Best Free Tansient Shaper Plugins

Whatever music you make (maybe with the exception of some ambient styles), having balanced transients is super important for a good mix. Transient shapers can give you more control over the dynamics of your transients by changing their amp envelope shape. This could be in the form of increasing the transient and adding more life to a sound or by decreasing it and tucking the sound more into the background, for example.

Unlike compressors, there are only a handful of free transient shapers available. For this article, I tested several different free transient shaper VST, AU and AAX plugins and made a few awesome discoveries. Here’s the list – download links included:

Free Transient Shapers (VST, AU, AAX)

Flux: BitterSweet v3

Format: VST, AAX, AU; 32 bit + 64 bit
OS: Windows + Mac

Audio Examples


Wet – “Bitter”:

Wet – “Sweet”:

Flux BitterSweet was created with simplicity in mind. This becomes clear from just looking at the user interface. A big knob in the middle lets you choose if you’d like your sound rather “sweet” or “bitter”. Turning the knob towards “sweet” will reduce transients in volume and will put your audio material further into the background, while turning it towards “bitter” will increase transients and make your material more percussive.

To make the transient shaper work with any type of material, you can choose how fast the plugin detects transients (fast, medium, slow). With the “period” slider, you can adjust how fast the transient declines again.

But what if you want to only affect the transients in the middle or on the sides of the stereo field? No problem – BitterSweet has a dedicated slider that lets you choose which signal should be affected: main (everything), center (the middle) or stereo (the sides).

The output level can be adjusted manually or linked to the main knob. If you link knob and output level, the overall volume will decrease when you’re increasing transients. This is super convenient because it means you don’t constantly have to adjust the volume while playing with your transient levels.

Flux BitterSweet is probably the most popular free transient designer out there, and there is a reason for that: It’s very hard to mess up with this one. Getting results with the bitter/sweet knob is easy and doesn’t really lead to extreme results, even if you turn it completely up or down. However, this also means that BitterSweet is a lot more subtle than other free transient shapers. Whether that’s good or bad will depend on your taste and project. However, for general mixing purposes, this plugin is definitely worth a try.

To use Flux BitterSweet v3, you first have to install Flux Center, which you can get here. When you open Flux Center, simply choose BitterSweet for installation.

Auburn Sounds: Couture

Format: VST2, VST3, AU, AAX
OS: Windows + Mac

Audio Examples


Wet – “Sharpened”:

Wet – “Softened”:

Here’s how the developer Auburn Sounds describes its level-independent transient designer Couture: “COUTURE’s goal is to get exquisite control over your dynamics, and particularly attacks. It solves a surprisingly huge range of mixing problems, with very low effort.”

In Couture, the main transient adjustment can be done with a big knob that’s labeled “Sharpen”. Turning this to the right will sharpen (increase) attacks and deemphasize releases, while turning it to the left does the opposite. This effect can be dramatically heightened by using the x1 / x2 / x3 buttons, which affects how much the shaping is applied. To have maximum control over your material, you can adjust the speed knob, which controls the decay level of your transients and the front/back knob, which tells Couture where in the transient it should start with the desired shaping effect.

The choice between different detector modes is a useful feature, which allows you to either treat all transients the same way or depending on harmonic content. “Sybil” targets harsh frequencies and “Human” is supposed to even out the perceived levels of the transients, while “Flat” processes all transients the same way. You can also decide how much Couture should react to bass frequencies. This can be useful when you only want to shape your snare sound in a kick and snare loop, for example.

In this free version of Couture, the built-in saturator does not work. However, even without it, Couture is a very useful tool that makes it easy to get control over your transients quickly. I found it very intuitive and the results sounded very musical to me.

You can get the free version of Couture on the Auburn Sounds website.

Digital Fish Phones: Dominion

Format: VST; 32 bit
OS: Windows + Mac

Audio Examples:


Wet – more attack, less sustain:

Wet – less attack, more sustain:

Dominion, created by Sascha Eversmeier from Digital Fish Phones, is actually quite an old tool as it was released in 2002! Still, I found it very useful and loved how easy it was to shape sounds to my liking.

What’s nice about Dominion is that you have dedicated sliders for attack and sustain. After setting the level of attack and sustain, you can set each one’s “length” parameter, which controls the decay of each setting. If you need more dramatic results, you can switch on the x2 button and affect the level even more.

But this is not Dominion’s only feature. The VST plugin also has a built-in saturator that can add harmonics to transients and therefore emulate analog equipment. The saturation can be further affected with a filter section (“hf details” in the user interface). I found the saturation rather subtle (which I’m sure was the goal), but pleasant and interesting.

If you choose to download Dominion, make sure to take a look at the included manual. Not only does it lay out the signal flow of the plugin, it has in-depth descriptions of how each element works and can teach you quite a bit about transient shaping in general. It’s really cool that the developer put so much effort into making this plugin easy to use.

Warning: Trying out the “mono” switch created a very loud glitch signal for a second or so. Avoid switching this on while it’s processing sound.

Since Dominion is an older plugin, only a 32 bit VST version is available (for both Mac and Windows). You can get the plugin here.

Sonic Anomaly: Transpire

Format: VST (Windows) – 32 + 64 bit; JSFX (Windows + Mac)
OS: Windows + Mac

Audio examples:


Wet – more attack, less sustain:

Wet – less attack, more sustain:

Are you looking for a simple transient shaper with transparent sound and easy controls? Then you might want to check out Transpire by Sonic Anomaly. Transpire comes with just four controls: attack, sustain, sensitivity and output. This means that you have less control over your transients than with other plugins, but it also means that Transpire is somewhat easier to use – especially if you’re a beginner.

The developers from Sonic Anomaly stress that Transpire “does not operate linearly, which means small transients are being affected relatively stronger than large transients. This is good for bringing up smaller details while not overloading on large hits. As a result, percussive tracks can sound more steady and controlled compared to traditional transient enhancers.”

I found that this plugin can change signals in pretty extreme ways. More musical results can be achieved with more conservative settings – although this will, of course, 100% depend on your source material.

One feature that should be mentioned is that Transpire’s GUI is scalable – which is very helpful to anyone with a larger screen. A downside is that the VST version only works in Windows (although there is a JSFX version that is compatible with Mac).

Transpire can be downloaded here.


Over to you…

Did we leave out any free transient shaper plugin that you love? Let us know in the comments!

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