14 Nov

Cloud services

It seems to me that I’m endlessly looking for the best cloud service available. So many things to consider. Price, amount of storage capacity for the price, speed of up- and downloads, sharing and collaboration features and utility apps for different platforms. I need them daily to collaborate, backup, send and receive files.

Google drive

Big promises, varying experiences. The Google ecosystem is very appealing to anyone because of collaboration options, price and availability, miscellaneous things like Google docs and mail, all in one nice package.

However, there are downsides of this. Google drive is still missing many options and reading their forums it seems that the company don’t really care about user requests.

I experienced very varying upload and download speeds, and to my surprise, many failed uploads. I tested this from multiple locations and the experience was the same. Even with amazingly fast connections. It’s cheap and very promising, but the lack of features, the instability of speed just makes me want to search for other services.


First, I didn’t like the pricing of this service and to be honest, I still find it a bit expensive. Once you pay for their service, the feature list is quite impressive. I still use it with some clients and it seems that Box has a serious reputation no matter if you are located in Europe or in the USA or in Asia or really anywhere.

Where it falls short for me is the up- and download speed. It’s nowhere near as fast as the competitors. Again, I tested this from multiple locations with pretty fast connections.

I think Box has one of the best feature list, but for the price it should be faster.


Maybe relatively new, but it seems they take cloud storage seriously. Their apps are very good, however, you can’t upload files larger than 1Gb through a browser and I had some connection issues with it. I really like their service, but it seems that it’s not nearly as ubiquitous as most other services. I don’t know if they really want to care about smaller businesses, but in my opinion, they’d need some more options with their packages.


It is on the more expensive side, but for the price, you get a lot of things. Lot’s of storage space, good apps, nice collaboration options and frankly, quite amazing up- and download speeds. Also tested from multiple locations, Dropbox always had excellent speed. I only experienced one serious slow down, which later proved to be a connection issue on my side.

For now, it still seems that Dropbox might be the most reliable cloud service, but I continue to search for the very best.

If you have any idea, experience, please share your knowledge with me through the comments or email, twitter, etc. Thanks.

05 Nov

Hard to resist

There’s a well-known syndrome in audio circles called GAS, stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. As over the years we almost completely moved from analogue to digital, many hoped that this syndrome will simply disappear, leaving our bank accounts more happy, and ourselves less addicted. How blind we were… At first there was only a few plugins worth considering, but after a while clever and creative software developers produced a huge number of unbelievably powerful tools which can do things we never imagined we’d be able to do. As a result, we might lost one addiction, but rather, that syndrome only transformed into a very similar one, now in the digital world. We can call it PAS, Plugin Acquisition Syndrome.

As I see it, it’s even more dangerous. The iLok can hold several hundred licenses, we have some boutique shops on the net that offers really great deals on virtually every plugin, and to be honest, it’s very convenient to try everything under the sun. Just download it, install and fire up the DAW of your choice, ready to test the newcomer. No need to rent and deliver it, no need to find space in the studio, few clicks and you’re ready to test. This, of course made the syndrome much worse. No real effort needed to get what we wish, no need to even get up from your comfy chair in the studio.

As I see it, this trend made us less picky about our tools. What we like to a degree, or find it remotely useful, we simply buy it. Then it’s just sitting in our plugin folder waiting for its turn, but honestly these instant impulse purchases very rarely turn out to be useful ones. Most of the times at the end of the year we just staring at our long list of plugins, maybe have no idea why we bought some of them in the first place. That’s why I developed a very rigorous testing method and only buy the ones that pass my test 100%. This way I can keep my list smaller and buy only the best ones.

New kids on the block

Lately I haven’t had much time for testing things, but I’d like to try a few new ones that grabbed my attention.

McDSP Dialog processor. At first it seems like a multi-band deesser, but as I understand it is much more than that. I’ve heard some examples which surely made me want to test it. Without any prejudice, my only fear is that it’s too limited, meaning I cannot change certain parameters like the frequencies.


The other is iZotope’s final mix. The marketing of this plugin is a complete train-wreck. But the concept is very good and to be honest I’m really interested in a good dynamic EQ. My only problem is the price. Although it seems to offer a lot for your money, I bet most of us already has a great true-peak limiter and we cannot buy this thing as a stand-alone dynamic EQ. Surround support is very tempting though.

This is the reason I still love some forums. You discover new things, new companies. For me, the new discovery is Meldaproduction. It seems they’re a small company who are truly passionate about the plugin world. Innovative features, very friendly pricing. If the sound of their products is stellar, I think they’re facing a very shinny future in the plugin industry. From what I’ve read and saw, their dynamic EQ can superior to the iZotope’s one with more features and still half the price.


Plugin Alliance. Well, I must say I’m a bit biased. I love their business model, how they operate and how correctly they deal with support issues. And frankly they have some utterly amazing plugins in their arsenal. I already use some of it, but now I really want to test more. Even their brand new channel strip, yes, the Neve one. I have some vibey plugins already, but none of them are AAX DSP, and the Eucon implementation is poor, yes, I’m looking at Slate in this case.

BX neve

If their new Neve thing is on par with the best in the industry, I’ll surely buy it. Even their new technology called Tolerance Modelling Technology is intriguing.

So this is it for now, but I already know that we’re going to see very interesting things soon as there are plenty of very dedicated and creative developers out there. Of course, if you have deep experiences about some of the above-mentioned plugins then don’t hesitate to tell me via the comments or email. Thank you.

15 Oct

Soundtoys 5 issues solved

Well, at least some of them. As I mentioned in the earlier post, after installing the new bundle, I had some authorisation issues. The Rack version worked fine while I was unable to use the single plugins, because every time I tried to instantiate them, the “you must authorize…” popup appeared on screen.

Within a few hours I received very helpful comments and right after that I got mail from the Soundtoys support. It seems that I completely missed some well-known things and their solutions.

First I thought I might try the easiest and fastest remedy, re-sync my iLok. Quickly launched the License manager and after the log-in I chose to re-sync my iLok. Worth a shot, but it didn’t help.

Next I tried to uninstall and reinstall the Soundtoys bundle. Used their own uninstaller it took only a few seconds to remove the plugins, took another minute to reinstall them. I was pretty sure that this would be the solution, but had no luck with this either.

Let’s check the AAX folders than I thought, and this was a very good suggestion in the comments. Version 4 plugins were still there. Out of curiosity I tried to use the Soundtoys uninstaller again to see if it really removes all the old stuff. Well, it failed to remove the old stuff, so I deleted the old plugins manually, reinstalled bundle 5, just to be sure, restarted the system and voila! Now everything is working fine!

Had some issues with older sessions where Echoboys’ older presets and some automation didn’t work, but that’s very minor, I could solve that easily.

I’d like to thank you for the really useful comments, and thank Soundtoys support too for the quick and helpful email. Only one thing remained unsolved, that is the mapping of the rack on a surface. Now it is miserably broken, probably I’ll try to email them again with some photos to see if their aware of this.

It seems that this new rack type plugin era is so much in its infancy that developers had no proper solution to use them with a control surface. Hopefully they have a plan to solve this soon.

13 Oct

Soundtoys 5

So, after the long wait, it is here, and frankly the upgrade price is so friendly that I blindly knew I’d upgrade my bundle. Not to mention the fact that this bundle contains some of my favourites like Echoboy, Decapitator, and the list could go on.


To rack or not to rack…

First of all let me thank the whole Soundtoys team for the decision. If I want, I can use the rack with many plugins in it creating amazing chains, or if I only need Echoboy without any other tools, it is still available as a stand-alone plugin. A much more user friendly option in my opinion than the Slate route with the Mixrack.

The upgrade went well, payed the price and the assets were there in my iLok account within 30 seconds or so. Synced them to my iLok, downloaded the installer to have a little fun with the new release. All went well up until this point. Right now I can’t use the stand-alone plugins, because for some unknown reason whenever I try to instantiate them the “You need to activate…” popup appears on screen. Obviously because I’ve already synced the asset to my iLok, it doesn’t find the necessary licenses in my iLok account.

However, the rack version works like charm. I happily lost a few hours playing with it like a child, trying some presets and creating some weird stuff from scratch. If I must point one negative thing about it, it is a very dangerous time killer! You just simply loose your perception of time and hours can pass while you enjoy creating your magic mixture.

Clicking around is fun, but how fun could it be with the S6? Well, sadly I don’t know that because the mapping is miserably broken, the same as Slate’s Mixrack. Unusable on a control surface. It’s really so embarrassing to see that plugin manufacturers don’t pay attention to this. I’ve already emailed them my two problems (the activation and the mapping) waiting for their answer.

I’ll keep you posted.

24 Sep

Plugins and control surfaces

There are two very important things according to plugins. One is obviously how you like the sound of it, the other is how easy, convenient is to use it. The first goes without further comment. Read about it, download the demo, test it, and if you really like what it does, buy it. I could go into details (again), but in my opinion it’s pretty straightforward, because if you happen to dislike the plugin sonically, there’s no question, you won’t ever use it. So let’s assume we found our plugin and bought it.

Here’s come the second really important point, the ease of use.

Graphical User interface

The very first thing we see is the “face” of the plugin. It can be simple or artistic, or it may depict some vintage gear. The main point is how much do you like it? I know it’s strange to read this about plugins, but think about it for a moment. If you like the look of it, it’s more likely you’ll use it, your brain’s going to remember all the important controls and their exact position. And be honest, we all like a nice GUI, after all we stare at it for long hours on a typical mix session.

Just a very short personal note on this. While I really like these shinny, beautiful GUIs, I think sometimes plugin manufacturers should spend more time on usability and easy of use than graphics.

Technical issues

We cannot avoid some technical stuff when we try to find our trusty tools.

Obviously it’s very important to check if the plugin is available in the format our DAW support. In my case it’s AAX Native and it’s a bonus if AAX DSP also supported. I don’t want to derail my own post, but this DSP thing might need a bit of explanation. Although today’s computers are immensely powerful, in post production there are serious reasons why we like to have the DSP option. One, that is most mentioned on the online forums is latency. Namely when you have a full mix and need to record some overdub with the full mix still going intact, you might end up with latency issues with a Native only system. If your session is not so huge, then it wont’ be a problem.

For a quick example I just describe the last feature film score mix I did. I tested this on both Native and DSP systems, and believe me, a very, very powerful Native system would choke under the burden of this session:

  • 280 tracks
  • approx. 1000 plugins inserted
  • almost all HDX2 DSP was used up
  • 38% of a 6 core trashcan MacPro used up
  • session had a 1.5 hour-long HD video

Although I haven’t tested this, but using Native system only would be very demanding with a session like this.


This is a big one for me. It can be a world class plugin, but if the company behind it has a bad support, or the plugin constantly crash the DAW, I won’t use it.

I’ve found that some companies are much better at making efficient, stable plugins than others.

Other important consideration is how good is the plugin when it comes to automation. In the post audio world we heavily rely on automation, so plugins need to be 100% reliable. Otherwise you never know what really happens, and every bounce can be different, defective. On certain things you might spot the difference, but in a heavy mix it takes more time to find what causes the strange feeling that something is off. In a big supersession it can take forever to check every automated plugin.

Control surfaces

The last point is how the plugin maps on surface. Some would say that you can adjust the parameters with a mouse, which is true in essence, but when you have a huge mix, you need to have a more tactile control in front of you. To be honest, in 2015 it’s still surprising to me that many plugins simply not, or not well mapped to surfaces.

One particular example is Slate Digital plugins. I love some of their stuff, but the mapping is just unusable. Let’s take their Mixrack as the example. It is a very versatile tool as you can change the order of the processors, but if you look at the surface, you’ll see this:

mixrack s6 map

So, instead of clear parameters, you see this hodgepodge of letters and parameters. Obviously if you use different chains, the letters corresponds to completely different parameters. It’s not simply inconvenient, it’s unusable.

It’s a known issue at Slate, I’ve even emailed them, but their response was far from promising. They simply stated they know about the issue but have no solution right now. That’s it.

I know some would say it is because Slate has some competing product with the Raven, but I think any pro audio company who really thinking in long term should take this issue very seriously. I travel a lot, work a lot in different studios and controllers are everywhere. From the small few fader unit through the Artist series up to the fancy Avid S6.