More than ever, you have options for acquiring music software. You can buy it, subscribe to it and, in a more recent development, rent-to-own it. Your options for the latter increased last month with the announcement by Waves that the company is expanding its Flex program significantly.
All Waves rent-to-own plans have 24-month terms, after which you own the plug-ins outright. One of the new levels is a less expensive one called Flex Starter, which costs $9.99 per month and lets you choose five plug-ins from a collection of 40. The standard Flex level remains at $19.99 per month and lets you pick 10 plug-ins (plus three free ones) from a select group of 80. The other new level, Flex Pro, costs $29.99 per month but lets you choose 20 plug-ins plus four free ones, from a collection of 120.
A couple of other companies offer notable rent-to-own programs. Plugin Alliance, a plug-in distributor, lets you choose from 95 of its plug-ins (from companies like BrainWorx, SPL, Unfiltered Audio and others) for $29.99/month with a 24-month term. Splice offers plug-ins from iZotope, Arturia and the D-16 group, among others. Rather than letting you choose a specified number of titles, it's all à la carte.
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Rent-to-own programs offer both advantages and disadvantages, as do the traditional purchase and subscription models. Let's compare all three.
Traditional Purchase. Pros: You can buy any plug-in you want and own it immediately. Cons: It’s the costliest way to go on a per-plug-in basis, and you need to pay the full cost up front.
Subscription. Pros: You generally get access to a developer's complete catalog of plug-ins and can use as many as you want at a time. Cons: Your payments build no equity. Just like with the electric or gas company, if you stop paying, you're cut off from the product.
Rent-to-Own. Pros: Relatively small monthly payments, and at the end of the term, you own the plug-ins. Cons: The universe of plug-ins from which you can choose is limited, to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the individual company program.
Product of the Month: iZotope Neutron 3
iZotope released Neutron 3, the latest version of its AI-infused modular channel-strip plug-in, offering faster processing, lower CPU load and some compelling new features. Perhaps the most newsworthy of those is the Mix Assistant, and in particular, the Balance function. In the Advanced version of Neutron 3, it takes raw tracks or stems and automatically balances them as a starting point for your mix. You need to instantiate either Neutron (which iZotope refers to as the “Mother Ship”) or the included Relay plug-in on every track first (you need at least one track with Neutron). Then you play your mix with Neutron listening, and it balances the gain of the various instruments.