Gain Pumping

08 Sep 2017

Capture That Illusive Bounce

While the appeal of the filtering and distortion within Sugar Byte's WOW2 is immediately apparent the moment you start twisting those five invitingly chunky control knobs, its creative potential as a mix processor extends well beyond that. The modulation options, in particular, dramatically expand the range of effects it can create, and I'd like to demonstrate this by explaining how you can do some fabulous rhythmic gain-pumping effects that will really inject that elusive 'bounce' into your tracks at mixdown.

At its simplest, rhythmic gain-pumping is very easy to set up in WOW2. First hit the 'load a clean preset' button (just to the left of the 'save preset' button above the folder list) and then turn the plug-in's Volume control completely down. At this point, anything playing through the plug-in will be muted. Now head over to the modulation pane at the bottom of the plug-in window, and click the sinewave button above it to show the built-in LFO. For the most characteristic gain-pumping effect you want the waveform that looks like a curved upwards ramp, the one that gets steeper towards the top, in conjunction with an LFO rate of 1/4 (for classic four-to-the-floor pumping). So grab the little white triangular handles along each of the waveform graph's axes to select those values. Finally, with some signal playing through the plug-in, increase the Volume modulation amount using the control at the bottom right-hand side of the plug-in window, and you should be rewarded with a basic, though eminently usable, gain-pumping effect. If it's too severe, you can easily smooth out the action by increasing the level of the Volume control (so that the sound isn't completely muted on each beat) or by selecting one of the other upwards-ramp LFO waveforms.

Here you can see how easy it is to set up WOW2 to generate simple but effective gain-pumping effects.

But that's only the start of what you can do, because the same LFO that's modulating the Volume control can also be routed to other destinations as well, embellishing the gain-pumping with an additional timbral modulation. Try increasing the Drive modulation value, for instance, and the default Hyperbolic distortion model will progressively increase the processed signal's upper-spectrum harmonic density between each beat, enhancing the subjective impact of the volume change. The Diabolic distortion model gives a similar but more pronounced effect, whereas the Parabolic and Digitize models provide yet more creative timbral results.

Although modulating the Drive of WOW2's Hyperbolic distortion works well to emphasise a simple gain-pumping treatment, the Parabolic and Digitize modes tend to generate more creative timbral effects.

The filter section offers further goodies here too, by virtue of the Cutoff and Reso modulation controls. Although instinct might lead you towards the classic low/high/band-pass filters, it's the Mid Boost and Comb options that actually give the most ear-catching results in this application, I think, as long as each has a healthy dose of Resonance applied! The vowel mode also opens up some lovely tonal nuances, with the Band Reject filter really coming into its own there. In all of these cases, don't just assume that positive modulation amounts are the way to go, because negative Cutoff modulation provides a whole extra set of flavours to choose from. Plus, make sure you tweak the Cutoff modulation amount and the main Cutoff control in tandem to get the most appropriate range of filter motion.

The same LFO that's triggering your basic gain-pumping can also be pressed into service to expand the effect's tonal horizons -- for example, in this screenshot you can see me modulating the Drive control of the Digitize distortion model and simultaneously negatively modulating the Cutoff control of a high-resonance band-reject filter operating in vowel mode. Phew!

Words: Mike Senior.