One of my first purchases from Tone2, what got me interested in it was reading the long list of filter types on their website. Of course, fancy filter shapes mean not a lick without the right sound quality, so that was the clincher. These filters do exactly what is hoped of them, whether that be silky tone control, violent morphing, sci-fi weirdness, distorted nastiness, or a simple resonant filter sweep.
CPU hit is almost non existant, even on my slightly outdated computer, so I often load this as a channel insert for eq, highpass for rumble suppression and DC offset correction (included are very effective 'brick wall' lowpass and highpass filters), or multiple instances in series which is a fast track to weird sounds. This thing will even do strange creepy echoes and reverbs, phasing, FM and AM with synthesizer waveforms, chorus type sounds, and quality distortion duties. So it's not just a pretty filter...
Speaking of distortion, there is a dedicated distortion section with a handful of very usable algos, these are extremely musical in my opinion, and can be placed before or after the filter stage, which extends the tonal possibilities of the countless filter types considerably, often making it sound like a completely new filter type. Brilliant!
The GUI is very solid and inspires confidence, and the 'filter graph' display is a nice touch, even if occasionally it glitches out and/or shows the wrong curve or a bad estimate sometimes (though only for the more exotic and unpredictable filters. It's very good with the more normal filters, in all fairness).
What you get for your money is an extremely usable and versatile, not to mention great sounding multi purpose effects unit, capable of everything from synthesis applications to effects, to EQ, to creative filtering, with crystal clear sound quality, parameter smoothness and resonance.
Rather than owning masses of software that I barely have the time to learn and use I prefer to focus on a small number of excellent tools that reward my effort in learning how to use them creatively. Bifilter 2 fits that bill perfectly. I use this on pretty much every track - as an EQ, a distortion effect, mangling with it's bitcrushing/resampling effects, FSU with it's bizarre reverb/resonating FX. Used in serial fashion you can do things to your sounds that are creepy. And the CPU usage is extremely low. The filters really are excellent and with so many to choose from I simply don't have the need to use anything else. It looks fantastic, I've no idea if it has a manual as I've never had the need to look as the GUI is so simple. The presets give an excellent overview of what this little beast is capable of - there's a neat little browser with load/save for banks/individual presets. Markus has been prompt and efficient whenever I've had to contact him, which isn't often as it's never crashed on me - in ext 1.4 and ext2, Ableton 7 and Pro Tools 7.3. Highly recommended.
I wanted to do some creative filter sweeping across my mix. I realised that I didn't own a good quality versatile filter. None of the bundled stuff with Cubase 4 would go as far as I wanted or was flexible enough.
Having newly discovered Tone2, I remembered something about filters on their website. Downloaded demos of BiFilter2 and Filterbank3, also tried Fabfilter Volcano as I'd heard good things about that and I knew of the excellent Sonalksis TBK which is far too simple for what I'm looking for at this time.
So what is important for me.
1 Sound (No compromise) 2 Stability (No compromise – If it's buggy it doesn't get on my system) 3 Performance (I rarely compromise on this) 4 GUI and ease of use 5 Features and Functionality 6 Price
It soon became apparent after playing with these two for about an hour that I wanted them both. I won't say too much about Filterbank here as this is not the right place, but use this if you want to get rhythmic with your filtering. It has envelope control, step sequencer control, delay and 2 filters as well as a 2 oscillator synth. You could just use the filter FX plugin on the synth or sound of your choice if you want. The sound possibilities quite staggering. I'm am going to have to get FilterBank sometime *edit* I have got it already.
SOUND The sound is excellent. It seems impossible to get a bad sound. There are no nasty qualities in the sound, even the distortions are pleasant, and using the mix knob, you can blend in any amount of the dry sound you want.
STABILITY No problems here. Seems very stable. Tested writing some automation. That all seems fine and as expected.
PERFORMANCE No indications of any sluggishness or CPU stress whatsoever. GUI is very responsive.
GUI The GUI is well designed and is in the usual Tone2 style, similar to Firebird. It is obvious that thought has gone into keeping the GUI as simple as possible, making it easier for the user. It is solid with a classy look. Knobs perform as expected and smoothly (I choose linear motion in my sequencer and this worked flawlessly – Fabfilter's knobs sometimes reverted to circular motion for some reason). Also the knobs are a nice size, quite large without being too big. Nothing worse than fiddly little knobs. There is a cool Frequency Response display that shows you the shape of the filter, and the effect that your knob movement has made on the shape. This graphic is smooth, performs well and feels light and responsive.
All controls are laid out well and are easy to understand.
DOCUMENTATION The manual seem complete but I must confess I didn't feel the need to read it as the interface is so intuative.
PRESETS There are 100 presets, enough to get you started on any of the filter types, but a little tweaking can produce a quite different sound and you soon realise the different sound possibilities are pretty huge.
PRICE The price is very reasonable, and with its simple interface, you could be misled into thinking that this plugin is less capable than others around.
CONCLUSION Don't judge the capabilities and quality of this plugin by the fact that the interface looks simple or by the reasonable price, it is capable of much more than it first seems.
Tested on a P4 3.2Ghz Northwood, 2GB RAM, XP Home SP2, Cubase 4.1
RATINGS Not sure how this system works, but I have decided to start at 10 for each item, and reduce the number for any faults found. This is why it has 10s - I can't fault it. Documentation had a 9 purely because there were no online tutorials, but really it doesn't need any, so maybe it should have a 10 here as well.
Edit: I'm leaving parts of my original review which may be useful. Mainly, I'd like to say that I'm disappointed that BiFilter2 is apparently abandoned, so do NOT buy it if you want a filter from Tone2, get FilterBank instead, because it has newer and better filter algorithms (which means better sound than BiFilter2).
Tone2 seriously upgraded BiFilter and released BiFilter2 which is a big improvement over the previous version, and I just had to get it.
One question may arise: why didn't I get Tone2's FilterBank2? The answer is simple, BiFilter2's big focus is on filtering and distortion features, just what I needed. (Edit: see top of review)
The sound is first of all very balanced! You actually get what you expect to get and the controls change the sound how you expect it to be changed, a quality that's seriously lacking in most filtering solutions. And the sound itself is lovely. This is the first software filtering solution I was actually satisfied with as far as sound goes.
The filter types are extensive. You can get very many kinds of filtering with it, and all sound quite lovely.
The distortion features are really unique and different from others I've heard, and can add a great character to the sound without ruining it. You can have it very subtle or extreme, and even the most extreme drive percentage is usable.
I would like it to have is an ADSR generator, but that probably won't happen.
BiFilter is a filter plug-in currently avaible in PC VST for from Tone2. This is a review of the new version 1.61. As a quick explanation for those unfamiliar with the effect, it’s normally used to add or subtract frequencies, like a single band of an EQ, but can do much more and also forms a huge part of the sound of so many synthesizers and defines much of electronica. The BiFilter manual explains it in more detail.
Tone2 is comprised of Markus Feil and Dr. Hartmut Pfitzinger. Several of you may be more familiar with Markus Feil from reFX (most notably Slayer 2, Vanguard and the discontinued JunoX) though a quick glance at Tone2 website reveals other projects as well. With that sort of background, you’d expect BiFilter to be a well-put together product. What you might be surprised by is that such a well-put together product would be free. I’m guessing this is to encourage users to upgrade to its big brother, Filterbank 2. Nonetheless, BiFilter feels like a powerful commercial plug-in in it’s own right, even side-by-side with competing products costing as much as $200 U.S.
Though it’s described as a filter unit, and the 45 included filter modes certainly attest to that, there is also an output stage with ”seven” distortion modes. I put that in quotes because one of the seven is actually a neutral volume control. This is a LOT of filter types to be able to work with, especially with the included distortion effect. I won’t go into listing them all, since the official list is comprehensive (though the manual still needs to be updated to include them all). I’ll simply say that it’s very versatile and includes everything from the bread and butter lowpass and highpass to more unusual filters such as AM, FM, formant/vocal, phasing and more.
Luckily, the type of filter or distortion effect can be quickly selected either through a drop-down list or cycled through with up-down arrows next to the display name. BiFilter has a straightforward, simple and easy to use interface that’s easy on the eyes. There is also an included set of presets to quickly try out all the different types, though the interface is so straightforward that plug-in can be explored almost as easily without them. This is partially because you won’t find any more advanced complicated options like LFOs or envelopes here, though many of them can be found on BiFilter’s big brother FilterBank 2.
The installation is straightforward through a setup program and the only thing a user needs to know is their VST plug-in directory. However, it would have been helpful to be able to view the manual or a readme file of some sort before installing since the manual can only be accessed by opening it in the installation directory. The manual starts off with a brief explanation of the product, followed by usage and then a reference section. It covers the concepts of filtering are first and the list of filter types in the application next. The manual needs to be updated and appears to be based on an earlier version so it doesn’t address about half the filters. Those that are addressed have meaningful short explanations that help to differentiate between them even before you start listening. This is really nice considering how many filters there are but I would like to see the manual brought up to date as soon as possible. The manual also covers useful information about automating via MIDI CC or through your host’s VST automation system.
Now all the variety in the world wouldn’t mean a thing if the sound quality weren’t there. This is not the case. It’s there and it’s there in spades. With such a wide range of variants, users are almost guaranteed to find one that fits their tastes. BiFilter can do everything from straightforward shaping to resonance heaven and everything in between without batting an eye. It can make basslines sound fat or squelch with resonance or be used with automation to create interestingly varying textures. No matter what you throw at it, it’s ready.
The effectiveness with which a software filter can emulate a smooth response as you sweep the ”cutoff” (the frequency response point) from one point to another can result in a so-called ”stair-step” effect when interpolation from one frequency to another isn’t smooth. Think of it like the way animation or film clips mimic motion vs. a slideshow. The better this is handled, the more it comes across seamlessly (like a movie) whereas a poor emulation is more like a somewhat fast slideshow, with each picture being noticed more than the motion. I’m happy to say that BiFilter handles this very smoothly and didn’t notice any stair-step effect.
I’ve been working with software filters since the end of the 90s and I was still extremely impressed by BiFilter. If you have a PC and a VST host you really should check it out and since it’s free you have no excuse not to. Make this the first filter you try. I look forward to seeing more from Tone2 in the future.
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