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Effects Plug-Ins | Keeping It In the Box


Just last summer, we covered a ton of hot new plug-in debuts in our July issue and figured that would hold back the tide for perhaps another year. In fact, our prediction wasn’t even close—in the past few months alone, a couple dozen cool new effects plug-ins have come to market and we couldn’t wait to spotlight some of these new entries. Here, listed alphabetically, are a few recent plugs that are just the thing for in-the-box mixing and production. And if you’re interested in checking these out firsthand, most are available in downloadable demo versions from the Websites listed.

The RS124 Compressor from Abbey Road Plug-Ins models the famed tube compressors that were introduced in 1960 and in constant use at the studios throughout that decade. The plug-in models three different units (each having its own character), which allows users to make quick A/B/C comparisons and select the one that suits any particular need—or all three can be used and routed to individual L/C/R-panned tracks. Another plus is a SuperFuse mode that provides more aggressive compression. It’s offered in TDM ($580) for Pro Tools 7.x or higher and in Native LE/AU/VST ($335) versions for Mac or PC.

Following the release of Auto-Tune 7 Native versions, Auto-Tune 7 TDM ($649) brings the latest incarnation of the world’s largest-selling audio plug-in to Avid’s Pro Tools HD platform V. 7.2 or later. The software includes second generation of Antares’ Evo™ Voice Processing Technology, a new, from-the-ground-up time-manipulation system; new MIDI capabilities in Graphical mode; and more. As a bonus, Auto-Tune 7 TDM also includes a license for all of the Auto-Tune 7 Native versions. Supported formats include Mac OS X (10.5.x and above) and PC (Windows 7, Vista and XP).

Designed specifically to add the warmth and sonic character of analog to “in-the-box” mixes on V. 8.1 or higher Pro Tools HD systems is HEAT (Harmonically Enhanced Algorithm Technology) from Avid. HEAT was designed with Crane Song founder Dave Hill, and is accessed directly from the Pro Tools Mix window without having to manage multiple instances. It’s priced at $495 for separate purchase or is bundled free with all new Pro Tools HD core system purchases.

Designed for insertion as a last-stage stereo bus limiter for mixing or mastering, the bx_XL processor from Brainworx is designed to get your mixes as loud as possible without distorted or over-squashed effects. It operates by converting stereo signals into M (mid/sum) and S (side/difference) signals, and splits the M channel into high and low bands for independent processing of each, such as separating the kick drum and limiting it differently from other center-panned instruments. Automated presets; 32 steps of undo/redo; detailed level meters; and multiple solo, auto-solo and link features let users make precise, repeatable adjustments. Direct pricing is approximately $400, and bx_XL supports RTAS, AS, VST and AU on Mac and PC hosts.

Another creation from Dave Hill, RA mimics amplifier overload, providing control over even harmonics, compression of low-level audio (almost like a detail control) and peak level, with the latter acting like an adjustable soft clip that adds saturation while rounding peaks. A PC TDM version will be offered in the near future, but at press time RA is only available for Mac TDM platform.

IRCAM Tools> is a $1,999 bundle (also offered separately) with three spatial- and spectral-manipulation plug-ins. Based on perceptive modeling, IRCAM Spat ($1,799) is an extensive room acoustics simulator and localizer, with eight I/O channels allowing 7.1 or 8.0 configurations. Also with eight I/Os, the $899 RCAM Verb is an algorithmic room acoustics and reverberation processor. And the third component, the $499 Transformer—or TRAX—uses phase vocoder technology and a transformation algorithm to manipulate the characteristic properties of a voice (or any sound) such as gender, age and breath, as well as expression, formant and pitch.

The Midnight plug-in suite ($99 street) from Focusrite offers models of the ISA110 EQ and ISA130 compressor from its legacy Forté console and are compatible across VST, AU and RTAS formats. The EQ features variable high- and lowpass filters, sweepable high- and low-shelving bands (±16 dB), and fully parametric high and low mid bands. The compressor has threshold, ratio, attack, release and makeup gain controls, plus a variable wet/dry control for parallel compression effects.

The $299 Nectar plug-in suite from iZotope provides 11 vocal effects, including breath control, compression, de-essing, doubler, EQ, noise gate, limiter, delay, reverb, saturation and pitch correction. A manual Note Editor lets users capture a segment of audio, with piano-roll-style editing of pitch and timing. Onboard presets offer quick access to 110 Style settings in 12 genres, such as ’60s Motown sound, early ’90s grunge rock, a radio-ready Podcasting template, jazz vocals or a modern pop sound, ranging from delicate improvements to robotic effects. It’s PC/Mac-compatible, supporting Pro Tools 7 or higher (RTAS/AudioSuite), VST, MAS, AU and DirectX hosts.

McDSP V. 5
Now shipping, V. 5 from McDSP includes the new 6030 Ultimate Compressor plug-in, Classic Pack V. 5 and Emerald Pack V. 5. In addition to Pro Tools, McDSP V. 5 plug-ins now support all AU-compatible DAWs. Supported formats include Mac OS 10.5.x (Leopard) and 10.6.x (Snow Leopard), Mac PowerPC (RTAS only) and Windows. The 6030 Ultimate Compressor offers 10 different compressors, some designed completely from the ground up by McDSP, mixed with unique twists on vintage emulations. Prices are $449 HD or $249 native, or as an upgrade to Emerald Pack V. 5 for $349 HD or $299 native.

Originally developed for MOTU Digital Performer, the MasterWorks Collection ($295) audio plug-in bundle runs on Mac 10.5 or higher hosts that support RTAS, AU and VST. The bundle includes MasterWorks EQ, MasterWorks Leveler and ProVerb, which are modeled after classic studio processors such as the Teletronix LA-2A, analog British console EQs and a convolution reverb with dozens of preset acoustic spaces from halls and stages to plates and cathedrals. All three plug-ins feature 32- and 64-bit internal floating-point processing, and CPU-efficient performance, and support mono, stereo and surround channel configurations.

Magnetic ($129) from Nomad Factory is a stereo warming effect created to emulate the sound of classic tube circuitry and analog tape saturation. It offers control of reel-to-reel tape “speeds,” tape/tube saturation and coloration, and a vintage-style EQ. Its interface is designed to appear modern and simple, and promises to be user-friendly for dialing in usable sounds. It supports AU, RTAS and VST on PC and Intel-Mac hosts.

This bundle ($365) from NuGen Audio puts some serious audio tools into one collection. It includes the SEQ 1/SEQ 2 linear phase equalizers; Monofilter (to add focus and definition); Stereoizer to create two chanels from mono sources or enhance stereo perspectives with space and width; Stereoplacer (with frequency-based panning, parametric EQ, stereo spectrum correction and more); and, as a bonus, the Visualizer plug, which provides precision audio analysis of phase, stereo, level, correlation and spectrum display. Each of the plug-ins is also offered separately.

Based on the concept of its popular Nitro, the new N20 ($129) from PSP Audioware is a semi-modular, multi-effect plug-in offering up to four sound-processing operators at a time, including morphing, resonant and formant filters, EQ, delay, reverb, pitch shifter, compressor/expander, bit-crusher, distortion, full-wave rectifier and more. It supports AU, RTAS and VST on Mac and PC hosts.

This AudioSuite time-stretching and pitch-shifting plug-in from Serato is designed for use with Pro Tools, and now offers Pro Tools 9 support. Time compression/expansion can range from eighth through 8x speed, independent of pitch and pitch shifting of up to 36 semitones. Price (box or download) is $799.

The Virtual Console Collection from Slate Digital comprises two plug-ins: Virtual Channel (applied to mixing channels) and Virtual Mixbuss (applied to the master fader). Each plug-in lets users select from six meticulously modeled consoles, where the user’s DAW assumes the subtleties and nuances of an actual analog board. It supports Mac/Windows hosts on VST, RTAS and AU.

TSAR-1 from Softube is a modern stereo reverb algorithm with extensive user parameter control, as well as 41 well-designed presets categorized into a Modern and a Vintage set. It’s also bundled with the TSAR-1R, a simpler version with the same sound quality but control of just three reverb parameters—pre-delay, color and time—with the last being a single-control combination of multiple time parameters. It runs with any VST, AU or RTAS-compatible host application.

SoundToys puts all 11 of the latest V. 4 TDM plugs into a $1,195 bundle. TDM Effects V. 4 includes the new Decapitator analog saturator and PanMan auto-panner, as well as EchoBoy, SoundBlender multi-effects, Speed tempo/pitch control, FilterFreak resonant analog filter, PitchDoctor, PhaseMistress phase shifter, PurePitch, Tremolator and the reverse echo effects of Crystallizer. For Native Mac/PC users, the company has also assembled eight of those plug-ins (sans SoundBlender, PurePitch and PitchDoctor) into a Native Effects V. 4 package priced at $495.

Coming soon, SoundToys’ Juice is a virtual analog-input-channel-modeling plug-in based on classic and high-end consoles and mic preamps, with the intent of providing something a bit more subtle than its Decapitator plug. Juice’s simple interface includes presets with intriguing names like Los Angeles, London, Cambridge and Huntington—mated with drive, low-cut, phase reverse and tone controls. It will only be offered in Native versions (RTAS, AU and VST) for Mac and PC hosts.

SPL expands its Analog Code plug-in series with Passeq ($199 retail), which models the company’s high-end stereo passive equalizer in software form, retaining the look and 72 filters in three bands per channel design, including the full interactivity between filters of the original and emulation of the sound of its input/output transformers. The plug-in can display as a standard 2-channel interface or as a space-saving single-channel version, and a switchable M/S mode provides independent processing of mid and side signals. It supports VST, AU, RTAS, TDM and Avid VENUE on Mac and PC.

Designed for Universal Audio’s UAD-2 platform, this plug-in offers the warm tape-delay effects and specific behaviors of the EP-3 and EP-4 vintage Echoplexes. The plug-in is available as part of the new UAD Software V. 5.7 release or separately at $199. In addition to the EP-34 Tape Echo, V. 5.7.0 includes the officially licensed dbx 160 comp/limiter plug-in and performance enhancements for all Windows UAD-2 users.

Also for the UAD-2 format, UA’s Studer A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder plug-in ($349) was modeled by UA with help from AES magnetic recording expert Jay McKnight. Perfect for adding some tape warmth to tracks, this plug-in faithfully models the entire tape path, including input, sync and repro paths and circuit electronics of the hardware, plus the sounds of four distinct tape formulae and calibration levels.

Phat C from URS is an analog-sounding compressor for individual tracks and buses, replicating the characteristics of many hardware compressors. Its input stage adds saturation to color, and affects the compressor’s response to different program material. The six saturation models (VCA, opto, FET, transformer, tape and tube) re-create vintage harmonics and soft clipping that affect transients before compression, while a Spank mode lets users hit transients even harder. It’s $99 and supports Native (RTAS/AU/VST) Mac/PC hosts.

Waves is now shipping its V. 8 plug-ins, which add the horsepower of the vintage-modeled V Series to select Waves bundles, and bring a fresh new look to several classic plug-ins: L1, C1, S1, Q10, DeEsser, TrueVerb and AudioTrack have all received makeovers. New technical features include an improved preset-management system, mouse-wheel control, and enhanced ICON and Automap support. For WavesLive Yamaha users, V. 8 provides MultiRack SoundGrid–flexible direct-to-DAW recording and sidechaining capabilities. In other news, Waves collaborated with Aphex to create a plug-in version of its vintage prototype tube Aural Exciter hardware units, and Waves is now offering more of its plug-ins for individual purchase.

The Final Step in Making Better Mixes

While we’re on the subject of mixing within the box, we couldn’t help but take a look at the new Pro-Codec, a cooperative effort between Sonnox and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Fraunhofer IIS). After hours (or weeks or months) perfecting the ultimate mix (in stereo or surround), the concept of simply slamming it into a codec for encoding to an MP3/AAC file for distribution and then forgetting about it seems unthinkable. This new Pro-Codec plug-in makes it possible to audition codecs precisely in real time, allowing fast changes of mastering or mix parameters to optimize the file for any particular codec, without the need to encode it, preview it, make changes and then re-render.

Pro-Codec lets engineers audition up to five codecs within a DAW environment, tweak an optimized mix, and batch-encode to multiple formats simultaneously. All major codecs—including MP3, MP3 Surround, AAC-LC and HE-AAC—are supported, as are lossless codecs such as MP3 HD and HD-AAC. The plug-in is compatible with major DAWs and supports both Mac and Windows. It’s slated for delivery this spring at $499.


executive editor George Petersen also operates a small record label.