Category Archives for "Plugin"
Most processor plugins these days fall into roughly the same categories (EQ, compression, effects, denoise and utilities), so when a plugin comes along that starts a new category it’s big news. The plugin I’m talking about is the the Eventide Fission, which uses what the company calls its new Structural Effects (that would be the name of the new category) technology to break a signal down into its separate transient and tonal components.
Why would you want to do that? A number of reasons actually. For one, you can take any sound and twist it in a new and wonderful way to create something completely different, so it’s perfect for sound design.
But for those of us that just do music, it has lots of uses as well. For instance, it can provide much more convincing pitch alterations since you can keep the transient as it is, then tune just the body of the sound (there’s a great example on both snare and toms in the video below). Maybe you want to soften (or emphasize) a transient of a guitar to reduce the string or fret noise, or do the same with the body of the sound to reduce the room ambience. Maybe you’re doing a dance track and just want to completely mess up a synth sound into something totally new. There are tons of uses for Fission.
Keep in mind that Fission isn’t just another transient designer tool since it works on more than just the transient as you can manipulate the body of the sound as well. The plugin includes six effects (Delay, Tap Delay, Dynamics, Phaser, Reverb, and Gate + EQ) for the transient component, and seven (Delay, Compressor, EQ, Pitch, Chorus, Reverb, and Tremolo) for the tonal component. Fission’s Structural Split controls (Smoothing, Trans Decay, Source Type and Focus) combine with a real-time waveform display to show the user just how they are adjusting the split.
The Eventide Fission Structural Effects plugin has a list price of $179 but has an introductory price based on your Eventide purchase history. There’s also a free 30 day trial period. Go here to learn more, and check out the video below. Very cool!
If you grew up in the days of recording studios built around consoles and hardware, then you were probably used to using a Lexicon reverb. Although not the first digital reverb, the Lexicon 224 and subsequent versions became a must-have for every studio to have in its arsenal in no time, and we all grew to love its sound. Michael Carnes helped design and perfect these reverbs for Lexicon for 25 years before he began making reverb plugins with own Exponential Audio. The company already has some pretty cool reverb plugins, but Michael’s new R4 gives you the best features and character of those old hardware units at a very reasonable price.
The Exponential Audio R4 has a super amount of flexibility, allowing you to conjure nearly any reverb sound you can imagine, or it can be dead simple, with dozens of meaningful presets that can be easily searched for a quick solution to every situation. Among its many features (taken from its press release, which I couldn’t top) include:
I’ve been playing with the R4 for a while, and I can tell you that unlike many reverbs that you have to struggle with to make sit in the mix, this one just works with almost no hassle. Dial up a preset and you’re ready to go, or you can get as tweaky as you desire with all the available parameters if you want.
The Exponential Audio R4 reverb plugin is now available on all platforms for $299, with a free demo available. If you’re an Exponential customer already, there’s also a $150 discount available. Check out the product page for more details, as well as the excellent videos that explain the features of the R4 supplied by Groove3.
How many times has it happened where you have a great mix going, but it just needs something a little extra to bring it all together? Of course, there are now a lot of plugins available to add some “glue” to your mix, but they usually bring just one sound to the party. The Black Box Analog Design HG-2 from Plugin Alliance is different in that it’s one of the most versatile plugins mix buss plugins of its type on the market.
Like the hardware version of the HG-2 that it’s modeled after, the Black Box Analog Design HG-2 plugin brings a wide range of harmonics to a mix, thanks to the careful emulation of the 6U8A pentodes and 12AX7 triodes found in the original model. There are separate gain controls for both the pentode and triode emulations so you can dial a blend between both. You can then adjust the Density control to drive both tubes harder without changing their relative balance or the plugin’s output level in order to get more girth and mass.
The Calibration menu emulates the internal trim adjustment in the original hardware unit by modifying the HG-2’s high-frequency response to produce Dark, Normal or Bright coloration. Then there’s the Air knob, which lets you add some extra 10kHz+ to open up the mix. The HG-2 also has a saturation circuit to add either tube sheen or blistering overdrive distortion to just low or high frequencies or across the entire frequency spectrum. There’s a lot that this plug can do, and it’s certainly a lot more than meets the eye.
The Black Box Analog Design HG-2 retails for $249 but it’s currently on sale for $149. There’s a 14 day free trial available. Check out the video for more info, or go right to the dedicated page on the Plugin Alliance site.
PSP’s impressive plugins always make my Top 10 list and rightfully so. There’s a lot of expertise that goes into making these gems, and each one has a variety of real-world uses. The latest from the company is the FETpressor, based around the sound of the 1970s hardware blackface Universal Audio compressor/limiters that we all loved so much.
The FETpressor isn’t a straight emulation of those FET feedback style units though. It’s a modern representation with all the parameter controls that an engineer needs for today’s mixing. Along with the Threshold, Makeup Gain, Ratio, Attack and Release controls, there’s also a Side Chain High Pass Filter frequency control to better help control the low end so the processor doesn’t pump, and a Blend control for instant parallel processing. The plugin has the ability to just work on one side of a stereo mix (you can pick the channel), and a switch to link or unlink the channels. It also has an output transformer emulation to add some extra character even when its set to a 1:1 ratio.
Controls are nice, but it’s all about the sound, and the FETpressor is sort of a cross between an 1176 and an LA3A. Both are classic compressors still admired and copied to this day, so it’s like getting two for the price of one. I personally think that the 1176 is the most versatile compressor/limiter ever made and would probably be a “desert island” processor for me. Likewise, electric or acoustic guitars just don’t sound right to me unless they go through an LA3A, so the FETpressor is a welcome addition to my plugin list.
The PSP FETpressor has a special introductory price of just $79 until January 8th, and the deal is even better if you’re already a PSP user (the price is secret until your shopping cart though). Like all PSP plugins, it’s available for Mac and PC in all plugin formats. Check out the web page for more details and some very cool user quotes, and the video below for some sonic examples.
Amplifier modeling has reached new heights of realism, and it’s to the point where even die-hard purists with big amp collections now show up to a session or a gig with just a modeling pedal. That said, one of the big problems with amp emulators has always been how difficult it is to get acoustic feedback. Let’s face it, you have to move some air first to get that sound that we all love so much. Until now, that is. Softube’s Acoustic Feedback plugin now allows you to get as much or as little real sounding acoustic feedback while staying exclusively in-the-box.
Acoustic Feedback has actually been around for while but I’m only getting hip to it now (thanks, Oz Amaro!). The plug is an offshoot of the White Marshall amp simulation from Softube’s Vintage Amp Room, although the one supplied is a stripped down version (that’s all you really need for feedback). It’s very cool in that it’s fully responsive to vibratos, bends, slides, and tremolos so it tracks your playing well. The user interface is simple: there’s a Mix control, a Feedback amount control that goes from subtle to natural to wild, and a Tolerance control that tracks your playing.
Best of all, you can assign a MIDI foot controller to the Feedback control to manually adjust the amount so it responds just like you were in front of a cranked Marshall!
Acoustic Feedback is available for VST, VST3, Audio Units, AAX Native and AAX DSP formats, and is just $49 with a 20 day trial period. You can find out more info here.
For those of you who gig with a modeling pedal and don’t want to drag your computer with you, Fender made a version of this called that Runaway pedal that combined the Softube Acoustic Feedback algorithm with a built-in foot pedal. Unfortunately, it’s no longer available, but you might be able to find one used.
We’re starting to see more and more next generation DAW plugins where outside the box thinking results in an easier user interface which ultimates leads to new or more useful sounds. Nowhere is that more evident than with the new FabFilter Pro-R Reverb plugin which takes many of the more difficult reverb concepts and controls and presents them in a new, easier to understand way.
FabFilter Pro-R has the same familiar interface as it’s other wonderful plugins, showing a real time waveform display, but this time with a decay time and EQ curve superimposed over the top. While there are many unique features of the plugin, one of the most striking and useful is the previously mentioned decay curve, which allows the user to simply grab and shape as necessary. This allows you to have different decay times for different frequencies, which while not totally unique, is presented here in a way that’s far easier to achieve the final result you’re looking for.
Another unique feature is the continuously variable Space control that lets the user fade between dozens of different room models and automatically chooses a matching decay time. Once again this is possible with most other reverb plugins, but the fact that as you dial up the Space control it automatically switches from algorithm to algorithm is not only pretty cool, but one of those “Why didn’t anyone think of that before?” features.
There’s also a Distance control that adjusts how close the source is in relation to the reverb, so you can bring things closer or further away as needed. Of course, on most reverbs you can do this by adjusting the first reflections, but this is so much easier. A Character control also changes the sound from a clean, transparent decay to one with that’s over-modulated for a chorus-like effect. This is one clever plug!
The FabFilter Pro-R reverb plugin costs $199 (EUR 169 or GBP 149), and supports both Windows and Mac OS X in VST and VST 3, Audio Units, AAX, RTAS, and AudioSuite plug-in formats. Check out the website for more details, or this excellent video that pretty much explains everything.
If you’ve ever had to deal with a noisy track, you know how time consuming clean-up can be. Yes, you can gate it, but that can sound unnatural. There are also many excellent noise-reduction plugins available, but they don’t always do the job without adding some unpleasant artifacts. You find yourself playing with different combinations of tools hoping that you can eventually dial in something acceptable, which can take a lot longer than you’d expect. That’s why the new Audionamix Speech Volume Control (SVC) is so cool. It takes an entirely different approach to noise reduction.
Most noise control plugins try to eliminate or concentrate on the background noise, but SVC works by increasing the level of the vocal or speech so that the noise is no longer a problem. Keep in mind that this is a tool intended for post engineers who work with dialog, but the plugin looks like it can have many uses in music as well (I can’t wait to try it on noisy distorted electric guitars, for example).
SVC has to first acquire the audio in order to be able to work with it, and this done using the Aquire button, and then the Separate button to allow the algorithm to do its thing (the track can be mono or stereo, by the way). At that point, there are a variety of controls, but the main ones are the Speech volume slider and the Background volume slider, which will then allow the user to find the right combination of noise to track that seems natural. There’s also a Pitch slider, which works in conjunction with a number of presets for different types of voices, that allows you to fine-tune the algorithm to the voice.
There are also High Quality, HF Boost and Reverb options (the Reverb selector maintains the wet/dry balance as you adjust the Speech volume control), as well as an Automatic Voice Activity Detection that helps to precisely target the speech content within your audio file.
The Audionamix Speech Volume Control plugin costs $249 to buy and $19.95 for a 2 week rental. It’s available in AAX, VST and AU formats for both Mac and Windows platforms. Check out the video below, or the website for more info.
It’s rare when a modern compressor becomes a standard, but after 20 years, the Empirical Labs Distressor can be found in every major studio, as well as many smaller and home studios, and is as widely used as any of the “classics.” The Distressor has a sound that’s different from everything else, and is one of the few hardware units that’s never had a digital plugin emulation. Until now, that is, as the new Empirical Labs Arousor comes about as close as you’ll ever get to the esteemed Distressor.
The Arousor has a similar look to the distressor, but there are a few things that jump out immediately that are different. For one, there are two new choices for gain reduction – 1.5:1 and 8:1. The much used Nuke setting is gone and Rivet can be found in its place instead (although they do much the same thing). There’s also a control called Attack Modification, which changes the envelope of the attack, as well as a new Soft Clipping control, which adjusts the amount of distortion from none up to plenty. Then there’s the new variable hi-pass filter and a sidechain EQ section (both were fixed on the Distressor). Finally there’s a Blend control that allows you to perform parallel compression with ease.
Does it sound exactly like the Distressor? Even Empirical Labs says that it’s close, but not exactly. According to their webpage, “We say “close” because most of Empirical Labs’ analog gear will pass 150KHz easily, and that is something that is impossible with current digital technology.” Another thing is that the ratio controls don’t exactly line up, according to the helpful online manual, which states that you should always use a ratio on the Arousor that’s one higher than you’re used to using on the Distressor. In other words, if you’re used to using 4:1 on the Distressor, use 6:1 on the Arouser to get close to the sound.
That said, it’s rare when a software emulation compares 100% to its hardware counterpart. We’re in the realm of “really close” and for the most part, that’s been good enough even more the most hard-core of golden ears, so the Arousor is definitely in the ballpark here. The fact of the matter is, it’s great to have a Distressor-like compressor plugin now available, and the fact that Arouser comes from the same company ensures that you’re getting software with its seal of approval.
The Empirical Labs Arouser isn’t inexpensive at $349, but it currently carries an introductory price of $299. There’s a free 14 day trial, and you can get it directly from the Empirical Labs Arouser webpage. Check out the video below for a sample of how it sounds.
I really love Exponential Audio plugins because you get high performance effects that don’t require a ton of CPU power at a reasonable price. While the company’s existing plugins are very cool indeed, Exponential founder (and ex-Lexicon engineer) Michael Carnes has outdone himself this time with his new NIMBUS reverb, a true next-generation plugin.
NIMBUS takes the excellent sound and parameters of the company’s PhoenixVerb and gives it an injection of steroids, providing a host of new and useful features. For instance, there’s expanded EQ with 3 separate sections – one on the reverb tail, another on early reflections, and a new EQ on input. Each section allows you to select between 6 different types of filters (2 Lowpass, 2 Hi-pass, Bandpass and Notch). Thanks to these new EQs and filters, it’s easy to keep problem sounds like traffic and rumble out of the reverb, create different effects, or work around buildup in overused frequencies.
There’s also a very cool new dynamics process called Tail Suppression that helps lower reverb levels when the input signal is strong, so you never have to worry about having a vocal that’s too wet yet you can keep the lush reverb in the spaces in between phrases.
NIMBUS also provides a choice of several early reflection patterns, which I don’t ever remember seeing in another reverb. One of the patterns is a special ‘Vintage’ selection that has a very low density that helps to get the sound of some of those old hardware favorites that we all know and love. Another feature that I really like is that you can lock predelay and reverb delay to tempo, something that had to be done manually previously.
Finally, there’s a new Warp section that provides three different parameter sections. One is an input compressor/expander that provides variable attack, release and knee to allow you to control how the input feeds into the reverb. This can allow you to set how much reverb dynamically occurs during quiet passages, for example. Plus, it can even approximate the non-linear converters of 30-year-old hardware devices (Lexicon 224 anyone?).
Warp also has a flexible overdrive circuit that gives you the ability to add some nice sounding harmonic distortion or even a bit of transistor crud to get a sound closer to what real plates and chambers (the ones that use real analog amplifiers) sound like.
Finally, there’s a word-size reduction control that can help you emulate the sound of the convertor and DSP distortion from all those expense vintage reverb devices that we used to use back in the analog days.
The Exponential Audio NIMBUS Reverb plugin is available for Mac (10.8 and up) and Windows (7 and up), and in various plugin formats – VST and VST3 (64-bit only), AudioUnits (64-bit only), and AAX (32 and 64-bit) so it will play nice with just about any workstation that you use. Go here for all the details.
NIMBUS will be available at the end of September for $199, and you’ll be able to test-drive it for 21 days. You’ll find it at the Exponential Audio Online store.
Vocal tuning can be a touchy subject. Many think that it’s putting a big band-aid on a problem while others feel that it’s just a normal by-product of today’s music production. But tuning a vocal in the studio is something completely different from doing it live on stage, where many see that as cheating of the highest order. Putting the moralities aside for a second, when you have a tool available that really helps a vocalists stay in tune, you might as well use it, and that’s where the just released Waves Tune Real-Time pitch correction plugin comes in to play. It’s so fast that it can be used to tune vocals in real-time during a performance either live on stage or while recording in the studio.
Waves Tune Real-Time uses a brand new algorithm to automatically tune vocals with ultra-low latency. It has loads of features that make it easy to correct the pitch while keeping it sounding natural thanks to its advanced formant and vibrato correction, as well as it’s many manual features. It features intuitive controls and a simple layout, and can be easily programmed to the song’s key and customized to the singer’s articulation.
One of the cooler things is that it has a built-in software keyboard to help with the correction programming, or for just playing back guide tones to the singer, which any producer or engineer who spent time connecting a keyboard while the vocalists was waiting will appreciate.
Waves Tune Real-Time works on just about any available DAW and runs on any live mixing console via MultiRack SoundGrid. It’s also compatible with all SoundGrid applications like StudioRack, MultiRack, eMotion ST, and eMotion LV1.
The plugin is now on sale at an introductory price of just $99. Check out the video below that not only provides a demonstration of how it works, but a rundown of all its features as well.