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PAR Studio Feature: Hey, Pro Tools Pros—What’s New? by Rich Tozzoli

PAR Software Editor Rich Tozzoli recently spoke with five engineering peers on their recent purchases and choices in both software- and hardware-based audio tools.

Rich Tozzoli
PAR Software Editor

[email protected] PT power users itemize their latest favorites in plugs and hardware

PAR Software Editor Rich Tozzoli recently spoke with five engineering peers on their recent purchases and choices in both software- and hardware-based audio tools. He shares his new favorites, too.

Peter Moshay (Hall & Oates, Live From Daryl’s House, Ian Hunter, Barbra Streisand)

Q: What new audio tools have you bought this year?

A: The UAD Twin and all of the UA plug-ins. There’s just nothing an engineer/mixer can’t find addictive from first use, and the UA Twin portable package means that I can bring high-quality UA conversion on the road with me. I’m using the latest Thunderbolt with the latest MacBook Pro to get a system nearly as powerful as my studio system now. That was a fantasy not too long ago.

Next would be the Rupert Neve Master Bus Processor, the best all-in-one mix “fine tuning and gluing” box I’ve used since my SSL console. Not only are its width and tonal variations a strength, but the compressor compliments my SSL bus compressor like a marriage made in heaven.

The Miktek CV3 and C1 condenser mics are some of the best new mics that Miktek has made yet. When I first tried the C1 mic, I had no idea how much they were going to sell them for; my guess was at least $1,500. To my surprise, they are selling for $599.

Q: What software plug-ins do you use the most and why?

A: Without question, I rely most on UA plugs. Not only do they capture the sound of their hardware counterparts very well, they even capture the quirks of it.

Also, the Sound Radix Auto-Align plug-in is fabulous for much of the live recordings I mix. I’m able to time/phase align tracks much easier than ever before.

Q: Are you running Pro Tools 11 yet?

A: Yes. Now that I’ve been on PT 11, I’d never go back. V.11.2.2, just released, has been the best yet.

Richard Chycki (Rush, Dream Theater, Aerosmith)

Q: What new audio tools have you bought this year?

A: I’ve had a bit of a 500 Series resurgence with the Alan Smart CL1LA buss compressor. It’s remarkably versatile and sounds great. I’m using it across the drum buss of the new Dream Theater live album. It’s very snappy and aggressive—perfect for this type of music. I’m also using an Eventide DDL500, a pristine delay circuit that has a hard limiter in the front end, a la the PCM 42. The IGS Audio ONE LA 500 comp is a double-space, double-tube 500 Series comp that sounds remarkably LA2-like in its operation—very fat! I’ve also grabbed up some time-delay based effects like the Lexicon 300, Eventide Eclipse and an ancient Ibanez HD1000—a noisy, terrible 8-bit pitch shifter/delay glitch fest. It’s so bad, it’s good.

Tozzoli’s mobile rig, ready for his TV composition work, at Paul Antonell’s Clubhouse Studios in Rhinebeck, NY. Q: What software plug-ins do you use the most and why?

A: I’m loving the Exponential Audio reverbs. I haven’t tried the stereos but the surrounds are spectacular. I always have my staples: Sonnox’s EQ, Dynamics and Limiter and the Brainworx line of M/S mastering compressors and EQs. I’m also a fan of the SSL plug-ins. McDSP’s Active EQ or ML4000 completely rock for making toms pop out of a mix; I also use Colin McDowell’s EQ’s, especially the AC202 Analog Channel filters for shaping.

I was also recently asked to do beta testing for the just-released UA AMX RMX16 Digital Reverb Plug-in. It’s really accurate without the drying-out edge connectors or crackly input pots.

Q: Are you running Pro Tools 11 yet?

A: No. Some of the plug-ins I use aren’t 64-bit AAX ready. I haven’t taken the Blue Cat Audio workaround yet [See—Ed.]. Until then, it’s V.10.3.9 here.

Bob Power (Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest, Ozmati, India Arie)

Q: What new audio tools have you bought this year?

A: Although I’m trying to curb my metal, tube, and semi-conductor appetite, I did get one new hardware piece this year that gets a workout; an Aguilar Tone Hammer, which is a fantastic bass Preamp/DI with EQ parameters. I use it for just about everything that goes direct; it’s a game-changer. As for other analog, I’m still relying on my faves: Pendulum, API and Empirical Labs compression tools; API, Neve, and Avalon mic pres; and EQs by GML, API, Neve, Tube-Tech, and Prism Sound.

Q: What software plug-ins do you use the most and why?

A: My go-to EQ continues to be McDSP, particularly the newer FilterBank E606 and P606. I find them easy to zero-in on the area I want with a minimum harshness and collateral damage. Also, I’m loving their 6030 Ultimate Compressor. There are multiple emulations in one plug as well as wonderful analog coloration and vibe in addition to effective gain control. Their D555 de-esser is great too.

Always wonderful are Sonnox’s Dynamics, Inflator, Limiter and Reverb with the great EMT 140 emulation—my personal favorite reverb. Also, iZotope suites are pretty incredible, especially Ozone. The recent addition of Native Instruments’ Komplete Ultimate has hugely expanded my musical and timbral arsenal.

Q: Are you running Pro Tools 11 yet?

A: I’ve bought a PT 11 setup, but I’ve yet to switch over, as I am mid-project on a few records. Maybe I’ll switch around Christmas, if/when things slow down. I have driven PT 11 quite a bit in my teaching at NYU and it seems Avid’s done a great job in keeping the workflow intact (which we’ve all worked so hard to master). PT 11 is very fluid and offers some very handy feature upgrades.

Brian Mackewich (Owner of BAM Media, NYC)

Q: What new audio tools have you bought this year?

A: Dolby’s Media Meter has been crucial for broadcast audio delivery. Making sure the dialog norm levels are spot-on is nearly impossible. While it’s not a new product, it’s new for us.

For music, we’ve picked up DPA 4099D and 2011C mics, which sound amazing. Their low profile and clever mounts make them easy to use and set up. Last, and by no means least, are the Focal Twin 6be 2.1 monitors we put in one of our control rooms. They are super flat, which I love, and the clarity and definition is wonderful. Having a sub is pure heaven for low-end translation when set up correctly.

Q: What software plug-ins do you use the most and why?

A: For post editing, I’ve picked up the latest version of Synchro Arts’ Revoice Pro (V.2.6) for ADR and vocal tightening. It offers more control and better workflow, literally saving hours of editing. For post mixing, we still like Waves Platinum bundle. With several engineers trading projects at different phases, it keeps things consistent within projects. Because turn times are generally very tight, there’s not a lot of time to experiment with a wide variety of plug-ins. They are solid and very predictable. I wish they were HDX, but with CPUs being more powerful, native is fine for now.

Additionally, we regularly use any and all of our UA plug-ins. Especially the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor. It has been a tremendous mixing and finishing tool. I love the SPL Transient Designer plug in; it tames the wild beast in snares and toms.

I have also been using PreSonus Capture 2 a lot with our remote rig. Connecting to the PreSonus Studio Live 16.4.2 mixer with one Firewire cable is so easy. You get 18 tracks with “one button record,” which we then transfer to Pro Tools for all the heavy lifting. It has been a very comfortable workflow.

Q: Are you running Pro Tools 11 yet?

A: We use PT 11 a lot for music mixing. For post, we are still using PT 10. There are still some issues with plug-ins porting over and showing up in the same way. The off-line bounce is great, but some plug-ins cause a serious speed reduction. Perhaps that is a CPU-related issue, but I do see some slow down below real-time with certain effects.

Paul Antonell (Natalie Merchant, Sypro Gyra, Rusted Root and owner of Clubhouse Studios, Rhinebeck New York)

Q: What new audio tools have you bought this year?

A: The AEA Nuvo N22 ribbon mic is my new toy and it’s a workhorse! It sounds great on just about everything. I picked up an Apollo Twin for mobile work and as a second small edit/mix system. I still rely on a lot of my outboard hardware; there’s nothing like tubes and iron.

Q: What software plug-ins do you use the most and why?

A: For plug-ins I have been using a lot of Universal Audio. I love the LA3A, the EMT140 and the API EQ. I also use the Oxford SurprEssor, EQ and Inflator on just about every session. I have been digging the Eventide Blackhole and Ultrachannel, which is their really cool channel strip. Of course, I also turn to the SoundToys EchoBoy. Lately, I have been enjoying The Izotope Alloy 2, Nectar 2, and RX3. And we can’t forget Altiverb 7, which is a great update.

Q: Are you running Pro Tools 11 yet?

A: Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s a no-brainer.

Rich Tozzoli (Al DiMeola, Ace Frehley, Omar Hakim)

Q: What new audio tools have I bought this year?

A: I also purchased a UAD Apollo Twin this year, which I run with my MacBook Pro. It allows me to have an incredibly powerful road rig on which I can compose, mix and edit. On smaller sessions, I use the built-in UAD preamps, which are quite nice. On larger sessions I hitch it to external preamps via ADAT Lightpipe for up to 10 channels (using the Grace m802 or Audient ASP880).

Also, I’ve purchased a few DPA 2011A mics featuring the 2011 cardioid capsule but with the longer MMP-A mic amplifier. They are extremely low noise and very pristine; I use them on acoustic guitars, percussion, overhead drum mics and even a few feet up from the hi-hat and snare drum for a super-punchy sound.

Speaking of acoustic guitar, I also picked up a new Martin D18 acoustic, the finest instrument they have made in many years, in my humble opinion. It has a sitka spruce top with mahogany back and sides, which translates to a light and airy but deep recording instrument. It’s nice to see a company that has been making guitars since 1833 still doing it right.

Q: What software plug-ins do I use the most and why?

A: I still rely on all my usuals from SoundToys, Universal Audio, Sonnox, Waves and Audio Ease (Altiverb). But there are some great new plug-ins that have made their way into my workflow too.

The iZotope RX3 Advance DeReverb is amazing. I’ve successfully used it to remove ambient room noise from dialog on several occasions. Also, I’ve used it several times on drum room mics (and even loops) where ambience was just a little much.

I’m really digging the Nomad Factory BBE Sonic Maximizer, a gem on acoustic guitars. The UAD 610-A is a monster, too. It’s a powerful modern emulation of the 610 tube preamp, perfect for dialing in warmth, harmonic presence and even clipping. I use it on kick drums to drive the beef and top by pushing 70 Hz and 10 kHz. Eventide’s Blackhole reverb has made it into my daily arsenal as well. To me, it specializes in big deep ambience; I just push up the Size, Pre-delay, Low and High knobs to get a huge sound.

The Waves Scheps 73 is a great emulation of the classic Neve 1073 console EQ. I use the high 12 kHz knob to boost or cut some sizzle, and the low selections from 35 to 220 Hz. But my favorite band is 4.8 kHz on electric guitars; there’s something magical about that frequency on Neve hardware EQs, and Waves has really nailed it in the software.

Q: Are you running Pro Tools 11 yet?

A: Yes, I primarily use Pro Tools 11, both on my HDX rig and my laptop. The faster-than-realtime bounce saves me a ton of time, especially when outputting many versions of TV cues. I will still occasionally use Pro Tools 10 on my laptop, but for the most part, Pro Tools 11 is the way to go.