Tune Up

It was time for another ProTools Update so I went for “2020” which wasn’t very different than “12”. The biggest change was the introduction of “Dark Mode” which makes it easier on the eyes if you’re working for long stretches (ie. always).

It also came with the bare bones version of Melodyne. The tuning of vocals (and instruments) is pretty much de facto in the day to day world of audio production and the two main players are Antares AutoTune and Celemony’s Melodyne. The two camps each have their followers and detractors but the general consensus seems to be:

AutoTune for Real Time and/or a more Processed Sound (T Pain, Cher, etc). Detractors claim that AT produces more artifacts than Melodyne.

Melodyne for more natural (but off line only) sound.

AT has a Graphic Mode like Melodyne and both require you to transfer the audio (in real time) into the plug in before you can start fooling around with it. They both offer advanced editing in terms of volume and timing as well.

After a frustrating run with the basic Melodyne in ProTools, I bit the bullet and upgraded to the more advanced version…and I love it. The sound DOES seem more natural, the GUI is much more appealing and it seems a LOT easier on my system; AT in graphic mode has had a tendency to crash my sessions.

I recently did a session in which I was asked to tune 64 vocal tracks and I was happy to have both plug ins at my disposal. Some especially tricky issues were better fixed by one than the other.

ARA Technology promises to make Melodyne a real time process (ie. no need to transfer audio first) but ProTools has not adopted it as yet. I think that Avid’s inclusion of Melodyne (however basic) in it’s newest upgrade seems to indicate that it’s right around the corner…and did I mention..Audio to Midi??

To Infinistrip…..!!

PSP infinstrip

PSP Audio has long been one of my favorite audio plug in designers so I was really curious to see what they had cooked up with their newest offering. After a day with the trial version, I plunked down my hard earned duckets and I haven’t looked back.

The most obvious competition for this type of “Series 500” style plug in would be Slate and McDSP. I don’t have the McDSP Plug In so I can only reference the Slate.

First off, PSP has designed the modules based oof of their own concepts, unlike the Slate one, which brings in a mix of both their own as well as emulations of popular hardware units such as the API EQ, the SSL EQ and even a sanctioned Distressor. Both plug ins feature a “drag and drop” style of filling the rack and modules can be placed in whatever order you like. Neither one offers a truly “surgical” multi-band eq but all of them have their uses.

Aside from the sound, I was drawn in by the concept that you can try out different compressors/eqs in a slot while maintaining all of your settings. This is a quick way to audition different “flavors” without losing your changes. The preamp modules offer the sound of the 60’s,70’s 80’s and 90’s with a Drive and Noise amount. The gate is intuitive and easy to set up, as is the compressor. They have also included an amazing de-esser (pretty much worth the price of admission) and side chain capabilities (something sorely lacking in the Slate Strip).

All in all, an “amazing piece of kit”,as they say in England.

Fab Four???

Pro Q 3

No, it’s the Fab Filter EQ 3.

This equalizer is one of the most highly regarded EQs in the Plug In pantheon. I have lusted after it for ages, as an EQ that could be my “go to” for both Logic and Pro Tools. The GUI and navigation are fantastic and it offers many useful features such as “Match EQ”, mid/side capabilities and some interesting shapes (ie. “tilt” and “brickwall”).

The design and functionality has been shamelessly copied by Slate for their new Infinity EQ (which I also have). So what made me pull the trigger on the Fab Model? The tipping point was the inclusion of Dynamics, turning each band into a Compressor or Expander (if you so choose). Simple yet incredibly effective.

Other goodies include a very generous Preset Collection and Fab’s Help Tips (which are an education unto themselves). I am already using this EQ in my mixes and it’s easy to see what all the hype is about.

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 drive..to 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.