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NAMM’s Soft Side

The virtualization of production hardware continued apace at the 2011 NAMM Show with the release of new as well as sometimes hard-to-find vintage recording equipment in the form of plug-ins.

The virtualization of production hardware continued apace at the 2011 NAMM Show with the release of new as well as sometimes hard-to-find vintage recording equipment in the form of plug-ins.

When the Aphex Aural Exciter was first introduced in the 1970s, only a handful of units was produced. Initially only available as a rental at a reported charge of $30 per minute of program time, the unit became so popular among West Coast musicians for what it brought to final mixes that it was frequently credited in album liner notes.

At the NAMM Show, Waves Audio introduced its Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter plug-in, which was modeled on one of two prototype tube-powered units developed by Aphex during the mid-’70s. As demonstrated at the show by veteran recording engineer Val Garay, the new software version faithfully recreates the ability for the hardware to increase and enhance presence, brightness and detail on individual vocal and instrumental tracks as well as masters

Waves Audio also released the C6 multiband compressor, which adds two additional floating bands plus a side-chain feature to its C4 plug-in. C6 From top: Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5043; Universal Audio A800; SoundToys Juiceprovides control over dynamics and EQ in a variety of applications, from the studio to on the road.

Many of the Waves plug-ins received a facelift with the introduction of Version 8, which updates the look and feel of the L1 Ultramaximizer, S1 stereo imager, DeEsser, TrueVerb, Q10 equalizer, C1 compressor/expander and AudioTrack. Additional developments for the suite, which recreate the performance of vintage 1066, 1073, 1081 and 2254 hardware units, include faster loading times, mouse-wheel control and improved metering in AudioSuite, and marks the first time that users can purchase the vast majority of Waves plug-ins individually.

Two esteemed hardware designers entered the virtual domain under their own names for the very first time at NAMM, with the announcement of plug-ins by Rupert Neve and Dave Hill.

Steinberg Media Technologies has teamed with Rupert Neve Designs to port Mr. Neve’s Portico 5033 5-band equalizer and Portico 5043 compressor into the digital domain as VST 3/AU plug-ins. The two plug-ins, available soon, are the first to have been created using Yamaha’s Virtual Circuitry Modeling (VCM) technology.

Dave Hill, who designed many of Summit Audio’s early products before setting up shop under his own name, had a significant role in developing Avid’s “Heat” engine for Pro Tools 9. Now he’s launched a TDM plug-in under the Dave Hill Designs brand that emulates amplifier overload, in order to bring “the luster of imperfection” to sterile digital signals. TransAudio Group announced at the NAMM Show that it is now distributing Dave Hill Designs hardware and software in the United States.

Focusrite brought modeled versions of the company’s ISA110 EQ and ISA130 compressor, originally developed for the now legendary Forté console, to the show in its Midnight software suite. These classic hardware units are now available in two separate VST, AU and RTAS plug-ins, which were first announced at the end of 2010.

The vast majority of plug-in developers have been largely focused on the recreation of classic and modern outboard signal processing units and mixing console strips. Universal Audio, which has been at the forefront of plug-in development, has now turned its attention to another critical analog component in the classic recording studio signal chain, the multitrack tape recorder. The unique Studer A800 multichannel tape recorder plug-in was developed over the course of a year with assistance from AES magnetic recording expert Jay McKnight and the endorsement of Harman Professional and its Studer brand.

According to the company, its new A800 plug-in for UAD-2 faithfully models the entire tape path and circuit electronics of the hardware, plus the sounds of four distinct tape formulas and calibration levels. The new plug-in provides the warm, natural sound and punchy lowend response of 2-inch analog tape from clean, to saturated, to clipped. The new A800 plug-in is available as part of the new UAD v5.8.0 software release, which also includes the Solid State Logic-authenticated SSL E Series Channel Strip and SSL G Series Bus Compressor plug-ins, along with 64-Bit Mac OS support and additional performance enhancements for all UAD-2 users on the Windows platform.

UA also unveiled the UAD-2 Satellite DUO and QUAD FireWire DSP accelerator packages for Intel-based iMacs and Mac- Book Pros. The new hardware units, featuring either two or four Analog Devices SHARC processors, respectively, bring the company’s plug-in library to FireWire 800- and 400-equipped machines, allowing users to run larger mixes without taxing their computer CPU.

SoundToys announced the public beta release of Juice, which features analog emulations of classic input channels from highly sought-after outboard gear and consoles. Three new volumes of preset expanders, from Peter Wade, Tchad Blake and Morgan Page, bring some of the favorite settings and effects chains of the noted engineers and producers to such plug-ins as PanMan, FilterFreak, Crystallizer, PhaseMistress, Tremolator, EchoBoy and Decapitator.

But it wasn’t all just about reintroducing beloved hardware as software at the show. Sonnox, originally formed in the U.K. as a unit of Sony by a group of former SSL engineers, launched the Pro-Codec plug-in, the fruits of a collaboration with Fraunhofer IIS, the creator of—among many codecs—mp3. This innovative software introduces the ability to audition codecs during mastering for online distribution in real time.

Until now, it was necessary to create an mp3 or AAC file, preview it, then return to the original format file and re-render the compressed file if it was not satisfactory. But the Sonnox Pro-Codec plug-in enables the mix/ mastering engineer to audition up to five different codecs in real time within the DAW, and perform A/B and even A/B/X auditioning comparisons. The plug-in supports batch encoding to multiple formats simultaneously and to all major data compression codecs, including mp3, mp3 Surround, AACLC and HE-AAC, as well as lossless codecs such as mp3 HD and HD-AAC. The plug-in is compatible with all popular DAWs, supports both Mac and Windows, and is available Q1 2011.

At the creative end of the spectrum, iZotope has released Stutter Edit, a collaboration with Grammy-nominated composer and electronic musician. Stutter Edit is based on an innovative live sampling engine that lets producers, laptop performers and other musicians manipulate audio in real time by slicing audio into small fragments and sequencing the pieces into fine-grained rhythmic effects. The plug-in’s MIDI control capabilities, allow integration with software such as with Ableton Live.

BT pioneered the stutter edit in his work, originally designing the software to help automate his creative process. With the acquisition of BT’s Sonik Architects software company, iZotope is now bringing a commercial product to market for both PC and Mac OS X platforms.