Effects Plug-Ins | Keeping It In the Box

Mar 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By George Petersen



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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.

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