Hello there and welcome back to another cool plugin review for you! This time we will be looking at a wonderful vibrato and rotary speaker VST plugin, the Martinic Scanner Vibrato plugin!
Martinic is a Dutch audio technology company that focuses on bringing back legendary synths, organs and effects into the digital realm. Martinic was founded in 1993 as a software and IT solutions company. But since 2010, they have been putting so much effort into developing virtual instruments and effects. In 2016, the company released their plugins commercially under the Martinic brand. Their first release was the Scanner Vibrato VST plugin.
As you may already know, Martinic hasn’t released hundreds of plugins and instruments so far. Having said that, you should know that Martinic has been also working under licence for other music software companies, helping them create some of the most respected synth emulations on the market.
Martinic‘s ACE (Advanced Circuitry Emulation) process has been developed by the development team to precisely recreate analogue and digital circuits that are found in vintage instruments and effects.
The original Scanner Vibrato was first developed in the 40s and it was a complete analogue, mechanical device. It consisted of an analogue delay line with a mechanical rotor (a.k.a. scanner). This rotor was driven by an internal organ motor which was fixed at 6.9 Hz. With this design, Scanner Vibrato was able to generate chorus & vibrato effects with three separate depth presets.
Until the 1935s, building-sized pipe organs were the thing until the inventor Laurens Hammond came up with a more expressive and affordable alternative for the market. The infamous Hammond Organ which was generating sounds using rotating tonewheels was born for these reasons. Even though it was a huge achievement and it was indeed way more affordable than pipe organs, the way it generated sounds also caused harsh overtones when notes are played together.
In late 1936, Mr Hammond found a solution and released Hammond BC with Chorus Tone Generator for better, more expressive sounds. This design simply improved the size and width perception by varying pitches with each semitone movement above middle C.
Even though this was a big improvement, Hammond company still wanted to improve and enhance the sound by developing an extra tone generator with the chorus generator.
Back in the 1940s, the analogue vibrato system was designed by having a metal scanner running along with the same motor for the tonewheel generator. These would rotate around the pickups and the motion would create a pitch variation effect. Even though the development was slowed down due to WWII, this original design was the first iteration of Scanner Vibrato used in BV and BCV consoles. Eventually, it appeared on the market around 1946.
With this electromechanical design, the Scanner Vibrato was able to generate these warm vibrato and chorus effects that can be adjusted at three levels of depth. This vibrato with strong pulses would add warmth to the sound while the chorus would make it wider.
On the original Scanner Vibrato, there are six settings to increase the intensity. As you can see from the images below, the V1 provides a natural amount of modulation while the V2 preset is your mid-way warmth level. Lastly, the V3 is the most intense vibrato effect.
Settings marked with C1 to C3 are used to activate the chorus effect combined with the vibrato effect. With this stacked structure, the chorus and the vibrato have the same vibrato rate based on the V-preset numbers. However, it also increases the chorus effect amount.
Impact of Scanner Vibrato Effect on Music
One of the most popular applications of the Scanner Vibrato effect is usually a gentle swell vibrato which can be heard with the Hammond organ’s tones. This sound referred to is usually a combination of flute and string family sounds with focused, muted upper harmonics. That subtle vibrato with these diapason sounds yields that much loved, smooth Hammond tones.
There’s also a more distinct sounding usage of the Scanner Vibrato effect when used with Hammond organ’s string, reed and flute family tones, especially when applying a more aggressive vibrato since this would help add more human characteristics to them.
Scanner Vibrato is also often used and experimented with in Gospel music. When combined with the Hammond organ’s gritty crosstalk and aggressive vibrato modulation, you can have this strong contrasting sound to ensemble timbres. Organ players can easily create striking peaks and gospel vocal motifs with this combination.
Hammond vs Leslie
Around the 1940s, another genius, Donald Leslie came up with a speaker cabinet design for Hammond to manufacture. This cabinet design would generate the tremolo effect by splitting the signal into high and low frequencies. For low frequencies, a baffle chamber would rotate in front of the woofer. By using the same rotor, a similarly rotating horn would create the tremolo effect for higher frequencies. Even though the tones of Leslie’s speaker cabinet and the Scanner Vibrato were similar, they were definitely not the same.
Hammond actually declined to market this cabinet design as he took it as an improved design than his own design. This actually caused a cold war between these companies. Hammond ended up modifying and changing the speaker interface of the Hammond organs to make their products “Leslie-proof“, but this also triggered Leslie company to alter their cabinet designs to challenge this hurdle. Unfortunately, even though this was a healthy competition between these bright minds, we would never be able to know what could have been achieved if these designers would join forces! 🙂
Around the 1960s, modulation effects gained a lot of popularity within the pop music genre and this helped Hammond’s organ to reach a bigger audience. Leading organ players preferred the Scanner Vibrato on the Hammond organ over the rival Leslie cabinet.
With this popularity, Hammond Organ company became a very successful and respected company in the industry, employing over 3000 people. However, this only happened until Mr Hammond retired from his own company.
What Happened to Scanner Vibrato?
Sadly, Mr Hammond passed away in 1975 and the company started losing sales to imported products. Even though the company tried to migrate their sound DNA into the digital realm, they were not able to emulate the distinct sound of mechanical tonewheels.
Unfortunately, the Hammond company stopped making Hammond organs and went bankrupt in 1985! But the company is actually back in the music industry as it has been acquired by Suzuki Music.
In 2003, the company released a new version of B-3 which featured a digital tonewheel sound engine and the built-in emulation of the Scanner Vibrato effect.
The B-3 model even emulates the key clicks that occurred when the original Hammond organ was made when the Scanner Vibrato was engaged. Surprisingly, Hammond is also manufacturing Leslie cabinets! Interesting story, right?
Luckily, Martinic developed a very articulate emulation of the 1940s Scanner Vibrato effect. This plugin includes the whole characteristics of the original Scanner Vibrato! It is packed with the classic presets that you would find in the original unit as well as Chorale and Rotor Cabinet settings.
There are even presets called Chaos Theory and Dirty Chorus for demonstrating the extreme sounds that the original Scanner Vibrato can generate. So basically, you have this distinct, ingeniously designed effect at your fingertips along with having more control over the vibrato and the chorus effects.
Martinic also has an excellent playlist that you can access via Spotify, featuring legendary pieces of music featuring the Scanner Vibrato!
Martinic Scanner Vibrato
Martinic Scanner Vibrato is one of the most closely emulated versions of the original Scanner Vibrato, even including the flaws of the analogue unit. But it is also designed to be more flexible as you are able to control the rate, depth and stereo width parameters. On top of that, since this is a digital plugin, you don’t have to use it with an organ only. It’s up to your imagination and needs how and where to use this plugin!
Martinic Scanner Vibrato Features
Martinic Scanner Vibrato comes in VST and AU plugin formats and it features that much-loved chorus and vibrato effects from the tonewheel organ. As with any Martinic plugins, Scanner Vibrato is also benefited from Martinic’s ACE (Advanced Circuitry Emulation) technology to truly emulate all nuances.
The original C1/2/3 and V1/2/3 depth settings also come with the plugin version. As mentioned, rate, depth and mix can be adjusted freely as well as stereo width to separately fine-tune left and right rate parameters.
It comes with 16 presets, featuring the classic chorus/vibrato and rotary effects. As this is a time-based effect, Martinic also added a tempo sync feature, so you can sync it to your DAW’s tempo. Lastly, the output volume can be controlled from the “Settings” tab.
How To Use Scanner Vibrato Plugin?
As with any digital plugin, using the Martinic Scanner Vibrato is pretty easy. Even though it is usually placed as an insert effect, you are free to use it as a send effect and blend it with your dry signal.
I prefer experimenting with both methods, however, with chorus/vibrato type effects, I think it sounds better when you place them as insert effects and adjust the mix amount within the plugin. However, when I also used it as a send effect and set the mix 100%, it was pretty useful and fun to play with.
In order to apply this send effect method, you just need to create an effect track with the plugin and set the echo to 100%. According to the manual, this setting is for adjusting the wet/dry ratio. Once you do, you simply need to send your guitar or instrument channels to this track.
But while playing, if you prefer using zero-latency monitoring, you will need to enable direct monitoring on the effect track. This way, you will hear a 100% wet signal, directly monitored via this effect track and also your 100% dry guitar/instrument signal thru your monitors.
As you can see, you can actually control the Martinic Scanner Vibrato by using either the plugin interface or the settings tab. However, the settings view provides more in-depth control for each parameter shown. Note that, Martinic already upgraded the Scanner Vibrato with the in-depth settings feature in the latest version. The one I will be using is the previous version and it doesn’t come with these additional settings tabs.
With this settings view, you can control all the parameters, including master volume, Reverb Mix, Panning Mix, Delay Tape Age and Delay Mono/Stereo.
As Scanner Vibrato is a stereo effect, it can be applied to both left and right channels. You can easily turn the effect on and off with the rocker switch on the interface without any pops and clicks.
These letters, V and C indicate Vibrato and Chorus presets. According to the Martinic website, these presets are set to light (1), medium (2) and heavy (3) settings.
Note that in the latest version, on the Settings view, you will find a button called Model. This is for switching back and forth with the remodelled (latest) and previous Martinic Scanner Vibrato algorithm.
Also, there’s a new Synch button that allows you to sync the tempo of the plugin to your DAW. Volume control is set between -36dB to +2dB. Note that this is the overall output control and can be used for balancing the master output of the plugin.
Rate 1 and Rate 2 are used for adjusting the vibrato/chorus rate, starting from 0 Hz to 15 Hz. When the plugin is used in stereo, Rate 1 is assigned to the left and Rate 2 is assigned to the right signals.
The original Scanner Vibrato had a fixed rate of 6.9 Hz, so when you load the plugin for the first time, this is the default rate.
The Link switch is used for linking Rate values. When this is off (down), the Width knob is used for setting mono (0%) to stereo (100%) or any value you would like to have. When it’s 100%, Rate 1 is applied to the left channel while Rate 2 is applied to the right one.
When the Link is on (up), only Rate 1 is used for both channels and Rate 1 is disabled. With this setting, the Width knob can be used to change the phase between the left and right channels. In this case, 0% is mono (in phase) and higher values increase the phase between channels.
The Depth knob is used for adjusting vibrato depth. When it’s set to 0%, you will get a little bit of vibrato/chorus, however, when raised up to 100%, it will sound like potentiometers that need some contact cleaners! 🙂 This setting is more audible when heavy presets are used.
When you use a chorus preset, marked as C, you can use the Mix button to adjust the dry/wet ratio. At 0%, you will get a dry signal, but at 100%, you will only get a wet signal. For the traditional setting for tonewheel chorus vibes, it’s set to 35% by default.
When you use a vibrato preset, marked as V, the dry/wet mix is set to 100% and the Mix knob is disabled. As you already know, it comes with 16 factory presets and these are modelled after the original Scanner Vibrato vibes.
Martinic Scanner Vibrato Review & Sound Demo Video
As I mentioned above, when using any presets with V selected, the Mix knob is disabled, but for the rest (with presets that have C selected), I adjusted them to 100% and used the Scanner Vibrato as an insert effect at all times.
I believe (my humble opinion) chorus/vibrato effects should be used as an insert effect as hearing dry sound along with the effect may be distracting. But still, feel free to experiment with these methods, I think send effect method also works pretty well.
As with any Martinic plugin, it was so inspiring to play with the Martinic Scanner Vibrato. Just like I experienced while making the Martinic LEM Echo Music tape echo plugin demo, I played my Fender Strat all day long!
Martinic prices their wonderful plugins extremely affordable in my opinion, they are definitely worth trying!
Where to Buy Martinic Plugins?
The easiest and most affordable way is simply to visit Martinic’s official website and get yourself a copy! Martinic’s plugins can be found on other online stores, however, the best deals usually can be found on Martinic’s website.
You can also check out Martinic plugins at Thomann and see their pricing as well. As these are downloadable products, you can buy them anywhere in the world without worrying about shipping and customs fees. 🙂
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