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Producer Spotlight: Crystallizer From Soundtoys Brings Mind Warping Sound Design

Soundtoys' Crystallizer is a pitch-shifting, reverse, tempo sync’d, granular delay plugin that will inspire, and push you in new directions with your productions.
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Soundtoys Crystallizer

Soundtoys Crystallizer

Crystallizer is a pitch-shifting, reverse, tempo sync’d, granular delay - AKA a mind-warping sound design trip, and believe it or not, it has a subtle side too. The sound of Crystallizer was born in a preset from the acclaimed (and also created by Soundtoys designers) H3000 multi-effects hardware back in the day. At the time that preset, called Crystal Echoes, was the 80’s guitarist “out there” effect. But with the introduction of Crystallizer, Soundtoys pushed that effect to new places, and whole new audiences.

Soundtoys Crystallizer

Eventide H3000, Crystal Echoes, part of the inspiration behind Crystallizer

Roughly what’s going on is the plug-in captures a “Splice” or sample of audio based on its time setting and repeats that audio, forward or backward, and runs it back through a pitch shifter, which is then recycled back through the process. This makes for reversed pitch climbing or dropping delays. Sounds weird? Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s a perfect addition to a track, and for sure it can create those “What the heck is that?” moments that can make a big impression.

Of course, Crystallizer can do simple pitch tricks like old-school doubling and intervals, chorus, and even a take on the classic micro-shifting technique. But, all said and done, it shines when used to do massive spiraling synth-like pads, huge thunderous sound design soundscapes, or a trippy reversed tape guitar effect. Sync’d to host tempo, it can bring a very unique new type of rhythm or, using the gate function, it can create funky ambiences for EDM style drums. Crystallizer is a whole universe of new worlds to explore.

So, back to a bit more history. As mentioned earlier, if you listened to the radio in the late 80s (or stream oldies on your phone today), you’ve heard the Crystal Echoes effect from the Eventide H3000 effects processor. The sound is absolutely unmistakable and has been used on countless records to transform simple chords into epic soundscapes. Once musicians and engineers got their hands on this unique effect and realized how it instantly turned minimal guitar lines into shimmering symphonic textures, there was no going back. It can be heard on hundreds of records—from 80s anthems to ambient compositions, to modern indie rock and chillwave of today.

Because Soundtoys’ founders actually designed the original H3000, you can be sure its sound is recreated flawlessly. One of the key elements and character of the Crystallizer sound is its old-school pitch shifting. Modern pitch shifters (like Soundtoys’ Little AlterBoy for example) use sophisticated mathematical algorithms to transform music and vocals as naturally as possible. The original old-school hardware (like Eventide’s classic H910 Harmonizer) used a simpler resample and crossfade technique that introduced audible artifacts in the pitch-shifted audio. This retro technique of Crystallizer adds a glitchy character to the sound that is an essential part of its 80s-futuristic charm.

As is usual from Soundtoys, Crystallizer also features enhancements to take the original sound into entirely new realms. Host tempo sync of splices and delay, Gate/Duck functions, tone controls, feedback option, and offsets make this a super tweakable and far more flexible version of the original sound.

Soundtoys Crystallizer Menu

Soundtoys Crystallizer Menu

The easiest way to get into Crystallizer is to get into it. Really, pick a track, drop on Crystalizer and scroll through some presets. If you go in without expectations of what comes out you may be surprised what you find and it’ll help you know where to go the next time you need something interesting to spice up a track. The presets organization is pretty straightforward (for something so sonically expansive) so you should be able to find something useful fairly quickly by picking a folder that sounds like a good fit. But exploration is really the key to Crystallizer, and it couldn’t be easier to just skip the presets that don’t fit, and land on that perfect oddity that makes it all work, or inspires a new direction.

And for the complete experience, try Crystallizer inside Effect Rack with all the other plug-ins. It helps create some iconic sounds like the Shimmer reverb effect and some spacious spiraling pads. 

Check out how it fits into these Effect Rack presets.


Glimmer of Hope

Looking Glass Pad

Eighties Gaties

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Ambient Padding

Tips:

1. Open the Tweak Menu. There you will see some highly useful controls for sculpting your sounds. High and low rolloff, the expanded controls for the Duck/Gate effects, and some offsets that can dramatically alter the sound.

2. If you load a preset and it’s some big spirally effect, give it a minute to settle in. The Splices can sometimes take a second or two to get to the correct times if there’s lots of Recycle.

3. Recycle is feedback. It just seemed like in the creation of Cystallizer, that Recycle made more sense. The pitch shifter is recycling the shifted sound back into itself.

4. Sometimes just a little works. If you choose a preset and it feels like too much, don’t just skip to the next one, try mixing it to dry, and then just adding back in a little at a time. Then it may still not work, but often, just a hint is the ticket.


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