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.
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 it..so 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.
Playlists…have come to Logic.
Amen..now 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 rub..it’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.
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.
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 then..to 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.
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 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.
I recently did my first studio podcast production. The client wanted to know if I had ever done one before so I asked him if it was similar to the NPR series “Radio Lab”. He told me that the “Radio Lab” format was very similar to what he was looking to do and we started to go down the list of what elements would be needed to put his together:
1. Original Music Creation
2. Voice Over Recording/Editing
3. Mixing and Editing Of Field Sound Recordings (ie. interviews that he had done on a Zoom Recorder)
4. Final Mix Of all Elements
We finished the project within the projected time and budget and it was a creative and fun session. Over the next week, I thought about how important it is to be open to learning new skills and to have an open mind in this “soup to nuts” economy. If I initially had no frame of reference (“Radio Lab”) with the client, his confidence in working with me would have been seriously undermined. And recording and editing/mixing VO (voiceover…the people on radio and TV who speak) for four years and writing and producing music for TV and radio while I was also writing and producing music for major labels….all of it gave me the experience and skills that come into play in producing the podcast.
Life is funny..you never know when you’re going to need to know what you didn’t think needed to know. (apologies to Yogi)
In our recent conversation, Chris Gehringer (Sterling Sound Mastering), one of the most sought after and respected mastering engineers on the planet, stressed the importance of an accurate and balanced listening environment (speakers and room design). I redid the cabling and monitor placement in my room at The Loft Studios in Bronxville, NY a few weeks ago and decided to bring in an expert to help get it as flat as possible…so I called Steve La Cerra.
Armed with his handy Phonic Room Analyzer, Steve ran the room through its paces as we identified audio “peaks and valleys” that were causing issues across the audio spectrum. It was fun, balancing the art and science of sound with Steve, as we adjusted the volume, EQ and crossover controls on the main speakers and sub woofer.
In addition to a flatter response (The Holy Grail of any control room), we also achieved a wider sweet spot…listeners in the back of the room are hearing pretty much what I am hearing in the mix position. Every one of the musicians that I worked with over the next week noticed the improvement. All I need now is a Lava Lamp!