Lexicon PCM Native Effects Bundle Review

Aug 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Michael Cooper

BREAD-AND-BUTTER PROCESSING, AND SOMETHING UNUSUAL

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DREAM ON
Slapping Stringbox on a violin track while mixing an atmospheric ballad, I created fluctuating resonances that were tuned to the song’s key. (See sidebar “Try This.”) The result was a hauntingly oneiric effect unlike any other I’d heard. You’ll most likely want to fade Stringbox in for only select sections of your mix as too much of it can be distracting. I only wish the plug-in’s virtual keyboard (useful for mouse-clicking the “strings” you wish to vibrate) could be controlled via MIDI. That would help modulate the resonances in real time to avoid clashes with passing tones.

Routing a snare track to the Resonant Chords plug-in, I made snare hits trigger 8-voice arpeggios synched to Digital Performer’s tempo. I set the level, feedback amount, pitch and note value (8th triplet, dotted 16th and so on) for each voice and shaped its tone with one of several included filters. I also automated a transposition fader to modulate the arpeggios in real time to follow chord changes in the arrangement. This kind of repetitive arpeggiation is probably best suited for modal dance, techno and New Age music.

Lowering the Delay Time Master control transformed Resonant Chords arpeggios into a harp-like strum. Once again, I missed the inclusion of MIDI Note On control, which would have greatly facilitated chord changes, temporary modulations and playing passing tones. That said, my favorite uses for Resonant Chords were producing quirky room reverbs with phasey-sounding flutter echoes and triggering white noise on snare tracks. Lexicon provides some outstanding presets along these lines.

MIXDOWN STAPLES
While Stringbox and Resonant Chords may have somewhat limited (but wonderful) applications, other plug-ins in the bundle cover many of the essential time-based effects so crucial to modern mixes. Chorus/Flange sounded terrific on background vocals and guitars. Playing with controls for the eight voices, four LFOs (with nine different wave shapes!), feedback, filtering and diffusion, I could create supersized vocal-ensemble effects and deep flanges for electric guitars that would make Jimi smile in his grave.

The Dual Delay plug-in offered a panoply of grandiose U2-style tape delays, slapbacks and ping-pong delays. Vocals and guitars sounded awesome with four voices independently delayed, diffused, filtered, fed back and panned. Random Delay, however, was a mixed bag for music production. With long delay and Wander times applied, the modulated delays produced unsynched multi-tap echoes I wasn’t wild about. (Why would you ever not want to lock all discrete echoes to a song’s tempo?) But I envisage sound designers putting this plug-in to good use. Imagine a screaming alien plunging into a bottomless chasm and flying back up to the rim (echoes of the screams getting longer and then shorter). For musical applications, much shorter delay and Wander times emulated early reflections that thickened vocal tracks to fantastic effect.

Next on my plate was Pitch Shift. I got great results processing dual-mono (hard-panned) electric guitar tracks—both distorted riffs and clean slow-hand parts previously recorded with a third-party chorus effect—as long as I showed restraint. Shifting up or down two semitones sounded flawless, but shifting any greater than that started to introduce doubled transients and a slightly gargled sound. Large shifts also suffered from the lack of independent formant processing. Vocal tracks fared even worse. Pitch Shift introduced gargly-sounding artifacts when shifting male lead vocals up as little as one semitone, and shifting down only one semitone made formants sound unnatural.

Using MultiVoice Pitch, I could easily create 6-voice harmonies, each voice shifted up or down as much as 12 semitones and delayed a different amount. Only parallel harmonies were possible, so they often became non-diatonic. Again, the lack of independent formant processing made all but the smallest pitch shifts sound unnatural. Sound designers for horror and sci-fi flicks, take note: You can apply feedback to individual voices to create creepy-sounding ascending or descending dialog effects that excel. MultiVoice Pitch also sounded outstanding when pitch shifts no greater than 20 cents were used to create automatic double-tracking (ADT) effects. Tuning, panning and delaying each voice differently from the others fashioned huge ensemble effects on background vocal tracks.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
All of the plug-ins except Stringbox imposed a very light hit on my CPU. One instance of Stringbox used up about 30 percent of my 8-core Mac Pro’s resources. All the plug-ins stole control of Digital Performer’s keyboard shortcuts, making transport control a hassle. Clicking outside the plug-in and inside Digital Performer’s turf restored control. I’ve seen this same issue with a few plug-ins developed by other companies.

The somewhat cursory operating manual provides enough information that experienced engineers will get up to speed fairly quickly. Hobbyists lacking a deep understanding of signal processing will likely be left scratching their heads often in Pro mode. Thankfully, Lexicon provides well over 300 presets—many excellent—to keep surface-scratchers satisfied.

THE FINAL SCORE
Native Effects earns very high marks for its outstanding delay-based plug-ins and innovative Stringbox. Its pitch-shifting plug-ins don’t handle large transpositions and harmonies gracefully, but they come in handy for sound design and frame-rate adjustments (in film post), and create excellent ADT effects for music production. Overall, Native Effects Bundle is a winner.


Mix contributing editor Michael Cooper is the owner of Michael Cooper Recording in Sisters, Ore.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Lexicon PCM Native Effects Bundle product page.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Lexicon PCM Native Effects Bundle product page.






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