18 January 2014

Home Studio: Dynamics - Sonnox vs. IK Multimedia


Thanks to the example song that comes with PT 11, which is well mixed and just needs a pump for mastering, I was able to compare the behavior of my dynamics processors and, very specially Sonnox Dynamics and Limiter against several IK Multimedia dynamics processors and their Brickwall Limiter.

IK Multimedia compressors for Master Bus

I've tested every IK Multimedia compressor in Master Bus, including Fairchild 670, White and British Channels, Precission Compressor / Limiter and Classic Compressor.
Without any doubt the Classic Compressor delivers the most musical sound in that bus, with just a touch of color and a nice punch. The Opto works nice but lacks that kind of warmth that the Classic Compressor has.

As Limiter, just the Brickwall Limiter does the job.

Comparing IKM vs Sonnox

I can make the Sonnox plugin to sound quite close to the Classic Compressor, if I set up the Warm section to 50% more or less.
The oposite isn't possible, since the IKM one is always coloring, you cannot achieve an uncolored result, for this you should use the Opto Compressor, that works awesome also.
But, without coloring the mix, the Sonnox Compressor works better, in my opinion.

In IKM Classic Compressor to achieve a more clear mix in low end, the Side Chain Filter should be pushed up to 78 Hz more or less to achieve same results than with Sonnox Dynamics, which always sounds clearer, even without using the EQ section.

Giving the same compression ratio, controls settings for each plugin clearly differ and, you have to find the spot that better works for each one, often even forgetting how controls were named.
Visually, Sonnox plugin is more intuitive but, sonically I love that Classic Compressor.

Maybe where there is less discussion is around the Limiter.
While you can get a more accurate control over the IKM one (more range of attack / release ranges), the protection level of the Sonnox is higher and, the Dithering button is really great to check if the mix is going  to sound bad once transported to a 16 bits environment.

Compared to those plugins, I find Blue Cat Audio's plugings more complex to control and, sonically slightly behind those. But, I still love their Meter Pro plugin. What a nice one!.

13 January 2014

Home Studio: Blue Cat's plugins


While crossgrading to PT 11 and missing some of my key metering and analysis plugins, I've found Blue Cat's metering and analysis plugins as firm candidates to fill that gap.
After trying their Meter Pro and Freq. Analyst Pro plugins, I've decided to download their demo versions of all plugins included in their Master Cat's plugins bunde.

This blog entry is all about my impressions after trying such plugins, under Pro Tools 11.

Blue Cat's Meter Pro

To be honest, it takes a while to be used to Blue Cat's user interface. They usually have more knobs and buttons as you could expect but, in 5 minutes, I felt comfortable with this plugin.
The more cryptic aspect was the Crest meter. Since I didn't know for sure what that meter was measuring, I pushed the help button (the one with the question mark) and... oh... oh... oh... the PDF user's manual popped up on the screen (great!).

That Crest meter is just measuring the Dynamic Range, that is, the difference between average and peak measurements. Great.

Once, understood what is behind this meter, I was absolutelly satisfied with this plugin.
It covers any kind of metering system, including the typical (and used-to) K-System meters (K-20, K-14 and K-12) and, I love that kind of cloud events that easily leave you to see how the RMS and Peak RMS are moving in your mix. Really, very good and informative information.
Same cloud system is used for Crest (Dynamic Range), which is really helpful. Click on the image for a full-size pic.

To me, this is a nice combination of the TT Dynamic Range Meter and the meter section of the Inspector XL. I'm only missing rest of analysis tools included in Inspector XL and the Mono button of the TT Dynamic Range. Related to the dynamics / volume / loudness meter, Blue Cat's blended TT Dynamic Range metter and Inspector XL meter and, even improved those.

While I can save some money, I am using Blue Cat's Meter Pro demo version (which goes in bypass mode from time to time but, allows me to get the sense of loudness and Dynamic Range of my mixes, anyway).

Blue Cat's Freq. Analyst Pro

Well, here it cames most of the rest of analysis tools I was missing, respect of Inspector XL plugin.
While in Inspector XL everything was integrated under a single view, where you had all needed information (Stereo image, correlation, stereo balance, frequency analysis -FFE, 1/3 octaves, frequency loudness- and, even oversampling metering!), you can cover all that with three Blue Cat's plugins.

This particular Blue Cat's plugin gives you all info related to frequency analysis. It leaves you to focus on RMS or peaks for both channels, each separatelly or everything together.

It has a 2D and a 3D display. Ok the 3D is just a nice display enhancement but, adds no real value to the information displayed in traditiional 2D mode. The really exciting part is the one that allows you what to display at any time. I'm missing the 1/3 octave display of Inspector XL but, to be honest, this was the less used of all meters.

Overall, the plugin is a very good analysis tool. The pity is that you have to pay it appart of their Meter Pro and, we have still a pending plugin to cover every Inspector XL meter.

Blue Cat's StereoScope

This is the third Blue Cat's tool that completes the range of meters included with Inspector XL.
Here we have the representation of the the stereo image, in an unusual but practical way and, the phase correlation and stereo balance typical meters.

With those three tools, all the metering tools available in Inspector XL and, the metering info from TT Dynamic Range meter are on your hands (except for that Mono button of the TT Dynamic Range meter and, the 1/3 Octave analysis from Inspector XL).

But parameters to set up the wanted accuracy and thresholds of metering are adjustable, while in the mentioned plugins, it was not possible.
Because of such a personalization level for each plugin, I can understand why they are being delivered as three independent plugins. Each one is just doing a certain task but, all them are doing it in a very good way.

BlueCat's Dynamics

As in the case of Sonnox Dynamics plugin, BlueCat is offering a single plugin that covers most of Dynamics tasks.

It can be a bit cryptic to understand at a first glance but you have there full control on your dynamics.
The input section has a gain control that you can use to provide some gain to the input material before applying any dynamic tool.
A side-chain section allows you to filter the mid band of frequencies that will be affected by the dynamics tools (the side-chain section of Sonnox is more complete, in this case).

The filter on section allows you to remove any unwanted low and high end frequencies from both, unaltered signal and compressed signal (two shelves filters).

The Stereo section allows you to work with linked channels, independent channels of M/S.

Mode section allows you to work with any range of behaviour between a typical compressor and a fast-reaction Opto-compressor and, any mix between focus into peaks or RMS values.

The cryptic Low Curve corresponds to a Gate and allows you to filter those events which loudness is under a certain gain level.

The High Curve corresponds to a typical compressor effect and, allows you to clearly define threshold, knew spot and type, among compression levels.

The Gain section, when working in auto-gain mode, pushes the mix really hot and, reacts to the envelope of the input material with accuracy.

In the Output section, we have the possibility to engage a Brickwall limiter, to push the output (once post-processed) with an additional (clean) gain and (this is really exciting), to determine the amount of unprocessed and processed signals that are blend in the output.
This blender knob allows you for parallel compression, which works really natural.

This is a very good and transparent dynamics processor, without any doubt.
It has some thing that I cannot find in Sonnox Dynamics but, Sonnox has other things (as the Warm or the more complex EQ section) that I cannot find here.
Not exclusive, both are good tools for the proper case.

In the master channel, I made some comparisons by using the IK Multimedia OptoCompressor, the Blue Cat's Dynamics S, Sonnox Dynamics, and the Avid Dynamics III.
I loved the results of all, except the Avid one.

Since the Blue Cat's can behave as a regular compressor, as well as an optocompressor and, everything in between (there is a blender knob that allows you to select the mix of both behaviors!), it can sound quite well the same as the IKM optocompressor but, less coloring (at 100% Opto).
But, the setting at noon (50% VCA-Opto) with 50% Peak - RMS compression works really nice, with a sligth touch of color.

I don't like the auto-gain mode but, love the 2 stages oversampling control.
Overall, a very good compressor, with great dynamics controls, very intuitive, very useful.

That possibility to blend the effects of an VCA and an Opto compressor is unique in my Dynamics plugins. In the case of IKM you can select several different compressors and, for some, you can even select a different mode or algorithm. Same for Sonnox Dynamics, where you can choose a normal, classic or linear mode. But, in Blue Cat's you can blend the amount of the VCA or Opto effect, what gives you new possibilities.
The IKM Opto doesn't allows you to select a knee and, the Sonnox allows you to define knees as steps of -5dB (-5, -10, -15 and -20dB). The Blue Cat's one allows you to define the exact knee.

With all three you can achieve nice results, and very similar, in fact. Maybe the IKM is just a pinch warmer (if you don't use Sonnox Warm stage).

Blue Cat's Parametr'EQ

Ah, just a 7 bands EQ, right?.

Whatch out!. Nice EQ plugin here!.

It can seem just a typical 7-bands EQ, as the one coming with PT 11 or, the Sonnox EQ plugin but, while the Sonnox EQ plugin has 4 o 5 different EQ modes, this plugin has a lot of nuances.

The key feature is under those little windows named "Non Linear" and "Comp Dist". By changing the ratios on those windows, you have EQ filters that behave very differently, from transparent non linear EQ to colored EQs with phase distortion.
You can choose your color with perfect accuracy and, results are easily heared.
Very recommended EQ plugin, for every task except, maybe, dramatic cuts or de-essing.

Blue Cat's Liny EQ

Well, I didn't tried this plugin. I've forgot to download and install it.
But, if it is able to enhance the Parameter's plugin with Non Linear at 100%, I bet it would be a very good pluging for mastering tasks.

But, to be honest, I cannot say anything about it. Nothing good, nothing bad.

BlueCat Multiband MB-5 processor

Multi-band compressor lovers can go mad with this 5-bands compressor. While most of multi-band compressors are limited to 4-bands, BlueCat's one can work with up to 5 bands and, the most interesting is that you can easily change the crossover areas for each band, as well as any kind of dynamics parameters that you would find in their Dynamics plugin.

Demo version allows me to play with just three bands but, control level over each band is impressive.
Once more, that blender knob in the master section is an awesome tool to make this multi-band processor to enhance the mix doing a parallel compression.

BlueCat Protector

That's theoretically a Brickwall Limiter.

But, while Sonnox Limiter, Massey 2007 Limiter or IK Multimed Brickwall Limiter are intuitive and easy to use (ceil clearly means ceil, max. output level means max. output level), this BlueCat Protector isn't so intuitive.
And, if you look to Avid's Master Meter plugin, the Protector isn't completely protecting your output, since it's generating overasampling events that will translate to clipping events in some players.

To be honest, none of the Limiters mentioned are protecting you 100% but, I clearly prefer the easy to understand interface that other breakwall limiters offer.
What's this trend to change the very well known buttons / knobs / functions?.
This helps to who?.

I'm missing also the dithering controls of the Sonnox Limiter, that are really usefull to check you compression levels before bounce the mix to a lower resolution format.

Not really excited with this BlueCat's plugin, to be honest.


I am very happy to have been discovered Blue Cat Audio. They seem to be doing a great job for a reasonable price.

All plugins are awesome but, I liked specially their Meter Pro, which is now my to-go meter (finally, I can say good bye to Inspector XL and TT Range Meter). I love that kind of density clouds that allow you to see where your RMS and Peaks sit the most, even more interesting than to see the bars go up and down.

To complement the Meter Pro, the  StereoScope is a good plugin. I would prefer some alternative ways to present the Stereo density, as the typical views you can find in most of this kind of plugins but, this is just my personal taste. And I would prefer this plugin to be integrated together with the Meter Pro, to have just an slot busy in the master inserts.

As a final complement to the metering section, the Freq. Analyst gives you loudness by frequency, in several ways but, as the previous one, I would love to have it integrated in the Meter Pro plugin, to have all the info ready at a glance and, to save slots in the master bus.

I am gratefully impressed with their Dynamics plugin. Compared to Sonnox and IK Multimedia plugins, Blue Cat is offering more control and possibilities, with a very intuitive use. The special features that allow you to blend two types of compression: VCA and Opto, that Blender knob that allows you to decide which amount of the unprocessed signal (dry) is in the mix and, the possibility to blend compression based in RMS, Peaks or both, are very impressive and very well welcome.

Their Parmetriq EQ is made in the same way, allowing you to choose between non linear and compensated distortion, with anything in between, making the EQ as colored as you wanted.

Their 5-Multiband and Linear EQ are a plus for mastering tasks but, those are the ones with less use in my case.

Probably, the only plugin that I didn't liked is their Protector. For brickwall limiting tasks, nothing else like Sonnox Limiter, IMHO.

12 January 2014

Home Studio: Migrating to Pro Tools 11. Some Reflexions - Part II


In previous part, I was sharing with you my short experience while migrating from PT 8.0.5 LE to Pro Tools 11. It was clear that some of my foundamental plugins were missing and, I wanted to check if PT 10 (included with PT 11) could be enough and, which are the differences between the one and the other.

I've spent a couple of days installing all my plugings, after installing PT 10 and, this is a lot of software and a lot of time. Before my memory fails, I would like to share my impressions.

Checking Pro Tools 10

After long time downloading last versions and installing everything, it was the time to check PT 10 and, see if my investment in RTAS plugins was ensured.

The first 3 attempts to start the program failed. The program was crashing while loading plugins. Each time in a different spot so, it wasn't an error related to a certain plugin.

The forth time, I was able to open PT 10 and load the demo song that comes with PT 11 (which I've already modified adding some plugins in the master fader).

At a glance, PT 10 seems really similar to PT 8 and, fortunatelly all the bunch of plugins that I were installing were there, available for use and, this includes several 32 bits AAX and RTAS plugins. My loved plugins where there: the Sonnox Elite pack, every IK Multimedia plugin, Massey Plugins, EZDrummer, Superior Drummer 2, Inspector XL, the TT Range Meter and, some free stuff from BlueCat.

Ok. I started the song trying to do a critical hearing but, after half second, the engine stopped with a warning, asking me to increase the number of CPUs in the Engine's menu.
Fine. Number of CPUs was 4 so, I've raised the number to 7 (I've seen a video explaining that you should free at least 1 for system tasks).

After fixing this parameter, I started to play with the several plugins and checking if they were still working.
I can say that everything was working really nice and, the song sounded nice.
Maybe, the small nuances of the song sounded slightly veiled, compared to PT 11 but, overall, results were satisfactory enough.

I had the sensation that the engine was working with a higher load than in PT 11. I've opened the System window and, the CPU load was around a 30%. Memory and disk usage was ridiculous to be considered in this comparison.
But, later, I've checked same file, with same plugins in PT 11 and, the load was more or less the same but, I had the sensation that, while PT 10 seemed to be overloaded, PT 11 worked way smoothly.
I think the new engine is an improvement, for sure and, I would like to check it again with audio tracks, to see how both deliver when disk is involved in the equation.

Before re-checking the song in PT 11, I was surprised with one more goody: PT 10 was hunging on the void when trying to close it. I had to go to the Tasks Manager to delete the process. That made impossible to open PT 11 without re-starting the system.

I had the sensation that PT 10 was highly unestable, at least running under Windows 8.1 64 bits.
4 crashes in a row, just the first day, seems too much, IMHO.

Re-checking PT 11

Before checking again PT 11, I've installed the demo version of BlueCat Meter Pro plugin, to see if such a plugin is a good candidate to substitute both, the TT Dynamic Meter and Inspector XL.
Well, it can cover both meters with ease but, I will miss the mono button  on the TT Dynamic Meter, that was so useful to check the corrective EQ of the individual parts, as well as hidden phase issues.
From Inspector XL, I will miss the rest of meters, useful to check the stereo balance, stereo image, correlation and, frequency analysis tools.
I am so used to the K-System of metering that, I am really happy to have found a real candidate to substitute both meters.

But, BlueCat has a lot of such a tools also so, I think I will end buying those but, in the meanwhile, I can work with their demo versions, which are totally operative but, with the particularity that they are automatically and randomly bypassed, as part of the demo "fee".
That could be a real issue with dynamics processors or EQ processors but, not for their suit of meters.

If you are in PT 11 and you miss your Inspector XL and TT Dynamic Range Meter, try the demo versions from BlueCat. Not so straight forward (lot of buttons to press) as the former ones and, I loved that display of the density clouds of the average and peak RMS. Very interesting.
I am looking forward to check their rest of analysis tools. They seem promising.

Overall, I would say that the mix sounds more airy with PT 11, slightly  (a pinch) better but, difference isn't so dramatical. I would have no doubts on continue using PT 10 and protect my investment but, what really concerns me is the reliability of PT 10. Too much crashes in a very short time.

I dunno, maybe because I am in a 64 bits system, PT 11 works flawless while PT 10 seems highly unestable and, that compromises the possibility to protect my investment in previous plugins.

So, IMHO, you should carefully weight which path do you want to follow, before purchasing PT 11.
If you have a bunch of useful RTAS plugins (even some VST that were wrapped to RTAS) and, their respective manufacturers haven't available a 64 bits AAX version and, they don't have in project to deliver such an upgrade or, if they have it but that means to raise your investment, you should make your maths and take a decision.

If you decide to stay with PT 10, my recommendation is that you work with PT 10 in an estable 32 bits Operating System. Maybe you can have your hardware ready for a 64 bits system but, install the 32 bits version of the Operative System. I bet this would be more estable than running that 32 bits application in a 64 bits system.

In my case, with a 64 bits Operating System, I have no other option than to go ahead with PT 11, after seeing the lack of reliability of PT 10.

11 January 2014

Home Studio: Migrating to Pro Tools 11. Some reflexions about.


I've started using Pro Tools as a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) around 2008 and, started with version 7.4 LE but, I've bought it just in the moment I had an indult to use 8.0 as soon as it was available, what occured really soon so, we can say that I am mostly a PT 8.0 LE user.

I was really happy with my old PC, with Windows XP Professional edition, my Pro Tools and some plugins I had purchased. But, as soon as I've started to buy serious plugins and to start recording my stuff then, issues popped up.

One of the worst issues that I had was related to a notable delay between the reproduction monitoring and the input recording. Such a big gap lead me to lots of mistakes, since there is no way to go with the click when the reproduction of what you are recording happens half second later.
Most of advanced DAW softwares were using delay auto-compensation and, I ever wondered why the most used DAW in Studios hadn't such a valuable feature.

Other issues were related to the hardware itself. Disk wasn't speedy enough, memory was low and, the CPU (even being an Extreme Edition) started to be highly overloaded with new brand plugins.

I was delaying the need to go for a higher version of Pro Tools for a long while, because that meant to upgrade (or replace) the complete PC and, probably the Operative System.

But, environment pushed me hard. Windows XP support is going to be discontinued very soon (if it isn't already over), what meant that I better go for a never Windows version.

First version of Pro Tools featuring delay auto-compensation was Version 10, which wasn't available for Windows XP but, only for Windows 7 (and then, for Windows 8). That was the one I've planned to buy in a future.

Well, since XP is gonna be discontinued and Pro Tools 10 worked for Windows 7 and 8, I've decided that it was time to change everything: PC, Operative System and Pro Tools version. But then, I've seen that PT 10 wasn't listed anymore and, that Avid was pushing hard PT 11.

Since PT 11 works in real 64 bits, a 64 bits operating system is a must and therefore, I've decided to jump really high and go for Windows 8.1 64 bits.

And this blog entry is all about the issues I've found when jumping so high. Maybe it will let you to better weight whether to go for PT 11 or stay in PT 10.

Buying Pro Tools 11 crossgrade

Once, I've decided to go ahead with Pro Tools upgrade, I went to Avid site and searched for Pro Tools 10.
Huh?. What?. Where is PT 10?.
Avid was talking about PT 8, 9 and 11 but, no trace of PT 10.
What's happening?. I'd swear it was there a couple of month ago !!!.

Ok. It seems that PT 11 includes PT 10 also and, both are independent versions of PT that can be installed in same machine. I wondered why. Answers came later.

Well, reading a tad more, I saw that PT 11 works just with 64 bits AAX plugings, that means that I cannot reuse my RTAS plugins. WHY ???.

It seems that AAX plugins are enhanced versions of PT plugins, that should deal with the new PT Audio Engine, which (as per Avid words) is way more efficient and powerful than the previous DAE (which worked with RTAS plugins).

There are two versions of AAX plugins, those that where compiled for 32 bits systems and those that where compiled for 64 bits systems. PT 11 works just with 64 bits AAX plugins, while PT 10 is able to work with your old RTAS plugins, as well as with 32 bits AAX plugins.

It seems as if PT 10 was the bridge between the old legacy Digidesign Pro Tool versions and the new Avid Pro Tool versions. While PT 10 can handle everything, PT 11 is very restricted.

Since Avid insists to define PT 11 as the biggest step forward in DAW software, I wanted to check first PT 11, before deciding what to do.

But, what about our investment in plugings for our previous versions of PT?.
Ah, ok!. If you want to use your expensive RTAS plugins, you can use PT 10 version.
So good, so nice. If you want to re-use your investment you cannot work with the top notch PT11.
Therefore, have I to work with PT10 and, when everything is ready, to import the project in PT11 to give the final touch to projects?. Crazy.
I mean, if PT 10 is able to work with RTAS stuff, couldn't Avid developed some software inside that new engine to run 32 RTAS plugins inside?.

With all those doubts rumbling in my head, I went ahead. Purchased a powerfuler PC, with speeder disks, lots of memory and a good CPU. Installed Windows 8.1 64 bits edition, some basic tools and, went for PT 11 download.

Huh?. Ah?. Were is my activation key?. I don't see PT 11 listed in my products area!.
Reading more carefully, PT 11 needs the license to be downloaded to a Dongle Key (iLok) version 2.
So, my old iLok doesn't work?. Ok. Purchasing a damned iLok version 2 and, waiting until I get the iLok to start installing my new brand PT 11. How excited I am !.

Aha. I've got the license in my new iLok 2. I've transferred also all my other licenses (not demo ones) to iLok 2 and, started installation of PT 11.

I was very happy to see that, this time, Avid made a single downloadable file for the complete process.
I've installed PT 11, started the Digidesign Rack 003 interface and opened an old project.

Damn!. It doesn't recognizes the audio interface.
After some tries, I've decided to search for info in Avid site and, voilĂ , you need to install FIRST drivers, which aren't included in PT 11 !!!.
Downloaded and installed drivers. This time the interface comes back to life.

Browsing the user's interface.
Mmm... just the old Audiosuite but, in AAX format, and just a couple of plugins that seem to be new (at least to me).
Overall, it looks the same (nice!) and, you can find everything where it was. This time, the interface was translated to Spanish (nice!) so, I am feeling at home.

Hmm... I am missing instruments and other plugins. Wait, there is some download named AIR Creative Collection. Let's download and install it.
Nice. Most of the stuff that came with my Rack 003 Factory bundle is there.

I am wondering how can I install the Music Production Toolkit 2 that I own.
No specific updates for PT 11 and, it seem those kind of products are discontinued!.
Every license contained in such a kind of bundles ended with an LE is not elegible for upgrade to PT 11 so, bye bye to Smack! LE compressor, among other LE plugins included in MPT2.
Fortunatelly, the MP3 bounce tool is already included, among the rest of not LE things.
Well, crossed feelings here. In one side, I always thought that all that was included in MPT2 should come stock in any PT version but, in the other side, I've payed a bunch of money for that extras and, half of my investment has gone.

Reviewing configuration menus, I see that now you can define a project working at 32 bits and 48 KHz (finally, a Studio setup!), what means a good improvement respect of previous versions that allowed a max resolution of 24 bits.
You can force PT to automatically translate the audio files when importing from a previous version to your project resolution and, what is even more impresive, you can change your project's resolution at any time, something that was impossible in previous versions.

In the ASIO controller (Windows Control Pannel), I can see that you can select the input volume for each pair of channels (1-2, 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8) and, you can setup the resolution and sampling rate for each one separately. Very nice!.

I/O Configuration is easier now and, you have a clear way to identify each input, output and bus and, even to determine the hardware delay for each input / output.
On Menu Options, the sought-after Delay Compensation options. Nice, nice, nice.

Everything looks the same but, with better resolution and more rational configuration options.

The Hell of Plugins

Before trying PT 10, I wanted to check the availability of 64 bits AAX version of my purchased RTAS plugins.

IK Multimedia plugins

After trying PT 11 alone, it was time to start upgrading my plugins. I remembered that IK Multimedia was delivering AAX versions of their plugins so, my investment was ensured with IKM.
Effectively, I've downloaded new versions and, everything was ready to be used in AAX format.

Just a side note. Version of IKM plugins that work in 64 bits AAX format are those delivered with the Custom Shop (T-Racks CS and Amplitube CS). So, if you have T-Racks singles, those aren't available as AAX plugins.
Since I went myselft for an upgrade from T-Racks Singles to T-Racks CS Grand some time ago, my plugins are read to use in PT 11.

IK Multimedia is one of the very few plugin makers that will preserve your investment.

But, the awesome ARC 2 hasn't a 64 bits AAX version!!!!.
What the hell?.
This is a priced plugin and a must in any home studio!!!.
It has a 32 bits AAX version to be used with PT 10.

RNDigital Plugins

To me, Inspector XL is a key tool. All their meters are a must for me to mix ITB during the night, since they offer me more information that the headphones for some critical hearings.
Therefore, I wanted to check if there was an AAX version ready to download, as in the case of IKM plugins.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?. Roger Nichols is dead !!!. RNDigital site is down !!!.
Searching Internet....
Whaaaaaaaaaat?. Some legal issues with the real developer ended closing Rogern Nichols sites and, that plugin isn't available anymore. Elemental Audio that was selling it is also down.

I am really upset. That plugin was key in my toolbox and, costed a bunch of money just being a set of meters.

SoundToys plugins

Well, SoundToys site seems to be alive, still but, they doesn't seem to update their software very often.
There is no AAX version available. No way.
Well, this set of plugins is very specific and, I am using basically the Reverb plugin by Sonnox so, I am not missing really nothing here.

Sonnox plugins

I remember to have seen AAX versions of Sonnox plugins available so, let's go there to download them!.
If you want the AAX versions of Sonnox plugins, you have to pay 15 GBP for each one and, even so, there are some plugins that aren't still available in AAX format.
I've spent a lot of money in Sonnox plugins and, now, I have to spent around 150 Eur more to have those working for PT 11.

Sonnox plugins were the hell expensive. Very bad I have to pay an extra fee for PT 11.
I've decided to buy one by one, when I really need some but, this leaves me with very few weapons!.

FXpansion plugins

Seeing the issues with AAX versions of my RTAS plugins, I bought long time ago the FXpansion RTAS Wrapper, which was able to convert around 98% of my VST plugins into RTAS versions, directly usable under the AudioSuite Menu.

I have an idea!!!.
They will probably have now an AAX wrapper and, therefore, I should be able to wrap all my RTAS plugins to be used with PT 11.
What a great idea!!!.

Oh, not!. They don't have an AAX wrapper and, they will not do it!!!.
SAD, FXpansion. Your RTAS wrapper was an awesome tool.

TT Dynamic Range Meter

Another of my key metering tools, that costed my some money, on Tyschmeyer' site.
Well. There is no AAX version available to download and, the original maker (Algorithmix) isn't maintaining or selling it. So, another great plugin to the trash can.

It seems that now, Brainworx is selling an enhanced version of such a meter but, isn't available as an AAX version. What a pity!.

It seems that the only affordable alternative to solve the lack of the Inspector XL and TT Dynamic Range will be to buy Blue Cat's Meters. More money, OMG!.
I'm downloading all Blue Cat's freeware plugins to check which quality level do they have, before taking a decision. They seem very complete but, complexer, not dummy-proof.

ToonTrack plugins

Long time ago, I've purchased first the EZDrummer and several EZX expansion packs and, about one year later, Superior Drummer 2.0 and several SDX expansion packs.
Those are rarelly used, when I have to manually sequence some drums parts.

Well, it seems that ToonTrack did their duties and their products are up-to-date, providing 32 bits and 64 bits versions but, the installation is a bit messy. You have to install the original product version and, then to apply first late 32 bits update and then the 64 bits update. You better leave installation directories as default, to avoid weird results.

After a couple of days, downloading and installing everything, I've opened a PT 11 session and, inserted an Instrument Track to check if EZDrummer and Superior Drummer where available.
Both are now listed as Instruments for PT 11. Nice!.
Trying Superior Drummer... ok... Authorizing it. It seems to work.
Trying EZDrummer... CRASH!!!!. PT aborted.

I have to troubleshooting this. Will update status in a new blog entry.

112dB Plugins

Just one 112dB plugin I've purchased, the Red Monitor. This plugin allowed me to mix with headphones simulating same conditions as if I was hearing the mix thru monitors and, was a key plugin to silenty mix, without disturbing my family. Results where very close to real thing so, I liked it very much.

It seems that 112dB plugins are compatible with every PT version except 11 but, 64 bits AAX versions "are in the pipeline" (as per 112dB words).

Please, make it free!.

Massey Plugins

Well, currently Massey Plugins are compatible with PT up to version 10.
Fortunatelly, that guy is working on 64 bits AAX versions (in Beta Phase as per October 2013).
Knowing how Massey does things or they will be available for free or they will be available for a ridiculous upgrading price.

What about PT 11?. Does it Deliver?.

I was a Cakewalk user for a very loooong time. After visiting some little Studios, I've realized that the to-go DAW was Pro Tools and, when I've tested my old Cakewalk songs in Pro Tools, I've instantanelly noticed a nice improvement in sound, just using stock plugins.

Well, comparing PT 8.0.5 LE to PT 11, I can say that I am feeling same improvement level. Things sound more "airy", more "correct" and, I am not feeling the sensation that the delicate nuances are being missing.

Stock plugins work better, smoother and clearer than in PT 8 and, I see the possibility to make a good mix just using stock plugins.

I was highly impressed with their new Channel Strip plugin. IMHO, this single plugin can do everything you wanted for a track or bus. A master piece of software, indeed.
I've tested it in every single track (bypassing previous plugins) and, it had an usable preset to be used for each track (which I tweaked just a bit to my taste) and, in all them it made an awesome, crystall clear and musical work. My congratulations, Avid people!. This is the best Avid plugin ever.

I've loaded one of my well known songs but, some tracks where missing. I've probably lost some information when swapping the PC so, I cannot blame PT for this. I will do further tests with new stuff, in any case.

I've loaded their demo session and, I was impressed with the bunch of tracks that were loaded, with lots of virtual instruments and, lots of plugins. I've opened the System window to check resources use and, I was impressed how low the CPU and memory usage where.
There are not so many audio tracks in that demo so, it's difficult to know how efficient it will be with audio tracks. Most of tracks where midi tracks triggering virtual instruments.

The Master Meter is also a nice tool to see if your Brickwall Limiter is doing its task and, it seems that IKM Brickwall Limiter isn't able to control everything. There are lots of oversampling events so, I guess I need to go for that 64 bits upgrade of the Sonnox Limiter.

I've tested several IKM plugins, mainly in the main bus but, also in some instruments, just to check if PT 11 was able to stand that load (IKM plugins are running with the highest resolution, what means a lot of load).
Everything worked smoothly. No issues and, awesome musical results (well, that's why I love IKM stuff).

I take advantage of this testing session to check the cryptic IKM Quad processors and, the Quad Imagine was a nice discovery, allowing me to widen the stereo image, just for those bands I wanted it.
I've also used the Bus Compressor (awesome as a glueing compressor, with a very light compression and gain makeup) and the (I confess it, underrated) OptoCompressor, among any other typical studio ones: Fairchild 670, White 2A, Black 79, etc. All them delivered good sound.

I still don't like their Metering suite. I think it's bogus or, I cannot understand what the hell is it doing.
Even pushing the mix hard, RMS levels stay always around -20dB, while I clearly see in other meters (as in the Limiter) that RMS are way over -20dB, maybe around -12dB.
That's why I loved Inspector XL and TT Dynamic Range Meters and, that's why I need to solve this ASAP.
I'm missing the K-System all the way!.

Overall, from a reproduction point of view, PT 11 seems a step over previous versions and, that channel strip is a top-notch workhorse that will make lot of people to smile, when using it in their mixes.
Don't forget to try it!. It's a GREAT plugin!.
The drawback is that it looks like a tad arcane, with lots of parameters and possibilities.
Best approach is just to recall some of its presets and then, to tweak a little bit something.
It deserves an in deep analysis to fully understand this incredible good tool.

Lots of tests are still pending and, very specially, those related to recording and, how PT 11 handles the delay or low latency monitoring.
I'm still pending on testing PT 10 also, that seems the Island I need to go to preserve my previous investment in plugins.


Pro Tools 11 seems the near future but, it cannot be the present. The present is Pro Tools 10.
Plugin makers are still dealing with their 64 bits AAX versions. Some will do that for free, some will charge you more or less money for an upgrade.

Currently, you cannot expect to smoothly re-use all your purchased RTAS plugins with Pro Tools 11.
It seems that Avid shaked the plugins market and, due to the highly technical development behind any audio plugin, it's gonna take a while for makers to have their plugins ready for a 64 bits AAX version.

Will I recommend to crossgrade to PT11?.
Yes, indeed.
It will take a while to have all your wanted 64 bits AAX plugins ready but, since PT 11 includes PT 10, you can buy PT 11 for tomorrow and use PT 10 for today.

Go for a 64 bits PC and Operating System. This will ensure you that you will be able to use PT 11 once everything settles. In the meanwhile, you can use that 32 bits PT 10 in a 64 bits platform without issues and,  you can process tracks in PT 10 and import processed audio files to PT 11.

In a next blog entry, I will share my tests of version 10. I hope I will recover all my beloved plugins there but, how the system will work?. How nice it will sound?. Would it be a notable sonic difference respect PT 11?.
Ah, Ah, Ah!. Too many questions to be answered.
Stay tuned.