Q: How many digital audio recordists does it take to screw in alight bulb?
A: Forget light bulbs; take a look at this new bulb-emulation plug-inthat models vintage incandescents and is compatible with all of themajor vintage lamp plug-in formats.
If all of the new plug-ins listed in this article — and thethousands of effect, sampling, synthesis and utility parametersembodied in them — aren't enough to help you make better and moremusic, then seek counseling soon. This year's list includes all typesof software plug-in categories that were newly released orsignificantly upgraded since the 2001 Summer NAMM show, including someof the releases planned for next month's AES convention.
Demonstrated at this year's Winter NAMM and released in June,Akai Professional's (www.akaipro.com) new line of VST audio processorsmarks the company's first foray into software plug-ins.
DecaBuddy ($149) can add up to nine harmony parts to a vocal track,using preset scales, user-defined scales, a harmony editor screen orMIDI to create up to five independent vocal parts. Voices can beassigned subtle, random delay and pitch shifts to“humanize” harmonies, and they can be controlled from akeyboard controller or sequencer. A Formant function can change women'svoices into men's (and back again). Platforms: Mac, PC, VST.
It's no surprise that QuadComp ($149) is a 4-bandcompressor/expander with linear-phase FIR filters that split signalsinto four separate bands without phase shift or distortion. Thirteenpresets select QuadComp's frequency bands from 50 to 12,500 Hz, withselectable crossover slopes at 6, 12, 18 and 24 dB per octave.Platforms: Mac, PC, VST.
To create 50-band robotic voices and other special effects, checkout D.C. Vocoder ($149). An internal six-voice synthesizer andmodulator signal can create vocoder effects, even without a carriersignal. A formant stage provides additional gender-bending, and the 50bands' levels can be controlled like a traditional parametric EQ.Platforms: Mac, PC, VST.
PitchRight ($149) pitch-corrects vocals and instruments in real timeusing just three parameter controls. Ratio sets the amount of pitchcorrection, Calibrate controls the reference pitch frequency andSmoothing adjusts all corrections for vibrato without influencing thetransition time between notes. Platforms: Mac, PC, VST.
Rotator ($149) is a rotary speaker cabinet-modeling plug-in thatemulates the standard rotation speed values of an original physicalcabinet that can be detuned ±25%. Cabinet distortion iscontrollable, as is the placement of a pair of “virtual stereomicrophones” to create anything from a mono signal to a 120°stereo spread. Platforms: Mac, PC, VST.
If you can carry a tune far better than you play synth, then checkout kantos 1.0 ($299) from Antares Audio Technologies (www.antarestech.com), a multiplatform“audio-controlled synthesizer” that can be controlled byany pitched monophonic audio source, such as voice or trumpet, to driveanything a MIDI controller can. In addition to traditional synthmodules, an Articulator module dynamically applies the harmonic contentand formant information present at the source signal's input to theplug-in's synth engine. Platforms: Mac, PC, MAS, VST, RTAS,DirectX.
Applied Acoustics Systems' (www.applied-acoustics.com) Lounge Lizard EP-1($199) is an extensive assortment of just about all of the electricpiano sounds that any roadhouse player could need. Laid out like ahardware desktop beat box, Lounge Lizard provides rotary virtual knobsfor controls over mallet stiffness and force, time decay and tone,pickup position symmetry and distance. Applied Acoustics uses its ownproprietary modeling technique to re-create the classic electric pianosof past and present. Platforms: PC, Mac, VST, DXi, MAS,DirectConnect.
Arturia's (www.arturia.com) Storm 2.0 ($149) is a hefty updateto this stacked, stand-alone, VST Instrument and ReWire-savvy studioinstrument. Supporting Mac OS X and Windows 95 through XP, thedual-operation Storm is a comprehensive selection of 13 virtualinstruments and 10 effects processors, including an easy-to-use stepsequencer with improved interactive features. Pattern-based synth,sampler, bass and drum modules can stack or sit alongside distortion,delay, mixer and an assortment of other tools to tweak melodies andloops as far as the user's CPU will allow. Platforms: MultiMac, PC, VSTReWire.
BIAS' (www.bias-inc.com) Vbox ($99) multi-effects controlenvironment for VST plug-ins now has Windows and Mac OS X supportworking in either stand-alone or as a VST effects plug-in, and all BIASaudio products now support OS X, as well.
Brand-new from the company in the plug-in category this year isSuperFreq ($79 download), and it is super freak-ayy. Native to OS X,this mastering-quality, real-time, 10-band, paragraphic EQ plug-in is atrue Carbon Event-driven OS X tool with -18 to +18dB gain values,wide-Q bandwidth values, individual band-bypass buttons, 24dB stereoinput/ output meters and sweepable frequencies ranging from 20 to 20kHz. SuperFreq, one of the first Mac OS X-native plug-ins offered,operates with any Carbonized VST-host environment and can alternatelybe launched as an 8-band EQ to save on system drain. Platforms: Mac,VST.
Big Fish Audio (www.bigfishaudio.com) created quite a ripple on theplug-in pond by announcing an interesting sort of hybrid plug-informat. Don't panic: UVI (Universal Virtual Instrument) isn't yetanother proprietary plug-in format but rather the ultimate democraticone. Essentially three product types rolled into one, each newreal-time UVI plug-in is equal parts virtual instrument and sampleplayer, VST/MAS/RTAS plug-in and large sound library. And, mostimportantly, sounds can be accessed via MIDI and played and modifieddirectly through the console of your favorite DAW software. Sound filescan be edited parameter-by-parameter and saved directly to asequence/song for an all-in-one music, sound and patch info file.Installed and opened just like any other plug-in, the Big Fish UVIinterface remains the same, regardless of which library is loaded.Controls over amplitude and filter envelopes, LFO rate, depth anddestinations, velocity curves, filter, pan, gain and sample-programmanagement are provided.
Eight new UVI plug-ins called Plug-sounds, each with more than 600MB of high-quality sampled sounds, were released by Big Fish to helplaunch the new borders-ignorant format. Volumes 1 through 6 (KeyboardsCollection, Fretted Instruments, Drums and Percussion Elements, Hip Hopand R&B Toolkit, World of Synthesizers and Global Collection;$99.95 each) provide a wide palette from which to paint your nextproduction. Platforms: Mac, PC, VST, MAS, RTAS.
Two new high-quality effects plug-ins to reach CreamWare's(www.creamware.com) DSP platforms are VintageCompressor Vinco and MasterVerb Pro ($195 each). No conventionalcompressor algorithms were used during Vinco's development to bettermodel the sound of classic analog studio compressors, and the company'sCircuit-Modeling technique was employed for the same reason. MasterVerbPro sports an enhanced reverb processor over its predecessor plug-inMasterVerb. Thirty-two-bit live processing, unlimited reverb times andauthentic early reflections based on the source-image method were usedto create this high-quality reverb plug-in. Vinco and MasterVerb Proplug into the company's Luna, PowerSampler, Pulsar, Pulsar XTC andSCOPE SP platforms.
Also new from CreamWare is Minimax ($245), a complete softwareemulation of the venerable Moog Minimoog. Minimax was designed for a1:1 ratio in emulating the Minimoog's sonic characteristics. Being ableto create feedback by routing Minimax's second audio output into themixer section and other original minimoog tricks have also beenfaithfully reproduced. Platforms: PC, Mac, CreamWare.
The new Pluggo 3 ($199) was re-leased this May from Cycling'74 (www.cycling74.com). It now offers more than 100 effects andmore than 20 soft synthesizers. Created by programmers working in theMax/MSP environment or rolled on your own, each Pluggo plug-in makesgood use of the improved Max4/MSP2 language. New modules include ShapeSynth, a user-controlled waveshape synthesizer, and the company'sEssential Instruments collection, which was culled from the developerswho created the crafty iSynth. Essential Instruments include a widerange of additive, analog-modeled, granular, waveshaped, wavetabled andpercussion synth engines. Big Pluggo news for Digidesign users is RTASsupport. Platforms: MultiMac, RTAS, MAS, VST.
Digidesign (www.digidesign.com) released Reverb One TDM andannounced distribution of new plug-ins from Wave Mechanics(SoundBlender) and Access (Virus Indigo TDM). Reverb One TDM ($995) isa high-quality reverb with an intuitive early reflection andreverberation contour display that includes independent controls overlevel, decay time, attack, spread, size, diffusion and pre-delay, andit comes with an extensive cache of reverb presets. Separate dynamicsand chorus sections allow detailed shaping of reverb decay, and abuilt-in multiband EQ has adjustable crossover points. Platforms: Mac,PC, TDM, HTDM.
Access' Virus Indigo TDM ($795) puts the ferocious growl andupper-end punch of its namesake hardware synth in the hands of any ProTools|HD or MIX user. Check out the Access sound, with four oscillatorsper voice, 20 available voices, dual 6-pole filters and up to eightmultitimbral parts per DSP, and a 96kHz sampling rate. Platforms: Mac,PC, TDM, HTDM.
SoundBlender ($495) from Wave Mechanics brings the PitchBlender andTimeBlender plug-in suites together under one revved-up roof, with anextensive collection of time, pitch, filter and modulation effects. Theheart of the beast is Wave Mechanics' Tri-Modulation Matrix, a trio ofmodulation sources that can be mixed and routed to dozens of effectparameters. Platforms: Mac, PC, TDM, HTDM.
HQ-OR Orchestral ($199) from Edirol (www.edirol.com) is apotent new VST and DXi soft synth. Much like working within anystandard general MIDI module, Orchestral's individual screens to selectsounds, add chorus and visually pan instruments across a stereo panfield display leave little else for the user to do but play. Soundsfocus mainly on strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and keyboards ina package that also includes Cakewalk's Music Creator 2002 software. Upto 16 parts and 128-voice polyphony are possible, and up to24-bit/96kHz compatibility is offered. There are also more than 350preset and user patches, 39 drum kits, high-quality 32-bitfloating-point processed reverb and chorus/delay, and real-time accessto many parameters via hardware control surfaces. Platforms: PC, Mac,VST, DXi.
Emagic (www.emagic.de) has been busy studying oldbeer-stained Hammond B3s and dusty Hohner Clavinet D6s lately to comeup with the new EVB3 (Emagic Vintage B3, $199) and EVD6 (Emagic VintageD6, $179) plug-ins, respectively. EVB3 uses the company'sComponent-Modeling technology to capture the original faithfully andthen some — all the way down to the way aging components and theresulting artifacts and key click variations affect a good B3's sound.EVD6 similarly goes this far to faithfully reproduce the Clavinet D6.Platforms: Mac, PC, TDM, HTDM/Mac.
Also new from Emagic is a full porting of every effect plug-in foundin Logic Platinum to the TDM platform in the form of EPIC TDM ($699),due out this fall. Plug-ins range from meat-and-potato dynamics towildly modulated special effects, and includes the new Spectral Gateand Enverb modules. Platforms: PC, Mac, TDM.
ZombiRATor? BubbleRATor? It really doesn't matter whatGenieSyS (www.genevoice.com) names its SchizoRAT Pack($47.95) of five DirectX plug-ins aimed at the sound designenvironment; they look and sound great. GenieSys has come up with itsown Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) algorithms that, when combined withthe Pack's user-designed break-point envelope control over eachplug-in's parameters, present an almost endless palette of animatedtimbres. BubbleRATor and ZombiRATor add vibrato only to selectedportions of a source waveform and momentarily “freeze”selected harmonic ranges. Other RATs allow designers to createnonlinear frequency shifts, add complex spectrums to individual tracks,create four-note polyphonic material from monophonic tracks and allowuser reshaping of pitch and melody. Platforms: MultiPC, Windows,DirectX.
Recently released as a $39 plug-in bundle, Space Synthesizer 1.1b,Space Effect 1.0 and FlexFx 1.0 from developer Mikael Hillborg(www.mhc.se/software) pack a lot of punch per buck.The $39 FlexFx family of CPU-conscious audio processors with built-inLFOs and host syncs includes five meat-and-potatoes effects, includingbasic delay, chorus and filter. Space Effect's synth architectureprovides sync, feedback and mix controls over left/right delay signals,as well as extensive control over resonance, filter, chorus andtone-sequencing parameters. Space Synthesizer, as the name implies,looks much like Space Effect, but it also offers an evolving waveformmodule onboard. Platforms: Instrument/MultiPC, VST.
Who needs 1,260 amp combinations and a wide array of stomp boxes andpost FX features all in one Pro Tools|HD and VST plug-in? You do. IKMultimedia's (www.ikmultimedia.com) AmpliTube ($399) turns bothplatforms into a sort of vintage amp and pedals heaven, complete withorange power-soak buttons and faux tubes glowing behind a convincinglyrendered amp grille. This plug-in sports separate pre, EQ, amp, cabinetand mic-emulation modules, and it models a large selection of vintageand modern amps, spring reverb, tremolo and stomp boxes. Platforms:Mac, PC, VST, Logic, RTAS.
Developed with mastering engineers and sound designers in mind,Groupe de Recherches Musicales de l'Institut National de l'Audiovisuel,aka INA-GRM (www.ina.fr), released its new GRM Tools ST(Spectral Transform) Bundle ($549; $249 per separate plug-in) as afour-module suite for the “Free through Pro Tools|HD Macfamily.” ST Contrast uses novel compression and expansiontechniques to add subtle changes in “vibrancy, depth andliveliness” for mastering and archival audio restorationapplications and any extreme sound transformation uses. ST Equalize isa 31-band, ⅓-octave graphic EQ that features GRM's elastic stringfeature when mouse-manipulating curves with“sound-performance” applications, and ST Shift allows auser to perform two complementary sound-processing operations at atime. Finally, ST FreqWarp, a spectral component rearrangement plug-in,can best be described by one INA-GRM user's feedback from the company'ssite: “The most far out, radical, bizarre, powerful and effectivesound-transformation tools I've ever seen.” Platforms:FX/Instruments, Mac, RTAS, VST.
Mackie's (www.mackie.com) UAD-1 ($995) is a PCI DSPcard/plug-in suite package that takes the heat off of a CPU by handlingall plug-in processing “offline.” Developed by UniversalAudio, the UAD-1 software solution includes RealVerb Pro, 1176LN andTeletronix LA-2A Vintage Compressors, Nigel Guitar Processor and theCS-1 Channel Strip; the latter includes EQ, compression, delaymodulation and reflection reverb modules specific to the UAD-1platform. Universal's Version 2.2.6 software now also includes DigitalPerformer support. And Nigel not only looks like an interface Mr.Tufnel would love, it sounds as big as any Spinal Tap concert, with itsown mini-suite of preamp, speaker cabinet modeling, echo, tremolo,modulation filter, compressor/ gate and phaser plug-ins. Rock on!Platforms: MultiMac, PC, MAS, VST.
Also from Mackie are several new plug-ins for its D8B/UFX and newSoundscape DAW platforms. The Drawmer SDX100 ($399) is a new mixpanderplug-in designed for use as a channel dynamics package or mixdownprocessor; it allows users to control its components in groups orindividually. SpinAudio's SpinDelay ($89) is another Mixtreme plug-infor Soundscape that includes a handy tempo-based delay and tap delaycalculator that links taps by ratio. And, after releasing Acuma Labs'Final Mix Mastering Suite ($399) and its DSR-1 frequency-specificde-essing UFX plug-ins at Winter NAMM, there were two more for therecent Summer Session. Acuma's RTA-31 ($199) is a new graphic equalizerand spectrum analyzer for the D8B desktop, and the aptly namedSaturated Fat ($199) handles all sorts of distortion andcabinet-modeling chores like a short-order cook at a greasy spoon.Platforms: PC, Soundscape, D8B/UFX.
McDSP (www.mcdsp.com) is well-known for its Analog Channelplug-in when it comes to warming up a digital signal, so warming up tosome modeled oscillators, LFOs and ADSRs in the company's newSynthesizer One ($695) should come easily. The additive, subtractive,wavetable, FM- and AM-based modular Synthesizer One can processexternal audio and combine that with synthesized signals. And alloscillator, filter, LFO and envelope signals can be routed to multiplemodulation targets easily using a straightforward, logical interfacethat resembles McDSP's plug-in family line. Also newsworthy is thecompany's offering of free Pro Tools|HD updates for McDSP plug-ins thatnow include 44.1 to 192kHz support; see the company's Website fordetails. Platforms: Mac, TDM Mix/HD.
Not new but certainly worth mentioning is the recently announced ProTools|HD and VST plug-in format support for all Metric Halo (www.mhlabs.com)plug-ins, including SpectraFoo, SpectraFoo Complete andChannelStrip.
Take one spectral graph and an eight-operator FM engine, add abattery and one B3 emulation so real you can smell it, and what do youget? Four new Mac and PC virtual instruments from NativeInstruments (www.native-instruments.com). NI-Spektral Delay PTE($449) claims to be the first real-time, Fast Fourier Transform (FFT)plug-in effect. Kontakt ($399) and FM7 ($299) each support Mac and PCvia DirectConnect, VST, MAS or DXi, and can operate as stand-aloneinstrument applications. FM7 can actually read every sound library evercreated for the classic DX family of FM synths, and Kontakt is a softsampler that sports real-time time-stretching and resynthesis and anintegrated loop editor. Native also offers the Pro Tools Editions ofB4, Pro-52 and Battery for Mac HTDM/RTAS for $999 as the StudioCollection. Platforms: Mac, TDM/HTDM, RTAS (unless otherwisenoted).
To even try to sum up what the plug-ins from Ohm Force (www.ohmforce.com)are all about in 50 words would be futile. Users can get lost in thecompany's lush Goth- and comic-inspired Website for ages and still notknow exactly what each plug-in does. So, rather than attempt to explainVST and DirectX audio processing/mangling plug-ins like MobilOhm,HematOhm, FrOhmage, PredatOhm and OhmBoyz, we are pointing readers tothe site. You have been warned. Platforms: Mac, PC, BeOS, VST,DirectX.
Power Technology's (www.dspfx.com) DSP-FX Virtual Pack 6.5 ($149), astable line of DirectX plug-ins for PC audio processing that alsooperate as stand-alone devices, has recently added 96kHz support andfull optimization for Windows XP. Twelve bread-and-butter processortools are bundled together in a Virtual Pack, including thehigh-quality StudioVerb, Multi-Tap Delay, Analog Tape Flanger,Parametric EQ and Aural Activator. Platforms: MultiPC, DirectX.
New from PSP (Professional Sound Projects; www.pspaudioware.com) from Piaseczno, Poland, arefour audio processing plug-ins. Lexicon PSP 42 ($149) is a high-qualitydigital stereo delay and phrase-sampler plug-in based on the legendaryLexicon PCM 42 processor; it simulates vintage tape machine delays withPSP's own tape-saturation algorithm and variable sampling-ratemanipulation. VintageWarmer ($149) is a single- or multiband plug-inthat simulates many analog-style compressor/ limiters and comes with alarge library of device presets. VintageMeter (freeware) is aprofessional VU and PPM-metering plug-in. Another free gem from PSP isPianoVerb, which reproduces unique types of reverberation originallygenerated by piano strings. RTAS support for all PSP software plug-insis expected by the time this story prints.
Serato Audio Research's (www.serato.com) Scratch Studio Edition ($299) isexpected to be released before the end of the year, and for anyturntablist straddling the creative fence between vinyl and digitalaudio workstation, it couldn't come any sooner. DJs can display theirnew dub plate skills using a physical “virtual” vinyl LPthat connects via USB to scratch any digital sample or sound file. Theincluded vinyl record controller device contains a control signal thatallows the computer to track the record position and the motion anddirection of the needle, and to simulate the same movement within asound file. Scratch Live ($599; Mac/PC stand-alone) will include a USBinterface for dual turntables that allows turntablists to do“crateless DJ'ing” by transferring all vinyl to hard driveand controlling those .WAV, .AIFF and MP3 files with Scratch Live.Platforms: PC, Mac, RTAS, HTDM, MAS (unless otherwise noted).
Also expected soon from Serato is Pitch ($399), a multiplatform ProTools plug-in that uses intuitive MIDI controls to carry out real-timepolyphonic pitch changes. Expected to be announced as part of astand-alone bundle of Serato plug-ins, Pitch carries on in thetradition of the company's popular Pitch 'n Time software. Platforms:PC, Mac, RTAS, HTDM.
Steinberg Media Technologies (www.steinberg.net)offers eight new processors and instruments that emphasize on makingrecording guitarists feel right at home on the computer. VirtualGuitarist ($249.99) picks up where the Oberheim Strummer box left offlong ago in creating convincing strummed chords for acoustic andelectric guitar sounds. One look at the guitar face interface in eithermode should comfort even the most newbie of computer recordingguitarists. WARP VST ($299.99) does much of the same by putting aHughes & Kettner amp face on this potent guitar amp simulationplug-in. HALion ($399.99) is a new 32-bit VST sampler that streamsaudio direct from disk, includes a 1.6GB sound library, and can importAkai, E-mu, GigaSampler, Sound Font, .WAV and .AIFF sound files to anyVST environment. Similarly, The Grand ($299.99) provides 1.3 GB ofmultiple-velocity, layered, high-quality piano samples, and the new LM4Mark II VST drum machine ($149.99) provides an independent ADSRenvelope on each of its 16 pads. Finally, Voice Machine ($199.99) is areal-time “pitch-shifting” plug-in that can create fouradditional voices, each independently controllable, from a mono voicetrack. Attack ($149.99) from Waldorf provides meaty analog-synthpercussion sounds. GRM Tools Vol. 2 ($199.99) is the new VST version ofthis sound designer's dream package, which includes INA-GRM's Reson,Doppler, Freeze and Delay modules. Platforms: PC, Mac, VST.
TC Works (www.tcworks.de), Steinberg and a few others wereneck-and-neck for the most new plug-ins released this year. TCVoiceStrip 96K (included with TC PowerCore) is a VST- and MAS-basedvocal-processing tool that includes voice-optimized EQ, vintagecompression, gate, de-esser and SoftSat modules — and a pair ofVU-emulating meters. Assimilator for PowerCore ($249) is a potent“fingerprint EQ” plug-in due out later this year that cansample the EQ curve of one audio file and apply it to another, andmorph between two totally disparate sets of EQ curves. DeScratcher,DeClicker, DeClipper and DeNoiser will all be included with TCPowerCore Restoration Suite ($999) when it releases later this year.Native Bundle 3.0 ($399; $69 upgrade) has been spiffed up with addedparameters, improved sound and a new user interface. Master X3 forPowerCore ($249), also from TC Works, was recently announced;essentially, it is the company's Finalizer mastering processor but nowas a VST or MAS plug-in. And the new Waldorf D-Coder ($249) is aneasy-to-use, Mac- and Windows-savvy VST/MAS plug-in that puts 100 bandsof vocoded audio bliss at anyone's fingertips. Finally, TC Worksreleased Spark FX Machine ($199) earlier this year. Also amultiplatform VST/MAS performer, this bundle comes with 21 plug-ins,including numerous effects processors and synthesis tools. Platforms:Mac, PC, VST, MAS.
Last but not least are six new plug-ins from Waves (www.waves.com). Version3.5 Waves Native and TDM software now provide more simultaneousplug-ins, support of higher sample rates, and increased bit depth anddynamic range and support for TDM users of Control24, Pro Control andMackie HUI control surfaces.
Waves Masters Bundle ($1,800 TDM/ HD; $900 native) provides moretransparent mastering firepower with the company's L2 Ultramaximizer,Linear Phase Equalizer and Linear Phase Multiband plug-ins. The lattertwo use FIR filters for improved musical balance and independent gainand dynamics control on five bands with linear phase crossovers.Ultramaximizer carries on as “the next step in peaklimiting,” with Automatic Gain Control, IDR dithering andninth-order filters. Another multiplatform performer is RestorationBundle ($1,300 native; $2,600 TDM) for restoration applications andnoise reduction. The intuitive graphics, audio difference and directaudio output feedback of Restoration Bundle can make better masteringengineers out of us all. Modules included in this bundle includeX-Noise, X-Click, X-Crackle and X-Hum. Platforms: Mac, PC, TDM, HTDM,VST, MAS, RTAS, Audio Suite DirectX.
The all-in-one Waves 360 Surround Tool Kit (price TBA) is a completesurround mixing and management tools bundle. The accelerated Version3.5 Waves system has 192- and 96kHz support for all Digidesign MIX andPro Tools|HD users, as well as enveloping spacialization andlocalization, among other benefits. Included are the S360 SurroundImager for adding distance panning and generating early reflections andshuffling for improved low-frequency spacialization, and the R360Surround Reverb for control of more than six channels of perfectlydecorrelated reverberation. The C360 Surround Compressor, M360 SurroundManager and M360 Surround Mixdown round out the package. Platforms:Mac, TDM.
Randy Alberts is the author of Tascam: 25 Years of RecordingEvolution. Visit him atwww.opendooredit.com.