USER INTERFACE - Easy to understand, intuitive, it's not too big or too small, however it could be better. The layout is a bit confusing at first since the LFO, Reverb, and Delay knobs are very eccentrically sized and placed. I've found the LFO grid to be uninspiring to program as there's no visual feedback to what the LFOs are doing.
SOUND - Regardless of the user interface, it definitely proves itself with its sound. The resonant delays are highly customizable, clean, and predictable with panning, decay amount, damping amount, positive/negative feedback, and switchable to Note Pitch, Frequency, or MIDI Control (each delay with its own midi channel). It's very easy to take a percussive sound and create awesome chords. Carefully applying LFO parameters can create some spacey-ambiotic sound effects. The input signal is reduced to mono, but each delay can be panned and panning can be modulated via the LFO system. Once you turn on and customize three or more delays, things start to sound very organic.
FEATURES - The internal reverb sounds clean, bright and is very adequate in supporting Dronebox's spacey sound and nature. The delay is syncable and unsyncable with ping-pong and normal modes. When delay time is modulated, it does not pitch shift, but stutters. This effect is uncommon among delays, but desirable in some cases. As for the LFO section, I feel the LFOs have a limited flexability and the rate and depth of the LFOs cannot be set to the extremes I'd like. The delay time is not controllable through the LFO section. However, when you combine all the various features of Dronebox it is certainly not a one-trick pony. I've used Dronebox to assist in sound effects, voice manipulation, percussion, ambient textures, and electric guitar simulation.
DOCUMENTATION - Just enough to explain what everything does. However, there's an added bonus within the plugin. At the bottom left corner there is a help button. When turned on, a dialog box at the bottom of the plugin will explain what your mouse is hovering over.
PRESETS - A healthy amount that shows you the general capability of the plugin. Presets range from creepy to nice and ambiotic. Ambiotic is not really a world, but I sure as hell want it to be...
CUSTOMER SUPPORT - Top notch. Features I've suggested have been considered and bugs I've reported have been promptly fixed.
VALUE FOR MONEY - This is the only plugin that does what it can do and I absolutely needed it. I purchased it knowing I couldn't use it in too many compositions, but I knew what I bought it for and it definitely provided when I called it to the stage.
STABILITY - Has caused a few crashes in the past. Since the updates, it seems fine. However, I'm never immediately happy with the volume output of Dronebox. I usually find myself cranking up the input signal as much as I can muster before I'm satisfied.
I really enjoyed Oli Larkin’s original Dronebox, so I was keen to see what improvements he’d made to an already unique comb-filtering effect.
User Interface: The original GUI that looks ‘good enough to eat’ courtesy of its chocolate-brown and jaffa orange colour scheme! Tasty. There is a lot packed into this bar of chocolate though. Initially, the GUI looks quite confusing as there are a lot of controls to play with. However, once I’d spent a bit of time with the excellent manual, all of Dronebox’s functionality is actually well-placed on the GUI, rather like a channel-strip, in fact. The controls are all crisp and easy to use. A nice touch is the inclusion of various ‘inputs and outputs’ which make it look like a hardware box.
Sounds and Features: Essentially, Dronebox consists of a bank of 6, tuneable comb filters. Each of these filters can be tuned to a particular resonance. Once an audio source is applied to the comb filter, it will then resonate at the chosen frequency. At its most basic form, this will give pitch to a pitchless sound, such as a snare drum for example. That’s a simplified version of the basic process; there are plenty of ways of achieving that outcome so this a great effect for tweaking and experimenting with. I really enjoyed this process as it brings unpitched sounds to life (try it on a drum loop for instance) and that’s what makes Dronebox so rewarding to use – almost like you’re getting something from nothing.
That’s only the basics of course. There are plenty of goodies available to further process your sounds. There is a multimode filter at your disposal, a tempo-synced delay (with ping-pong), a basic reverb, a signal generator to provide more input noise to the comb-filters, and a cool pitch-shifter which alters the pitch of all the comb filter at once (great for making your drums ‘talk’!). On top of that little lot, you have 4 LFO’s and an extensive modulation matrix for really cooking up some warped and sweeping weirdness!
So, what does all this actually sound like then? It all sounds fantastic and very different to your run-of-the-mill effects such as chorus, flanging, phasing etc. I find the effected sound quite difficult to describe because it’s so different. Sweeping, swirling, droning, resonating – it’s all that. However, the most important thing to know is that it’s musical and can be used in many contexts. It’s a generous demo, so download it and hear for yourself!
Documentation: No two ways about it; the manual is excellent. Well written and well illustrated, it provides a simple tutorial on how to utilise each of Dronebox’s many parameters. I found this to be a huge help, so top marks there. Additionally, there is help available on Dronebox itself to remind you what each of the many controls actually does – a very nice touch.
Presets: There are over 30 presets supplied, all of which show off quite a range of sounds and showcase Dronebox’s unique sound. I think this is quite a complex effect, so some more presets wouldn’t go astray to really show potential customers what they can expect.
Customer Support: I’ve never had to contact Oli for any support issues, but I’m quite sure he’d be very keen to provide assistance if required.
Value for Money: Very good value for money – there is a LOT in Dronebox for the money. Incidentally, its actually part of a bundle, so that only increases its vfm even further.
Stability: I use Dronebox on a PC in FLStutudio and it’s never given me the slightest problem.
Overall impressions: This is definitely an effect that you have to work at to produce decent results from – no free rides with Dronebox! However, your efforts will be very well rewarded. It provides a very varied and musically useful palette of sounds, quite unlike standard FX. I think it has broad appeal and would find a home in most styles of electronica, whether to completely alter the sound out of all recognition, or just to give some subtle ‘colour’. Lots of fun!