First Look & Review: Arturia Efx FRAGMENTS frees granular effects from obscurity
Arturia built its coding chops on analog emulations – some of the industry’s finest, period. Leveraging said chops to conjure pure digital magic makes for another level of beauty altogether. These efforts truly came to frution with the PIGMENTS virtual synthesizer, a modern classic not unlike the great Serum and Alchemy before it.
With the release of Efx Fragments, Arturia applies the same forces of innovation to a granular effects plug-in. The outcome? Put simply, Efx FRAGMENTS de-complicates granular processing while leaving almost no stone unturned. I spent a little time with a preview version and I’m in awe at the depth lurking beneath the inviting interface. Here are some more early impressions…
Arturia Efx FRAGMENTS
If you don’t understand granular processing, here’s how I’d explain it to a curious 5-year old. Granular effects slice up incoming audio into tiny grains and store it in a buffer. Then they let you re-arrange, resize, and process the grains in all kinds of clever ways. That’s the basic approach, everything else is up to the effects creators and music producers’ imagination.
Efx FRAGMENTS offers 3 modes of granular processing – Classic, Rhythmic, and Texture. Classic is all-purpose grain processing. Rhytmic suits beat-driven material, such as loops and patterns. Texture is for those drawn-out evolving pads that sound very impressive until you try to fit them in a busy mix. Taking from that, Efx FRAGMENTS throws quantization, pitch shifting, customizable modulation, sequencing, envelopes, and a potent internal FX section (2 of them, to be exact) at those lowly grains.
The user interface is quite orderly which makes it a breeze to just fire up the plug-in, try some presets and tweak various parameters for insta-kill audio mangling. However, reading the freaking manual and actually getting to know the plug-in is worthwhile and highly recommended. That aside, FRAGMENTS starts with Arturia’s excellent preset browser at the top and moves down onto several sections.
The waveform display lets you freeze audio and manipulate the buffer. Or you can just stare at it and contemplate life. Next to that, you can adjust the entire effect’s intensity, the amount of processed signal coming from the effects section, and parameters such as Feedback, Grain volume, and Grain mix. Lots of fine-tuning can be done here when you need it!
Moving on, the Grain Capture section has three modes and related settings. The first mode is Speed. It has Speed, Spray, and Grain Quantization options. The latter let you quantize the grains to transients or a grid. The second mode is Offset and the third is Manual scan. Here, you’re meant to ride the Manual Position knob like a crazy person.
The next section is Grain Release. Here, you can set the number of grain layers playing simultaneously, change the grain size (or sync to tempo), and apply very deliberate pitch-shifting with scale quantization and all that. It’s all good fun and then these controls have 3-way randomizers next to them, too…
The parameters below include stereo widening, grain direction, a bit-crusher for grains (complete with CMI and EMU sampler crunch), grain shape, and random pitch fluctuations.
Now, how about some effects? First, there’s an auto-panner with several trajectories in addition to Rate, Random Pan, Amount, and Distance controls. Next to it are dual global FX sections. There are 9 fully-featured effects to choose from and none of them is some afterthough. You can straight-up produce the granular engine’s output with these. Or just make it gnarlier. It’s your call!
Below is the Modulation section. You’ll have to hit the ‘Advanced’ button for it and the bottom half of the sections I described above to appear. The ‘Advanced’ button should probably have a ‘Here be dragons!’ warning slapped onto it, but Arturia knows you’ll click it anyway. Now, the Modulation section has a pair of assignable Macros, three Function modulators where you get to draw your own LFOs (think of it that way), an Envelope follower, and a Sequencer. These are you modulation sources and I’m still figuring it out. But my experience with that and the entirety of Efx FRAGMENTS so far can be summed as exhilarating bouts of ‘what the f-‘.
So, what can you expect from the effect, apart from lots of fun tweaking? Together, the grain and effects engines make it possible to generate evolving pads and shimmering textures out of any sound. It’s like a mutated delay effect that they kept in a classified lab for decades before unleashing it onto the unsusupecting public. Now, granular effects are many and go deep. You can probably find most of Efx GRAFMENTS’s features in a bunch of obscure Max for Live devices of the kind that don’t have websites, only Gumroad pages. What Arturia’s done is to distill their spirit, blend it with its proven genius, and produce a polished plug-in that’s guaranteed to be the hot new thing in production circles for a while.
Price: EUR 99
- Arturia Efx Fragments (in its full Advanced glory): Arturia
- Arturia Efx Fragments without the Advanced features: Arturia
- Arturia Efx Fragments Preset Browser: Arturia