Virtual racks with piles upon piles of effects and audio processors are a hot commodity in 2020. Producing S-Board, developer Sonic Instruments is experimenting with the format, made popular by the likes of Slate Digital VMR and IK Multimedia MixBox. Instead of audio sweeteners, though, S-Board contains a bunch of creative effects that you can modulate with LFOs and virtual patch cables, Eurorack-style.
Sonic Instruments S-Board
While it’s not a new concept, the patchable modular FX plug-ins I’ve seen so far can be complex and intimidating. Comparatively, S-Board eschews super-experimental possibilities for a basic, distilled approach. It also employs colorful, analog gear-inspired visuals in a virtual rack format that’s readily familiar. Users of lab-like plug-ins like Glitchmachines Cryogen may scoff at the apparent simplicity, but there’s power to the saying that less is more. Sometimes it only takes imaginative routing of basic effects with a bit of modulation here and there to produce gloriously chaotic results.
For this purpose, S-Board offers 7 units that you can freely arrange and patch up. Acousma is an analog tape delay with patch points for its delay, feedback and mix parameters. Charger is a tube-style distortion unit with patchable drive, warmth, and sag parameters. Sweep emulates a Moog ladder filter with patchable cutoff, resonance, and drive parameters. Pressure is a soft-knee compressor with optional side-chain input. Palette is a straightforward parametric EQ with a tube amplification stage which you can overdrive for saturation.
The real fun starts with patching in the LFO module, which provides the modulation signal. Finally, a Gain module is present to let you pan audio and put the brakes on excessive signal level. It’s also a bit of a secret weapon – modulating the pan and gain parameters can make for auto-panning and tremolo effects.
An additional two modules are available as extra purchases. Bokeh is a bi-directional reverb and Dieroboter is an analog 32-band vocoder.
Price and availability
The funhouse is sold for USD 79. The additional modules, however, cost a steep USD 59 each. If you want them, you are better off buying the S-Board Deluxe version with all 9 modules included for USD 158, saving USD 39.
The plug-in is available in AudioUnit, VST, and VST 3 formats for 64-bit Windows and Mac computers. Notably, S-Board is among the first macOS Big Sur and Apple Silicon-compatible releases. Good to see a developer catch up so quickly!