iZotope Alloy Channel Strip Plug-In Review

Jan 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Michael Cooper

AFFORDABLE TOOLKIT BRINGS UNEXPECTED VERSATILITY, LOW CPU DRAIN

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Mixing With Alloy

On a bass guitar track — with the equalizer set to boost the bottom end and roll off highs, and the exciter set to “warm” for frequencies below 190 Hz — the sound was a bit richer than what I started with. The real magic happened when I engaged Alloy's brickwall limiter downstream, which made the bass sound huge and very even.

I tried adding sustain to the bass using Alloy's transient shaper, but musical rests sometimes inexplicably resulted in a big jump in level on the first-following note's attack, making the transient shaper unusable for this application. I got far superior (punchier) results on trap drums using other transient shapers — SPL Transient Designer and Waves TransX — instead of Alloy's to pump up their attack. Alloy's Shaper made a snare drum sound downright brittle.

That said, Alloy's other modules in combination sounded phenomenal on room mics for drums. The compressor's hard-knee mode, using an 8.2:1 ratio and fast attack/release times, produced an explosive sound. But by also widening the stereo image in the Exciter module, the sound was transformed into a bombastic monster!

Alloy's equalizer sounded great on lead vocals, adding focus, roundness and shimmer. However, all but the sparest application of the exciter in midrange and HF bands tended to noticeably smear fricatives and sometimes caused loud clicks. (iZotope is aware of the problem and says it will address it in a future release.)

Alloy's compressor — set to soft-knee, 3:1 ratio and moderate attack and release times — did a good job reining in the dynamic range of lead vocals without audible pumping. I did notice a slight loss of depth, however, which made it sound a tad thinner than results using the far more expensive Waves CLA-3A plug-in. Alloy's de-esser worked phenomenally well. It removed sibilance so transparently and effectively that it has become my go-to de-esser for vocals.

On acoustic guitar, Alloy's exciter sounded far too subtle for my tastes. The equalizer did a good job clearing up boominess and mud.

A Steel?

Alloy imposed negligible CPU drain on my 8-core Mac Pro. Its harmonic exciter and transient shaper both need improvement. But at the modest price of $249, Alloy is worth buying for its excellent de-esser, limiter, stereo widener, equalizer and compressors. There's a lot to rave about.


Visit contributing editor Michael Cooper at www.myspace.com/michaelcooperrecording.

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