PLUG-INS AT AES: EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

Dec 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Sarah Jones

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Last month, we presented some of the hot product hits from September's Audio Engineering Society Convention in New York. But with so many plug-in developments, we decided to give them their own feature. The plug-in market is continuing to flourish, and we noticed some trends at AES.

Emulation is going strong. We're seeing more and more modeling of vintage mics and classic effects, and, increasingly, hardware manufacturers are developing software-based versions of their gear. (Will virtual rolling racks be next?) There was also big news on the platform front. Digidesign's new Real Time AudioSuite (RTAS) plug-in platform brings real-time, host-based mixing and processing to entry-level users. And a growing number of developers are announcing plug-ins for Soundscape, SADiE, MOTU's MAS and Sonic Solutions HDSP platforms. Meanwhile, many current plug-ins were introducing expanded platform support, particularly VST and DirectX. We also saw quite a few MP3 and surround authoring tools. So if you couldn't make it to this year's AES, here are the latest in plug-ins, direct from the show floor.

Access Music GmbH (www.access-music.de) and Digidesign have announced co-development of the Access Virus TDM plug-in for Pro Tools|24 MIX-based systems that is virtually identical in sound and core functionality to the Virus family of hardware synthesizers, which model classic analog synth textures, as well as create new sounds. A number of Virus synth plug-ins can operate at the same time on the system, allowing multiple 16-voice multi-timbral synthesizers to be created (up to five on a basic Pro Tools|24 MIXplus system for a total of 80 Virus voices). The $795 plug-in will be available early next year.

Antares Audio Technologies(www.antarestech.com) debuted its new AMM-1 Microphone Modeler TDM plug-in. The plug-in uses Antares' Spectral Shaping Tool(tm) (SST) technology to emulate a variety of microphones, vintage and new; the user enters the microphone he is using and selects the mic he would like it to sound like. The AMM-1 references the stored models of both the source and target mics and processes the input to create the sound of the desired mic. This process can be done before or after recording. Built-in effects such as saturation are included. The AMM-1 will soon be available for Pro Tools and MAS platforms.

Arboretum (www.arboretum.com) announced a version of Hyperprism for Soundscape systems, including Soundscape's new R.Ed platform. The initial release includes the Bass Maximizer, Tube/Tape Saturation, Sonic Decimator (bit depth and sample rate reduction), Quasi Stereo (mono-to-stereo), Filter, Ring Modulator, Flanger and Phaser modules; retail is $299. Arboretum also released its Realizer MP3 player/encoder plug-ins for DirectX and VST. Price: $74.95. Arboretum's new Realizer Pro plug-in, adapted from Hyperprism and building on the original Realizer, is a multistage digital signal processor for authoring and archiving Internet audio, and works with most file formats. DSP features include bass maximizer, parametric EQs, harmonic exciter and more. Realizer Pro is $149 and supports DirectX and VST.

Bomb Factory (www.bombfactory.com) plug-ins for Pro Tools were a big hit at the show and are designed, in great detail, to look, behave and sound like "real" equipment, right down to "worn-in" control surfaces. Emulations include a Moogerfooger lowpass filter and ring modulator, developed in conjunction with Bob Moog. A Classic Compressors(tm) line offers versions of the popular UREI LA-2A and 1176. A SansAmp PSA-1 guitar amp emulator has manual "knobs" for creating your own sounds and 49 presets for Marshall, Mesa/Boogie, Hiwatt, Fender, Ampeg and other amps. Voce Spin provides a variety of Leslie speaker sounds, and its 15 classic recording setups offer different cabinets, varying microphone placements and even a "Memphis" sound with the lower drum's slow motor unplugged! Voce's Chorus/Vibrato re-creates the B-3's mechanical scanner vibrato, with three settings of Chorus and three of Vibrato on one knob.

Cakewalk's (www.cakewalk.com) Pro Audio 9 release includes a Style Enhancer MIDI FX plug-in, which uses performance modeling to give MIDI recordings a "human" feel; and the Session Drummer MIDI FX plug-in, which provides drum patterns for a broad selection of styles, including multiple variations of jazz, country, alternative, hip hop, Latin, dance, R&B and more. Within each style, a range of drum patterns is provided-as intros, fills, main patterns and endings.

Sonic restoration specialists Cedar Audio(www.cedar-audio.com) announced Declick 96 (96 kHz), hosted by SADiE (www.sadie.com) 24*96 and Artemis workstations (Declick 96's offering both auto and manual declick modes). Also new from Cedar is the Dethump package for SADiE, which removes low-frequency bumps of up to 50,000 samples in length. Cedar is also now shipping Declick for Soundscape systems.

Much of the big plug-in news at the show centered around Digidesign (www.digidesign.com): AES marked the introduction of the company's Real Time AudioSuite (RTAS) plug-in format for Pro Tools LE. Digidesign's new host-based software version of Pro Tools offers real-time, host-based mixing and effects processing. (A CPU activity meter displays available power.) As many as five RTAS plug-ins may be used as inserts on a track, and processing parameters can be changed over time. Plug-ins may also be controlled from supported MIDI hardware control surfaces.

As Digidesign supports session interchange between the TDM-based Pro Tools 5.0 and Pro Tools LE 5.0, RTAS plug-ins have interfaces that are identical to their TDM counterparts. Digi 001 and Digi ToolBox XP systems include RTAS versions of many DigiRack plug-ins; RTAS plug-ins from Waves, Metric Halo, Wave Mechanics, DUY, GRM Tools, Bomb Factory and Arboretum are on the way.

Digidesign has also developed a new plug-in: Enhancing sampling/synthesis capabilities within Pro Tools, the DirectConnect(tm) TDM plug-in allows up to 32 audio channel outputs from any host-based application (such as software-based synthesizers or samplers) to be independently routed, recorded, processed and mixed within the TDM environment. DirectConnect is a DigiRack plug-in and will be bundled with every new Pro Tools system. Many developers, including Bitheadz, Koblo, PropellerHeads and Native Instruments, have announcedDirectConnect-compatible versions of their host-based synths and samplers. An RTAS version of DirectConnect will be released in early 2000 for Mac systems, with Windows 98 support to follow. One more note: Digidesign is now distributing Lexicon's Lexiverb plug-in.

In Emagic (www.emagic.de) news, Logic Audio Gold/Platinum 4.0.4 offers extended support for the Yamaha DSP Factory: It is now possible to use native internal plug-ins, DirectX plug-ins (Windows) or VST plug-ins (Mac) together with the effects of the DS2416 card. The native plug-ins can be used on any audio track before the effects of the DS2416 card.

Kind of Loud (www.kindofloud.com) was showing RealVerb 5.1, a multichannel plug-in for Pro Tools that uses auralization technology to model physical spaces. Users can morph between room shapes and textures, and can map reverberation spatially for surround mixing by placing direct path, early reflections and late field reverberation in the sound field. RealVerb 5.1 is initally available in a TDM version; others are planned. (A stereo version is also nearing release.) Other new Kind of Loud plug-ins: Tweetie ($495) is a monitoring and calibration plug-in for surround-sound production that features system calibration with trim control, adjustable delays on each channel and overall reference level control (including a 20dB dim button). Tweetie also provides intelligent downmixing from 5.1 to stereo. The Woofie plug-in ($495) provides bass redirection to accommodate a variety of potential playback speaker arrangements. Woofie also offers subwoofer signal previewing before the encode/decode process.

Interesting developments in console land: Mackie's (www.mackie.com) "Version Three" D8B operating system features support for third-party plug-ins and the new Mackie UFX digital signal processing card. At the heart of D8B's open architecture, the UFX, combined with V.3.0 software, allows insertion of plug-in effects into common console signal paths. Each UFX card can run up to four independent software plug-ins simultaneously, so the D8B's four processing slots can total 16 plug-in effects at once. A variety of third-party plug-ins were announced along with the V.3.0 release: TC Electronic had three D8B effects packages, TC2000 and TC FX effects bundles and a TC Reverb package that comes free with each UFX card. The Massenburg DesignWorks mastering EQ, which had debuted for the Sony Oxford, is now available for the D8B. Drawmer had the first of two dynamics packages, and Anatares showed AutoTune pitch correction software, for the D8B.

McDSP (www.mcdsp.com) introduced the CompressorBank ($495) plug-in for Pro Tools (AudioSuite and TDM). CompressorBank has regular controls such as Output (makeup gain), Threshold, Compression (Ratio), Attack and Release, plus Knee and Bite controls that allow articulation of the compression characteristics. Also included: multiple peak detection circuit types, chain support, sidechain or in-line pre-filtering, and a static/dynamic EQ.

Mark of the Unicorn (www.motu.com) showed a new version of Digital Performer that offers plug-in automation. Also: Cycling '74 (maker of Pluggo), TC Works and Antares have ported plug-ins to the MOTU Audio System (MAS) platform, which is used by Digital Performer and AudioDesk.

Serato (www.serato.com) unveiled Pitch 'n Time, an AudioSuite plug-in for Pro Tools that uses a new algorithm for time stretching and pitch shifting single tracks or mixed stereo program material. Pitch 'n Time can move audio +/-12 semitones and simultaneously time stretch from 50% to 200%, and users can preview and tweak parameters in real time.

Sonic Foundry news: ACID PRO now includes Sonic Foundry's XFX 1 DirectX audio plug-in pack. XFX 1 plug-ins include Reverb, Time Compress/Expand, Multi-Tap Delay, Chorus, Pitch Shift and Simple Delay/Echo.

The list of developers in Sonic Solutions' (www.sonic.com) HDSP Partners group continues to grow, with the addition of Audio Ease and Prosoniq. Sonic's HDSP Partners are working with the company to develop plug-in technology for high-density audio and surround sound. Sonic's HDSP Partners include db Technologies, George Massenburg Labs, Lucid Technology, Media Morphics/Toolex, Metric Halo Labs, Pacific Microsonics, POW-r Consortium, Meridian Audio, Prosoniq, Mytek Inc., Weiss Engineering Ltd. and Z Systems Audio Engineering.

SPL's (www.spl-electronics.com) Transient Designer effects processing is coming to CreamWare's (www.creamware.com) Pulsar/SCOPE platform. SPL and CreamWare have co-developed a software model of the Transient Designer, which uses SPL's Differential Envelope Techology (DET) for threshold-independent dynamic processing, allowing direct control of attack and sustain of audio signals. Two versions are currently available for the Pulsar card: An Attacker module ($69) increases the attack of percussive signals; and the Transient Designer module ($249) offers increase and decrease of attack and sustain. Both allow simultaneous processing of four audio channels.

Steinberg North America (www.steinberg.net) debuted WaveLab 3.0, which supports the VST 2.0 architecture. Steinberg is also releasing Apogee's MasterTools mastering software with UV22 word-length reduction for TDM. Under a licensing agreement, Steinberg has been developing the product on the Pro Tools platform, releasing a version for Pro Tools|24 MIX and bringing MasterTools UV22 over to VST, WaveLab(tm) and DirectX. The Apogee MasterTools UV22 plug-in is available for TDM at a price of $799. Steinberg also announced a new TL Audio plug-in; see the TL Audio news below.

Summit (www.summitaudio.com) demoed a plug-in that gives onscreen control of up to 32 of its Rupert Neve-designed MPE200 mic preamp/equalizer units via Pro Tools.

Synchro Arts' (www.synchroarts.co.uk) VocALign software is now available on the PC platform and works with SADiE, Digigram X-Track and Soundscape systems, and with native PC audio editors that can cut and paste audio to and from the Windows clipboard. In other Synchro Arts news, TITAN V.2.0.2 now supports Pro Tools 4.x and 3.x versions.

Syntrillium Software (www.syntrillium.com) has a new MP3 plug-in for Cool Edit Pro that allows import and export of MP3 files within the application, using a process based on the Fraunhofer MP3 codec. The plug-in supports bit rates from 20 to 320 kbps. The price is $29.

TC Works (www.tcelectronic.com) introduced the Voice Tools plug-in bundle ($699) for Pro Tools|24 MIX, offering two processing plug-ins. TC Intonator is a pitch-correction application that works in real time, with a range of +/-400 cents. Users can select from scale presets or create custom scales, and an adaptive lowcut filter removes low-frequency rumble and noise without making the vocals "thin sounding," by adjusting its frequency according to material. TC Voice Strip includes a variety of DSP tools for vocal processing, including a compressor,deesser, VoiceEQ, lowcut filter and gate; the plug-in uses TC's SoftSat technology to emulate the sound of analog gear. TC also announces Version 1.5 of the Spark digital audio editor. A major feature is the ability to use the Spark master section as either a VST or MAS plug-in, which will give MAS users access to all VST plug-ins.

TL Audio (www.tlaudio.co.uk) announced a plug-in version of its TL EQ-1 equalizer, for Steinberg VST (Mac and PC) and DirectX systems. The software, modeled after the vintage tube unit, offers a choice of four switched frequencies, and combines gentle slopes and broad curves to give a more "musical" sound. EQ-1 features a graphical display for easy control of the frequency response; parameters are automatable.

With the release of the new 6.5 software from WaveFrame Inc. (www. waveframe.com), the WaveFrame digital audio workstation now adds support for the WaveFrame 7.0 DSP engine as a mixer add-on with plug-ins from Waves, Wave Mechanics, Q-Sound, Antares, Aphex and VocALign.

Waves(www.waves.com)announced the release of the C4 Multiband Parametric Processor for Pro Tools|24 MIX. The C4 uses Waves' Renaissance Compressor technology (including the ARC, Electro and Opto bands), with 4-band dynamic EQ. Features include transparent crossover design with global adjustable Q, true parametric control (including independent threshold, range, gain, attack, release and bandwidth) per band, and a flexible design allows compression, expansion or EQ independent of the functions of the other bands' output. Resolution is 48 bit, dithered to a 24-bit output. The C4 is the first in a new Master Series of high-end plug-ins from Waves. The price is $595.






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