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Cableguys ShaperBox Review – An Honest, In-depth Look

ShaperBox 2 has been regarded by many as one of the best sound design plugins ever. But, does it really live up to it’s name?

I’ve given myself the mammoth task of putting it to the test, in this ShaperBox 2 review, to find out whether it’s really worth your hard-earned music bucks or not.

Cableguys Shaperbox
4.5
$99

ShaperBox 2 is the perfect tool to use to turn static loops, samples, pads, synths, melodies… whatever you want into, alive, texture-rich samples that make your hairs stand on end. Incredibly easy to use, extremely affordable, and capable of creating jaw-dropping sound – Shaperbox is a must-have for every producer.

Ease of Use:
5.0
Presets:
3.5
User Interface:
5.0
Modulation options, LFO shapes & drawing control:
5.0
Effects usability and sound quality:
4.0
Sidechain quality, compression and envelope following:
4.0
Sound design capabilities:
5.0
Pros:
  • ShaperBox 2 offers five different effects modules (TimeShaper 2, CrushShaper, VolumeShaper 6, FilterShaper Core 2, and PanShaper 3), providing a wide range of creative sound manipulation possibilities.
  • Each module includes advanced modulation capabilities, allowing for intricate automation and movement within your audio.
  • ShaperBox 2 is a bundle of multiple effects, making it a cost-effective option compared to purchasing each module individually.
  • With its diverse effects and modulation options, ShaperBox 2 empowers producers to experiment and create unique textures, transitions, and sonic elements.
  • Despite its powerful capabilities, ShaperBox 2 maintains an intuitive interface that's easy to navigate, enabling users to quickly grasp its features.
Cons:
  • Due to the complexity and variety of effects modules, ShaperBox 2 might have a steeper learning curve for beginners, particularly those new to modular-style plugins.
  • Utilizing multiple effects modules simultaneously can be CPU-intensive, potentially impacting performance on less powerful systems.
  • While the bundle includes multiple modules, not all of them might be equally useful or necessary for every user's workflow.
  • While the bundle offers good value, it might still be relatively expensive for producers on a tight budget or those who only need specific effects.
  • While advanced users can appreciate the extensive modulation options, beginners might find the complexity overwhelming when trying to achieve simpler tasks.
  • ShaperBox 2 primarily focuses on audio manipulation and modulation, lacking features like comprehensive audio recording and MIDI capabilities found in full-fledged DAWs.
OS Compatibility: Windows, Mac
Plugin versions: VST, AAX, AU, 64-bit

What Is Shaperbox/What Does It Do?

Compatibility: Win 7+, macOS 10.19+, VST, AU, AAX, 32-bit, 64-bit
Price: $99

ShaperBox2 is a multi-effects plugin that includes a range of effects which are controlled by modulation shapes drawn in by the user. It’s used to turn static audio loops into deep, rich and depth-heavy soundscapes, synths and more.

The primary use of Shaperbox is for sound design. There are an almost endless amount of opportunities to modulate different effects, frequency bands and dynamics of your sound. You can also use it to compress audio, and it’s even great for stereo widening.

There’s not much you can’t do with ShaperBox. It’s more of a creative tool for sound design than a mixing tool, but it also includes some helpful mixing utilities in it.

Envelope followers, compressors and crazy modulated effects – what more could a producer want?

How Does It Sound?

Shaperbox 2 is capable of some pretty incredible sound design. Just spending a few minutes with the plugin and using some of our samples, we got some fantastic results just using Shaperbox and a few stock plugins.

Sound Example 1

One of our samples ran through ShaperBox twice. One is working on overtones and the other adding a lofi repeating.

Sound Example 2

A sample from our Redd Velvet Hyperpop pack on one of the stutter presets to show how interesting the rhythms can get in ShaperBox. Could be an awesome start to a Future Bass track.

Sound Example 3

This was interesting. The bass was created from a single piano sample, the background was created from a guitar loop run through Shaperbox and the FX was from a single drum sample.
We didn’t put a lot of effort into this, so to be able to mangle the sound into something completely different with minimal effort was extremely surprising! It could be a cool DnB loop if you worked a little more on it.

What Features Do You Get With ShaperBox?

ShaperBox 2 is packed to the brim with features that will help you sculpt and design sounds professionally. When we say the possibilities are virtually endless with Shaperbox – we really mean it.

8 Modules Effects Modules for Sound Design

ShaperBox includes 8 different effects that you can purchase separately, or in the bundle of the Shaperbox tool. Each of the effects will open up an LFO-style interface, which will allow you to add curves to the effect in order to control it over time.

For instance, with the Time, Drive, Panning or any other control, you can draw in a base curve for that effect to follow and link it to a timed beat division or a Hertz value.

The 8 effects are as follows:

  • Time
  • Drive
  • Noise
  • Filter
  • Crush
  • Volume
  • Pan
  • Width
time module shaperbox

Time

Like all the modules, with Time shift you’ll be able to control the effect using the LFO shaper and the controls. It will alter the time and pitch of your audio and can be used to create some extremely interesting sounds when resampling, or can act as a phenomenal detune.

It’s a great tool to have, but can be difficult to work with when you are using melodies, which is why the fine mode (and mighty fine mode) is so useful, as it adds a smaller range over which the time changes (1.5ms – 20ms), and can add subtle detune and warp to sounds.

This is perfect for melodic lofi sounds, and mixed with the noise module you can get some great-sounding tape/viynl like influence on your samples.

drive module shaperbox

Drive

The drive module adds distortion to your sound, and like the other modules – includes the basics for LFO control, drawing and modulation shapes. You control the amount of distortion using the drive knob and can mix it in lightly using the mix knob.

The distortion sounds nice and crunchy and also includes different styles like soft clip, hard clip, soft square and more. This is useful because it can change the character of the distortion. For instance, soft clip provides a more analog sound and hard clip is useful for EDM style basses and harsher sounds.

You can then further dial in your distortion sound using the tone and accent controls, which can also change the character of your distortion, without affecting the initial style of it.

The distortion is awesome for creating short bursts of crunchiness and giving movement to a sound. It’s the perfect tool to use alongside a granulator, to create those Flume-like, moving distorted sounds.

noise module shaperbox 2

Noise

The Noise module cotains over 80 different noise profiles, from aircrafts idling, to key scrapes, vinyl noise and even mic pre-amp noise. You can control this in the same way as the rest of the effects, using the modulation shapes and LFO controls.

With every module, you get some controls for that specific effect and with the Noise Module, you can choose the frequency range of your noise source, and also alter its volume.

This module is fantastic for adding texture to soundscapes or synths.

Like the other ShaperBox effects, the noise module has 3 different bands – allowing you to choose individual sounds for each band that react to different modulation shapes, with different mix amounts being added, volumes and more.

filter module shaperbox

Filter

The filtershaper core gives you access to 20+ filter types, including low pass & high pass filters, alongside some more unique ones like notch phasers and peak phasers.

These can be linked to the modulation shapes to create slow movement in pads, or you can change from beat divisions to Hertz mode, crank up the speed and add some odd overtones with the more unique phase filters.

Both the filter and the resonance can be controlled using the LFO shapes and each one has a separate shape you can control it with. You can get some really interesting sounds messing around with the resonance and cutoff points.

crush module

Crush

Crush is a Bitcrushing effect that’s similar to the drive tool, but instead introduces a crunchy, lofi style distortion to your sound. It’s really cool to use for wash out style effects in combination with the filtering.

Each control has a separate shaper to use, so you can indiviudally control the crunch of the bitcrushing, the bit reduction and how much it distorts, as well as the resampling and FX mix.

This has the most control out of all the units you’ll find in ShaperBox 2

volume module

Volume

This volume shaper is incredible for creating a sidechain effect without the compressor. You can also use it for gating, and creatively as a rhytmic tool, with stuttering as a possible effect too.

The volume module also includes a built-in compressor, so you can use it to thicken up sounds, as a mastering limiter and more.

Pan

panning module

The Pan module controls the stereo movement from left to right. It’s like an auto panner, but with more control of the shape of the sound you want to introduce. You get the same controls for LFO rate, shaping and more with the panning effect.

Panning is fantastic for creating pseudo width and is also great for sound design. For instance a fast rate pan from left to right can create an almost humming bird effect on your synths and is great to modulate for FX and more.

The panning effect also doubles up as a stereo widing tool, with a Haas mode that can be selected for when you want to create “fake” stereo that sounds extremely wide.

shaperbox 2 width module

Width

This module is fantastic for creating a perfect stereo balance for your sound. You can split the bands up into low, mid and high and control the width on them them separately, which is great for basic mixing duties and complex mix problems.

Getting your stereo width correct is something that can make your mix feel so much more immersive & encompassing. And, Shaperbox can help you with that.

You can also use this module for complex sound design, creating movement in the stereo field for more cinematic sounds, coupled with the shaping LFO control for a modulated stereo field.

Next Level Modulation & Control

Like mentioned above, each of the listed effects open with an LFO interface where you can draw lines, curves, sine waves and all kinds of different shapes to control your effects. Along with this, you get the same 4 “beat”, “length”, “MIDI trigger”, “LFO smoothness” and “mix” controls for all modules, but Time, which has all of the above, bar the “LFO Smoothness” – replacing it with its own special “Step Mode”.

This allows you to alter the rate of the LFO, the smoothness and the mix of each effect on your audio. And, the sheer amount of sound combinations you can get just messing around with the shapes and mix knobs is almost unbelievable.

And, when you though it stopped there, it starts to get better when you realise each of the effect modules has a multiband function.

The multiband function allows you to split your effect controls into 3 more separate channels, over a low, mid and high frequency range.

For instance – splitting the noise module into the 3 bands, gives you the ability to change the noise profiles playing in the low, mid and high (completely separate from each other), and even further alter the rate controls LFO shapes, mix knobs and more.

It essentially gives you 3 clean slates to control the sound exactly how you want across the frequency range.

If that’s not precise control, we don’t know what else is.

Compression & Envelope Following

Shaperbox isn’t just an LFO/volume shaper tool, it also includes some extra mixing tools that make it stand out from the crowd.

All of the effects have an Envelope Follower, apart from TimeShaper and VolumeShaper – that have a compressor instead.

cableguys shaperbox compressor
cableguys shaperbox envelope follower

Why is this useful?

Well, picture wanting to use ShaperBox on an instrument with a short staccato, or wanting the modulation to be in time with a ghost snare, or other melody you have working in your track. You can do this with the Envelope Follower, and can sidechain your effects to another audio track in your DAW to react automatically.

This means that it will reset the distortion, or open the filter, every time your sidechain input hits. You can use this on for drum design, to add rhythmic effects to the noise module and more.

Huge Library of Professional Presets

ShaperBox 2 can be pretty overwhelming to a new producer, or even an advanced producer opening it – there are so many options! Luckily Cableguys have included a wide range of factory presets that are extremely useful to get to grips with the program and see what it’s fully capable of.

The preset browser is a dream to use and has a great way to filter and rate presets, so you can sift the bad from the good.

One of the coolest things about the preset browser in ShaperBox, is the Cableguys preset cloud. This gives you direct access to download presets created by the community and the sound designers that are working with Cableguys.

There are currently over 6063 presets (as of writing) that are included with Shaperbox, so you can stop being stumped for ideas.

The Technical Stuff

CPU Usage

CPU useage is minimal with ShaperBox. I had absolutely no problems loading up 10+ instances on multiple tracks, all doing pretty intensive things. Personally I’m using an M1 Mac, and for the most part it is pretty fast, but definitely slows down when using multiple instances of other plugins.

I was extremely impressed with the CPU and how quick this plugin was. I was expecting it to get really slow after a few instances, because modulation can get pretty CPU intensive.

System Requirements & Compatibility

Here is what you’ll need to run Cableguys Shaperbox 2:

Windows

  • Windows 7, 8, 10 or 11
  • VST 2, VST 3 or AAX host sequencer
  • 32- or 64-bit

Mac

  • Mac OS X 10.9 or later
  • Intel or M1 (Native/Rosetta) processor
  • VST 2, VST 3, AU or AAX host sequencer

The User Interface

shaperbox 2 LFO drawing

The user interface in Cableguys Shaperbox 2 is absolutely phenomenal. It’s easy to navigate, you know where everything is and it’s intuitive to use – even if you don’t know where to start! It’s a modern, clean, feat of music production development that’s a dream to use.

In the draw section, you have some fantastic tools to accurately draw in curves that fit with beat divisions. Including a magnet option, that automatically snaps to the nearest grid division, odd or even.

There’s also an incredibly useful randomize button, for when you don’t want to spend time drawing in curves. This can be used as a quick way to generate patterns and ideas for your sounds. You’ve additionally got undo and redo buttons for drawing, which is a life saver when accidentally moving something, and a multitude of different shapes to draw with and create curves using.

On top of that, you can even 2x your modulation shapes, which just doubles the speed of the modulation you’ve drawn in, by repeating the same shape twice.

It also supports scaling in 4k, which is a huge bonus!

Things We Wish Were Included

There are a couple things missing from ShaperBox 2, which would make it even better (and tbh… they’ll probably include in ShaperBox 3 when it drops). But, we thought it would be worth mentioning here.

1. Modulation Matrix/Routing

There’s no way for the individual modules to be routed exactly how you’d like. The envelope followers react to the past module, so you can move your effects around to somewhat get around this, but what if you want to go more in-depth with your routings? This would make ShaperBox an absolute beast. Imagine if you could modulate anything with anything – it would create some fantastic possibilities for sound design!

Unlimited Bands

With the multiband, you can control your lows, mids and highs. And, while that might be enough for some, we often found ourselves wanting to control more fine sections of the mids and highs. This would be useful in the instance of creating overtones through filtering and using fast Hertz settings. It could also be useful for distortion.

Macros

Including macros to use as quick performance tools would be awesome to create quick bursts of the more crazy effects. It would also help workflow massively. We found ourselves resampling and chopping up the parts we liked a lot instead. Macros could’ve been useful here.

More Effects

I’m sure Cableguys have this planned, but more effects like reverb, chorus, flanging etc. would allow for more creative control and produce better sounds.

Verdict

Cableguys Shaperbox
4.5
$99

ShaperBox 2 is the perfect tool to use to turn static loops, samples, pads, synths, melodies… whatever you want into, alive, texture-rich samples that make your hairs stand on end. Incredibly easy to use, extremely affordable, and capable of creating jaw-dropping sound – Shaperbox is a must-have for every producer.

Ease of Use:
5.0
Presets:
3.5
User Interface:
5.0
Modulation options, LFO shapes & drawing control:
5.0
Effects usability and sound quality:
4.0
Sidechain quality, compression and envelope following:
4.0
Sound design capabilities:
5.0
Pros:
  • ShaperBox 2 offers five different effects modules (TimeShaper 2, CrushShaper, VolumeShaper 6, FilterShaper Core 2, and PanShaper 3), providing a wide range of creative sound manipulation possibilities.
  • Each module includes advanced modulation capabilities, allowing for intricate automation and movement within your audio.
  • ShaperBox 2 is a bundle of multiple effects, making it a cost-effective option compared to purchasing each module individually.
  • With its diverse effects and modulation options, ShaperBox 2 empowers producers to experiment and create unique textures, transitions, and sonic elements.
  • Despite its powerful capabilities, ShaperBox 2 maintains an intuitive interface that's easy to navigate, enabling users to quickly grasp its features.
Cons:
  • Due to the complexity and variety of effects modules, ShaperBox 2 might have a steeper learning curve for beginners, particularly those new to modular-style plugins.
  • Utilizing multiple effects modules simultaneously can be CPU-intensive, potentially impacting performance on less powerful systems.
  • While the bundle includes multiple modules, not all of them might be equally useful or necessary for every user's workflow.
  • While the bundle offers good value, it might still be relatively expensive for producers on a tight budget or those who only need specific effects.
  • While advanced users can appreciate the extensive modulation options, beginners might find the complexity overwhelming when trying to achieve simpler tasks.
  • ShaperBox 2 primarily focuses on audio manipulation and modulation, lacking features like comprehensive audio recording and MIDI capabilities found in full-fledged DAWs.
OS Compatibility: Windows, Mac
Plugin versions: VST, AAX, AU, 64-bit

Before this article, and downloading Shaperbox I never understood the hype – my eyes have now been opened and I’ve reached music production enlightenment.

But, should you spend your money on Shaperbox 2?

To put it simply, the value you get is going to be more than worth the asking price for this Shaperbox 2. The sounds you can create with it are insane and the sheer amount of modulation possibilities packed in a neat workflow, make this the best plugin for sound design we’ve used lately.

You can feed Shaperbox a loop and you can mangle it into something completely new you never would have been able to make yourself, or you’ll make it much more intriguing and interesting to listen to.

We can personally see this being extremely useful for cinematic sound designers too that work with film, TV and create intro SFX etc. as with the modulation possibilities, you can make some very impactful sounds using a couple of shapes.

There are no real downsides to getting this plugin. For the price of $99 you are getting exceptional value, and you are bound to find some use for it in your music-making. My favourite use for Shaperbox was resampling.

Keep resampling a loop into different LFO patterns and effects and you’re going to get something that sounds cool, period.

You can then cut those loops up and cherry-pick the parts you like for later processing. check out this in-depth review of Devious Machines Texture: Devious Machines Texture Review

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