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FutzBox – Not Just Lo-Fi Effects

The McDSP FutzBox plug-in is a set of audio processing tools for creating distorted, low-fidelity versions of audio signals. But more than just sonic destruction, FutzBox can mimic the audio signal ‘quality’ found in commonly used devices such as radios, telephones, walkie-talkies and much more. By combining the various elements of FutzBox, truly unique ‘futzed’ sounds can be obtained quickly and easily.

Synthetic Impulse Models (SIMs)

At the heart of FutzBox’s ability to mimic a variety of audio products are hundreds of Synthetic Impulse Models (SIMs) included with the plug-in. The FutzBox SIM library covers a large palette of sonic footprints from a myriad of audio devices including cell phones, transistor radios, speakers, ear buds, tape machines, megaphones and many more. Unlike an impulse response, a SIM has no internal latency and can be adjusted in real-time. Each SIM has a unique response to the Tune parameter located just below the SIM image on the FutzBox user interface, so be sure to audition this control when listening to each SIM.


Customers familiar with the McDSP FilterBank plug-in will appreciate the calibration and sound of the FutzBox filters. Futz_filtersSelectable filter slopes of 12 and 24 dB/Oct and filter resonance (Q) control come very handy in this high pass and low pass pair of filters. Like FilterBank, analog saturation is attainable if the filter resonant peaks are high enough to incur signal distortion. These filters alone can make some truly convincing ‘futz sounds’, and when used with the SIMs create an awesome sonic mangling combination.


If the analog saturation is not enough for you in the Filters section, Futz_distortionthen the distortion variations available in the Distortion section should just about cover everything else. The Amount, Intensity and Mode controls select the level, tone, and type of distortion – anything from saturation to heavy distortion to practically clipping. Separately, the Rectify control can reduce the negative cycle of audio input waveforms to zero (at 50%) or completely rectify the input signal (at 100%).

More EQ and Filtering

Post distortion is one more band of high pass/EQ/low pass filtering for more adjustment. Often the filtered and distorted tone of the Filters and Distortion sections needs some fine tuning, so and extra band of filter/EQ is just the trick to remove or accentuate the sound.

Noise Generator

No ‘futzbox’ could be complete without the ability to inject noise in the audio signal path, and FutzBox does not disappoint. The FutzBox noise source level is controllable, and is passed through high pass and low pass Futz_noisegenfilters (12 dB/Oct), enabling the use to filter the noise signal out of the way of incoming audio, or to create custom noise signals. The noise level can also be reduced, or ‘ducked’, by incoming audio. This is useful for lowering the level of background noise when dialog, etc. is occurring, and then turning the same background noise back up to previous levels once the dialog, etc. stops.

Hyper-active Gate

Usually folks just want a gate Futz_gateto gently remove background noise or other low level signals. In the FutzBox gate, the attack, hold, and release times have ranges that can make this great gate do bad things – like simulate audio dropouts, near distortion like effects, or when combined with a modest output from the noise generator create interesting noise-scapes for your background…


The final stage of the FutzBox includes lower sample rate conversion, modest (but by no means adequate) anti-alias filtering, and bit depth reduction. When going for the cell phone or toy robot sound, these types of controls come in handy.

Output (Futzed) Levels

Once a ‘futzed’ sound is created, it is important to match its level with the original audio, for cases where the ‘futzed’, or ‘wet’ and original, or ‘dry’ audio will be toggled back and forth. The output control only affects the ‘wet’ signal levels, so the ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ levels can be balanced. The FutzBox input and output meters are useful in this regard.

FutzBox Applications

If you have read this far, you must either be in post (on that gratuitous 1 hour break in your 25 hour day), or are trying to figure out how to turn that female diva vocal into a nasty voice mail message for her boyfriend. In both cases you’ve come the right place, so let’s get serious about ‘futzing things up’…

Cell Phone Noise

Select a SIM from the ‘cell phone’ category, and enable the Lo-Fi section as well. Chose a sample rate around 4000 Hz, and a bit depth between 8 and 4 bits. Audition the changes offered by the Tune control for each cell phone SIM. Enable the Noise Generator, and increase the noise level to about –24 dB. Some amount of noise ducking is good for separating the noise from the dialog, etc.

Now Hear This

Need the sound of a public service announcement (Godzilla attacking the city, etc.)? Megaphone and television SIMs are great starting points for these types of audio effects. Add some strong distortion (I like ‘Stun’, with both Amount and Intensity at 100%) and you’re on your way to your next Emmy.

Synth Out

Sometimes those old synth patches need some tweaks. One of the best ways to add some juice back into their sound is to process them through some resonant low pass filter and distortion. FutzBox delivers on both counts, and brings many otherwise dull and boring sounds to life.

Retro Music

Classic tracks from by gone eras sound even more vintage with a little bit of tube or transistor radio tone. Select a radio or speaker SIM, at a small amount of Distortion (use the Sat1 or Sat2 modes), and perhaps some parametric EQ. Automate the Tune parameter for some phasey effects.

Go Vintage

The age of digital music production has allowed to achieve really pristine audio quality. But sometimes is the recording sound too sterile, too, uh…digital? FutzBox to the rescue! A vintage-looking speaker from the SIM library can take that track back a few decades, perhaps adding the nuance you were looking for.

But Wait There’s More…

FutzBox is one of the most preset-rich McDSP plug-ins released. Be sure to check out the entire preset library included with the FutzBox plug-in. To get an idea of the full range of FutzBox’s capabilities, the included presets have been divided up by application and provide ample inspiration for getting your own creativity flowing. The categories of presets break down as follows:

  • General – Equally applicable to either dialog or music
  • Tunes – Mainly intended for music
  • Budget – Evokes the tones common to low-end devices we hear everyday
  • Messed Up – Highlights the outer limits of Futzing available with this product
  • Quirky – Gives an unpredictable twist to incoming audio
  • Solo Instruments – Intended to give a richness to solos on guitar, keyboards, etc.
  • Sweet – A subtle shaping without excessive distortion or other effects
  • Vintage – Harkening back to the golden age of distortion and warmth
  • Voice – Mainly intended for dialog or singing
  • Character – Gives the impression or character of the different SIMs without a lot of other effects
  • Crunchy – Creates a gritty or harsh (sometimes garbled) effect
  • Noisy – Transforms clean tones into something a little (or a lot) dirtier than the original

As you can see, the FutzBox has a good deal of sonic potential. We had a good time making it. We hope you have an equally good time using it.

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