Review: Sonnox Oxford Envolution Plug-in

Sonnox has just released a brand new plug-in called Oxford Envolution, which is a frequency-dependent envelope shaper.
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Sonnox has just released a brand new plug-in called Oxford Envolution, which is a frequency-dependent envelope shaper.

Sonnox has just released a brand new plug-in called Oxford Envolution, which is a frequency-dependent envelope shaper. In the interest of full disclosure, I was on the beta team for this. Regardless, I use it on just about every session not because of that, but because its just such a useful piece of software.

I’ve certainly used other envelope shapers before, including Sonnox’s own Transient Modulator. But what makes Envolution different is that there are separate Transient and Sustain sections with creative control over each element. The Transient section features independent control over Attack, Hold, Release and Sensitivity along with the large Transient level control. It doesn’t get much easier to use: to enhance the transients of the waveform, turn the Transient knob up; to reduce them, turn the knob down.

With the Sustain section, the same approach applies: turn the big Sustain knob up to increase; turn it down to decrease the amount. The Sustain section also features Hold, Attack, and Release controls, and both Sustain and Transient sections have independent Bypass buttons to turn on and off the effect as it is added per section.

The Center Panel can be assigned three different views. Envelope Scope shows the real time amplitude of the waveform in gray, the Transient envelope in yellow and the Sustain envelope in purple; use this to ‘see’ the sensitivity and shape of gain envelopes. It operates in default as Scroll mode (Slow/Medium or Fast), but can be viewed as Sync with 1 or 2 bars when working in mapped tempo mode. The Scope display can also be frozen by clicking inside the box, whereas a blue border will be drawn around the window. Simply click again to let it go. By selecting the FREQ buttons, it shows the Spectral Shaping of each section, where EQ curves can be tilted to alter the high and low frequencies of effects.

The Output section features a Master Fader and stereo meters, as well as a Wet/Dry Mix control and Warmth control (0 to 100%). When pressed, the Diff button allows users to hear the difference between the original and processed signal, and the Bypass button bypasses the entire plug-in.

The first time I tried this thing (while still in beta), I jokingly referred to it as “the ass kicker”—a name I still call it. Since I often use a wide variety of loops in my TV productions, I’m always looking for a way to do something unique with them. I placed Envolution across a standard drum loop, turned up the Transients and Sustain knobs, and heard, well, more—more attack on the initial transients of each note (the kick in this instance), and more ambience and sustain from the rest (hi-hats, snares and cymbals). In doing so, it also made the loop louder, so I pulled the Master fader down, while experimenting with the Mix Dry/Wet.

Another cool thing to try: Cutting sustain and ambience to the point where it becomes an incredibly smooth gate. I had a bunch of audio brothers around me when I was doing it, and we all gathered by the screen to hear how powerful this tool is for loop productions.

Then to really experiment, we left the DIFF button pressed and just started turning knobs. This whole new sonic palette came out of the loop, which not only let us hear the process of Envolution, but when I leave that DIFF knob in, it’s like sound design meets transient creativity. A useful detail in Envolution is that you can roll over any of the knobs, and a small ‘explanation’ box pops up telling what it does.

Without question, Envolution is a highly creative tool. I use it primarily on loops, but also on percussion, snare drums and so on. I will often automate the large Transient and Sustain knobs to increase and decrease as the music flow, which lets me turn static loops into something more musical and special. I highly recommend taking this plug in for a spin.