For sound designers, inspiration can stem from many sources, ranging from objects that make funny noises, to strange visuals that make a sound go off in your head. But when you’re right there in the thick of production, well-designed tools can provide you with sonic and aesthetic inspiration as well.

We’ve decided to ask Ivo Ivanov, a sound designer and custom instrument specialist (and Soundsnap contributor, under the name Glitchmachines), to share some of his favorite go-to sound design tools in the software realm. Some of these you will have heard of and probably are using already, but some may offer new sources of inspiration for your projects.

  1. Native Instruments Reaktor:

    image of Native Instruments' Reaktor 6 sound design synthesis software
    Reaktor 6 with their newest ‘Blocks’ modular feature

    Reaktor 6 is my most frequently used audio application since the late nineties. It’s a Swiss Army Knife audio environment capable of virtually everything under the sun. Extremely flexible platform with outstanding audio quality and ensemble libraries.


  1. Cycling ’74 Max:

    image of Cycling74's MaxMSP audio programming interface. These can get way crazier!
    A basic patch made inside of Cycling74’s Max 7

    An absolutely limitless object-based platform that I use for both sound design and plugin/device prototyping. Where I quickly bring ideas to life or create custom processing tools like sample manglers and complex sequencers.


  1. Valhalla DSP Reverbs:

    image of multiple Valhalla DSP plugins being ran inside of a DAW
    An assortment of Valhalla plugins being run inside of a DAW

    My favorite reverbs on the market, all of which make their way into my processing chains. Great minimal UI aesthetics and superb, highly detailed audio quality. Each of them sounds distinct and offer up a wealth of nuanced spaces.


  1. Inear Display Amalgame:

    image of InEar Display's Amalgame sound design software
    InEar Display makes custom sound design software, like Amalgame

    An extremely versatile and user-friendly multi-effects processor, Amalgame makes its way into nearly every one of my design chains. Superb randomization and modulation options that yield consistently interesting and useable results.


  1. SoundMorph Dust:

    image of user interface for Soundmorph's Dust sound design software
    Dust specializes in using particles to enable granular sounding

    Visually stunning and sonically lush. I love working with this plugin for its ability to mangle samples and sound effects beyond recognition and create intricate otherworldly soundscapes. Dust’s creative workflow and sound are smooth and highly rewarding.


  1. Glitchmachines Polygon:

    image of user interface for Glitchmachine's Polygon audio plugin software
    Polygon is a sampler geared toward electronic music production and experimental sound design

    Polygon is my go-to for mangling samples to create composite sound effects or really unusual playable ‘instrument’ patches. A modulation powerhouse that also features a customizable randomization suite and unique grains mode.


  1. Tonsturm Whoosh:

    promotional image of Tonsturm's Whoosh plugin for Reaktor
    Tonsturm’s awesome ‘Whoosh’ built for Reaktor makes making whooshes fun

    I haven’t found a more powerful and comprehensive tool for designing whoosh effects. Also really great for impact and sfx design, Whoosh stands out as one of the most impressive third-party Reaktor ensembles on the market.


  1. Twisted Tools S-Layer:

    image of Twitsed Tools' S-Layer user interface
    S-LAYER is a sample layering sound creation tool for Reaktor 5 that allows you to create, edit and play new sound combinations

    The absolute fastest way to create virtually endless impact variations and complex layered effects. Between its superb modulation capabilities and flexible layering system, S-Layer has become a staple in my sound design toolkit.


  1. 2C Audio Kaleidoscope:

    image of Kaleidoscope's spectrogram-based user interface
    Kaleidoscope can generate or transform audio from any input sound, making them other-worldly

    A visual and auditory playground with virtually limitless possibilities. Kaleidoscope excels at everything from light processing to generating entirely new textures, tones, and rhythms. I use it for anything otherworldly or experimental.


  1. 2C Audio B2:

    image of 2C Audio's B2 software
    B2 is one of the most advanced reverb plugin’s you will come across

    When I’m looking for non-traditional spatial effects, I reach for B2. It offers up ultra-lush reverbs and special effects that are nearly unclassifiable. A truly sophisticated processor that brings a modern polish to just about any design context.


  1. Sonic Charge Permut8:

    image of Permut8's user interface
    Permut8 is made for the look, feel and sound of old-school synthesis

    An excellent signal mutation tool that yields consistently great decimation and lo-fi effects. Also features some extremely cool “alternate firmware” which offer up some incredibly creative alternatives to what Permut8 can do.


  1. Madrona Labs Virta:

    image of the Virta user interface
    Virta is a patchable toolbox for turning your voice or another instrument into wild new synth sounds.

    As with all of the Madrona Labs tools, Virta features a beautiful flat interface and powerful processing facilities. I use it to create sfx based on a real-time physical input. Awesome at processing any source you can think of.


About the Author

Ivo Ivanov – Sound Designer

Ivo is best known as the Founder/CEO of Glitchmachines, a company that sells creative sound design tools and custom designed sounds. Besides Glitchmachines, he’s designed for companies like Ableton, Native Instruments, SoundMorph, Inear Display, Twisted Tools, and many more. After receiving a Bachelor’s in Audio Engineering, he spent 5 years at San Fransisco’s SAE Institute of Technology in numerous positions managing the Audio Technology program, eventually teaching Advanced Synthesis & Sound Design with Pyramid in SF. Also known for his music career, he has released music on Detroit Underground Records, toured with major-label bands and has built custom hand-painted circuit-bent hardware instruments for artists like DIOYY, Richard Devine, Trent Reznor, and many more. Check out his portfolio and his company, Glitchmachines here:


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