Review: The Cargo Cult Slapper

Although not sure what to make of yet another new delay plug-in at first, Ryan McCambridge finds there’s plenty to set this latest release from the New Zealand-based company apart from the rest…

Boutique audio software developer The Cargo Cult’s latest release signifies a new direction in delay plug-ins. Slapper is a multi-tap, surround delay that has been re-envisioned to support creativity and manageability of complex delay combinations. The foundation of this is the rethinking of what a delay interface should be. In an effort to create something tactile that gives more visual feedback, this shift in design allows users to construct overwhelmingly complex delays with ease.

One of the most notable outcomes of such an elaborate delay is its capacity to create realistic spaces without relying on reverbs, which can sometimes cloud a mix. With most delays, space is more implied than actually represented, but the realism of space that can be achieved with Slapper is the direct result of its eight fully independent delays, each offering enough flexibility and character to sculpt a space from nothing.

Having eight delays in one plug-in could be overwhelming if it weren’t for Slapper’s object-oriented interface. Two X-Y graphs are at the basis of what makes Slapper unique. The first graph represents delay time on the X-axis and level on the Y-axis. A series of nodes, each with a different colour, represents the eight delays. This gives you a graphical overview of where each of the delays is placed in time and their relative gain to each other. The actual maximum delay time of Slapper varies depending on the mode and your host’s tempo, though I can’t really see users often needing more than what is provided.

Intuitively, each delay node is desaturated in colour when it’s turned off. The feedback setting of each delay is shown though a series of rings around the nodes, the number of rings increasing as the feedback increases. All of the parameters in this first graph are also controllable by a series of large sliders at the bottom of the interface, including a damping control for each delay, which is graphically represented in the desaturation of the feedback rings in the graph. According to The Cargo Cult, the damp parameter controls both a high and a low filter, resulting in a bandpass filter that “gradually pushes the signal further and further into the distance as it feeds back”. Some might want more control over each filter but I think it’s an elegant way of streamlining an already complex plug-in. Additionally, there are independently controllable high and low filters on the main output, which are 12dB IIR filters and affect the eight delays as a whole.

The second of the two graphs is an X-Y panner. Again, the coloured delay nodes are represented in the space, where X is left/right and Y is front/back. Logically, the same display information is shown here, with feedback rings, desaturated damping, and so on.

In Use

Slapper is beautifully interactive and a pleasure to use. Enabling Tape Mode mimics a tape machine for varispeed effects, which reacts instantaneously as the delay time is adjusted. The object-oriented nature of Slapper allows for responsive, creative effects, which are enhanced by the simplicity of design.

The attention put on the tactility of Slapper also shows in its console integration. Anyone using an Avid console will benefit from the well-thought out layouts, which map the plug-in across the controller to reflect the UI of the plug-in. There are also plans for an iPad app to control Slapper. In the meantime, keyboard shortcuts for the plug-in are listed in the interface, which I think is a nice touch. Couple this with the ability to select and adjust multiple nodes at once and you start to see the potential of Slapper.

In Sync Mode, Slapper conforms to divisions of musical timing, based on the host’s tempo, which are selectable from a 32nd note to a half note, with triplet and dotted options. In this mode, vertical lines are placed in the delay time graph to show musical timing references, and if Snap is enabled, the nodes will conform to the tempo. There are some creative, rhythmic possibilities here, especially when you consider that all of Slapper’s parameters are automatable, which includes movement in the surround field.

Slapper ST is the stereo version of Slapper and is identical to its surround counterpart, save the fact that, as its name implies, it only operates in stereo. Slapper ST still has an X-Y panner though, so it’s interchangeable with Slapper and offers the graphical display elements of surround.

Unfortunately, Slapper is currently only available for Pro Tools, but the firm is in the process of rebuilding it for various other platforms. Some might also take issue with Slapper’s lack of character parameters, like modulation and distortion. However, I think that’s missing the intention of the plug-in. Slapper is a space-designer, and though it’s capable of creative and musical feats, it’s better seen for its intuitive approach to complexity.

I have to admit that going in I didn’t think much about reviewing a new delay plug-in, but Slapper has made me realise the potential of what a delay can be. It’s taken a lot of the guesswork away from making complex spaces and rhythms, while providing an interface that’s incredibly inspiring to use.

Key Features

  • Eight fully independent delay taps
  • Object-oriented interface
  • Multiple filtering options
  • Available in Stereo version (ST)
  • Currently only available for Pro Tools

RRP: $399 (Standard Version) /$249 (ST Version)

Ryan McCambridge is a freelance audio engineer, writer, producer and programmer from Toronto, Canada. He has taught audio production in workshops and universities, is the creator of the production blog Bit Crushing and is the frontman of A Calmer Collision.