaper plugin, you will also get more tools at your disposal such as Sculptor or Exciter which may go well with the process you had in mind at first and further enhance the natural tone of your tracks.

PROS

  • Output distortion effect possible
  • Dual-band transient processing tool
  • Affect only bass or treble part of your transients
  • Selectable frequency spectrum from 100Hz to 4kHz
  • Up to 20dB boost and cut for Punch and Sustain values

CONS

  • High-demand on RAM
  • Visual display could be improved

Features and Specifications

Softube Transient Shaper can add or cut up to 20dB on an input transient signal. It provides you with the option to go safe and prevent any additional clipping on the output.

It can also work in dual-band mode that focuses on treble or bass frequencies only instead of a full spectrum. The specific point on the spectrum is defined by crossover dial and you can select any value from 100Hz to 4kHz. There are individual frequency switches for both Punch and Sustain parameters. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Softube plugin is more than a typical Transient Shaper. It allows you to affect only a certain frequency range without being complicated like multiband plugins could be. It also helps you preserve the natural sound of your input signal and, for most individual processing, isolating a certain part of the spectrum is more than enough for most situations you will ever face.

We also love the design behind this plugin. It has been organized to look like a hardware unit with knobs and switches environment and it will feel intuitive to any experienced music user out there.

Best for the Money:
eaReckon TransReckon

PROS

  • Two working modes - Flat and Classic
  • Integrated brick-wall limiter on the output
  • Alternative working mode for slower computers
  • Control unwanted artifacts by Length and Sens knobs
  • The most easy-to-use transient processor on the market

CONS

  • No visual waveform display
  • Lack of advanced transient designing

Features and Specifications

TransReckon provides you with a really simple front panel made of nine knobs in total and two LED meters. 

It works in two modes - Flat and Classic from which you can fine-tune the overall effect by using Length and Sensitivity controls.

Besides Input and Output volume control with a dedicated brick wall limiter button to prevent clipping, the interface is organized around big knobs dedicated to Attack and Sustain parameters. If you want to monitor transients only you can do that by turning on the Listen button.

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you need a basic but effective plugin that will allow you to shape your transients on the fly without getting into deeper editing or designing, TransReckon is our top pick. 

It is quite capable of bringing back the punch to your acoustic drum mixes and it will work pretty well on other musical instruments, especially for taming down the unwanted glitches coming from acoustic guitar tracks.

It also allows you to be creative and use it to gate the reverb or create a pre-delay effect or tweak the sound of the electronic drum samples so they match your song better.

Best Multiband Transient Shaper:
Eventide Punctuate

PROS

  • Control up to 26 transients with 4 controls
  • Revert dynamics to overcompressed mixes
  • Monitor each transient in solo for advanced editing
  • Multi-Band Transient Shaper capable of drastic dynamic changes
  • Integrated metering shows you what the algorithm is doing at all times

CONS

  • Band frequency can’t be edited
  • 12dB range may not be enough for all situations

Features and Specifications

Punctuate is a multi-band transient shaper made from 26 equally spaced Transient Modulators based on the Mel Scale. It allows you to boost or attenuate every band individually along with an Adaptive Transient slider which can glue them together for more organic processing.

The user interface is quite visual with large input and output vertical metering located on both sides. There are 4 horizontal sliders dedicated to Transient Emphasis and Length and Adaptive Transient and Length. Right beneath those sliders, 26 transient bands may remind you of graphic equalizers.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This plugin is based on Mel Scale which splits the sound spectrum in a way human ears hear it. Also, it uses FIR linear phase filter which allows you to work on every band independently without worrying if it’s going to affect the bands next to it.

Such decisions made this multiband transient unique on the market. It allows you to turn the drums up or down in an entire mix or just a kick drum, without turning the bass up. It’s also finally possible to remove hi-hats out of the snare mic or move instruments like acoustic guitars and pianos in the mix.

Best Transient Shaper for Drums:
Zynaptiq UNMIX:: DRUMS

PROS

  • Frequency-Dependent Control
  • Up to +18dB of volume change
  • Control drum level on finished tracks 
  • Sample-accurate sub-bass generator
  • 3-way Graphical User Interface design

CONS

  • Can’t bounce Bass Synth effect individually
  • Lack of certain in-depth editing parameters

Features and Specifications

In its core, Unmix:: Drums provides you with two drum boosting algorithms - Smooth, ideal for acoustic sounds with the usual boost range, and Punchy which creates much tighter results.

Beneath there are three tabs. Main shows a simplified panel with three knobs for Threshold, Drum Level, and Release envelope which can be expanded into a Fine-Tune panel where you have six additional parameters added such as Detection Density or Attack envelope.

At last, the Curve tab displays a nice graphical overview of parameters so you can have a better insight into what’s going on.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is the first plugin that allows altering the drum level in finished tracks. It uses advanced signal separation that allows you to add an incredible amount of the drum sound or to remove such information almost completely.

It may be an interesting tool not just for music production and mastering purposes but for DJ remixes and mash-up song creations as well. 

But that’s not all - it’s one of the rare plugins that come with the sample-accurate sub-bass generator. In case your mix is lacking certain low-range energy you can apply it by controlling a simple bass synth fader.

Best Waves Transient Shaper:
Waves Smack Attack

PROS

  • Wet/Dry knob for parallel processing
  • Comprehensive graphic wave display
  • Fine-tune transient levels, shape, and duration
  • Zero-latency makes it functional for live usage
  • Great sounding basic transient designer plugin

CONS

  • Might be too basic for some purposes
  • CPU-demanding when compared to other plugins

Features and Specifications

This plugin comes with separate versions for mono and stereo instances sharing the same interface with an interactive graphic wave display which helps you understand what’s exactly going on. 

The input waveform is displayed in blue color, the green line represents attack sensitivity, yellow goes for sustain and the orange waveform tells you how much of the gain change has been applied.

Both attack and sustain come with three shaping modes for the transients - Needle gives you incredibly tight performance, Nail will produce slightly softer outcomes and Blunt will go the best with melodic instruments.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Smack Attack allows you to control not just the usual attack and sustain parameters but also transients’ shape and duration levels. This allows you to create punchier transients than you would even expect.

Thanks to the Sensitivity parameter you can also filter transients you want to process, so you may apply the change only for the loudest ones while the second instance could model the rest of the transients differently.

And let’s not forget that this plugin provides a zero-latency operation which makes it possible to be used even for live performances.

Best Transient Shaper for Ableton:
Boz Digital Labs Transgressor 2

PROS

  • Dedicated presets for both modes
  • 3 sidechain modes with dedicated EQ
  • Dual 3-band EQ with lookahead detector
  • Separate mode for transients and sustains
  • Retrigger parameter eliminates false triggers

CONS

  • Retrigger needs to be approached carefully
  • Not the best visual interface we’ve encountered

Features and Specifications

Transgressor is organized in dual mode. One controls the transient behavior, while the other is dedicated to sustaining shaping and those can be bypassed. Both modes come with parametric 3-band EQ that shapes your sound even further.

On the center screen, you can monitor or hide the waveform, graph, and equalizer display. By default, only EQ is shown.

If you want to be sure that all attack transients are registered no matter how big or small they are, you can turn on the lookahead which will scan your track a little bit in advance before processing.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Sidechain compression is used regularly in modern electronic music and Transgressor is one of the rare plugins that allows you to use the same technique for transient shaping. It simply detects the transient from an external source and applies it to your source track. Packed with the EQ that applies only when the shaping occurs you can get all types of sounds from a single source.

Also, it’s not so often to find an editable retrigger parameter which allows you to define the time between two transients. Along with sensitivity parameters, it helps out to eliminate any kind of false transient triggering.

PROS

  • Very useful Recovery parameter
  • Extreme shaper of transient attack
  • Up to stunning 24dB of signal boost and cut
  • Great for achieving overdriven drum sounds
  • Harmonic enrichment allows 6db to boost without clipping

CONS

  • No, sustain control
  • No graphical overview of what’s going on

Features and Specifications

TransMod applies changes to your transients attack and helps you fix the overall sound of your drum or bass sounds in a very simplified workflow that hides all the complicated processing from your view. 

It has a very simplified interface that’s made from a simple panel - Input has dedicated knobs for Threshold and Deadband which removes false transients while Output comes with a dedicated add-on Overdrive slider, Rise Time knob which represents the time when the transient shaping will occur and Recovery knob which tells how much time will pass until next trigger.

Why it Stands Out to Us

TransMod doesn’t reinvent the wheel and it does exactly what you would expect from a Transient Shaper plugin. 

But, unlike the rest, it allows you to be more extreme with the changes applied thanks to 24dB of either boost or cut. This way you can increase the overall loudness of your track by significantly taming short transients down. 

Also, thanks to the harmonic enrichment algorithm you can go 6dB over the digital maximum without clipping. This way you can get a nice and warm overdriven sound within a second which may work for not just drums but other instruments, too.

Comparison Overview 

Transient Shapers are easy to mix up with expanders, compressors as they all belong to dynamic processing. 

In general, the main feature that makes transient shaper stand out from others is that it only modifies the smallest parts of the audio file while the rest of the track remains the same. 

But, let’s break down those differences further:

Expander vs. Transient Shaper 

Transient Shaper has a much faster attack and release and it usually doesn’t come with a fixed threshold. 

This also means that some better expander plugins can work similar to a transient shaper but with one limitation - they can make your track only louder, not softer. 

Transient Shaper vs. Compression

They both excel when used on drum components, but transient shaper does it in a much more sophisticated manner. It allows you to be surgical without altering the overall sound of the specific drum instrument.

Also, if we want to simplify the things out once again - compression is opposite from expander - this means it can make impacts from your track only softer, while Transient Shaper can make them louder, too.

However, compressors can also work with melodic content, so, in general, it's a much more versatile effect than Transient Shaper.

Transient Shaper Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Success

Here are some advice on how you can utilize Transient Shaper plugin the best:

Alter Your Drum Sound Nature

If you don’t like the sound of your acoustic drums, a transient shaper may save you from additional recording. It can modify the sustain of your drums or even change the “pop” coming from your drummer playing. 

If you use a multiband transient shaper you can use it on a complete drum track, while other versions will work better with individual drum tracks.

Use it in Pair With Noise Gate

While it may feel counter-intuitive, those two units work together pretty well, especially on the acoustic drum sounds. 

First, you will clean all the unwanted noise by using an intensive noise gate. Then you would re-shape the transients to your taste artificially. 

And in the end, you can combine these tracks together with the original drum to get an additional punch or sustain in the mix and blend them accordingly to suit the certain song.

Melodic Instruments

If more or less attack or sustain on your melodic instruments would fit your song better, the transient shaper can help here as well. It can modify transients on your bass lines so it almost sounds like it was played with the fingers instead of the pick.

How to Use Transient Shaper in Music Production

Transient Shaper is mostly used for drum sounds. It allows you to go in both directions - create a punchier mix or make peaks mellow but denser. 

Here are some tips on how you can achieve certain effects:

  1. If you want to make your kick drum or snare tighter or snappier, apply boost on the Attack parameter.

  2. If you want a “fat” snare, apply a certain boost to the sustain parameter.

  3. If you need to remove the noisy ring part from the snare without affecting the overall body tone, consider using a multi-band transient shaper that will isolate the frequency where the ring is occurring.

  4. For a more mellow drum vibe, turn down the knob on the attack parameter. Optionally, increase the sustain parameter instead of the fader level if you feel that drum presence is not on the spot anymore.

  5. If you want to remove any part of the natural ambiance reduce the sustain parameter on your room mics. A multiband transient shaper may help you here to preserve the overall natural sound of your drum mix.

Be sure to refer to the video below for a full overview of what was just described:

Conclusion

Transient Shaper is one of the youngest effects out there and it’s one of those plugins you won’t use every day. Nevertheless, try to remember that it may save you a lot of additional time in the studio and that you may get even better results compared to using typical dynamic processing plugins.