The 5 Best Free Transient Shaper Plugins Ever

Here our are favourite free transient shaper VST plugins:

  1. Auburn Sounds Couture
  2. Sound Anomaly Transpire
  3. Flux Bittersweet v3
  4. Sleepy-Time Transient
  5. Ableton Transient Shaper

Whatever genre of music you’re making, transient shaping plugins are extremely important to helping form a balanced mix. They can help to make your mix elements pop and stand out, and are especially useful for creating snappy drums.

In this episode of our free VST plugins articles, we’re going to cover the best free transient shaper plugins for producers.

Auburn Sounds Couture

File: VST, AAX, AU, 32-bit, 64-bit

OS: Windows/Mac

auburn sounds couture

The absolute best free transient designer has to be Auburn Sounds Couture. It has the most control you’re going to get out of a free transient designer plugin, and treats your transients with the cleanest lens.

The others on this list seem to add a slight bit too much compression and don’t leave your drums as tight, and clean sounding as Auburn has managed to pull off.

You also get full control over your attack and sustain (on separate dials), which is an exceptionally important feature to have in a transient designer.

It’s simple, easy-to-use, free, and will definitely make your sounds cut through a mix. The taming of transients (turning the ‘sharpen’ dial to the left) is also incredible, and harsh settings will sound very similar to parallel compression on drums.

Couture has 3 transient detection modes to choose from:

  • Flat
  • Human
  • Sybil

It’s nice to have the choice of detection modes, and it can be a great deal of help when dealing with all types of audio files. Whether it’s hard drums, or a smooth acoustic guitar, Couture will cover you.

When opening Auburn you’ll be presented with a GUI that looks like you’ve bought a paid plugin.

And you’ll see controls such as:

  • dry/wet & amount
  • sharpen (which tames or increases the transient)
  • attack and sustain settings
  • clipping options
  • 3 different detection modes.

You’ll also notice there’s a greyed out saturation module, which is what you get if you choose to opt for the paid version of Couture ($19).

Another great thing is that, it’s the easiest to install out of the 3 plugins on this list, with a simple .exe file that doesn’t install any extra bloat on your computer.

For a free plugin, you’re not gonna be disappointed with Couture. It’s by far the best transient designer available for free.

How It Sounds

Here’s some audio examples of how Couture will act on your drums. These are sounds from our Solero Exotic Hits pack, coming for free download soon!

Sonic Anomaly Transpire

File: VST, AAX, AU, 32-bit, 64-bit

OS: Windows/Mac

sonic anomaly transpire

Next on our list is Sonic Anomaly’s Transpire plugin. This is another free transient shaper VST plugin that’s really good at keeping the modification of your transients as clear and transparent as possible.

When we tested it, it stood up against Couture extremely well, but the UI is a bit more difficult to understand, and there aren’t any labels to full see what each knob does.

Although you don’t get as much control as Couture, Transpire still sounds excellent.

You’ll get knobs for your attack and sustain levels. Using the attack to bring out transients, works excellently on snares and kicks. It maintains the dynamics of your audio, while beefing it up and allowing it it to pop through a mix.

Transpire also offers output control, and an ominous +- button that doesn’t have any description to what it does. This is the sensitivity control.

Sensitivity controls the amount of detail which Transpire uses to process the transients. Small sensitivity is better for instruments that aren’t percussive.

Other than that, Transpire has a nice, clean interface and is veerrry simple to get a good sound on. It’s also an easy install process, of just dragging and dropping your .dll file or component, and doesn’t add any bloat to your computer.

Sonic Anomaly appear to not be about anymore, but you can still grab this plugin over on plugins4free.

How Does It Sound?

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Flux Bittersweet v3

File: VST, AAX, AU, 32-bit, 64-bit

OS: Windows/Mac

flux bittersweet

Flux Bittersweet is a free transient designer plugin from the lovely developers over at Flux Audio. It’s another exceptionally clean sounding transient shaper plugin, that packs a lot of punch.

Flux Bittersweet is by far the easiest transient designer to use on this list, it has the prettiest UI, and the workflow makes sense. When testing Bittersweet, it was absolutely awesome at giving snares extra pop while keeping them clean.

Inside flux you get a main dial that controls how bitter, or sweet you want your audio signal to be. This controls how harsh or tame you want your transients.

It also has some extra options that the other transient designers on this list don’t. With Flux Bittersweet, you get 3 different modes to choose from. These aren’t transient detection modes like with Couture though, they are multiband.

  • Main – processes audio using a stereo signal.
  • Center – activates only the mid of an M/S signal.
  • Stereo – activates only the side channels.

This is a wicked feature to have and provides an incredible amount of control over your stereo field. Center is really good for processing mono/mid drum sounds (like snares, or kicks).

Using this feature you can really dial your sound in how you want it.

Bittersweet also comes with 3 different settings for your transient detection. You get slow, medium and fast, which are well… slow, medium and fast.

You also get an output control, and the option to link it up with your main dial. This means any gain you’re adding to your track is removed. This is a great, because it helps with your mix’s gain structuring.

How Does It Sound?

We tested this on the same drum track using the same sounds from our Solero Exotic Drum Hits pack (which is coming free soon).

Sleepy-Time Records Transient

File: VST, AAX, AU, 32-bit, 64-bit

OS: Windows/Mac

sleep time records transient

Another great transient designer plugin, comes from Sleepy-Time records, and is called Transient. This is a bit further down the list because it’s only available on Windows unfortunately.

But if you are a Windows user, it’s an extremely clean, and transparent transient designer.

Personally, we’d put this a lot higher if you could also use it on Mac, because it is the most comprehensive and advanced free transient designer plugin available on the market.

With transient you get a number of amazing features to control, but as a trade off, it’s a lot more difficult to use than the other plugins on this lit.

With transient you get controls like:

  • Attack and sustain + VCA/Envelope timing
  • Detection filter
  • Attack and sustain monitoring
  • Separate L&R monitoring
  • dBFS transient detection range dials
  • 2 Detection modes
  • Output control

As you can see from that long list it’s the most comprehensive out of all the options on this list.

Although it has a load of options to mess around with, it doesn’t sound as good as the above. Also, all the options can be somewhat overwhelming, and aren’t really needed on a transient designer.

This can hamper your workflow, but if you like tinkering with stuff, then you’ll be in heaven.

How Does It Sound?

We tested this on the same drum track using the same sounds from our Solero Exotic Drum Hits pack (which is coming free soon).

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Ableton Transient Designer

ableton transient designer

Next on our list is a free Ableton transient designer. It’s an Ableton rack you download for free, over on gumroad.

Although this will be great for your workflow in Ableton, it doesn’t produce the same results as the other transient designers do.

When taking a look inside the rack, it’s made up of some simple compression, saturation and gain controls. Which is what transient designers are, but there is a key difference between a transient shaper and compressor.

A transient designer is able to apply a mix of compression and expansion to your audio signal. And, although compressors can switch between the two, they cannot dynamically choose.

This is a key difference, and is a reason why you should probably get a dedicated transient shaper instead.

Either way, the Ableton one still sounds great and is going to help you tame or increase the transients, there are just better options.

We thought it worth a mention seeing as the workflow of it is great, and it still produces great results.

You also get the ability to control saturation inside this Ableton rack, which is something you don’t get on any of the other plugins on this list.

How Does It Sound?

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Do I Need A Transient Shaper?

Transient shaping plugins are very useful for controlling the dynamics in your mix. Transient shapers are an essential tool for the mixing & sound design process, are great for all genres, and will help make your mix elements 'pop', 'cut-through', or stand out.

We personally use transient shapers more often than not and, you can them on drums, guitar, bass and a number of other instruments.

Essentially it’s compression, but there are some key differences between a transient shaper and a compressor. And these differences make the need for a transient designer more urgent.

Like we said above, compressors can expand and compress, but they’re not capable of applying a mix of both expansion and compression at the same time – transient shapers are.

Also, they are threshold-independent. That means, they react to incoming audio signals, rather than being stuck at a set threshold (like your compressor would be).

Transient designers are a great tool to have in your music production arsenal, and are useful for different mixing scenarios.

When Would You Use A Transient Shaper?

You would use a transient shaper when you want to increase (or tame) the snappiness of your audio signal's transients. Common uses are on drums, and using a transient shaper, can help make them pop in a mix.

They are fantastic for making percussive elements stand out more, and give them a little bit of extra grit/height. They’re also useful to take away some emphasis from a transient, if it is too harsh.

Try using a transient designer on your drums, and also try some acoustic guitar. It can really bring out the pluck of the strings, or the whack of a snare.

Another great tip is to use them in your parallel compression chain, and mix them in to lie under the signal. This adds body and grit to your sound.

What Does A Transient Shaper Do?

A transient shaper uses compression and expansion to shape your audio signal’s transients. This helps increase (or tame) the snappiness of your audio signal. They are especially great on percussive elements.

They essentially emphasise (or de-emphasise) certain elements in your audio signal using expansion to make your transients more prominent, and compression to make your transients less prominent.

For instance, if you were to use one of the plugins on drums, it would make a snare snappier, or would reduce a harsh transient, depending on your settings.

How Does A Transient Shaper Work?

Transient shapers work by dynamically applying compression, & expansion to your audio, based on the level of your input signal (and settings). If you want snappier transients, expansion is applied. If you want to reduce transients, compression is applied. This is based on your attack and sustain settings inside the plugin.

Transient designers are different to just normal compression, because they can dynamically apply a mixture of both, compression, & expansion depending on your audio’s signal input.

This means they are threshold-independent, so they react to your audio signal, rather than just applying a set level for threshold on the compression, like compression does.

Summary

To recap, here’s our list of the best free transient shaper VST plugins:

  1. Auburn Sounds Couture
  2. Sound Anomaly Transpire
  3. Flux Bittersweet v3
  4. Sleepy-Time Transient
  5. Ableton Transient Shaper

Transient shaping is essential to getting snappy sounding drums, and is a really useful tool for even taming harsh, sudden peaks. Whatever you need it for, you’ll find a list of great plugins that will help your music productions.