At first glance, this collection of 74 VST Macintosh plug-ins might seem like a bit of a novelty. For one thing, it's only $74 retail whereas many manufacturers sell single plug-ins in the $200-$500 range. The goofy looking cartoon character on the front of the box doesn't do much either to instill a sense of professionalism to this product. But make no mistake, this is a very powerful piece of software and an incredible value. Pluggo's roots go back to IRCAM, a French computer music think tank that's similar to Stanford's CCRMA in the USA. Think of Pluggo as the simpler, but no less advanced, by-product of two much more expensive and complex products by Cycling 74, MSP and MAX, which is named after pioneering computer music researcher Max Matthews. These two pieces of software are programming environments used to create audio and music software tools and are where the plug-ins from Pluggo originated. Pluggo first came to my attention as a utility that would run VST plug-ins with MAS within our MOTU 2408 system. I recently spoke with a large music retailer who said their company has sold more MOTUs than all other multitrack recording systems combined, so this should interest quite a few people. You can, of course, also run Pluggo with any other system that supports VST plug-ins. It also includes a great utility, Plug-in Manager, that works much like your Mac's extension manager. The 74 plug-ins that come with Pluggo are divided into 15 different categories like delay, distortion, filters, granulation, multichannel, pitch effects, reverb/dynamics, spectral effects, synthesis and utilities like visual displays, synchronization, modulators, and routing. While some of the plug-ins, like the reverb, sound about what you'd expect an inexpensive reverb plug-in to sound like and others are pretty wacky effects that will rarely, if ever, see the light of day in real applications, quite a few sound really good and are very useful. The delays and filters in particular are really versatile and sound great. The tapped delay, phase, flange-o-tron, filter taps, resonation and ring modulator are particularly nifty. The Vocoder has 16 bands (and like most real ones, a 10 band version that's less CPU intensive) that's worth the price of admission all by itself. I'm not a huge fan of digital distortion, but if you are there's 10 versions of it that'll have you sending your CD-Rs to Digital Hardcore in no time. There's even a plug-in synth that can be used as a virtual VST instrument. And finally, if you got to Cycling 74's web site, you can download additional free plug-ins from the Pluggo of the Month Club. Whatever your first computer music software investment is, this should be your second. (

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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