Interview: Tony Frenzel from Klanghelm

Few things in this world are certain, other than death, taxes and the indisputable fact that Klanghelm makes amazing plugins.

The Germany-based software company makes a range of best-in-show compressors and saturation plugins – we love and use them often – so we tracked down head honcho Tony Frenzel to get the inside skinny on what it takes to make in the audio plugin game.

Laptop Guitarist: Tell us a little about you. Where are you based?

I was born and raised in Berlin, Germany and now living with my family in a village near Berlin since a couple of years.

Is this what you do for a living? Or do you have a ‘real’ job?

Klanghelm is my full time job since 2013.

How did you get into audio plugins?

I dreamed of building my own stuff since being a teenager. Unfortunately, I terribly suck at soldering. So I was psyched when Steinberg released their VST SDK in the nineties. Since then I’ve been toying around with making (simple) plugins for my own use. It’s been getting more serious around 2010, when I’ve started to notice, that I spend less time on making music than on learning DSP and coding music related stuff.

What’s your musical background?

I’m playing guitar since the age of 11. Bass and drums followed in my early twenties, been playing in bands, working in studios, touring…

SDRR saturation Plugin

What was the first plugin you built? Why did you build it? How was it received in the marketplace?

VUMT was my first commercially available plugin in 2011. At that time I’ve been looking for a VU-meter with integrated trim control for gain staging purposes. I couldn’t find something like that, so I’ve coded one myself. To my surprise, it’s been received very well, as many people seemed to be wanting that kind of plugin too at that time.

Do you ‘market’ your plugins? Or is it all from word of mouth?

The only things I do, is posting about newly released plugins and major updates on my Facebook, Twitter and on KVR and Gearslutz. That’s all. So I mostly rely on the word of mouth. I rather focus on support and working on the plugins, as happy customers are the best marketing in my book anyway. Frankly, marketing is not a field of interest of mine. So I am really thankful that it’s working well without it.

What’s the best thing about being a plugin developer?

Being independent and being able to create whatever I want for myself. And taking as much time for each plugin as I personally think that is needed to make it perfect.

DC8C Advanced Compressor

How has the industry changed over the years?

I’m not sure, if I can answer this, as I don’t think about it that much or follow how the industry or the plugin market is evolving. The only obvious change (at least to me) is that plugins have been getting less expensive.

You’ve got some of the best looking GUIs around! Do you make them yourself?

Thank you very much! Yes, I make them all by myself. It would only complicate development, if I had to communicate every single change with another designer. I usually start with the GUI for a plugin at a very early stage of development. So the GUI is evolving in a similar fashion as the DSP during development. For my plugins I want a close aesthetic relation between sound and vision, forming one unit, just as the music and lyrics of a song.

What advice do you have for young developers wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Follow your own ideas and don’t just create stuff that you think the market might need. It’s not that hard anymore to build plugins, but attempting to make them bug-free on each imaginable system and maintaining them for many years is quite a task. So you’d better commit to an idea, that’s a matter of heart instead of just something you think that might get you some pennies.

What’s next for Klanghelm? Any new products in the works?

I’m working on an EQ right now. Still a couple of months away from a first beta. But it’s coming.

What do you hope to do ultimately? Do you have a big goal you’re working towards?

I’d love to be able to create plugins as Klanghelm for a living for the rest of my life.

Finally: Who has the best guitar tone of all time?

Adam Franklin of Swervedriver for the most beautiful Jazzmaster-sound. It seems to me that he’s melting with his guitar when he’s playing. I do have a soft spot for Jazzmasters and Adam Franklin makes them sing in the most perfect way imaginable (IMHO).

On the other hand there’s Geordie Walker of Killing Joke for the most thunderous, apocalyptic earth shaking sound. To me that holds true for his whole career, probably peaking on their Revelations album and later on the Absolute Dissent album.

Go buy something now:

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