20 May

Plugin purchase #5

The fifth plugin is something special for me as this is, in my opinion, the par excellence bus compressor. So be warned I’m really biased. I love the plugin as much as the original hardware.

Meet the Millenia TCL-2

millenia tcl 2

If you are looking for that vibey, coloured compressor than stop reading, this is a very clean one with subtle character. It’s a twin topology opto compressor/limiter which can be the intangible sheen on the master bus that you don’t even recognise it’s in the chain until you bypass it.

The original hardware is already an excellent unit, but Brainworx managed to made it even more clever.

tcl2 ms option

In the plugin version we have MS option which is my favourite thing to have. If you deal with many stereo material you must try it!

tcl2 wetdry

The other very useful and clever thing is the Dry-Wet capability. Parallel compression built-in. With these extra features the already spectacular plugin becomes an incredibly powerful tool.

I suggest to try out the presets as they are really good starting points and you can build your very own favourite settings from these easily. Well, everyone has a fetish bus compressor, this is mine.

As it is almost natural from Plugin Alliance, the TCL-2 is AAX DSP which is a big advantage in my book.

11 May

We need to know who are the good examples

In this industry probably everyone has one or two horror stories about different customer services, but many of us have very positive experiences with some companies. In my opinion the good ones deserve the praise and it is important from time to time to broadcast our positive events to let everyone know who are these good guys in the business.

Plugin Alliance

plugin alliance

This is not the first time I contacted them. I use a lot of their products so sometimes I discover small bugs or have a question or feature request. Each and every time they react rapidly and the answer is never some marketing speech, they always focus on answering, solving my problem.

Apart from their excellent customer service they make great plugins.

Exponential Audio

exponential audio

Michael is always very responsive and he is a guy who really, I mean really cares about his products and the customers. I really hope one day we’ll meet and have a nice chat. I can’t praise him enough. It really doesn’t matter if you are only interested in something, have a problem or would like to pick his brain regarding reverbs for example, he’s there, helping, sharing his knowledge and serve his customers.

In my opinion he makes probably the best reverbs available today.

Avid

avid logo

I know, I know. But believe me, any time we needed something we got fast and expert help. Additionally the S6 developers are such great guys, they’re always open to new ideas and workflows. If you have some problem with your control surface most of the time you don’t even have to file a ticket, just write into the S6 forum and they’ll answer and help you out.

We might hate how Avid behaves as a company, we might not like what the business people at the top are doing, but believe me the talent in there is enormous and very helpful.

McDSP

mcdsp

What can I say? Fast, correct and helpful. Doesn’t matter what your problem is, they can and will help as soon as possible. I only mailed them maybe twice since I use their plugins, and within 24 hours I had the answer which was really a solution. With all the AAX DSP quality plugins they make, I can’t recommend them enough.

04 May

Plugin purchase #4

Probably the easiest to use and one of my favourite both in original analogue format and in digital reincarnation too. It has a few knobs only and one large meter in the middle, still it can do wonders on a wide variety of materials. From being so subtle that no one can hear it to really smash it but still being musical, performing equally well on single tracks and on mix buses too.

From hardware to plugin

I had the chance to use this beauty in real life on numerous sessions and surely that was the time I’ve fallen in love with it, its sound and easy of use was a win-win. The original concept and design comes from two masterminds: Michael Papp and David Hill. I think it’s absolutely futile trying to list their magic designs over the years. Let’s just say that all the hype surrounding them are true!

Softube tla 100a

I was very excited back then when Softube announced that they’re doing a plugin version of the TLA-100A tube levelling amplifier. Kudos to them, they even made it more versatile as now we can separately adjust the harmonic distortion and the wet/dry balance (parallel compression).

softube tla100a addons

I really don’t want to praise it through many pages, anyone who don’t know the unit or never tried the plugin should download the demo and give it a test ride. I think you’ll agree with me that it’s a stellar unit and an amazing plugin. Oh, by the way it’s available in AAX DSP too.

27 Apr

Plugin purchase #3

The third choice is a real swiss army knife. It’s an EQ and a dynamic EQ with a very clever UI. I’m talking about the McDSP AE400 Active EQ.

Active EQ

If you need a great EQ on steroids, I recommend to take a serious look at this beast. It’s low-latency, Native and AAX DSP and has some really helpful features which I love.

It has a permanent place on my buses and on my masters, even on certain instruments. The fact that it’s an active EQ if you want is more than helpful. Basically it means it only affects the predetermined band if the signal passes the threshold (going above or falling below… more on this later). This is the best thing we can ask for. Only affect the for example the low-end, when needed, but don’t touch it until the signal rise above the threshold.

One of my favourite thing is to clear up things on master buses. With today’s film scores we usually have a huge orchestra with very dense orchestration plus additional midi stuff and electronic things to make things even more interesting. In the huge forte events, the low-mids can terribly build-up and we might have another problem in the mid-high area where things can get that too piercing, hurting sound. In this example, if you start to EQ the individual tracks, you might loose your basic sonic picture. If you start to EQ the buses, you loose frequencies that you actually need, but they are too much only at the loudest parts. This is a situation where the ActiveEQ is here to help. Only attenuate the problem areas when the huge forte passes happening, but leaving the whole spectrum alone in any other case. Meaning you still have your fat low-mids all the time except when it’s too much.

Let’s see a few gems:

key listen

ae400 key listen

You can use the built-in keys or key the Active EQ from an external source. While you use the built-in band per band key, you can listen to them in isolation makes it extremely easy to spot problem areas or recognise weak spots that need some more care. As the bands are fully overlapping, you can sweep through the spectrum in order to find the territory you want to treat.

peak indicator

ae400 peak indicator

Each band has its own peak indicator which makes the threshold setting process incredibly fast. No guessing, just keep the transport playing and you’ll see exactly where each band is peaking. I’ve found this to be very helpful to find the ballpark in seconds, then tweak from there.

band linking

ae400 band linking

There are times when I have the right settings, but want to make some further adjustments on more than one band at once. No problem here as I can quickly link the necessary bands together and from that point on, I’ll have linked interaction.

ratio control 

ae400 ratio

It’s a pretty unique feature, most dynamic EQ doesn’t have this feature. At first I thought maybe it’s not that of a big deal, but after a short test it showed its value. Cleverly using the ratio control allows you to do quite big adjustments with incredible transparency. I tried some other Dynamic EQs and believe me, this ratio feature is really helpful

Active plot

ae400 active plot

Once everything is set up, you can see what’s happening on the active plot, it’s a very nice representation of what’s going on. If I would ask one thing, that would be resizable plugin window to see the action in big.

So, this is the third one, McDSP’s dedication to the AAX DSP platform and the quality of their plugins bought a permanent place here on most of the master buses and solo instruments.

21 Apr

What real-life can teach you

If it’s not obvious from the title, yes, I’m talking about my recent livesound experiences. But wait, it’s not a rant. Far from it. Although I must admit that the last few days couldn’t be more disastrous technically. Still, I think there’s a few things a sound engineer can do in order to make things (the gig) happen. Take this as a survival guide, but not a technical one.

Solution provider

I know it is a cliche, but really this time if you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem. Yes, it might be one of the worst gig with almost impossible circumstances. But never forget one thing: you’re not hired to reinforce the bad, but to do the best you can. It’s that simple. The moment you focus on how it is not possible, you lost.

It’s not my job… well, this is probably one of the most destructive sentences ever in a bad situation. Yes, technically probably you’re right, it shouldn’t be your job, but the band hired you because they trust you. Go that extra mile to prove they’re right.

Ready for the unexpected

Right now I can’t count how many different digital and old analogue console serve as the built-in local board. Simply put, it’s impossible to know it all. Really. I’d been the executive FOH engineer for the biggest festivals in Hungary for years so I have a pretty good knowledge about the biggest ones, but still I always had my iPad with me filled with users manuals. One thing I really learnt from this is it’s not important to know every menu item. The thing you need to know is what you want to do. If you’re utterly lost in a console, simplify. Think it over calmly. The only thing you need to know is how the signal goes in, and goes out. That’s it. If you know this simple thing, you’ll find everything. In the path you’ll find the EQ and Dynamics section, etc.

Just don’t panic.

Negotiations

Of course there’ll be things that won’t work, or couldn’t be achieved. Be honest. Never ever promise something that you can’t do. It might seem convenient first, but musicians will ask for it, so in the end it’s not a good idea. Be brutally honest, but don’t be a jerk. There’s a big difference between real honesty and saying no to everything and being rude. It is your job to communicate properly. In my experience most of the time people understand and appreciate honesty, even if that means they have to give up something for that particular show.

Be the cleaner

Honestly I don’t know any other place where you can learn a lot about how to EQ effectively and precisely. Removing the junk with EQ is actually an art. A very practical one, once mastered, can make your show sound much better. This is actually also a very good exercise, and the benefit is there when you get back to the studio. After a bit of practice, you’re going to be faster, more precise and more sensitive to EQ changes. This is good no matter what area you’re working in the audio-land.

Decision maker

Whether you like it or not, it’s not your comfy studio with a hundred mastering grade plugins and ample time. You have to do it fast, make proper decisions along the way and stick with them until you find they’re not working. You have to make decisions. Have to make decisions no other guy in the room would like to make. It’s your job. Even if sometimes it’s hard.

In my opinion, you can learn a lot from all of the above mentioned things. Over time it’s much easier, but still, it’s not that easy even after many, many years. But you have to deal with them, properly. The side benefit is that you’ll be more comfortable with many things that also could happen in the studio. So to wrap up, you can learn a lot of things from it. But to really be better, you have to keep trying, no matter how bad that night is.