Greatest Hits

New toys are exciting at any age and the purchase of new audio plug ins is no exception. But after that initial rush (“THIS is the one that will make EVERYTHING amazing!!”), the true test is how often you’ll keep coming back to it.

I find value in almost all of the ones that I have, partially due to the “Demo Mode” that many manufacturers implement. This is a very smart move because it lets the user “try before you buy”.

There is an “embarrassment of riches” in the audio field these days, from hardware to software. Some of these were made to “fix” audio issues while others lean more to the creative “sound shaping” side. So let’s see who is standing the relative “test of time”.

PSP Infinistrip: Great Modular “Drag and Drop” 500 Series Layout. Pre Amp Models are great although I like the way the Slate ones go further over the top, distortion wise. This plug in features THE BEST Ducker that I have encountered, a serious DeEsser and great Eqs (musical ,not surgical) and analog sounding compressors. I recently used this plug in to record a D.I. bass part by Brandon Hodge and he was completely blown away by the sound.

Brainworx bx_console N: Incredibly smooth EQ and Compressor, very natural gate and nice console saturation. That Neve sound..what’s not to love?

Brainworx bx_digital V3: The Stereo Imager alone is worth the price of admission but the mid-side with auto solo makes this a serious addition to the Master Bus for mixes or mastering.

Fab Filter Pro Q3: It’s everything that they say it is…and the addition of Dynamic EQ has made it my “go to”.

Soundtoys 5: Indispensible..amazing delays and moving filters..but the killers for me are the “Devil-Loc Deluxe” and “Decapitator”.

Dune 3: Incredibly deep synth yet easy to get around on, once you understand the architecture. I start from scratch with the “initial” preset and end up with something worth saving every time.

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.

Strip Search

There are so many ways to mix but I have always been partial to the “channel strip” approach, where most of what you need is in one plug in. There are lots of great ones out there and some offer more bells and whistles than others. Most offer EQ, Compression,Filters and a Gate. The Eventide Ultra Channel adds a Stereo Delay and a Harmonizer as well as a recreation of their famous “Omnipressor”. The Scheps offers 2 (!) DeEssers as well as Saturation and the ability to move the modules around in any order. Slate takes the “500” Series Approach for up to 8 Modules. My “go to” is Metric Halo’s Channel Strip and I love how they update and add features (like a Real Time Analyzer).

But…I was intrigued when I first read about this one from Brainworx.

Back in the day, my friend Al Hemberger at The Loft Studios was looking for a high end Single Channel Mic Preamp and wound up with a rack of these:

Neve Prism Rack

So when I read that Brainworx had modeled an ENTIRE CONSOLE, CHANNEL BY CHANNEL, I had to try it out. The layout is easy to navigate in the plug in and it sounds..yes…I’m going to say it…”musical”. I haven’t had a chance to run it in full console mode but it’s great on individual channels and the gate is surprisingly effective and “unfiddly”.

Summer Of Love 2019

It’s been a great summer to play with some new audio toys and beef up the arsenal.

Slate dropped some cool new offerings through their subscription service…a Gate for VMR, a TH-U Guitar Amp/Cabinet/FX plug in from Overloud, the Ana-2 Synth and a whole host of Modular FX from Kilohearts (their Transient Shaper is amazing). I love that they’re partnering with third party plug ins but it always makes me a little nervous that they might discontinue their relationship and I could be left with some old sessions that won’t open correctly. Many felt burned when this happened with the 224 and I’m still not thrilled that they’re parting ways with Scuffham (my fave guitar amp sim).

PSP Audio has been tempting me with deals so I finally broke down and added their E-27 EQ to my collection. It’s a broadband EQ with a great Drive control and sounds extremely musical.

The UAD Plug Ins that I bought earlier this year have been getting quite a work out, especially the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor and the API-2500 Compressor. Nothing sounds like either one of these beasts.

I’m looking forward to catching up with Paul Wolff (Inventor of the 2500) at AES in October. He is making some amazing custom consoles and he’s always up to something new and interesting.

Dune Surfing

It’s great to have choices..but sometimes you find yourself in what Stravinsky called “the abyss of freedom”. I decided that I would go deep on one synth for a while and this is the one:Dune 3.

It is a truly rich and glorious sounding machine, with none of the “graininess” of some of the even “high end” synths. It is actually an 8 layer synth where each layer can be an independent synth. Each layer has 4 possible oscillator types (Virtual Analog/Wavetable/FM/Noise Generator) that can be mixed, panned, modulated, filtered and sent to one of two incredibly comprehensive Effect Outputs. Add in two Arpeggiators/Step Sequencers and there is never an excuse for a “static” sound.

The FM section looks fairly basic but it is very musical…and one of the things I like best about this synth is that it encourages “knob twiddling” instead of just using presets. It’s intuitive enough that you can build a sound from scratch with a specific intention (ie. “My Ultimate Super Thick Fuzz Bass”) or you can experiment with the settings and be surprised (in a good way).

2019

Time To Get Busy ..er.

It was a pretty amazing 2018…Audiation Podcast Production on shows with Sir Paul, Madeline Albright and Andre Bocelli..Number One Smooth Jazz Mastering with Ragan Whiteside, recording artists such as Elena and ATOK as well as lots of projects that will come to light this year.

It looks like I may need to do some composing at home so I put in a call to my Tech Guru at Sweetwater David Hess and he pointed me in the right direction. The UAD Apollo MK II Quad Interface hit all the right marks and opened up the world of their fantastic sounding plug ins. The WA 47 Mic was chosen for capturing acoustic sounds and my first impression of it is extremely favorable. Add in a basic Midi Controller and away we go!

It’s strictly headphones for now but who knows…..

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.

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.