Review – D16 Group’s Sigmund Delay

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D16 Groups new delay, Sigmund, has everything going for it: great capabilities, superb documentation, and innovative presets? What’s not to like? We couldn’t find a single thing.

by David Baer, Nov. 2013

Delays have been go-to effects in the world of recording for well over half a century.  Until approximately ten years ago, delays were pretty basic.  You got delay, optionally with feedback, and maybe filtering of the fed-back signal, either naturally via the medium (e.g., tape) or electronically.  With computer-based music production becoming prominent, things started to change.  A little over a decade ago we started to see the emergence of what I’ll call here the “super delay”.

Super delays delivered basic delay effects processing but sported new and unusual bells and whistles that could include multiple lines with flexible signal paths, distortion, modulation (envelopes, UFOs, step sequencers, etc.) and anything else the developer/designer could dream up.

To the best of my knowledge, the first effect in this class was the More Feedback Machine (MFM) from u-he which debuted about eleven years ago.  Fab Filter entered the fray with Timeless in 2006.  Four years later, Rob Papen offered his take on the concept, and a year ago FXpansion came out with Bloom.  I’ve probably left one or more of the alternates out, but you get the idea.  This has become a crowded field.

Although there might be only moderate architectural similarity between the various offerings, there is plenty to choose from if you’re in the market for a delay that can do more than the basic delays packaged with any DAW (or most synths for that matter).  Granted, humble, basic delays might supply all the capability you need 90% of the time or more, but super delays can bring something different and exciting to many a mix that you wouldn’t be able to achieve with even the most creative use of sends and/or effects chains.

And now we have yet another entrant in this category.  With all the options already in the marketplace, should we even care?  Well, when the vendor is the D16 Group, the informed answer will be “absolutely!”  The D16 Group has a well-earned reputation for high-quality audio software and any new product they release is definitely worth a serious evaluation.  So that’s precisely what we’ll do here.

The Big Picture

First, let’s get the fundamentals out of the way.  The Delay, named Sigmund (why that name … I have no idea) is available for use on PC or Mac, both 32 and 64-bit, VST or AU compatible (VST-2 only, not VST-3).  It’s available from the vendor and various music software on-line stores.  List price (more about pricing later) is $89 USD.

Sigmund is a four-line delay in which individual lines can be routed to the output mixer, another line or both.  There are nine different routing topologies shown in the following graphics:


We see that we can configure a Sigmund preset to use the lines in parallel, in series, or in some combo-mode where some lines get input from the source, some input from another line, some lines route output to the mixer, some route to another line and some route to both.  I can’t spot any permutation that’s been left out.

The GUI, seen in the image at the top of this page, is clean and easy to program.  The upper left portion is tabbed, only one of the four lines being visible at one time.  The remainder is global.  Two LFOs sit beneath that area.  These are effect-wide, not per-line LFOs.  To the right we have the mixer, used also to select which line is displayed on the left.  Finally far right we have meters, output controls and access to the preset browser.

The Delay Line

The delay line is, of course, the heart of the action (the GUI for which is shown below in a larger image), and you can readily see how much one has with which to work. 

We can process the signal in stereo, mid-side mode or combined into mono line input.  We have overdrive distortion that can be inserted before or after the main filter.  And we have a feedback loop, which also offers a filter.  A diagram of the signal flow is seen below.


 

There are two delay stages, a so-called pre-delay and a feedback loop delay, with individually settable times.  Delay times can be absolute or tempo-synced, naturally.  The synced mode panel is shown to the right.

The filters share the same controls.  They offer LP, HP and BP varieties.  The designers chose to include filter resonance only in the pre-delay filter.  This is probably a wise choice given that resonance inside a loop could be a dangerous proposition.  Filter cutoff can be modulated by one of the LFOs.

The overdrive section provides some great sounding distortion, which will come as no surprise to owners of several of the D16 Group’s Silverline effects.  Rounding out the line controls are the to-be-expected feedback level control and a control labeled “Spread”.  This allows for a phase shift between the channels.

Global Controls

Two nicely capable LFOs are on board.  Both sync-mode and absolute-mode are pictured to the right.  I can’t think of anything you’d need to modulate on a delay that is missing.

The mixer is completely straightforward.  One (probably minor) shortcoming is that the level and pan controls affect both the line’s output to the mixer and output to another line.  Line on/off and mute buttons do what you’d expect.  Clicking these with the Ctrl key depressed turns their function into copy/paste (one of the few non-intuitive aspects of the GUI).

The effect offers a limiter.  Again, this is probably a wise provision in any device with feedback loops that can inadvertently be programmed to go nuclear.

Lastly there’s the browser (pictured below).  It could hardly be more straightforward.

What Else?

Before going any further I must mention the documentation.  Once again the D16 Group delivers excellently in this area.

But the real star of the show is the collection of presets that are packaged with Sigmund.  There are a generous number of them, to say the least.  They are grouped into two major categories: general purpose and tempo-based.  In the former, we have subcategories chorus, delay, distortion, filter, flanger and phaser.  Tempo-based presets are further divided into percussion-oriented presets and instrument-oriented ones.

The presets are vastly inventive, and I found some possibilities here I didn’t realize existed.  One particularly pleasant surprise in this area is use of Sigmund as a substitute for synth arp playback.  Try the Cytrus preset in particular.  Yes, you have to play notes now and then rather than just holding them down as you would for arp playback, but the sound is refreshingly unique while keeping an arp-ish quality to it.

There are fine presets to draw from in all categories.  Another thing you might find yourself doing is reaching for Sigmund when you were initially simply looking to add some distortion to a track.  The distortion presets were also among my favorites.  But there is such overall diversity in the preset collection, it’s hard to image that there won’t be something for everybody here.

Is Sigmund for You?

There’s little missing from Sigmund.  This is one hella flexible effect, no doubt about it.  Apart from the aforementioned lack of separate level controls for line and output mixer, the only thing I’d like to see added would be an undo button.  But those absences are minor in light of everything that is there.

Depending on the type of music you produce, you might be little served by having a super delay in your arsenal.  But if you could benefit from one, I’d suggest you put Sigmund on your short list for evaluation.  Even at its list price of $89 USD, it’s a fair value.  But D16 sales are not uncommon.  I saw it recently listed for approximately $55 at one independent seller’s site (http://www.jrrshop.com/sale-specials).  If it were any less than that, we could just declare it a no-brainer and be done with it.  But for anywhere in the neighborhood of $60, you may decide it’s a great value.

More information here:

http://www.d16.pl/sigmund

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