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iZotope’s Neutron is one of the new generation of DAW plugins that analyze the program audio and then make some pretty good suggestions as to the EQ and compression that will work for the track.
Many engineers find this somewhat disconcerting, and are maybe a little intimidated by it, while others embrace it as just another tool. Either way, I though you should get the scoop on the product directly from someone who knows the most about it, and that’s Matt Hines, the product manager for Neutron.
On the intro I’ll take a look at the brain drain that’s happening at the executive ranks of the music business, and the latest in the debate between the A=440Hz versus 432Hz tuning standard.
Technology moves ahead, sometimes quickly and sometimes more slowly than we would like. That said, we’re all beholden to it more than ever, and that trend shows no letting up. Because tech is such a big part of our lives, here’s a report card on some of the tech products, companies and issues from 2016.
Another year has gone by and our favorite company has again failed to deliver on a new Mac Pro. The company seems to be fixated on iPhones these days, which brings in way more revenue, but Apple’s resurgence was on the backs of the creatives, and it would be a shame if we were ultimately abandoned. That said, there’s a lot of DAWs out there still running on iMacs and older towers, so that says a lot about Apple’s product lifespan.
Depending upon which end of the market you’re in, Avid is either the devil or the savior. If you’re in post-production, the new hardware and Pro Tools features are just what you need. If you’re in music, you’re probably hating the yearly subscription that you have to pay just for the privilege of using your DAW. And then there’s the company, which seems to be more aware of its stockholders than customers, but at least the new hardware products are pretty slick.
Digital Audio Workstations are getting more and more sophisticated, and the differences between them are beginning to blur. That said, most concentrate on music creation, and few look at postproduction, which means that Pro Tools is still king of the hill in that realm. I can’t help but feel that PT’s lead is tenuous though, and its users would jump to another DAW in a flash if and when a suitable alternative finally appears. This might have graded higher on this report card if the next great DAW was clearly on the horizon
The next generation of plugins are upon us, and this time a lot of the thinking is being done for us with automatic adjustments. Plugs like iZotope Neutron and Soundways Reveal and Low Leveler are a big step in the right direction when put in capable hands (and that’s the caveat).
Once looked upon as a marketing gimmick, mic modelers like the Slate VMS and Townsend Labs Sphere are proving that they’re a real alternative to the classic mics that most of us can’t afford. These are real tools, not toys.
The guitar amp’s days are numbered as amplifier emulators are now so good that even seasoned pros with huge amp collections use them instead of the real thing. And with in-ear monitors so prevalent on stage, there’s no need to move air any more. A decade from now, a generation of guitar players and engineers may not like the sounds they hear coming from a real amplifier compared to a hardware or software emulator. Line 6 Matrix and BluGuitar Amp 1 may be the final pieces to this major transition.
There was a lot of high hopes for the tablet to replace the laptop, but in most cases, it’s just not possible. The iPad especially is a great output device, but not so great for input. Microsoft’s Surface fares a little better, but the possibilities originally envisioned just haven’t materialized. That said, Avid’s Dock does a good job making it do what it does best.
While a good portion of the world relies on their smart phone for much more than communication, it still remains a flawed device. It’s a lot slower than a laptop (drives me crazy), and like the tablet, it’s a much better output device than input. While there are a few pro applications where it shines (tuner, bpm calculations, remote control of cue mix), it still hasn’t lived up to its potential in the professional realm.
Everyone thought that this would be the year, and especially the Holiday, where VR took off. Too bad that’s not been the case. VR has a lot of potential, and from an audio standpoint, there are a lot of great tools being developed, so there’s hope. My feeling is that Augmented Reality (AR) will end up being the killer app though. The good news is that there should be a lot more interesting work for audio professionals based around this technology.
Undoubtedly there are some things I missed in this year’s report card, and remember that the grades are strictly how I see it, but I come away generally optimistic on the direction that music tech is going. I’d say the future is bright indeed for tech in 2017.
Ariel Hyatt was one of the first in the PR world to realize the value of social media, and her Cyber PR agency has been helping artists and bands with their online presence ever since.
Now Ariel breaks new ground with her latest book called Crowdstart, which provides a step-by-step breakdown of how to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign. Ariel’s my guest on this week’s podcast to talk about what she’s learned in the sometimes confusing world of crowdfunding.
On the intro we’ll look at the streaming wars and how Spotify and Apple Music own the majority of the market at the moment, and how many believe that the latest generation of audio plugins are “cheating” in that they may allow you to bypass years of experience during mixing.
As I said in my post yesterday, there were fewer audio software companies at AES than one might have expected. The reason is that many software companies are boutique operations with only a few employees, so taking time away from development and spending a lot of money on a show is a critical decision. When it comes down to it, it’s either exhibit at NAMM or AES, and since NAMM reaches more people, that’s the show that usually wins. That said, I did see a couple of plugins at AES that might change the way you mix.
Izotope has always been a company on the cutting edge of audio software development, and it’s constantly coming up with new and useful plugs. The latest is Neutron, which may change the way you mix forever. Neutron does a couple of things – first, it analyzes a track and finds the EQ problems and automatically fixes them for you. Then, it will analyze multiple tracks and find where one track may be masking the other frequency-wise, and sets the EQ and compression. The company is quick to point out that the plug’s suggestions are only starting points, but that certainly performs much of the heavy lifting that sometimes takes years of experience for a mixer to achieve. Check out the video below.
The price for Neutron Standard is just $249 with a $199 introductory price.
I should also point out that I was approached by another company at the show that was in beta test for a plug that did much the same thing but with a different approach. More on that when it’s released.
Eiosis E2 De-esser
De-essers are a necessary evil in audio. We generally don’t like to use them, and when we have to, they’re sometimes finicky in setup. The Eiosis E2 de-esser takes de-essing to the next level, making it a dead-easy setup yet with plenty of flexibility to be able to tackle just about any problem area that you might have. What’s even better is that it has a dynamic EQ built in, which again makes tweaking easy, especially on a vocal. Works great on instruments as well, which isn’t the case with all de-essers. All in all, the results are some of the smoothest you’ll find from a de-esser anywhere. The Eiosis E2 is a bargain at its current sales price of $99. Check out the video below for more details.
There were certainly other fine plugin releases at AES, but these two are the ones that caught my eye.
I often get asked what plugins I regularly use, and even though I like to think that I’m pretty open minded about it, there are some that I keep coming back to. Here are my 10 go-to plugins, with a number of honorable mentions, in no particular order (even though they’re numbered).
1. Universal Audio 1176 – In my opinion, there’s never been a more versatile compressor created, either hardware or software. I’ll use it on drums, room, keys, guitars, bass, vocals – almost anything actually.
2. Universal Audio dbx 160 – Another favorite emulation, it gets used mostly on kick and snare, where it shines for the controlled punch it provides. Be sure to use a low compression ratio of 2:1 or even less.
3. Waves Schepes 1073 – What a fantastically versatile EQ! It’s also one of the few where I even use the presets and they work well (great job, Andrew!). I especially love it on kick and snare, but it will work everywhere else as well.
4. Universal Audio Maag EQ4 – I just love the Air band, which brings out the presence of almost any mic. Stick this sucker on a vocal and you’ll make that cheapie mic sound closer to a C12 than you might have imagined.
5. Exponential Audio PhoenixVerb – I loved the sound of the old Lexicon reverbs, and the PhoenixVerb has all that and more (company owner Michael Carnes spent 25 years working for Lexicon).
6. PSP Vintage Warmer – I use this on the mix buss of every mix. It just makes everything sound better, even without using too much of it.
7. PSP 2445 Reverb – One of my new favorites, it’s kind of a one-trick-pony reverb in that there’s not a lot of different algorithms to choose from, but that one trick always sounds great. The shortest decay settings are excellent.
8. Universal Audio SSL Buss Compressor – Once again, this is one that’s on the mix buss of virtually every mix I do. I’ve tried other plugins, but always come back to the SSL.
9. Universal Audio LA3 – For some reason, this is just the ideal electric guitar compressor. It even makes highly distorted guitars sound better.
10. Pro Tools Native 7 Band EQ – I use this more than just about anything, sometimes just to finish off the sound after another EQ was already applied. The good thing is that since it’s native, you can use a ton of them without eating up much computer processing power.
JST Finality – This is quickly finding it’s way into my top 10. Sound wonderful on kick, but I’m still finding other uses for it.
Universal Audio LA2A – I use this a lot of hat and vocal (usually in conjunction with an 1176).
PSP L’Rotary – This is the best Leslie speaker emulator ever, in my opinion. You won’t need this on every mix, but when you do, it always works.
Soundtoys Microshift – Whenever I need a Harmonizer sound, this is what I turn to. It’s one sound that just can’t gotten any other way.
I know the list leans heavily towards Universal Audio, but I’m can’t deny that I’m a big fan. The list of honorable mentions could have also gone on quite a bit longer, but then I would’ve been getting into plugs that I don’t use as regularly. Anyway, now you know what I use as go-to plugins, but keep in mind that if you check back in 6 months, the list may be completely revised.