The Lurssen Mastering Console is new mastering software from IK Multimedia that was created in conjunction with Gavin Lurssen at Lurssen Mastering in Los Angeles, a high-profile facility that’s responsible for mastering multiple Grammy-award-winning albums, and Oscar-winning film scores and more. The product lets you access a software emulation of Lurssen’s mastering chain, incorporating some of the studio’s techniques and “tricks.” read more…
The Eventide Anthology X bundle ($999 street) offers users a large collection of effects processing plug-ins. Although there's an emphasis on the harmonizer/delay type effects that Eventide is famous for, you also get EQs, channel strips, a reverb, phase alignment plug-ins, and more. Many of the processors are digital recreations of analog hardware units, and the sound quality is excellent throughout. read more…
The Ozone mastering suite from iZotope has gotten better with each major update. The latest, Ozone 7, adds vintage modules to its processing arsenal, which allow you to add warm, analog-like sounds. All but one of the new modules are exclusive to Ozone 7 Advanced, which is more costly than the standard version of Ozone 7. Both versions have seen a number of additional improvements, as well. read more…
User reviews on Plug-in/Multi-Effect Bundle products
Complete Mastering Bundle Worth Every Cent (Eventide - Elevate Bundle)
By MGR/Brian Johnston, 05/09/2019
Part of the Elevate software bundle by Newfangled Audio, Equivocate is such an easy tool to use when adjusting frequencies and for two reasons. First, and although you can use a blank template, there are several presets from which to choose, such as Synth Scream, Guitar Scoop, Punchy Drums, Tight Low End, etc., all designed with a particular purpose in mind. As well, you can edit/tweak any of the presets. Second, Equivocate’s auditory filters sound very natural to the ear as it employs all 26 bands for a wide and smooth sound progression – although you can reduce the number of bands, and even customize the filters and their frequencies.
There are several other features or options I have yet to experiment with, since I find the various presets so easy to apply and they sound great, such as using the automatic level compensation, the draw EQ curve and the incredible tweaking abilities for each of the 26 bands (both level and band width)
Being a modest home musician I certainly don’t make use of Equivocate as some would, including the Match EQ feature to make the sound of a track match or complement a sidechain audio signal, or trying to match the tone of a reference track. My main use is to sculpt various tracks in order for them to stand out better in the mix (or to subdue them more so they are less obvious – beyond merely reducing a track’s volume). Being able to engage and disengage Equivocate also is ideal when comparing the raw track to the new EQ’d track. Overall, this is one of the better EQ plug-ins I have tried and its effects really pop in the final mastered mix.
Saturate is a Spectral Clipper algorithm that overdrives a sound, ideal for any instrument, including acoustic or electric guitar and even vocals (to add some hair or grain). Best of all, it does this without affecting the tonal balance no matter how hard you push the signal. You can add up to 24 dB of overdrive without producing a muddy or muffled sound and while adjusting the Shape of the curve to range from incredibly smooth to hard clipping.
The Saturate presets range from very subtle, starting with A Hint of Paprika, to incredibly boisterous and intense with the Busted Compressor preset. You can apply this plug-in to any track or the entire mix and it always sounds natural and pleasant to the ear (although adding too much Saturation eventually becomes obvious!). There are independent input and output levels, but you also can use the Auto output, which scales the level naturally and easily. Of course there are meter displays so that you know how the signal is hitting the selected clipping shape, as well as any peaks.
Most of my compositions involve playing melody and some rhythm over tracks developed in Band-in-a-Box, and often the instruments in those pre-designed tracks are straight-forward. Saturate is so perfect for adding more energy and dynamics to the Band-in-a-Box instruments, whether acoustic, bass and even drums (and consider assigning Saturate to only a portion of a track if desired and for specific emphasis). As well, one of my favorite guitars is a Parker Dragonfly, which sounds great, but it’s not quite as ‘hot’ as I want it to be (and cranking the gain on a preamp/OD pedal often introduces extra hiss or noise). Adding Saturate in the mix makes a significant difference in making a guitar tone sound hotter and with no added noise.
The Punctuate plug-in allows you to control the transient emphasis or suppression of 26 frequency bands with just 4 controls, making it very easy and intuitive to use. Mixing engineers use transient shapers either to emphasize the attack or sustain or to soften transients of an instrument. What makes Punctuate different is that it does not work with the whole signal of the entire frequency range, but allows you to tailor the attack of individual instruments, busses or entire mixes (depending on how you want to use the software); and with a host of presets designed for bass, drums, guitar, piano, experimental effects, etc., you have a lot of options without having to tweak a thing.
There are plenty of functions you can do with this plug-in, such as make a guitar passage flow smoother, or perhaps have a sharper attack. You can adjust the volume of a kick drum without affecting the snare. You can increase a bass guitar without affecting the kick drum. You can bring some instruments forward or back in the mix. Punctuate also helps to add excitement into flat sounding or over-compressed mixes.
Depending on my mix and style of composition, sometimes I find the drums dominate or are too subdued and often only certain elements (e.g., cymbals vs. kick) – something needs to be brought forward or pushed back. In other instances I want my rhythm to be more aggressive, but without having to increase the amp’s gain (which can introduce more hiss or noise). And with lead I may want to accentuate the plucking/picking or smooth out the sound for more legato. Punctuate can do all these things.
Elevate is the ‘brain’ behind the mixing and mastering software by Newfangled Audio/Eventide (see my other demos using Punctuate, EQuivocate and Saturate. Elevate is a multi-band plug-in that includes a Limiter, a ‘human-ear’ EQ and audio maximizer to increase loudness while maintaining and even enhancing transient nuances and reducing artifacts. With several presets ideal for anything from Jazz to Metal, there is a lot of tweaking to be done as you create new versions and do sound comparisons in a matter of seconds. Even better, you can adjust any of the parameters in real time to improve the tonal balance and to achieve unique outcomes, whether you want to emphasize some bass, perhaps a drum snare, etc. No matter how hard you push it, Elevate sounds natural and organic (unless you start clipping too hard, of course).
Elevate utilizes 26 critical filter bands modeled from the human ear, although you can select as few as one band (and any number between, depending on your needs in sculpting the ideal master mix). You can draw curves or manipulate one band at a time, you can solo bands to pin-point very specific frequencies, and a lot more. And likely one of the most important features is that Elevate uses Adaptive Technology artificial intelligence algorithms to achieve both precise and natural sounding changes so that both tone and transients push forward while reducing audible artifacts. Combine the unique characteristics and editing capabilities of the Elevate bundle (Punctuate, EQuivocate and Saturate) and you have a huge amount of editing power at your fingertips.
My demo compares only the original track with a preset (Toasted Speakers), and so to experience live changes and to hear what it can do for your mixes I suggest you request a free demo software trial.
A Plethora of Effects and Customization for Unique Tones (Eventide - H3000 Factory)
By MGR/Brian Johnston, 12/09/2019
The H3000 Factory is a DAW plug-in that re-creates several key algorithms from the H3000 Harmonizer® effects processor (rackmount unit). There are over 450 presets, along with 100 artist presets (and over 100 original presets from the H3000). Amazingly, you can combine upward of 18 effects blocks in any number of configurations with elements such as sweepable delays, 19 wave shapes, filters, pitch shifters, mixers, modulators, oscillators, envelope generators, etc. Some effects can be locked into a tempo and each preset can be adjusted in real time or synchronized to a session. There’s also a Snap Shots section that allows you to create variations on a preset and then select those sub-presets at a click of a mouse.
Although there are many presets and effects made for drums, voice, bass, synth, etc. (and some do not even require an input as they are sound generators), I focused on the electric guitar. My first interest was with pitch shifting, and although many can sound dissonant when high in a mix, they produce some noticeable fatness and depth when low (25%) in the mix, which is what I did in the demo’s samples. I also included some of my favorite delay presets, as well as some presets that are not strictly delay, pitch shifting, etc. Hours of discovery and fun, the H3000 Factor plug-in offers a wealth of awesome and unique sounds.
Recreating your Guitar Tone (Audified - ToneSpot Electric Pro)
By MGR/Brian Johnston, 08/10/2019
OVERALL IMPRESSION: This is one of the most enjoyable plug-ins I have used (from the perspective of a guitar player). Although Audified claims it will “improve the tone no matter what amp, pedal or plugin you are using for your electric guitar processing,” the results are more wide-ranging than that. The Tone Spot Electric Pro is based on a series of general and specific presets with studio mastering in mind. The plugin alters your hardware or software signal for enhanced tone and EQ’ing so that it cuts through the mix better (not always, depending on what you’re starting with, although often), but also can have your tone take on a different life (from fat and heavy to sizzling and scooped). As important, this plugin is relatively easy to use and tweak with very audible results… a modest learning curve… and some excellent changes to your tone (vital for those with limited equipment or gear). To give an example, your tone may sound raunchy, but a bit on the ‘classic’ side; conversely you want something more modern sounding. All you need to do is select a Metal-based preset in the general category (e.g., Steel Boost is one of my favorite) – or within a particular genre (e.g., Heavy or Hyper). From there you can tweak various aspects, described in the next section.
GENERAL USE: The easiest way to use Tone Spot Electric Pro is to select a preset that makes sense for what you’re playing and trying to improve upon. For instance, if playing acoustic or clean electric and you want to boost the midrange, then you would select such a preset in the ‘general’ category, or perhaps something like Indie Chords or Picking would sound better (from the Classic folder). You then can tweak one of those presets if required, or select a ‘default’ preset (with everything flat) and adjust each section, which explanation I’ll keep brief (you can download a trial version of the program, as well as the user manual for more detail).
The VOICING section applies legendary EQ shapes used in studios, including Classic (classic rock tones, obviously), Heavy (aggressive and thick, great for rhythms), Choco (lots of midrange), Hyper (modern, e.g., Diezel or Friedman amps), Sing (even more mids than Choco, ideal for lead tones) and V (a scooped curve typical in hi-gain amps).
CHARACTER allows you to select how the VOICING should sound, with Vintage, Natural or Modern, but also if you want the tone a bit brighter, scooped or Lo-Fi. And SATURATION allows you to add grit and fullness.
SHAPING is the big EQ section, and this really makes a difference. I find a lot of EQ plug-ins a bit hit or miss… constantly tweaking to get the right tone before you get ear fatigue and everything starts sounding the same (or the original tone sounded better than what you eventually ended with). This plugin’s EQ is unique in that the results are fast and each section is relative to its own range. For instance, Boom adds that bass thump, whereas Body increases the thickness of the low and middle range. More mid-range tweaking can be had with Paper and Wood, whereas the upper mids and treble are affected with Steel and Air.
SMASH is the Compressor section, and it does a great job without that overly squishy effect (and there’s a boost in that section in case you lose some volume via compression). SURGERY allows you to fine-tune the EQ, and it does this in very fine amounts (for bigger changes you need to go back to the SHAPING section). EFFECTS provide a host of typical guitar fare, including Tremolo, Modulation (phaser, flanger and chorus), Delay and Reverb. These are very straight forward, and so you don’t get a lot of unusual choices (e.g., reverse delay), but they are very solid sounding and will fill the niche of typical basics used by most guitarists in most instances. FINALIZER is the mastering section of your tone, allowing you to add a touch of fatness, tightness or smoothness to the overall result (and you can adjust the mix/boost of those elements).
PROS AND CONS: The most obvious Pro is that this plug-in sounds great – viz., what it does to your guitar’s tone and whether using hardware or software. It can make it sound like you have new preamps, a new guitar, some added pedals, etc., since the result is so significant, e.g., having a thick and perhaps slightly muffled rhythm tone can become a scooped hi-gain tone. Adjusting any of the knobs of any preset also produces immediate and noteworthy results, and so tweaking is easy. For those achieving a tone with a plug-in, it may be reasoned that if you don’t like one sound you can select another, or tweak the one you like so that it sounds better. However, the presets in Tone Spot Electric Pro were developed with that ‘mastering ‘ effect in mind, so that certain elements pop in the mix based on its characteristics; consequently, this plug-in can have a positive and dramatic result with other plug-ins. As well (as demoed in the video with the hi-gain tones), you can mix your original (dry) tone with that of a Tone Spot preset, to create a hybrid between the two, which I found impressive in several instances. Whether playing clean, with some crunch or pushing the envelope of gain, I doubt anyone having this plug-in will ignore it – it will be in constant use (on sale for only $49 at the time of writing this!).
Now, the Cons are not really that bad, but a few things to consider. First, different guitars with different pickups and different amps/cabs (whether hardware or digital) will experience different results with the same Tone Spot preset, e.g., Metal Riffage. The presets work with what you have and will improve the results accordingly (therefore, adding a Metal preset to a clean guitar tone does not make it sound Metal). This is no different than playing a Strat vs. Les Paul in the same equipment. Second, there is so much involved with this plugin that although easy enough to use, the results as you tweak a knob and button here and there really make a difference and you can get lost chasing that ideal tone. But, at least, you can save any preset you like and have finalized. Third, each main section (e.g., VOICE, CHARACTER, SATURATION, etc.) has an on/off button, and a few times I tweaked items in each without hearing any difference, only to notice the ‘on’ button was not on. Not a big deal, but best not having a few beer during operation. Finally, I wouldn’t mind having this in a pedal format – something like an Eventide H9, whereby you do all the adjustments either on the pedal or via software and then save the presets for live use. That’s not really a con, but wishful thinking.