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Caelum Audio Beef review

Need an effect to beef up your sounds? This value plugin – that does what it says on the tin – could be just what you’re after

  • £30
Caelum Audio Beef
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

Beef is a well spec’ed distortion plugin with a multitude of flavours and an inviting price.

Pros

  • Well spec’ed saturation and bit crushing modules.
  • Innovative noise modulation effect.
  • Global wet/dry mix.
  • One knob style Preset mode.

Cons

  • No individual bypass for each module.
  • Fixed signal flow.

MusicRadar Verdict

Beef is a well spec’ed distortion plugin with a multitude of flavours and an inviting price.

Pros

  • + Well spec’ed saturation and bit crushing modules.
  • + Innovative noise modulation effect.
  • + Global wet/dry mix.
  • + One knob style Preset mode.

Cons

  • - No individual bypass for each module.
  • - Fixed signal flow.

Caelum Audio Beef: What is it?

Beef (AU, VST3, AAX) is the latest plugin from developer Caelum Audio. It’s a multistage effect aimed at fattening up your audio and has six modules covering EQ, distortion and limiting. There’s also a rather intriguing process called Noise/Rate Modulation, more on which later. 

The processors are arranged in a serial configuration with EQ feeding into the various distortion stages. This is then followed by transient shaping and limiting. There’s no way you can modify the order or place modules in parallel, which is a shame. However, there is a global wet/dry Mix so you can blend in the overall effect. 

Caelum Audio Beef: Performance and verdict

The EQ module is pretty straightforward with an adjustable Mid band (150Hz to 2kHz), fixed frequency shelves (High and Sub) and a fixed Low peaking band. All bands are +/-15dB and pretty broad. The Sub band in particular is great for very gentle cut and boost and at higher gain settings this starts to act at around 4kHz.

The EQ output feeds into the noise modulation and then the main Saturation module. This has six modes – Overdrive, Distortion, Fuzz, Tube, Tape and Rectified – providing excellent choice ranging from gentle tape saturation to more extreme clipping. The accompanying Drive control and low-pass filter (Tone) then give you loads of flexibility to fine-tune things. 

A particularly great effect here is the Rectifier with high Drive settings great for thin weedy distortion effects. It’s worth noting that the EQ module also plays an additional gain restoration role after the Saturation.

Total destruction

Next up is the Crush module. Here you’ll find regular bit depth reduction (16-bit to 1-bit) alongside sample rate division, so if you’re after total signal destruction with associated aliasing, then that’s on offer. That said, there’s also a Smoothing control that takes the edge off both the bit reduction and sample rate reduction, and also a mix blend (Amount), so you have plenty of control to add these extreme flavours to taste.

Also consider...

Softube Harmonics

(Image credit: Future)

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Despite the edginess these distortion stages add, they can play havoc with your transients, and the next stage, Shaping, is designed to fine-tune these. By its nature this effect is quite level dependent and in some cases you may need to refine your levels elsewhere to get the desired outcome. It’s still a welcome inclusion, however. 

The final module is the Limiter. This is switched on by default which can be a bit confusing at first. Thankfully it has a Bypass switch, although the same can’t be said for any of the other modules, which is a missed opportunity.

Get weird

The most intriguing feature on Beef is its playback speed modulation. Handled by the Noise/Rate Modulation section, this applies filtered noise to your audio signal. Two controls adjust the Frequency (40Hz to 20kHz) and Q width of the filter so you can affect the tonality of the noise, with a third controlling the Amount the noise affects your audio. 

Sounds pretty simple but rather than actually adding the white noise to your signal, it uses the rapidly changing noise signal to modulate the source audio, thus distorting it. The result is that the noise isn’t simply added on top, but rather it’s generated by the audio. 

In use the noise profile changes as the source audio changes, creating both a more dynamic and more natural effect. It's particularly good for adding presence to kicks and bass sounds, but it’s equally at home livening up lacklustre percussion sounds or adding some fizz where required.

Verdict

Beef has over 100 presets so you have plenty of starting points. What’s more, although there’s a plethora of controls, the layout is clear and logical. However, if you like things really simple, there’s also a Preset mode, which swaps out the main interface for a one knob configuration.

All told, Beef is a handy processor with a good range of flavours and features, and although there are a couple of potential improvements, it’s still a fun and sonically capable plugin that offers great value.

MusicRadar verdict: Beef is a well spec’ed distortion plugin with a multitude of flavours and a very inviting price.

Caelum Audio Beef: The web says

"A very practical plugin that has many functions of different plugins in one."
Synth Anatomy 

Caelum Audio Beef: Hands-on demos

Caelum Audio

TheGarageBandGuide

The REAPER Blog

Gavinski's Tutorials

Caelum Audio Beef: Specifications

  • macOS: Requires macOS 10.11 or higher. AU, VST3, AAX (64bit only)
  • Windows: Requires Windows 7 or higher. VST3, AAX (AAX is 64bit only).
  • iPadOS and iPadOS: Requires iOS 11 or higher. Standalone and AUv3.
  • CONTACT: Caelum Audio
  • Buy from Plugin Boutiw