The (New ) Soul of A Machine

Everything is running smoothy on your Mac (or PC)…you’ve put off updating for fear that programs and/or plug ins for your DAW won’t be supported and/or recognized, let alone your hardware. But those dazzling new features keep tempting you..and some of your older less glamorous programs like Pages (Mac’s Version of Word) won’t open documents that were created on a newer version.

So I was posed for a triple disaster:

Going from Mac Yosemite to High Sierra (cue up images of an old Western movie), Logic 10.3 to 10.4 and ProTools 11 to PT 2018. Add in the confusion of establishing a new iLok account for a new iLok (long story..iLok IS the DEVIL) and I was ready for “a world of pain”. The ProTools registration went first and had me running in circles with 17 Tabs open. Next came High Sierra..which I tried to down load and install 5 times, having it quit at the last step. It turns out that ProTools intalls a background app that you have to disable by rewriting the code in the “Launch Agent” that is buried deep in the hard drive. Thanks to You Tube, I was on my way and Logic was next.

The Logic Update went off without a hitch except…all sorts of new sounds and effects are looking for a happy home on my local SSD the tune of almost 100 gig. So this was a time to face the dreaded “disk clean up” and High Sierra has some great “manage storage” features that make it less painful.

So what’s the good, bad and ugly?

Some plugins got left behind, both Software Instruments and Audio Plug Ins. Nothing too tragic, although strangely, the Izotope Suite works still in PT but not in Logic.

New features in ProTools include Freeze, Track and Channel Presets and Midi Record Capture..all of which have been in Logic for ages. There is also some kind of “Playlist” enhancement that looks pretty underwhelming but I’ll take it for a spin.

Logic is sporting new Drummers and String/Horn Instruments as well as new EQ  and modulation plugins that are taken from Camel Space and Camel Phat…pretty great. Logic has finally implemented “Playlists” (they call it “Alternatives) that have been in ProTools forever; this is huge for me. Add in a new Reverb, new Drum Kits and more Loop Content (not something that I use often but nice to know it’s there) and it looks like a great update. My only gripes now?? EXS Sampler needs an update as Logic needs to implement a fast and better “Drag and Drop and Warp” sampler function in order to compete with Abelton “Live”…AND you STILL can’t move channel strips in the mixer window…but this must be some kind of huge rewrite issue, as people have been requesting this for years,

And High Sierra seems solid too. All in all, a positive update for two great DAWS that I lean on heavily every day.

Hip to the Hop…and you don’t stop..

Toontrack is one of my favorite plug in companies. High quality, fairly low CPU footprint, ease of use, commitment to development. They have a huge library of Genre Specific Drum and Percussion Kits that also come with style appropriate Midi Loops in song construction sections. This particular kit would have usually   been a hard sell to me as I have so many great sounds in this genre and really, how many 808 Kicks do you really need? The fantastic GUI lets you know that this plug in is as much about the esoteric percussion and real Drums as it is Machine Drums. Combine that with about 20 prebuilt kits to get you started and the ability to swap out individual kit pieces. My only gripe? I wish the mixer had more individual channels.

Simply Fab….

Fab Filter has just introduced a major upgrade to what was already one of the “Gold Standard” Limiters for Bus Limiting and Mastering.  It is one of the few that can truly live up to the term “Transparent”. They’ve added lots of new and useful metering options, True Peak Limiting, new algorithms and a “1:1” feature that let’s you hear what the limiter is doing without adding the hype of increased volume. This is not a new concept…Both the L1 and The Slate Mastering Limiter implement it. But I found that the feature in those plug ins revealed just how much damage they were doing to the audio. The Pro-L2 doesn’t flinch, even when pushed hard…essential and the one to beat.




This is the software piece that I’ve been waiting for….FG Stress.

It’s part of the Slate Digital family of plug ins that has a happy home in their Virtual Mix Rack (along with the usual suspects..EQs, compressors,etc). With every new release/update, the hordes of on line audio pros (and not so pros) hotly debate whether or not the software emulations of their favorite time honored gear have been done EXACTLY. I haven’t had enough “hands on” time with the Emprical Lab’s “Distressor” hardware unit to make that kind of judgement but I will say that it does something unique…and that I like a lot.

Extra punch on that kick? Tame a wild bass? Put that vocal up front?.. even..dare I say it..”glue ” a mix together on the stereo bus?


The original hardware manual is on line and explains how to get the best results from this unit.

Highly recommended.

Steven Massey

Steven Massey is the man behind Massey Plug Ins, a collection of some of the best audio tools for the ProTools DAW. I have been using his L2007 Mastering Limiter since I demoed it and quickly discovered why it is the “gold standard”. One of the artists that I am working with heard a demo of his “Tape Head” plug in on his track and fell in love with we bought it.

There was some confusion (on my end) about the plug in account and email delivery and Steven resolved it immediately.  I am just as impressed by his customer service as I am by the quality of his plug ins.

We have also purchased his CT5 Compressor and VT3 EQ. I have a feeling that we will eventually own all of them. My only complaint is that they are only available for Pro Tools…I wish I could use them on my Logic rig.

At Last…Logic 10.3

Playlists…have come to Logic. if we can only have the ability to move channels around in the mixer.

This looks like a pretty big update in a lot of areas. But here’s the’s only for Mac OS Sierra…which does not support Pro Tools 11 or my audio interface.

But here we are in the accelerated age. And this bump in the road  ( new interface and Pro Tools 12) is a small price to pay for the power and speed of current DAWs.

This also will force me into Thunderbolt territory (which is already going the way of the Dodo thanks to USB C).

Kudos to the Gearslutz Website for being on the bleeding edge of technology.



“It’s the most wonderful time..?”


Once a year, my subscription to the Slate “Everything” Plug-ins Bundle comes up and it’s right around the corner. It seems like much of the pro audio software is going in this direction and it makes sense. Manufacturers can keep track of their actual legitimate customer base and plan their budgets for developing and maintaining their software. Remember, every time that Apple does an OS upgrade (I think they’re coming about every seven minutes these days), software companies have to make sure that their plug ins and programs are up to date and compatible. And the entire plug in architecture can change over night..we now have AU,aax,VST.

So I think it’s a win-win. Instead of paying a crazy high price up front to own the plug ins, I can rent for a low monthly fee..and who doesn’t like getting new plug ins every couple of months? The down side for me is that Slate has licensed (as opposed to developing) some third party plug ins (such as ReLab’s 480 Reverb) and it seems that they’re discontinuing this item as part of the new bundle. This is bad news if you’ve used this on a lot of sessions and it’s no longer appearing. But the reality is that lots of software from other companies stops functioning after a while for various reasons..manufacturers go out of business or no longer support an OS upgrade. So I’m going to be thankful that we are in an era of amazing and affordable audio tools like the ones in this bundle..can’t wait for the Distressor emulation…here’s my credit card again,Mr.Slate.

The Circle of Progress

I checked out the software Oberheim OBX (Obxd) and it is pretty faithful to the original. But as I went through the preset sounds, I was reminded of what it was we really wanted out of a synth back be able to recreate actual instruments (strings, horns,drums,bass,etc.). The race was on and the Yamaha DX7 emerged as an early winner for certain sounds such as Fender Rhodes and Electric Bass (“Seinfeld” Slap Bass, anyone?). The drawback was that you needed a Phd to operate the beast. Roland mega synths such as the Super JX tried to enter the “imitative” fray, sadly ignoring its actual strength as a very cool DCO synth. But Roland was working on a type of synthesis (“L.A”) that grafted the attack part with a sample (i.e.. a string bow or horn blast) onto a synth wave with their D-50. Korg, who’s Poly 61 was looked at as a “toy” synth, blindsided everyone with the relatively low cost “M1”, a synth that borrowed the D-50’s architecture.
So we now had the tools to create an entire production within one synth; the M1 (like the Ensoniq ESQ-1) had a built in sequencer that allowed the user to compose an entire track. Classic synths were relegated to the pawn shops as larger and larger “workstations” were brought to market with more sounds,more voices,more tracks. Companies started to market them in 19” rack modules; my own rig at that time was contained in 3 large flight cases and housed about 12 different modules.
But at the heart of every modern synth was a sound card and a small computer. As processing and memory dropped in price, it became possible to have it all within one computer. All you needed was a keyboard to control the sounds in there and voila!..your Mac (or PC) was your “all in one” synth and sequencer. Even the pristine quality of a fully sampled orchestra was at your fingertips..simply add the ability to record audio (Logic/Cubase/Digital Performer,etc)  and you’re looking at a “studio in a box”

At the same time, all the limitations and sonic drawbacks of those early synths started to become desirable again (think vinyl). People missed the “analog” sound and hands-on control of knobs that a mouse can’t give (yes,I know all about assigning midi controls to midi controllers..I just don’t think we’re there  with that yet).
All of this has been very positive for synths, both hardware and software. If a musician wants to go deep, there are software ones like Alchemy that do everything except pick up your laundry. For the less technical user, there are about 3,000 preset sounds in that one as well. Hardware synths by pioneers such as Roger Linn and Tom Oberheim continue to push the envelope while maintaining ties to their distinctly analog roots. And new comers such as Teenage Engineering are gaining fans among those who wish to explore sound creation/design from the ground up.

Freddy’s Dead

This has been a sad time for music. Aside from all of the high profile musicians that have passed away, we have also lost Fred McFarlane .

fred-mcfarlaneFred was one of the nicest and most talented musicians that I have ever known. I first met him at a small studio in NYC where he was part of a thriving studio/live scene. We wound up on the “D Train” live crew, Fred as one of the 4 keyboardists and myself as road manager/FOH and monitor mixer. As we started gigging, I wound up writing and producing a fairly big radio hit in NY  (for which I saw almost no money…that’s another post) and Fred made the joke at sound check “We’re the only band where the roadie has a bigger hit than the band”.

D Train was a band of top level musicians and Fred fit right in…in all of the performances, he never made a mistake..not even one. He had a great sense of humor and was incredibly generous. When I asked him to help out on a project of my own songs, he traveled down to D.C. and laid down tracks for 12 songs for free.

Fred later ended up playing keyboards on a few songs that I had written for other artists (including “I Think I’m In Trouble” by Expose, co-written with Kevin Calhoun and Shelly Peiken), and working with artists like Madonna.

He was also generous with his time and expertise. An early adopter of synthesizers, he knew his way around the Oberhiem synths backwards and forwards. I just found a free software version of the OBX and can’t wait to see if it does him justice.obx_d