With the ability to layer multiple VST effects and instruments with parallel routing thrown in for good measure BlueCat Audio's Patchwork could be the perfect plug-in for the power hungry producer.
Concept And First Impressions
If you have used effects racks in Ableton Live or the new stacks feature in Logic Pro X, you’ll know how effective layering multiple effects and instruments can be. Patchwork basically allows you to do the same thing but with a a lot more control and flexibility.
Before I talk about how this works and how much of a positive addition it can be to a digital studio, there is one thing you should know, Patchwork only supports 64 bit VSTs. So if you were planning on loading up your latest Audio Units or any legacy 32-bit plug-ins you’re out of luck. 64 bit VSTs are the order of the day here.
The upside of Patchwork handling VSTs is that you can actually load VST versions of plug-ins in AU only hosts. I was able to access all my VST plug-ins in Logic for example. A bit of a bonus.
(Pic 1) Patchwork running some VSTs in Logic Pro X.
Patchwork essentially allows you to create series and parallel chains of plug-ins in various configurations. These can then be mixed, activated and saved at will. There are two versions of the plug-in allowing you to perform all these tricks with both effects and instruments. The latter allows you to layer and playback several synths on in single instrument channel.
Operation And Features
Patchwork is extremely straightforward to use, loading plug-ins from your VST library is as simple as clicking on the required slot and electing the plug-in of choice. Once inserted, the plug-ins can be activated and mixed to taste.
(Pic 2) A metering VST in the post section of Patchwork.
There is a couple of meters to see the input and output stages before you enter the ‘grid’ and there is a even a pre and post section. Any plug-ins dropped into the center slots will become part of the parallel chains section allowing you to perform… you guessed it, parallel processing.
(Pic 2b) The MIDI learn function.
Although the default state of the plug-in offers 3 columns and two rows, this can be upped to 8 columns and 8 rows allowing truly massive combinations and layers to be created. I managed to get 6 synths layered without any CPU issues.
(Pic 2c) A large amount of instruments loaded up.
It’s worth mentioning here that a quick press of a button reveals a MIDI mapping mode. By accessing this mode, you can learn incoming MIDI messages for just about any of the controls. This opens up possibilities for on the fly tweaks and even live performance.
This is a really flexible plug-in that has the potential to allow some extremely complex setups. At its most simple it allows you to layer a couple of instruments or a chain of processors for treating a buss or master output. Beyond this the only limit is your imagination to be honest.
(Pic 3) A huge matrix ready for VSTs.
If you are a bit of a control freak or just fancy a quick way of saving complex plug-in configurations go and check Patchwork out on Bluecat Audio’s website.
Price: €59 / $79
Pros: Solid concept useful to the power user or those normally unable to run VSTs
Cons: Graphics a little dated, No access to Audio Units or 32-bit plug-ins