Disclamer: This is a review of the Dehumaniser 2 version 1.2. The recently released fix improves on a lot of the issues I had with D2 while testing the initial version. In the following segment I will briefly share my thoughts on why the review is based on version 1.2.
The initial version of Dehumaniser 2 had some issues with its preset system. It was causing the crashes if you switched through presets, making it hardly usable if you wanted to use presets. The presets, I feel, are important because they will familiarize you with how you can use Dehumaniser 2.
I notified the developers about the issues I was having and they have responded with a temporary solution (before the D2 1.2 fix). They were pleasant to work with and I can say that they have a really fantastic support. The following review also features few segments from my first impressions article.
The second installment is a completely different beast from what we know from the original Dehumaniser and from their competitor Voxpat. This time around Krotos created a fully functional VST and boy I am glad they finally decided to do that. No more clunky rewiring, just plug and play.
Along with the original software, you also get a decent sound effects library of various animals and objects. The library isn’t big (100 sounds) and I can understand that. Before the release of Dehumaniser 2, Krotos started releasing their own sound effects libraries. The library you get with the D2 is just enough to keep you busy and to get you familiar with the new Dehumaniser. Eventually you would want to use your personal sound effects library to make creatures.
What’s new in D2, besides being a VST, is its modular system. If you are familiar with Native Instruments Reaktor, then you should feel right at home. All of the effects you are used to (if you own the original Dehumaniser) are here plus three new. The new additions are ring modulator,flanger/chorus and stereo spread effect. The latter is available in the output module and it works brilliantly. One thing to note is that the knob of the stereo spread is really sensitive and even a small change can have great impact on your sound. Having said that, I think it is a wonderful addition and it feels like stereo spread is something the Dehumaniser was missing.
Modular node-based system
First thing you will notice, once you load D2, that Dehumaniser 2 looks and feels fairly similar to Reaktor. Next thing you notice is a bunch of boxes with virtual wires (gray lines) connecting each box. These boxes are nodes or modules or however you want to call them. Each node represents a specific effect. There are currently 8 effects that you can connect. To use them, you simply click on the desired effect or drag and drop them into the working area (empty space in between). There is also a limit on how many instances of one effect you can use (2 instances of one effect with the exception of noise generator). I am guessing the reason for the limits is so you don’t burn your CPU.
You connect these effects via virtual wires by dragging a line from one output (represented by an arrow facing right) and connect it to an input (represented by an arrow facing left). You can also connect the effects via two methods. Parallel, where there are two or more effects connected simultaneously to the output or serial, where you connect one effect to the other and then to the output or use a combination between the serial and parallel connections.
At the moment and I don’t know if that is going to change but Dehumaniser 2 supports 1 signal input and multiple outputs on the effects. That means you can only use one sound source (mic or a sound clip). You can bypass that by creating multiple instances of D2. Surprisingly, Dehumaniser 2 is somewhat CPU friendly but like with all other CPU friendly VSTs, you must not create too many instances.
Clicking on the node shows (in the bottom section) node’s parameters. These vary, depending on the type of the effect. It is not much different from the original Dehumaniser, where you clicked on the effect and a new tab with parameters opened. Here, all parameters are neatly organized in the bottom section of the screen. Standard solo, mute and bypass are also present at the top of each node.
There is also a new so called “Drawer” tab at the bottom of each module. This is used to create macro controls and if you wish, you can automate them inside your DAW. Pretty cool feature. There are three knobs that can be switched between each other using the right mouse button. The parameters you can assign vary depending on the module you are using.
In terms of usage, the new modular system works really well. It is easy to navigate through each effect and connect it to another node or output. One thing I think would be a nice addition is to add some sort of highlighting on the wires itself, so you know where it is connected. I think it would be really handy with more complex patches.
The new effects
The ring modulator works like most ring modulators. You have two parameters that you can control (depth and rate). When you apply modulator to lower frequencies, it does add a bit to the sound while the other way around it mostly ruins the sound in my opinion. The higher frequencies just don’t sound that good. They can sound good if you are creating a really weird robot though.
Chorus and flanger also received some new additions with the 1.2 fix. Before the version 1.2, you had a few standard options like rate, depth, feedback and mix. The new version added few more option like the number of voices you can choose (up to 10) and delay with which you could delay the effect. You also have the option to choose the waveform with which you can modulate the rate of the effect. In terms of how it works, I can say that it does a decent job. I know this is very subjective but I heard better chorus and flanger effects. The new effect does what it is supposed to do and it does a good job.
The other effects, as mentioned, are pretty much identical to the ones in the original Dehumaniser. If you want more detailed description of what each effect does, you can check out the detailed review here. I do have few thoughts on the effects in Dehumaniser 2.
The sample player offers few options but I think it is missing few key features. Right now, you load a sample or use the one from the D2 library and play it. You can play it forward or backward and you can use either vari-speed or pitch shift to match your voice or a sound. All of the mentioned works fine. Note: Before the version 1.2 I also had some crashes when reverting to the original sample bank.
The thing that I miss in the sample player is the looping options. Once you start to use the sample player, the played sample will automatically play to the end and start over. What I missed is the option to select which part of the sample to loop. So, for instance, if I don’t want the tail of the sample to be present, I could just select the part that I want to loop.
There are two versions of pitch shift (standard and delay pitch shift) which kind of boggles my mind. I really don’t see the need for two variations since the only difference is the delay but other controls are the same. I really love the pitch shift effect in D2 and I think it would make more sense if you’d have 4 instances of the same effect than two variations. I am saying that because in the delay pitch shift you can turn off the delay and feedback and still use it as a standard pitch shift. I asked Krotos for an explanation on differences between pitch shifters. Below is the answer.
Explanation from the developer on why there are two variations of pitch shifters:
There are different algorithms for pitch shifting and they give a different character, that’s why we have them as different effects. Delay pitch shifting sounds good in low pitch (100 ms delay) and make a growling effect where pitch shifting sounds better in high pitches and has more clarity. The combination of both gives more depth and character.
All of the mentioned effects also come with an EQ and a limiter plus dynamic shaping based on envelope follower, RMS and Peak level, energy difference and Pitch following. All of these react dynamically based on the input signal. Getting to know dynamic shaping is a bit tricky at first but with few trials and errors you will get a hang of it.
The one thing that is a bit awkward and the same goes for most knobs and sliders is their sensitivity. If you are triggering, let’s say energy difference, you have to be really accurate. While knobs have a value input if you double click on them, sliders doesn’t have that option, making them hard to use.
Saving, loading and preset system
As you might have read in my first impressions article, there were some issues with the presets before the 1.2 update. Also, the long bar with the preset name wasn’t clickable so you had a few pointless navigation tasks in order to choose or save a preset. Luckily, this was fixed.
Presets are ok but I think those were more designed to help you out once you start making your own presets. The thing with the presets is that they are very dependent on the sound source. One preset might sound good with one sound source while the other might not. There is no universal preset that would make everything sound good. And that is a good thing. It leaves more room to explore.
One thing that I miss in the presets system is the notes for the patch you have created. I think it could be useful to note where and how you used the particular effect setup.
The Heart of Dehumaniser II
Presets have a big role in understanding Dehumaniser 2, but what you really want to do is to get your hands dirty and customize the sound yourself. This is where Dehumaniser2 shines. It gives you enough tools to play around with and it really frustrates you once you start to understand each module. It is one of those tools that it’s easy to get into but difficult to master. One small change in a specific parameter can shift the sound from good to bad or vice versa. Happy accidents are often when you play with various modules.
Using the microphone as a sound source really brings Dehumaniser 2 to life. It enables you to localize creature sounds plus your voice actor always gets a nice feedback and can adjust the acting according to the sound.
Think of Dehumaniser II as a really advanced vocoder that has an integrated modular system. It has all the effects that you will need to create a small or a big monster sound and it comes with a nice sound effects library to get you started. It works best when you are using a microphone as a source and I am sure voice actors will appreciate it. Adjusting the sound or certain action will be a breeze for a voice actor as he/she will get the feedback straight away.
The price is a bit steep (£449 British Pounds), I cannot argue that. Is it justifiable? Considering you are getting an enhanced version of the Dehumaniser in a VST format, I would say yes. Considering that Dehumaniser II will be improved over the next years, I would say yes. Krotos is also open for suggestions, so you might want to let them know your thoughts if you purchased the D2.
Is it something you need? I don’t know, but you have an option to download a demo and try it for yourself. In fact, I encourage you to do so. It is definitely quite expensive but you won’t feel cheated if you decide to purchase it. The 1.2 version works great so far and with all the bugs I have encountered removed, it makes it hard not to recommend Dehumaniser 2.
Free Computer and Robotic voices
As a part of the demo for Dehumaniser 2, I have created a small sample pack which you can download for free. In this pack there 9 audio files with various computer, robotic, alien and experimental voices. Each audio file has 22 words. The following are: Access, Denied, Granted, Approved, Password, Wrong password, Correct, Saving, Loading, Save, Load, Confirm, System, Ready, Proceed, Stop, Go, Energy low, Recharging, Ammo full, Low ammunition and Altitude.
Ease of use
Value for money
- Available as a VST
- Fantastic modular system and effects
- Version 1.2 fixes
- Content could be expanded