Stateside developer Unfiltered Audio hasrepeatedly wowed us over the last few years with its gradually expanding range of innovative effects plugins, the highlights being SpecOps, Sandman Pro, Fault and G8 Dynamic Gate.
With its latest, BYOME, however, the company has broken all moulds and come up with by far its most ambitious software device to date.
In a nutshell, BYOME (an acronym for ‘Build Your Own Multi Effect’) is a multieffects plugin (VST/AU/AAX) that rolls the algorithms behind all of Unfiltered’s other plugins bar SpecOps into an enormous ‘modular’ construction kit, and throws in a ton of new ones to boot - 44 modules in total. These can be chained together as you see fit, and animated using a similarly extensive array of modulation sources.
What BYOME doesn’t do, it’s important to understand, is enable you to build your own modules entirely from scratch at the component level. It’s not a rival to the likes of Max/MSP or Reaktor in that sense.
Over the top
Despite the potentially infinite complexity of the things that can be done with it, BYOME couldn’t be easier to use, with an intuitive workflow and well-written tooltips for every module control. At the top is a sort of ‘master’ section, where input and output gains are adjusted, the final dry/wet mix balanced, and the desired degree of Automatic Gain Compensation dialled in, from 0-100%.
Also here is the global Sample Rate reduction knob. This reduction is applied discretely to every individual module - thereby limiting filter frequencies, ‘quantising’ internal modulations, etc - to deliver profound transformation of the effects chain as a whole. At the bottom of the main window is the Modulation Manager - see Modulation station.
Pile it on
Most of the action takes place in BYOME’s central strip, home to the effects chain itself. Click the + button at the right-hand end to add a module (there’s no cap on numbers), then simply select your processor of choice from the menu in its top right corner.
The 44 modules are arranged into eight largely self-explanatory categories - Delays, Distortions, Dynamics, Filters, Granular, Mixing, Modulation and Reverbs - each category drawing on the corresponding algorithms from previous Unfiltered plugins, as well as offering up numerous new ideas. For example, the algorithms in the Delay menu come from Sandman Pro, including Instant, Tape, Reverse, Multitap, Glitch Shifter, etc.
While you don’t get the full Sandman Pro experience - minus the Sleep Buffer, most notably - it’s certainly the meat of it. Then there’s the Noise Gate in the Dynamics category and the Modulation category’s Frequency Shifter, representing G8 Dynamic Gate and a simplified version of Fault’s central component.
Meanwhile, the all-new Resonator Bank (Filters) serves up four comb filters, each with its own Note pitch and Gain control, for pulling chords out of any material; Deep Reverb brings the bigness with up to six minutes of decay time; Granulator slices the input into 2-1000ms grains for crazy timestretching and pitchshifting; and Stereo Image provides all manner of widening voodoo, from M/S balancing to auto-inverted EQ, micro pitchshifting and left/right rotation. Clearly we don’t have space to describe them all, but suffice to say, BYOME’s modules constitute a colourful and comprehensive smorgasbord.
Unfiltered Audio’s proprietary modulation system is particularly at home in BYOME.
Modulation sources are loaded into the bottom strip of the interface (the Modulation Manager) - just as effects modules are into the strip above - and are assigned by dragging cables from their output sockets to the input sockets attached to every control of every effect (and, indeed, modulator). Modulation depths are set using the sliders below the output sockets.
The number and variety of mod sources on offer is impressive, taking in the expected LFOs, envelopes and randomisers, as well as many rather less conventional options including an XY pad, Step and Gate Sequencers, mathematical functions, and a module for integrating Roli’s Lightpad hardware controller. Lifted from the Zip compressor, the Spectral Follower is a notable standout, enabling tracking of Brightness, Darkness, Noisiness and Tonalness in the source signal.
While the Meta modulator works as a simple knob for manual modulation, BYOME also features eight Macros, each one assignable to any number of targets. These are also necessary for host DAW automation, as BYOME’s freeform architecture precludes module parameter assignment.
The effects are homogenous in appearance, with clearly laid-out horizontal control strips, and their own level meters, including gain reduction for the compressors. The vector-based GUI isn’t wide enough to show more than two or three at a time, but scrolling through the chain is smooth and responsive, and modules can be collapsed individually or collectively down to a smaller size, turning knobs into sliders and reducing parameter names to single letters.
BYOME is a fabulous plugin, but there are a few issues to mention. The big one for us is that it’s a resolutely ‘one-track’ system - a single serial chain with no routing flexibility whatsoever. Sure, there are dry/wet Mix knobs on every module, but we’d love to be able to create parallel chains by setting up multiband splits à la Kilohearts Multipass, or tapping off individual module wet outputs like in Bitwig Studio.
Also, time-based modulation sources max out 1/16 synced or 20Hz free-running. While this is fine for the LFOs, it feels like such an experimentally-minded plugin should allow much faster rates, particularly for the Sequencers and S+H module.
And finally, rather than have all GUI elements scale up and down as the window is resized, we’d rather Unfiltered chose a universally acceptable setting (or high-res and ‘standard’ scaling options) and allowed the view port to be expanded, with modules arranged across multiple stacked layers if necessary, so we could view more of them in full at a time.
All that aside, BYOME is a triumph - an endless sound design playground that rewards imagination and sounds spectacular at every turn. The diversity of the modules gives it limitless creative scope (we’re particularly taken by the delay, modulation and pitch manipulation devices), and the modulation system takes the whole thing to another level in terms of life and movement. Phenomenal.