The Soundtoys Decapitator plugin (part of the Soundtoys 5 suite) creates analog style saturation from subtle to extreme. It has 5 different flavors and a Punish button to put it over the top. This is a must have vst for your arsenal. As as side note, notice that it’s “Soundtoys” and not “Sound Toys”.
Like their other plugins, Little Alter Boy, Crystallizer, Echo Boy, etc. Decapitator is both familiar and different at the same time. You may think that that their plugins aren’t as serious as others that model actual hardware units, but you’d be mistaken. While they don’t try to model a specific hardware unit, they model analog hardware in general, which gives them freedom to both keep what was great about analog hardware and create something new altogether.
The first thing to note is that as the Drive knob is turned up, the Output knob is turned down. This appears to be turned down at a 2:1 ratio.
The Low Cut and Hi Cut operate as you’d expect, and are useful to tune out the hi and low frequencies as needed. The Hi-cut is post saturation though, while the Low cut is pre-saturation. The Steep toggle switches from the default 6db rolloff to 30db (odd that it’s not the expected 24db isn’t it?)
Hint: the Thump toggle adds a few dB boost at the Low Cut frequency, offering up a Pultec-esque type boost into the saturation.
The Tone knob seems to be like an old fashioned radio tone knob that typically used a Baxandall eq style curve. It operates before the saturation effect.
To PUNISH or not to PUNISH! The PUNISH knob offers a 20db gain boost! Without PUNISH mode is geared more towards subtle warmth and could be applied to almost anything. But sometimes subtle is just too subtle … PUNISH is quite obvious.
What on Earth is AENTP? These are the 5 styles or models of hardware that Soundtoys used when designing Decapitator. I’ll apply each style to this clip so that you can hear the differences.
If you are a Soundtoys fan, check out our review of Little Plate. Another must have VST.
A stands for Ampex 350. This is the preamp of the tape machine used in the 50’s at Sun and Chess Records. It imparts a smooth tube vibe.
E stands for EMI. It’s actually modeled after a Chandler recreation of the Abbey road EMI console. It’s described as a smooth top end and beefy low end.
N stands for Neve 1057. This is based on a Germanium transistor sound and is good on guitars. It’s described as a solid low end and focused mids.
T stands for Triode, and is modeled after the triode setting of the Culture Vulture. It offers even order harmonics. If you play guitar, you may recognize that pre-amps often use triode tubes.
P stands for Pentode, and is modeled after the Pentode Tube in the Culture Vulture. It imparts distortion with odd harmonics.
If you are interested in Saturation and Harmonics plugins, don’t forget to check out our article on it.
Soundtoys Decapitator on a Clap
This example is of a dry clap sound, and how the Decapitator can bring out the sound.
Decapitator VST on a Kick
To see what a big difference Decapitator can make, take a listen to this dry Trance type clip. The Kick and Clap could be louder, but really need a bit more bite.
Setting Decapitator’s Drive to almost 7 and using the Neve style saturation really makes the Kick sit better in the mix. I adjust the Low Cut up so that it won’t be too thumpy.
This is the same clap sample as used in the prior example. Notice the settings are different though. I’m now using the P style. While the Neve style sounded better on the standalone sample, the Pentitode style sounds better in relation to the mix.
The Decapitator is truly an awesome plugin when it comes to saturation, and should be a consideration for your plugin arsenal. While it can be fun using some of the more traditional hardware emulation plugins, Soundtoys Decapitator is easy to use, and the 5 different flavors really are a unique spin. The memory is quite reasonable, and I’m easily able to add it to half a dozen tracks. Definitely put the Soundtoys Decapitator on your must have list.
If you are strapped for cash, you can read our review of the Softube Saturation Knob which is the best free saturation plugin. For another option, check out our SPL Twintube review, and don’t forget to check out our other Soundtoys Reviews.