07 October 2013

Home Studio: Testing new IK Multimedia mixing and mastering plugins


Even that I own the Sonnox plugins and those are absolutelly top-notch, I am finding those more appropiated for Mastering tasks than for Mixing tasks.
I was greatefully surprised with the quality of T.Racks plugins by IK Multimedia and, I am usually working with the Classic Compressor, the Pulteq, Fairchild 670, 1179 and LA-2A emulations with satisfactory results.

I've saw some time ago that they were delivering new stuff but, I wasn't able to buy those until now.
I've upgraded my T.Racks singles to T.Racks Grand bundle and, purchased the remaining plugins.

I've selected one of my well known sounds and, started to mix from scratch, removing all previous plugins from the project and setting everything to its initial status, to check the goodness of some of the new plugins of IK Multimedia which I was more interested on.

I wanted to check, in first instance, the British Channel, the Bus Compressor and the White Channel and, this is all about this blog. I've tried those in my song and had some conclussions.

Once more, I cannot compare the real outboard gear against the software and, this is a point that really doesn't interest to me, since I will be never able to purchase such a kind of hardware. Therefore, my interest focus on whether those new plugins can do any good for my material and, indeed, they do it and, as with rest of their plugins, in a very musical way.

Testing British Channel, White Channel and Bus Compressor

Overall, first thing I want to take your attention to is the high sensitivity of their controls. Each little change has a clear impact in the sound. I would say that the impact by movement of dial is even greater than in their previous top-notch plugins (Fairchild, Pulteq EQP-1A, 1179 and LA-2A).

As always, which plugin (or hardware) to use will always depends on your tastes and on the song itself. To be able to check between several options is always welcome to better sculpt the song to match what you had in mind. And, those three plugins are opening the possibilities in a good way.

I went first with the EQ / volume tasks for each track, to have a mix where each instrument was clearly identificable, even in mono environment. For this, I had to use some compressors to leveling the volume between tracks and some corrective EQ to help to differentiate each instrument.

What I did first is to work on the EQ of each instrument and, for this, I've used the standard 7-bands EQ that comes with Pro Tools, basically to remove high and low end frequencies from each instrument, depending on their own nature.

After that basic EQ correction was more or less ready, I went to each track to help to leveling all volumes and, for this I was trying several compressors, over each track, choosing the one that better worked for this particular song.

I've selected the British Channel for Kick, Guitar and Vocals.
This was the plugin that gave me a better result in those individual tracks.
I had to remove the EQ settings that were focusing over certain frequencies (by example, dip around 125 Hz, where the Snare has it's fundamental sound or any increase over presence frequencies) to be able to get the best results from that plugin.
That leaved the EQ plugin just with two active filters, the one that removes hi-end and the one that removes low-end, leaving an usable range of frequencies for each instrument.

Reason is that, the EQ controls of the British Channel are so smooth and musical that, I've find them more than enough to select which frequency to enhance for each instrument to help them to differentiate in the mix.
Very soft touchs on the dial produce audible changes in the material what helps you to fine tuning the sound.
The EQ section of this plugin is really responsive and musical.
As always, IK Multimedia provides some usefull pre-sets that will help you as an starting point to get your work ready in less time.

The White Channel (the modern version of that British Channel) was used just for the Snare. I didn't exhaustively tried each plug-in so, maybe because of this, the only track where I've found it doing a better job than other plugins was the Snare track.

Same overall comments as for that British Channel are valid for this White Channel.
Results are very musical but, the sound is being colored in a very different way, maybe more accurate and cold, compared to the British Channel, that delivers warmer results, in my opinion.
But, anyway, that was the sound that perfectly matched my needs for the Snare and, I've preferred the White Channel to their White 2A (LA-2A) plugin.

I am thinking that, maybe I need to go deeper to work with this plugin in the vocals track.

But, for Hi Hat, Toms and Overheads, I went to their White 2A plug-in, which I liked more there.
For Bass track, I went for their Black 79 plug-in, which I liked more.

Then, I've used the new Bus Compressor to glue tracks and, it was of great help to glue together the independent instruments of the Drum kit in the Drums bus and, I've found it very good to glue the whole mix in the Mix bus, before sending the results to the Master Fader (for overall Compression and Limiting).

While I don't like that Bus Compressor in individual tracks, I recognize it's a nice tool to put together several tracks sent to a certain bus.
As with the other new plugins, their controls are highly responsive and any little touch makes a clear difference in sound and, as usual in IK Multimedia, there are some very useful presets that you can use as a helpful starting point.


I didn't tested every single possibility of these new plugins so, I bet I can find a broader use for each one but, what I liked is that they all produce their own sound and, that each one, together with the rest of T.Racks plugins, can bring you the right tool for the right work.

I highly appreciate the pre-sets that each plugin comes with, since this gives you an overall idea what each one is usually used for and, this gives you a nice starting point that, for sure, you have to fine tune for your track, bus or song.

Not being able to compare hardware with software, my interest focus on if those plugins worth the money.
My opinion is that those three are very useful weapons and, of same quality as their Pulteq, Fairchild, LA-2A and 1179 emulations and, all them together deliver very musical and usefull results that help to bring some life to your mixes.

If we compare the prices of T.Racks plug-ins against the big companies (Waves, URS, Avid, etc...), we are getting top-notch plug-ins (second to none) for an "affordable" price, delivering musical results and, helping to anyone who wanted to mix ITB (In The Box).

I'm lacking the quality user's manuals that came with their first takes of mythical studio outgear (like the Pulteq or the Fairchild), that were of great help to understand how to handle each virtual hardware.
Other than this, I can just to thanks IK Multimedia for their work to leave us to come closer to real studio gear for an "affordable" (compared to real gear and other plug-ins) price.


Please, feel free to add your comments.