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As the march of virtualization continues, I've ditched most of my effects boxes and pedals in favor of plug-ins. Who hasn't, right?

But some mad scientists' creations just can't (or simply aren't) be replicated in software, and I get the impression that they're not a common tool for many sound designers. (Terminator: Salvation is one notable exception.)

For example, I'm still partial to the Sherman Filterbank, the Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress, and the weirder pedals by Z-Vex. I've used all of them in signal chains for sound design (as well as music, of course), or sometimes just for "sketching" ideas (as you can tell, ideas where signal to noise ratio isn't as important). I'm just dying to get an Ekdahl Moisturizer.

Does anyone have any favorite outboard processors or effects pedals that actually get used for sound design or any wacky techniques?

  • I was just looking at my dusty guitar pedals today thinking the same thing! – Steve Urban Jul 21 '10 at 3:11
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I love this question! Sound design was something I fell into as a result of constantly messing around with non-musical sounds during tracking sessions as a recording engineer. Probably my two favorite guitar pedals I love for sound design are the Micro-Synthesizer made by Electro-Harmonix and of coarse Moog's Low pass filter. Now there is a Plug-in version of the low pass filter, but the Micro Synthesizer is great for bullet whizzes, ricco's and and anything with movement.

Some of my other favorite pedals are the "Soul Bender" which is great for adding strangeness, Akai's "Deep Impact" pedal (great for bass players) awesome for filtering with a fat warm tone. Z-Vex pedals are always alot of fun, using the Ooh Wah and the Probe Wah together is just out there.

Some non-pedal effects that are fun are the Eventide H3000, which does alot of great things, the Rev 7 (especially the tones generator setting and even Alesis Air FX, which is cheap and crappy, but it has a performance element to it and can be great as a weird side-chain effect. I could go on and on but those are some goodies that come to mind.

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We used a really crazy pedal called a Snarling Dog while designing sounds for Terminator Salvation. Some really strange sounds came out of that thing!

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I'll never part with my DBX Subharmonic Synth

All my other outboard I use for music & similarly unrelated as its music, I had an analog synth rebirth a few years ago when I got the first 3 modules for my modular synth. I didnt have an oscillator so I hooked my Kaossilator into it, through a waveshaper module & Moog LPF and out to mixer..... OMFG!!!! The Kaossilator is a fun little synth but like most plugins its sound is 'polite' whereas through a few modules it could tear your speakers apart! The raw power of pure analog circuits completely stopped me in my tracks & I reassessed everything I had presumed about plugins vs analog... Plugins are convenient but nothing beats the real thing

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Sherman Filterbank is like a paint bucket spilling a bunch of colors on my monochromatic sounds.

Nord Wave synth has also amazing sound shaping capabilities with the power of using your own samples as an Oscillator source.

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When I went freelance not to long ago, I splurged on an Ekdahl Moisturizer ("I can write it off when I do my taxes!") A few slaps on those springs with the output cranked = perfect metal explosion sweetner. I've been dying to try out a few of my other guitar pedals, specifically my Quadrafuzz. I've also done some recording with my Thingamagoop 2, which yielded some decent telemetry and alarm sounds.

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