At least once a year me and my colleagues get together for a brain storming session to discuss which are the best plugins of the year. Which, in our case means, what plugins we want to purchase for our workstations.
We can’t buy everything, but we can buy the necessary things, which includes new developments, desert island plugins, even some vintage emulations if that’s what will make our mixes really better. So with all the ideas, the long testing periods, the discussions we select our favourites. That’s a pretty big list at the start, then we try to pick priorities. The most popular goes up in the list and at the end we have what I call the would-be-cool to have plugins.
This year’s highlights
HEAT stands for Harmonically Enhanced Algorithm Technology. Developed by Avid and the legendary Dave Hill, who I think really needs no introduction.
I’ve been looking for the holy grail of analogue emulation for a long time, and HEAT was always on my radar, but haven’t tested it thoroughly before. Tried many other from different companies, but all failed at some point. Some sounded very good, but hindered my workflow, some maps on surfaces poorly like the Slate plugins. I even reached out to some developers if they are interested to fix the obvious shortcomings, but even in 2016 it seems that many plugin company still only interested in selling their thing, but not make it work properly.
So after the dead-end streets I found HEAT again. If you’re not really familiar with it, here’s a video that explains it much more interestingly than I ever could:
No-one can argue that the integration within Pro Tools is absolutely spectacular. And it works great with control surfaces. Now about the sound. Now I assume you know that it is capable of emulating the tape-like sound and the tube-like sound, depending on the setting. But instead of trying to emulate one or two iconic equipment, it promises to really emulate the analogue process itself. Non-linearity, softening the transients like tape and almost organically reacting to the input signal.
For the causal viewer it may seem that we would need more controls and parameters to adjust this analogue-like process, but believe me, the two main knobs are just what we need. One direction gives you more tape-like sound, the more you turn the knob counter-clockwise the more you hear the effect, and if you go to the clockwise direction, you’ll get a rich tube-like sound. Besides this, you have a simple tone control, so you can gain back the high loss caused by the tape algorithm for example. Other than these, there’s a global bypass, channel by channel bypass and pre-post buttons which define if the process takes place pre-plugins or post.
To be honest I was, and still surprised that this genius algorithm is actually working on insanely different materials. Tried it on jazz, symphonic, score music, rock, you name it, and it really works. The simple two knob control method really allows you to get the sound you want literally in seconds.
I’m a big believer of subtle small things that can really take the mix to the next level. HEAT can does that.