Avoid Chorus Clichés

08 Mar 2017

Using D16’s Syntorus To Add Slick & Subtle Chorus Effects

Chorus effects have had a somewhat chequered history, and many of us still recoil from using them for fear of turning our mixes into refugees from Chicago's Greatest Hits. That's a shame, though, because a decent chorus unit has plenty of useful (and rather more subtle!) applications as a stereo widener for modern productions, and such effects are very straightforward to create in D16's Syntorus.

As a first step, set up the plug-in as a send-return effect, and then feed it from the track you want to widen — it'll work on mono and stereo sources equally well. You only need Path 1 for this effect, so turn the Path 2 Volume knob all the way down, and while you're at it, crank Path 1's Depth, Threshold, Waveform, and Stereo Phase controls fully anti-clockwise too. Next, start playback and try sweeping the Path 1 Offset parameter. What you'll hear is swishing effect as you journey through a wide variety of different tonalities, all of which sound quite 'hollow', since they're being created by virtue of comb-filtering between Syntorus's delayed signal and the undelayed dry signal in your mix.

Here's a simple setting designed to create comb-filtering, which forms the basis of a whole family of stereo-widening effects. For different tonal flavours, just sweep the Offset knob.

Without going into too many technicalities, what comb-filtering does is put a whole series of evenly-spaced peaks and troughs into the frequency response, and the secret to using this as a stereo-widening effect is to get these peaks and troughs to affect the left and right channels differently. One of the things that's cool about Syntorus in this respect is that it lets you LFO-modulate its left-channel and right-channel delay times in opposite directions. The way to get it to do this is to turn the Stereo Phase control fully clockwise to its 180-degree position.

Setting the Stereo Phase control to its maximum 180-degree setting is the secret to creating stereo-widening effects in Syntorus.

For a workmanlike starting-point, try this Stereo Phase adjustment in Path 1, using a modulation rate of around 0.5Hz (Tempo Sync switch off) and settings of around 2ms for both Offset and Depth. Once you can hear the widening effect operating, adjust the effect send level to achieve the desired amount of widening without it sounding like you're adding an obvious 'effect' in its own right. If you're not sure whether the effect's subtle, try muting the effect return for a few moments, to remind yourself how the dry sound feels on its own — that's a great sanity check.

Here's a basic stereo-widening patch working on Path 1 of Syntorus.

This basic widening patch will already work well on lots of instruments, but there are a variety of further tweaks you can make to tailor it more closely to specific mix applications. For example, with bass instruments, you'll find that the widening may make the low-frequency spectrum seem uneven and/or unacceptably compromise low-end mono-compatibility, in which case high-pass filtering the effect may be sensible. Conveniently, Syntorus has a built-in high-pass filter that's ideal for this. Another built-in feature that's useful is the BBD (Bucket Brigade Delay) mode, which emulates the smoother sound of classic bucket-brigade analogue devices, often allowing you to achieve more width enhancement before the effect begins to sound too obtrusive. Further width is also available if you polarity-invert Syntorus's right-hand output channel, and most DAW's now include a simple bundled utility plug-in that'll do this for you.

The built-in high-pass filter helps avoid uneven low-frequencies or problems with low-end mono-compatibility when widening bass instruments.

Beyond those simple hacks, however, the main controls to experiment with are Depth and Offset, as these determine the subjective tonal flavour of the effect. For my taste, I tend to prefer the sound when those two settings are quite similar, so it helps to sweep both at once using hardware rotary controls. Fortunately, Syntorus has a very slick MIDI assignment routine tucked away behind its Options button that makes this a breeze.

Words: Mike Senior.