Company: Krotos Audio
Product: Dehumaniser Simple Monsters
Our Rating: 4.7/5
Krotos Audio's Simple Monsters offers users the chance to process the human voice in inhuman ways, lending core technology from their flagship Dehumaniser products.
Installation and Use
Installing Simple Monsters is very straight forward, a simple installer package works rather quickly to generate the relevant AAX Native/Audiosuite, VST and AU versions. The product is activated via iLok which many people dislike, but we think it's great that users can take the product to another system or studio to work. We performed our tests and review within Pro Tools 12 running at 24Bit 96kHz on a Windows system, it worked rather well, without crashes or hogging CPU.
The interface is very well laid out and doesn't take up too much screen space, something that helps when performing heavy sound design. The sliders on the front panel are controlling multiple processors behind the scenes, the combination of those parameters and the XY pads on the second page offer a variety of ways to shape your creature vocalisations.
I Am The Elephant Man
The plugin works as an insert and processes audio in multiple stages. It uses convolution to pass the input signal through a user defined sample with an envelope (Krotos have included some very useful audio clips for this) or you can load your own sounds for further mangling and experimentation. It also has 5 parameters to tweak: Size is a sort of overall pitch control, Fury makes the overall processing of the voice more or less aggressive, Age is a finer pitch shift, which has further processing under the hood combined with the Size control, Wildness dictates how much the source sound will vary according to other parameters and Character offers a blend and mix of other parameters, worth tweaking to find the sweet spot in your voice. Some settings work better for dialogue, and others work better for general growling/breathing...
There is also a Dry/Wet mix as well as a Stereo Spread control, with the option to control multiple parameters on XY pads. These pads can be mapped to a custom TouchOSC template for control by the Sound Designer, or even by the Voice Actor while recording, a great way to add another layer to their own performance!
Plug in a microphone, bring up the interface and start tweaking a preset. You'll soon find yourself fascinated by your vocal performance and the plugin working together in ways never heard before in software. It feels fluid and sounds great, especially considering that this is a more affordable version of the Dehumaniser lineup. In some patches, breathing is translated to snarling, in others speaking in your normal voice is transformed into a monstrous giant; 'Fee Fi Fo Fum!'
The Sound Quality is vastly improved when the patch and your vocal pitch, intonation and speed are aligned in the right way. What is great about this plugin is that it encourages experimentation with your voice, and doesn't just feed you with good results right away. Using the XY pads for automation can offer more variety, and layering patches can work well in certain situations. It's so infectious and fun that soon you'll be bringing the whole family round to play different characters in your Orc army invasion.
Krotos have aimed this product at low - mid sized creative businesses and it really hits that category well. It would feel at home at indie game studios, post production companies and at live performances where voice transformation is required.
Intuitiveness is something that users often miss in software, but this product gets that right while offering something other products can't. For further customisation and ordering of parameters, readers should look at Dehumaniser 2.
Monsters Are Real
All in all, Simple Monsters is a great tool for those wanting to create creature vocalisations, and most importantly have fun while doing it. It has very little barriers to creativity, with just enough customisation for 'simple monster' tasks. The hands on experience and experimentation is a testament to the innovation Krotos offer to Sound Designers. The plugin can also be used in some extra wacky ways to create glitchy textures:
One small criticism that could be aimed towards this, would obviously be that it doesn't offer all of the bells and whistles that you get with their flagship Dehumaniser 2, but small to mid sized projects likely won't need that. The fact that you can load your own samples for convolving alone makes this product a useful tool. In terms of the sound quality, as with many voice processors, it can become rather thin sounding when pushed to extreme places (this can be alleviated with some lower frequency boosts depending on the patch).
The other thing to speak about is price. On first glance it seems a little on the expensive side, but do bare in mind that Krotos are industry innovators and the teams they have working on these products clearly put a lot of care and attention into everything, not just the sound quality. The look, feel and ease of use are all critical when using this with clients and voice actors.
Krotos also offer a 50% discount to students and teachers, which puts Simple Monsters into the 'affordable' category for many. The time it saves you is worth it's weight in gold. Somewhere between the academic price and the retail price would definitely open this up to a wider audience in the future!
The Bottom Line
If you are working on projects with otherworldy vocalisations, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Comedy and more, this is for you. You could be behind in terms of speed and workflow so it is advisable to at least try the demo and see what it does to your voice!