Review – UltraTap Delay from Eventide
UltraTap is a delay … yes, yet another delay plug-in … but it’s extremely unlikely that you’ve got another delay even remotely like it. Curious enough now to learn a bit more?
by David Baer, Sept. 2017
UltraTap is a unique new plug-in from Eventide. It’s billed as the first plug-in in a new line of effects: the H9 Plug-in Series. The H9 Harmonizer® Effects Processor is an Eventide device that’s kind of a super-stomp-box hardware effect which was introduced in 2013. The H9 looks simple (it’s a stomp box, after all), but requires an external editor application to manage the internal processing complexity, which can go way deeper than you’d assume based on the simple control configuration on the face of the H9 unit. Eventide developed 49 different algorithms to run inside the H9, many of which go back considerably further in Eventide history. UltraTap is one of those algorithms, and it dates way back to a hardware device first available in 1982, so it’s been around quite some time.
First let’s get the basics out of the way. UltraTap is available in all standard plug-in formats (both 32 and 64-bit). Authorization is via iLok (software-based with free iLok account or dongle, your choice). List price is $79 USD, with an introductory price of $49 USD (for a limited time of unknown duration, but Eventide sales are not uncommon if you miss it).
Before we get into the thick of it, I want to make two quick points. First, don’t take the brevity of this review as any indication that I feel the software isn’t consequential. UltraTap is a very straightforward processor and it doesn’t require many words to fully describe its function – but that doesn’t mean its function isn’t noteworthy. Second, although this effect has many marvelous musical applications, I suspect that anyone involved in sound effect production for film or television will find UltraTap absolutely irresistible.
Simple Is Good
The manual only needs five pages (one of those pages being mostly a picture of the UI) to fully document how to use UltraTap. Now, you definitely should read those five pages, because a few of the controls aren’t intuitive even if they are fairly uncomplicated. Here’s a quick summary of the operation.
Ultratap, although a delay, is not a conventional one. There is no feedback loop, for example. What we have, and what makes UltraTap fairly unique is 64 taps, more than at least I’ve ever seen in a delay plug-in. The Taps control is for specifying the number of taps (one to 64). Length is the duration of the tap cluster, i.e. the delay time of the final tap. Mix has its usual meaning (dry/wet ratio). Pre-delay has its usual function as well.
Durations (Length and Pre-delay) can be host-tempo-synced, synced to a tapped-in tempo, or just specified in seconds, the mode being dictated by the Tempo Sync controls. The Tap button is there to do exactly what you’d expect. It will respond to any MIDI note-on message as well as mouse click.
Spread allows clustering the delay tap times near the beginning or the end of the duration specified by Length. At 0, the taps are evenly distributed in time. Taper controls the loudness of the taps. Negative values result in a fade-up, positive in a fade-down, and zero in uniform loudness.
Both the Spread and Taper controls illustrate an elegant design point. Values between zero and +/-50 result in linearly increasing/decreasing effect. Between +/-51 and +/-100 the increase/decrease is exponential.
The input signal fed into the delay processing chain is reduced to mono. Width is applicable only to stereo instantiations and controls the width of the tap output in the panorama. Plus and minus values dictate which channel, L or R, gets the first of the alternating outputs. Zero keeps the output centered for all taps.
Tone is just a good-old tone control. Slurm is a bit more exotic, but think of it as meaning “slurring/smearing”. My guess is that it’s partly a transient processor that discards more of transients at higher values, and also introduces some kind of chorusing. It can muddy things up, but in a good way when that’s what you’re looking to accomplish.
Chop and the knob to its immediate right are the only things that requires a bit of in-depth explanation. Chop is not a continuous controller but has discreet “click” positions, at least in part of its range. Depending upon position, it can invoke an LFO-controlled tremolo modulation to the signal prior to input to the delay processing. In this mode, the choices of LFO wave are triangle, ramp down, ramp up, square and random (sample and hold).
Alternately, the Chop control can function as an auto-volume processor that can introduce swells (different from Taper fade-ups) or a gating effect. I confess that I could not figure out what the Swell option was all about, nor find anything interesting it did that I would want to use. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
The function knob to the right of Chop depends upon the Chop setting. We’ll leave it at that. The documentation fully explains the details.
The strip just above the bottom three buttons is called “The Ribbon” and it’s described in Eventide’s UltraTap promotional material as a novel feature for DJs. Well, the extent of my knowledge about the DJ thing is what I’ve gleaned from watching the TV comedy What Would Diplo Do. So I’ll pass offering judgement on how well it delivers on this claim.
What it is, though, is essentially a macro control that can be used to alter any of the continuous control knobs. It can make the knobs travel in either direction and can control multiple knobs at once. It is hard-wired to the mod-wheel. This is the only demerit UltraTap gets from me. You really ought to be able to specify a different MIDI CC here.
The Hotswitch button allows an instantaneous shift between two settings. The documentation explains how to set things up to use it. Here again is something else that’s easy to use, but it will take you a lot less time to just RTFM than experiment until you understand its operation.
Finally there are the presets. Once again, Eventide has delivered a very nice collection of quite diverse purposes. There are 174 presets (actually 194, but 20 are duplicates in a “greatest hits” type directory). 108 of the presets are attributed to sound designers by name, and some of them are quite inventive. There were eleven sound designers enlisted for this production.
Is UltraTap for You?
Is it priced reasonably? Just to put the price in perspective, the Harmonizer® Effects Processor, from which the UltraTap concept comes, is available in several versions of completeness. The Core version has a street price of about $400 USD. Algorithms can be purchased individually for $20 apiece. An H9 fully loaded costs about $700.
If you had an H9, UltraTap would only cost you twenty-bucks … after you, of course, paid at least 400 for the hardware to host it. So it’s a good value from that perspective. But will Eventide eventually release all H9 algorithms as plug-in effects? If so we’re talking something in the neighborhood of $3800 to buy them all at list price. Not likely to happen, right? In any case, its introductory price of $49 is more than reasonable for what it does. If list price is too high, you will probably see the $49 price again from time to time.
The question is: is what UltraTap does something you need in your productions? As stated earlier, I suspect if you are involved in sound effect design for film or TV, you may be extremely interested in this effect. For music, that’s a harder call. UltraTap is quite unique, and I think it would be presumptuous to offer an opinion on its worth in music production. Individual tastes here will be a big factor – UltraTap is that far off the beaten track.
The good news is that Eventide has some fine demo tracks on the UltraTap page (URL below). The better news is that a free, fully functional 30-day demo version can be downloaded, so you may easily check it out directly.
For more information or to purchase UltraTap, go here:
Eventide software is also available from any number of independent music software retailers.