Tone Empire’s LOC-NESS (aka “the Smash-Box”) is a dedicated channel plug-in designed for processing individual drum hits, a drum set’s room sound, or the entire drum bus. It is touted as a mystical plug-in that brings all the right controls and colors for drums to your DAW. While I have shied away from “all-in-one” plug-ins in the past, this thing has some great vibe – it’s like some sketchy hardware thing you might find in your uncle’s basement that does this one special magic trick. Needless to say, I am now a believer in the legend of LOC-NESS.

LOC-NESS has two main processing controls: Crust and Smash. Crust adds color and saturation while Smash provides heavy limiting and sustain in the spirit of Universal Audio’s 1176 “all buttons in” setting. Signal flow is from Crust to Smash via serial configuration. These two controls give you a lot of flexibility to add edginess (Crust) and fatness (Smash) to your tone. I will note that the Smash function is very aggressive, and I often only needed a touch to get the desired amount of punch. There are also four Type buttons below these controls that vary the level of Crust saturation. I found myself using the first two settings for subtle, yet edgier sounds.

In addition to Crust and Smash, the filter set is also a nice feature. Low and high cut filters allow you to dial in the range of sound you want to effect, leaving the rest of the frequency spectrum unprocessed. LOC-NESS works great in parallel or on a single track. For single instance channel inserts, separate Wet and Dry controls allow for in-depth blending of the processed and unprocessed signal to taste, with a Phase button that inverts polarity between both signals. Finally, a Trim control allows for attenuation after the Wet and Dry controls. All of the settings are intuitive, and 15-minutes was all I needed to get a feel for LOC-NESS. There are presets of course, but I choose to be adventurous and just start turning dials!

LOC-NESS is advertised as a drum and percussion processor, but I also enjoyed using it on a parallel guitar bus to add some bite to several stacked guitar tracks. What really put a grin on my face was the tone I got using this processor on bass guitar tracks. With only default settings and the Type selector set to position 2, the LOC-NESS really approximated a classic Ampeg SVT amp setting nicely. Clearly the possibilities are endless with this plug-in. LOC-NESS worked great for adding heaviness and grit to lead vocals and could definitely be used to enhance keyboards or virtual instruments.

Not just a bus compressor, LOC-NESS gives drums impact – I even used it to breathe life into a stale sounding canned drum loop. This plug-in is not resource intensive, so you can use it liberally, and at $79 it provides the bang for the buck we’re all looking for! ($79 direct;

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