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Category: Pro Tools

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.

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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 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.

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Plugin purchase #2

The second choice is one of favourite. Not only because of the quality of the plugins, although that’s important, but the hero behind the products. I’m talking about Michael Carnes, the man behind some of the most successful Lexicon products, and lately, one of the most pristine sounding plugins on the market.

Exponential audio reverbs and effect bundle

Because of the quality of the plugins, the decision is, we need all of his plugins. The reverbs definitely feels like the highest quality hardware units. Only without the hassle of using an external unit. Just a quick overview.

Phoenixverb

The pure, natural sound. Most of the time it’s much better than an IR reverb. It creates real space around the source, without any artefacts. The GUI is not about eye-candy graphics, instead it offers clear and logical controls organised so you can find and operate the plugin quickly.

Phoenix surround

Formats goes from simple mono to 7.1, and with the link function you can use it in the immersive surround environments.

Another great thing is the presets are not only there to give you some starting point, they’re stellar sounding settings, usable without further tweaks.

R2

Well, the R2 is the reverb that gives you that somewhat coloured larger than life sound. Sonically it’s more noticeable than the Phoenix but once you find the the right balance between the the direct and wet, it’s just unbelievable. When you try the presets, the same goes for the R2. Without any tweaking it is absolutely great with the basic presets.

The GUI is almost the same, you’ll find all the controls easily.

R2 surround

The additional functions like the chorus and gate can really change and colour the sound.

Another big thing for me is how easy to adjust these reverbs in the surround field. Level, delay, metering is all right at the perfect place when you need it.

Excalibur

What can I say? Is there anything delay based special effect that it can’t do? I don’t think so. This is a beast you have to treat with respect. This is a plugin you’ll spend long days figuring out what it can do. This is a delay you’ve dreamed of. This is a multi-effect that can be subtle, but able to transform your sound into very special things.

Excalibur

These are the reasons why we need it.

Stay tuned for the next part.

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Plugin purchase #1

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

Avid HEAT

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.

heat

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.

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