This free filter plug-in comes courtesy of Audiomodern, the Sofia-based squad behind such well-received releases as the Riffer MIDI sequencer and Playbeat groove-randomiser plug-ins, as well as Kontakt instruments and assorted sample packs. Most are oriented towards those working within the realms of soundtracks and sound design but all sport just-so aesthetics and considered interfaces. Filterstep follows suit.
As you might infer from the name, this is a filter with a step sequencer. It’s available for macOS and Windows as a plug-in or standalone, and for iOS as an app. Better still, it’s absolutely free. In the event that you’re already convinced, by all means stop reading and start downloading. Not convinced yet? You soon will be.
Being free, Filterstep is blissfully unencumbered by the hassles of the registration and authorisation process, which means you’re able to get up and running as soon as it’s installed. Upon loading the plug-in into GarageBand and into Ableton Live 10, it quickly becomes clear that Filterstep will be fascinatingly fun to fiddle around with.
Add the plug-in to an audio or software instrument track and start the DAW running, and Filterstep will automatically start playing at the same time, syncing up to the DAW’s master tempo. The dice-shaped icon randomises the sequence steps. If you don’t like what it does the first time, just keep clicking until you do. You can also use the reverse, backwards and forwards buttons, and make sure of the infinity switch, which sees Filterstep randomly change the step values at the end of each cycle. This is about as close to instant gratification as any filter plug-in will allow, and Audiomodern’s latest seems incapable of producing anything bad.
Once you’ve satisfied that initial itch, move on and explore the rest of the product’s offerings, including its high-, low- and band-pass filters. There are slider controls for smoothness (the depth of the transitions between steps – keep this low to hear each step distinctly or crank it for more sizeable jumps), filter frequency range, and resonance. You can set the note values and the number of steps, and lock individual steps to have them ignore any subsequent randomisation.
On the right of the handsome GUI sits the aforementioned infinity switch, alongside a dry/wet slider, bypass switch, and separate bypass toggle that activates when held down. Along the bottom sit 16 quick-load preset slots with which you can save and switch between your favourite patterns in real time. Within Filterstep’s preferences, there’s a list of all the parameters that can be assigned to MIDI control, with the current CC displayed next to them – clicking the CC allows that assignment to be changed. As a plug-in, then, Filterstep adds new dimensions to sequencing in GarageBand, and fits right in alongside Ableton Live’s existing filter and sequencing tools.
Step to it
Making the most of Filterstep as a standalone might mean committing exclusively to the motion filter for processing your hardware inputs. That said, it functions well in this context. Though we had some selection issues regarding the audio input buttons and connected trackpad. With its grey-on-grey text and icons, the otherwise attractive interface could be easier to decipher too. We might even ask for more sequencer lanes – but that would compromise the simplicity on which Filterstep hangs its hat. Ultimately, this is free, fun and can bestow novel and entertaining new sounds on your productions. What are you waiting for?
Do I really need this?
Being a free product, there’s no risk involved in giving Filterstep a whirl. That said, nobody wants to clutter their browsers with junk downloads. But Filterstep should justify its place among your best plug-ins. The Audiomodern release scores big with its cross-platform capabilities. It does a remarkably solid job in a way that’s (mostly) easy to understand – just fire it up and start tinkering with its minimal controls and you’ll be beguiled in no time.
There’s a lot to be said for Filterstep’s randomisation abilities too. Anything that expands on the basics of sequencing can only be a good thing – and Filterstep certainly does that. Try it out. You can always delete it if you want – but we bet you don’t.
- Free-of-charge creative motion filter
- Available as plug-in and standalone for macOS, Windows, iOS
- Simple GUI allows for the quick creation of complex sounds
- Randomisation – just roll the dice
- 32- and 64-bit compatible
Available for macOS and Windows in 32- and 64-bit versions, TAL’s free filter features seven types. Modulation can be applied to the filters themselves or to the pan or volume of the incoming audio.
This venerable classic dates back to 2004 and is surely one of the most recognisable filters on the market. It boasts modulation options via an LFO and an envelope generator but its big brother, the FabFilter Twin 2 (£114), features further complexities.