Did somebody mention free plugins?

If you’ve been on our social media pages recently, you’ll definitely have noticed the new plugin downloads we added to the website – and if you haven’t, may I suggest you get acquainted with them here? As a company we were really stoked to hear so many great comments about them and see so many different creative uses. Bringing them to the point where you could download them was something of a journey and it meshes nicely with some of the other events that have happened this year, so allow me to indulge and tell you a story…

One of the things I talked about with Brian when I first became involved with Wampler pedals back in 2018 was software. I came from a software background and music was a long-time hobby and we had many cool discussions about neat software ideas we had. Some of those ideas have been temporarily parked for now, some were fraught with huge complexity, and some were slightly too way-out even for us when we went back to look at them. But one that was always a given was the idea of releasing some software plugins for popular DAWs.

Fast forward to 2019 and the release of the Terraform. Now it is no exaggeration to say that the team that designed and developed that pedal (I was only involved in the aesthetic design) poured everything they could into it – and boy does it show. I have played a literal truck load of modulation and multi effect pedals in my 30 years of playing, and none have sounded as good (to my ears anyway) as this. It probably helped that two members of the team at Wampler responsible for getting this pedal sounding right were also two of my friends, Jason Wilding and Alex Clay, and both of them and I shared a fair few music tastes. Jason’s attention to detail on the Rotary was insane – I remember many demos being pinged  over text. Alex all but single handedly shaped that super funky envelope filter and made it the way it is – have no doubt this pedal is special.

The Analog vs. Digital debate has been going on as long as I can remember in the guitar world. Back in the late 80’s when I first picked up an electric guitar, we were all going for the coolest digital gear we could get, and the more hi-tech the better, and preferably in lurid shades of pink or green. A decade later and we’re all back on the hard stuff again – tubes and analog pedals, then digital modeling peeks its head above the parapet, then valves and pedals return, then more modeling, and so on and on ad infinitum…frankly if it sounds good, it is good, and that’s exactly how I felt about the Terraform.

Digital pedals give you another advantage – at their core they run on software, and so we model the sounds we want to make in software before we program them to the pedal. So Jake Steffes, our head of engineering, already had the raw materials as it were to make these plugins, but we had quite a few hoops to jump through first.

Terraform plugin

Firstly, we had to work out how to make them look a little bit better than the vanilla plugin development shell that we use when we build them. In this respect we only took baby steps this time round – we’re still learning our craft with these plugins and we wanted to keep them simple yet functional but also very definitely Wampler. There was a learning curve and definitely some failed prototypes, but the end result looked decent.

Turns out that was definitely the easy bit. Jake then had to figure out how to package them so that they could be installed on a number of platforms with the minimum of fuss. It did not help that part way through development a certain fruit-based manufacturer of shiny things decided to change the way its operating system handled installations.

Without even breaking digital sweat, Jake recompiled everything at the 11th hour to work in the new package format. At this stage we are offering our plugins in VST3 format for PC (Windows 7 or above) and also VST3 and AU formats for Mac (OS X). Once we had the installable packages, and we all tested them (which in my case required the purchase of some lovely new shiny red boxes from Focusrite, and learning how to use Reaper and Garageband) we were good to go!

Now thanks to Covid-19 and a number of other events, it is fair to state that 2020 has not been the smoothest year for running a business. In the gear industry the supply of parts has been lumpy at best, retailers have also had their own (not insignificant) issues, and as a pedal builder we have simply had to cope with all of this – and then some. There is no shame in admitting it had the effect of interrupting our plans a little for the first half of this year, and whilst we do have some awesome releases planned, we also thought we could do something to tide you over until things get back to near normal. This is why Brian decided to release these plugins at zero cost to our customer base. We knew a lot of people were stuck at home so what better time to give away some free digital toys?

Well it proved to be a good idea – with around 3,000 downloads in the first few days it is fair to say they were a hit with our audience! My colleague Simon and I sat back and calmly surveyed the traffic flow to the server – it spiked at about 20x normal load at one point, but there were no beads of sweat lost….nope…not one…ok maybe a few. We had a few teething troubles with the password system and eventually abandoned it but otherwise all was good. The support inboxes were also filling rapidly upon initial release, but a few FAQs and an update or three later and this also calmed right down to normal. Phew.

And what about the playing experience? Well, the numbers speak for themselves, but I urge you to give them a go. We’ve heard that the Dimension Chorus is particularly lovely with vocals, and many people have told us this is the first U-Vibe plugin they have played that is worthy of space in their channel strip. You also have the ability to stack all three, or multiple combinations thereof, depending on your DAW and your computer specs.

So what does the future hold? Well there is no doubt we have got a massive kick from seeing how much you all loved these, so we are definitely thinking about releasing more in the future. We are always going to try and make the best sounding pedals we can, whether they be digital or analog or a hybrid, and if we can make cool plugins for DAWs too well then count us in!