30 October 2012

Home Studio: Plugins for Mixing and Mastering, the soap


This entry was already published during July 2009, in my old Spanish version of this blog and, I am just revisiting it here in English.

Missing seems a child's game but, it isn't, absolutely not!. I am still trying to get a good mix in my own songs, without success.
I've bought some videos to learn some basics about Mixing and Mastering and, some book, with the goal to understand which tasks correspond to each etage.
Bob Katz' book "Mastering Audio: the art and the science" has a lot of useful information but, there are not concrete examples, neither instructions, parameter settings, list of steps, etc. So, you can have an overall idea of what is behind and get some basis information but, nothing that can help me to masterize, if I have no idea still.

I bought also a couple of sets of DVD (Internal Mixing and Mastering Audio) to Friedmann Tischmeyer.
Those are more detailed and, are well organized and structured, in a way that you can start to work in your mix with more confidence. It also includes sample files and exercises to understand some key concepts, as the use of tools for dynamics, like compressors and gates.

Bob Katz seems more focused to obtain results by using outboard gear, extremely expensive and sophisticated, while Tischmeyer thinks that you can obtain professional results using some plugins, supported with some DSP hardware (as Powercore or UAD units) and, to limit the outboard gear to input and output sections.
Being a guitarist, with not big resources, I need some efficient and reasonablely cheap solution so, I want to try Tishmeyer's way.

As output gear, I have planned to buy a preamp SPL Track One to record voices, bass guitars and, eventually some acoustic guitar.
Electric guitars I am currently recording them with the help of a Palmer PDI-03 Speaker Simulator, that helps me to get a direct sound from the amp routing it to some DI input in the Digidesign Rack 003. In fact, I am using two inputs. The first one for the filtered output (speaker simulation) and the other for the unfiltered output, to be recabed with the help of some plugin, as Pod Farm, Revalver or Amplitube (still to decide).

Fact is that, whichever the way (Tyschmeyer or Katz), it seems of vital importance to have a good set of plugins that allow you to do the right job for each situation.
From Katz' book, I would like to enphatize the use of the K-System, as a nice way to calibrate monitors and as a natural way to achieve a good loudness in your mix while preserving a good dynamic range. Also, its discussions about dynamics tools (compressors, expanders, limiters, gates...) is absolutely a must for everyone.
From Tischmeyer's Internal Mixing DVD, I think that everything there is useful and practical. But, even being more structured and detailed that Katz' book, I am still missing some clear examples about how to work but, at least, these DVDs make me clear about what to do and what I need.

K-System meter

I have searched for measurement plugins that include the K-System meters but, unfortunately, the few I found are expensive. Tischmeyer recommends Pinguin (about 400 Eur), Katz recommends Algorithmix' meters (even more expensive). I've found myself the plugin named XL Inspector by RNDigital (around 300 Eur) and, had the opportunity to use it during 15 days.
While testing XL Inspector, I've realized about the importance of have good meters whitin your set of plugins. To control the frequential content, the stereo wide, phase correlation and dynamic range, helps a lot to your mix.

XL Inspector gives all the same plugins that Pinguin gives to you, maybe Piguin's ones are of best quality, I don't know since there is no free demo to test. But, to get the same meters with Algorithmix, you need to buy several plugins. So, definitively, XL Inspector is the most reasonable solution I've found.

Searching a set of plugins

I've checked a bunch of plugins, free and demo versions. Here follows my impressions with some of them.

Waves plugins

Waves plugins disappointed me a lot. I find them excessively expensive and, I don't find anything in them that I can see as spectacular.
I've installed the demo version of the Gold Bundle and, just trying the first one I've got a.... BLUE SCREEN!, killing the PC!.

I look some info in their support page and, oh surprise!, if you want to use Waves' plugins in a PC with an Operative System in a language different of English, you will be forced to change Windows User Preferences to setup the dot (.) as comma decimal and, the comma (,) as thousands separator.



BIAS plugins seemed to me very interesting but, I wasn't able to check them. The installation tool assumes that you are using an English version of the Operating System and then, the installer changes the default folder where you have your VST plugins installed and, install RTAS plugins where it thinks should be in an English environment so, at the end, nothing works, at least that you manually move those plugins to the right folders.

I am not going to spend a lot of money in a set of plugins that have basic installation issues so, bye bye BIAS.


I wasn't able to check Sonnox plugins, since the demo period expired before I was able to check a single one so, I have not a formed opinion about them, still.


Let be clear: there is no cheap plugin. Said that, Massey plugins are a bargain for their money. Massey plugins are really good, high quality (maybe not top notch but good enough). The peak limiter L200 is one of the best Limiters that I've ever testes (and I checked Voxengo Elephant, Izotope Ozone 3, Waves L1 y L2, the standard coming with Pro Tools and a bunch more of free ones).
One of the good things of those plugins is that you can download and use for free, without time limitation. The only limitation is that you cannot store the settings so, every time you open your project, you need to reset the parameters, until you buy the plugin.
I hope that Massey can some day do a K-System meter!.


These plugins are of very high quality. XL Inspector is an useful tool to clearly understand what is happening to your mix. D1 and D4 compressors are really interesting.
RNDigital is using a different approach to the typical Multiband-compressor. Instead of split horizontally, by frequency bands, it splits the sound horizontally, by loudness levels so, you can differently compress the sounds of each loudness level.
The use of D1 and D4 is really easy, very graphical and user-friendly.
Its Equalizer is more complex, instead but, it includes any kind of EQ filter you can ever need, even harmonics filter.
Rest of their tools are interesting as well but, more cryptic and you need a lot of time to be spent there to get some interesting results and, the demo period ends so fast that there is no time enough to analyze them in depth.

Waves Art
I was mainly interested in their Master Restoration Suite, because in the reviews I've read in SOS and other specialized publications, that suite was highly considered and, after discarding Waves, this was the natural election.
Surprisingly, Waves Art' Suite is incredible good. I have compared it to he Waves bundle and to the Sony bundle included with Sound Forge 9.
I ever left a declicker as a plugin by default in the bass track, to clean the floor noise and, it works without overloading the CPU (having Equalizers, Compressors, Delays, etc in other tracks). So, I think they are so friendly and efficient with the CPU as they ads say.
Even more, they are cheaper than Waves or Sonnox equivalents.
So, I am planning to buy them as soon as possible.

I am not interested in their Mastering Suite, since same tools are already in Sonnox plugins and, I know that Sonnox tools work better in that area.

Modern free plugins

Those plugins try to emulate outboard gear and they are completely free.
Well, they have a quality clearly below all the plugins mentioned above but, they can work for some tracks so, it's good to have them at hand.

Arts Acoustic Reverb

I don't find nothing interesting in this reverberation plugin (well, in fact, I even don't like the IR reverberation by Waves). I think that I can achieve better results with the convolutive reverberation Perfect Space included in Cakewalk Sonar 7.

Camel Audio

They have that CamelCrusher and CamelPath plugins that seem to excite a lot of people. To me, they sound excesivelly distorted and, I don't find for what to use them.

Nomad Factory D82 Sonic Max (BBE)

I cannot compare the plugin to the real outboard gear but, what I can say is that to insert it at the end of the chain is like night and day. It cleans the mix and details the bass lines in a very musical way.
I have to save money to buy this plugin or the outboard hardware some of these days.

Nugen Audio

None of the plugins I've tested say me anything. They aren't bad, they aren't good. Anodyne.

Peavey Revalver MKIII

I don't see this plugin as being superior to POD Amp Farm or to IK Multimedia Amplitube. The available amp models are very few (compared to POD) and, I cannot see that great advance in sound that users seem to find. The only interesting thing is, maybe, to play with the program to design your own amplifier but, for plug and play, I am still preferring Amplitube (the bad thing is that consumes lots of CPU) or POD Amp Farm.

IK Multimedia T-Racks 3.

This suite is overloading my CPU in a way that it's impossible to use their high resolution modes in real time (specially reverberation). But, they sound really good and, are a bargain for its price.
Note: this was my vision on July 2009. Nowadays, I am using T-Racks practically for every project and, I love them and, very specially the Fairchild, Pulteq, 1179 and L2-2A emulations but, also their Breakwall Limiter and the Classic Compressor.


Two plugins here, the Redline Monitor and Redline Reverb.
The reverberation is very common but, the Redline Monitor is an awesome tool!.
This little plugin allows me to hear the mix thru my headphones as if I were hearing them thru my monitors.
The plugin shifts the stereo image, specially the phantom center, in a way that what you hear thru your headphones is very close to what you would hear thru your monitors.
Very useful for silent mixing tasks.
The only thing I don't like of this plugin is that adds some color to the mix and, alters the loudness level so, if you insert a Limiter before, the mix will be saturated. So, insert it just before the Brickwall Limiter.

Sound Toys Native Effects

This bundle has more or less the same thing spread into several modulation tools. They are very useful when you are looking for reverberation, echo and extreme delays. Very CPU efficient, even with the complexer effects with lots of feedback.
They work smoothly and have lots of available presets and it's very user friendly.
Probably not the reverberation you want for you mix, overall but, it can be exactly what you needed for that wanted FX.


I've checked the BitterSweet and the Stereo Tool.
The Stereo Tool is useful when you hanven't any better tool to check your stereo image and your phase correlation. Stereo Tools is coloring the mix.
The BitterSweet seems somewhat similat to BBE or some kind of exciter but, it doesn't results exciting to me. BBE works way best.

Kjaerhus free plugins

It's classic series of plugins is of medium quality and some can be useful just for certain tracks. Nothing wrong, nothing good.

KR free series

Their Reverberation and Delay work in the same league as Kjaerhus ones.

Other plugins

I've test a bunch of other free and demo plugins but, I've deleted most of them so, I don't even remember their name or maker.

One of the most interesting plugins I bought is FXpansion VST to RAS Addapter. It allows you to search in your disk for VST plugins and to convert them to RTAS plugins, to be used directly inside Pro Tools. So, now I am able to include good VST plugins in my Pro Tools sessions.
I've tested the tools over 200 VST plugins and, the plugins was able to convert around 95% of them. Awesome. Therefore, this tool worths what it costs and opens a lot of possibilities for Pro Tools.
To masterize, I am evaluating  if to purchase a TC Powercore unit (but is a lot of money) but, I have concerns about how good will work with Pro Tools. I've read that it has VST plugins that can be used inside Pro Tools after being converted to RTAS but, that those include a lot of Latency and they consume lots of CPU resources. So, if the goal was to use outboard gear to reduce the CPU load and, I am achieving the contrary, it doesn't seem the best solution.
Same happens to UAD cards.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please, feel free to add your comments.