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Tag: compressor

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.

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Plugin revision (again)

Every year I stop and look back, re-open older sessions to see what I’ve done and how I’ve done it. And also to see what tools I’ve been using, which are the ones I seldom use. To be honest my iLok is very valuable not for the obvious reason that it holds the licenses, but because I’ve spent huge amount of money to software in the last couple of years. But only spent money which was really worth, which I really needed for my job.

Test, demo, test

As you might know I’m very picky when it comes to plugins. I always, always thoroughly test before deciding if I really need or want something. I’m a true believer in that you don’t need 100 different EQs and 200 different compressors to mix. A few carefully selected ones will make your life easier, will help you to achieve the SOUND you’re after, but that’s it. No need to a mile long list of fetish emulation. Don’t get me wrong, there are superb emulations out there, but you certainly don’t need them all.

ilok2

Plugin companies want you to believe that their new/old/emulation stuff will make your mix so much better, even they ask famous engineers to endorse/promote their plugins. In reality though, you need only a few to make a word class mix.

On my iLok I have 77 activated plugins. Including different Pro Tools licenses, EQs, Compressors, Reverbs and other miscellaneous stuff. I think it’s a bit too much, but going through the list I realise that I use almost all of it. Only 4 activated plugins sitting there mostly unused. Not because they’re bad, but whether I’ve found some better alternative, or I don’t really need it.

This yearly housekeeping always reminds me how important to choose our weapons wisely, and to not listen to promising advertising. Instead, if you feel the urge to buy something, I suggest to always, always make time to really test it. Do what you want to do with it, then do more, do crazy things with it to see-hear under all possible circumstances. After these first tests, try to recreate the behaviour with other plugins you already have in your arsenal. If, with some effort, it is possible to recreate that thing, you’ve got your answer, you don’t need the new plugin.

I take this very seriously. I could’ve spent many thousands on different emulations, but honestly many times they’re not that far apart from each other.

My very strict test process saved me huge amount of money over the years, so I stick with it. It takes more time and effort to always test the newcomers, but this way I really know that I have the best possible tools for my job.

Be your own judge, don’t let the marketing department fool you!

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The search for the ultimate vintage emulation

Few weeks ago I was in a big search for a truly amazing vintage compressor plugin. As usual, I’ve searched many forums, read even more reviews and finally, downloaded crazy amount of demos to test them in real situations. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I really wanted. The aim was to find a kind of old analogue magic in a plugin, which fits many style, can be subtle or aggressive depending on my needs.

After a few days of mad testing I was exhausted and frankly quite embarrassed. After trying so many different plugins I couldn’t find any which I liked without any reservation. Which is very surprising to me as we all know that there are quite a few plugin manufacturer who really knows this stuff and almost everyone praise them for their sonic achievements. Obviously I felt that the problem must be on my side. To be as fair as possible I took a few days break from testing, the only thing I did is a special test session which contains very wide range of material from individual instruments through mixed material, sound effects, dialogue, really, everything imaginable. I even stopped reading about these emulations. I wanted to really forget the whole thing for a few days so my head is not filled with any preconception.

vintageemulations

Then after I felt ready for another big ride, I launched my carefully crafted test session and started the whole process again from the very beginning. And honestly I’ve found a few plugins that I really, really liked, although I wouldn’t say that I liked any of it so much that I couldn’t easily hold myself back from buying it. On a side note, I’m extremely picky about plugins, even more so if we’re talking about analogue emulations. I was so certain that I will find some real gem among the million plugs. I continued to test even more in the next week or two, making detailed notes about the pros and cons of each tested candidate. To my great surprise, drum roll…. I haven’t found an utterly convincing plugin emulation that I wanted to own immediately.

Than I thought to myself the problem must be in my brain, if the whole internet praise these things, it’s must be me somehow. Fortunately I had to test these things while I still had to mix many shows along the way, so I decided to observe my mixes from a more technical point of view to spot my problem with these plugs. And bingo, this was what I needed. I mentioned that I am extremely picky when it comes to plugins in general. And as it turned out, this is exactly my problem, because I simply don’t like one trick ponies, and to be honest, most of these well-known emulations are not so versatile instruments. I know many of you disagree with this statements, but please consider my needs, it is simply not enough if for example a compressor is good on drums and bass, but not good on voice and sound effects. I know it seems a bit crazy, but I’ve spent countless hours, days, months finding the very best plugins, all of which can serve me very well if I happen to mix a concert show, but satisfy me equally well if I mix dialogue, or recording and mixing a film score. See? This is the root of the problem.

My job require to switch gears in a blink of an eye many times daily. So as I see it I cannot afford to lock myself into some analogue mojo and loose the ability to shape the sound in a so flexible way that frankly analogue and its emulations couldn’t even dream of.
Before you prepare your weapon to kill me, I’m in post production, with often unbelievably short deadlines, with very broad tasks to accomplish, where disaster recovery is a daily exercise, where TV shows need to be edited and mixed in just a few days. With this in mind, I truly think that this few weeks of diligent testing showed me that I need tools that can be as transparent as possible, or even the contrary, need to be obvious in a moment and able serve multiple tasks.

In short, this is how I re-discovered the Sonnox Dynamics again, and finally, after so many pleasant encounters during the years, I finally bought it to my personal collection. As soon as I’ll have a little time, I’m going to write about it, it is so utterly brilliant.

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