Why Automatability Matters

One of the most difficult parts of building a Goodhertz plugin is meeting our standard for smooth automatability:

Any control or parameter in a Goodhertz plugin, even on/off switches, can be freely automated without clicks, pops, or other gnarly artifacts.

Rob and I started started referring to this as the “Goodhertz promise,” and, as of now, we’re the only plugin company that delivers on such a promise.

Automation matters because it’s what ultimately ends up on tape — your album or film or podcast. But smooth automatability extends beyond just automation itself. Anytime you move a slider, change a preset, or A/B a setting in a Goodhertz plugin, that change will sound smooth & graceful.

This has some important implications for working with digital audio:

1. Freedom of Expression

A continuous foot control on a guitar effect box, keyboard, or synth is often called an expression pedal precisely because it enables expression: dynamic change that allows you to shape sounds continuously.

For example:

  • A Wah-wah pedal is particularly expressive because it combines dynamic control with its resonant filter.
  • A Leslie speaker — usually paired with Hammond organ — is so evocative because musicians can switch its speed smoothly and dynamically (with a simple toggle switch) while playing. It’s worth noting: if the Leslie had been made as a digital plugin first, that smooth transition between its discrete speeds — and it’s musical usefulness — would likely have never been made possible.

Because they’re able to be freely changed in realtime, every control in a Goodhertz plugin becomes more expressive.

On the one hand, Lohi is mainly interesting because of its infinite controllability. On the other hand, Midside — a plugin you might not immediately associate with realtime changes — is a great mastering plugin, in part, because it can be used to enhance drama and excitement through automation.

2. The Right Settings

Any piece of audio equipment is really only as good as its settings, and dialing in those settings is much harder without good, clickless controls.

Here’s an example: it can be tough to find the right setting for a subtle EQ change if, every time you move that control, the EQ plugin produces a resounding click, pop, or glitch that masks the small change you’re listening for.1 Our acoustic memory for timbre is quite short, and even a small gap of silence between two settings makes certain types of judgments difficult or impossible.

Because we make all of our plugins’ controls automate smoothly, the essential tasks — dialing in the right setting, A/B-ing different options, switching presets — become seamless. Ease-of-use derives from transparent controls.

3. Less Repair Work

Unintentional clicks & pops can end up wasting time with needless repair work, mix revisions, or mastering surgery. One of the most frequent sources of those clicks & pops are plugin bypass switches (used to switch an effect on or off in time). Not so in Goodhertz plugins! Just use our Master On/Off control for smooth bypassing. (Bonus: all of our On/Off switches come with proper delay compensation).

How bad are “state-of-the-art” plugins?

To find out what kind of artifacts are produced by current plugins on the market, we fed a pure 1 kHz tone into a number of popular EQ’s while they were being automated.2 To be “nice,” we didn’t attempt to automate things like toggle controls that we already know produce full-scale clicks & pops in other companies’ plugins — we just stuck to continuous controls like sliders and knobs.

Here’s what that looks like in Waves H-EQ:

Automation in Waves H-EQ
Automation in Waves H-EQ

Ideally, this should only be a single spike at 1 kHz, but because H-EQ produces substantial automation artifacts, those appear prominently in the spectrum as well.

That same sine tone & automation looks like this in our Tiltshift plugin:

Automation in Goodhertz Tiltshift
Automation in Goodhertz Tiltshift

Of the plugins we tested, Tiltshift’s automation was by far the closest to an ideal sine tone (signal-to-noise ratio: 114 dB), while iZotope Ozone’s EQ produced the worst automation artifacts (SNR: 34 dB).3 Honorable mention goes to Brainworx bx_cleansweep, which produced an impressive amount of automation artifacts for a plugin with “cleansweep” in its name.

EQ Plugin Distortion / Artifacts
Goodhertz Tiltshift -114 dB
DMG EQuilibrium -65 dB
FabFilter Pro-Q 2 -60 dB
Brainworx bx_digital V2 -53 dB
Brainworx bx_cleansweep V2 -52 dB
Logic X Channel EQ -51 dB
iZotope Ozone 6 (Analog) -47 dB
Waves H-EQ -41 dB
iZotope Ozone 6 (Digital) -34 dB

Making Good Automatability the Default

Although a couple reviewers have noted how nice ’n smooth the controls are in Goodhertz plugins, the larger audio community hasn’t completely caught on. We’ve all sort of accepted that bad automation is part of working with digital audio, and we’ve dealt with the side effects and limitations. No one is surprised when you hit “play” in the middle of a bar, and playback begins with a loud digital CLICK followed by the music. But we should be surprised.

If Spotify can have click-free start/stop by default, so should your DAW. And if a 50-year-old Leslie speaker can switch between two speeds gracefully, so should a modern-day Tremolo plugin.4

We’ve made full automatability the default in all of our plugins — so feel free to let those faders fly!

  1. You might be thinking, “Wait, isn’t this exactly what an analog Neve 1073 does? Why is this so bad?” True, but a lot of plugins are actually much worse than a simple analog switch, and still worse is the clinically precise nature of digital audio generally, which reproduces sharp transients with painful accuracy. 

  2. Automation was performed on low pass filter, sweeping from 20 kHz - 20 Hz over the span of 2 secs

  3. For reference, the difference between a SNR of 114 dB and 34 dB is roughly equivalent to the difference between the DAC in a Apogee Symphony I/O (~$3000) and a Yak Bak (~$15). 

  4. P.S. If you’re in the market for a solid, fully-automatable tremolo, check out Trem Control