The first version of Sugar Bytes WOW was a filter and distortion plugin hugely acclaimed for its plentiful creative options and outstanding sound quality. WOW2 (VST/AU/RTAS/AAX) is everything that its predecessor was, but with every area of its functionality extended and/or improved.
The first thing you notice upon launching WOW2 is its eye-catching new interface, with the cutoff frequency, resonance level, distortion shape and wet/dry mix now represented graphically within their control knobs rather than numerically. Nice.
"Preset monkeys are going to love the new preset banks"
However, while preset monkeys are going to love the new preset banks (which include contributions from such stars as Drumsound & Bassline Smith and Mouse On Mars), the constant presence of the preset browser onscreen is surely unnecessary - we'd like to be able to hide it.
The distortion section now offers seven distinct distortion types (Parabolic, Hyperbolic, Diabolic, Sine, 1bit, Crush and Digitize), all of which are of incredibly high quality and can get pretty violent - good news for noiseniks. You can also now place the distortion module before or after the filter section, which greatly broadens the sonic range of the plugin beyond that of its predecessor.
The filter type count has been increased from ten to 21, ranging from natural and smooth to sharp and tearing, and all of them sound stunning. They're split into four top-level modes - High Pass, Band Pass, Low Pass and Special - and among the new types are 2-pole and 4-pole options for the High, Band and Low Pass, a razor-sharp 8-pole Low Pass option, three Diode MS options (which we reckon are based on the Korg MS-20), two Ladder MG options (the classic Moog ladder filter, no doubt) and 030 (which, unsurprisingly, screams like a Roland TB-303).
As with the original WOW, there's also a vowel mode that can be engaged, enabling you to choose two mixable vowels at once (from a choice of nine), interacting with the current filter type to create formant-shaping effects. Thus, the expressive power of the vowel mode has been increased just by the presence of all those new filter types.
"WOW2 will still feel and sound familiar to anyone who's spent any time with the original"
Despite all the new features, WOW2 will still feel and sound familiar to anyone who's spent any time with the original. The keen-eared will notice that, just like its predecessor, WOW2 always shaves off a certain amount of extreme high end, no matter which distortion or filter type you go for (yes, even the High Pass ones). While this isn't always ideal, it does often relieve some of the digital fizz that many soft synths put out and sounds reminiscent of a real analogue filter.
We'd suggest, therefore, that WOW2 is best suited to material in which the extreme high end doesn't need to be treated with surgical care; but on the flipside, just inserting it at its default settings on overly bright sounds can help to tighten and warm up a mix.
All that said, WOW2 is definitely at its best used as a creative firecracker rather than a delicate, well-behaved precision filter - and when deployed as such, it's an absolute ass-kicker and without doubt one of the best software filters money can buy.