With my M1 now up and running, I started looking for some new sounds and synths to add to my collection. An ad for a new subscription version of UVI’s “Falcon” showed up in my email so I was curious to see what it offered. I was already familiar with UVI, both through their fantastic Drum Replacer Plug In (which I own) and the free version of Falcon Workstation (offered briefly in Pro Tools).
For $ 24 a month, you have access to a giant library of sounds that operate within the Falcon Plug In. The sounds are in categories that are similar to those in Kontact. The well designed website and portal make it easy to check out the different and varied packages that are available, from synths to realistic sounds. You can download and try, then uninstall if you don’t like.
I jumped in with the ” Augmented Orchestra” which is a very dynamic and dramatic set of orchestral patches that sounds like it’s aimed at the film and video composer. Many of the patches are very deep and the evolving motion of many of them can be manipulated with the mod wheel.
The next group I downloaded was ” Soul Drums”. The title is somewhat of a misnomer, as many of the kits are outside the realm of ” vintage” that the name seems to suggest. There are loads of kits and drums and they sound like they were put together with a lot of care and imagination. I love that the kits are both quirky yet usable. It’s fairly easy to customize your own kits too.
Their actual Orchestral download was a mixed bag. Full orchestra patches are impressive and definitely useful, the section patches are good but the solo instruments don’t seem to be up to the task. In fact, I found the Logic factory patches to be more realistic.
The Falcon Workstation is also included and this collection leans heavily towards ” synthy”. Some very impressive and useful (and unusual) sounds that really come alive when you manipulate the macro controls in real time.
So overall, Falcon looks like a winner. One caveat: this is NOT an intuitive synth to program. The structure and routing are very deep.
I have spent most of my life playing “semi-weighted” keyboards, a family that sits between the plastic all in one “fun machines” that you find at Best Buy and the high end “weighted” keyboards that tip the scales both price and weight wise.
Once the dawn of the midi controller came to pass (ie. no sounds in the unit) , I couldn’t wait to turn my next keyboard’s numerous buttons, faders and switches into a Virtual Mega Synth, one to rule them all!
Of course, that never happened. Keyboard after keyboard let me down, each one with its own quirks and clunkiness. And every keyboard player who sat down to my “semi-weighted” controller had a terrible experience (and let me know it) with the “un-piano” feel. I chalked it up to “diva-ness” and a touch of snobbery on their part.
But I was working on a project recently where the artist asked me to play some piano and organ parts and we were recording into Pro Tools. Midi in Pro Tools is (for me) about as fun as doing my taxes so I recorded Audio Only. The studio had a beautiful weighted keyboard with great internal sounds and I was sold.
That was it for me.
My Studio Logic 73 Weighted Keyboard in combination with the Garritan CFX Grand Plug In has made me a convert.
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??
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.
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.
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.
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:
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”.
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.
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).
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!