Plug-In Stand-Ins

One of the reasons I’m dropping Pro Tools is that every TDM plug-in carries a two-fold price premium for no good reason. I built this rig in the Mac OS 9 days, and I’m now dying to move to OS X, so the upgrade cost for each and every plug-in is also annoyingly expensive. Aside from being a drain on customers, this also seems to discourage independent programmers from coming up with interesting new plug-ins.

I’ve spent the last year seeking out replacements for my current tools. I figured I’d need all new bread & butter basics to replace the Waves 3 bundle and McDSP plug-ins I’m used to, but I’ve discovered some very cool new goodies on the way! Check them out, keeping mind that the Waves 5 TDM Platinum upgrade is $1600 MSRP, which still doesn’t include the full multi-band version of L3:

EQ – TriTone ValveTone and HydraTone are incredible vintage equalization simulated in software, U-he Filterscape is a phat hybrid with all kinds of amazing extras like dynamic EQ and filtered delays, Elemental Audio Eqium and Firium round out the clean digital side, along with Logic’s own Channel, Match and Linear Phase EQ. The Logic plug-ins are free, I picked up both EA plug-ins in a group buy last year for $109, U-he offered Filterscape pre-release for $79, and I’m in a group buy right now for the TriTone plugs, hopefully reaching $89 for both. Good start.

Reverb – Logic’s Space Designer is huge. Convolution reverb allows you to match any space (or device) by sampling a special sound there only once. And it’s not limited to reverbs. People have sampled their classic, expensive reverbs along with guitar amps, compressors, and more. This used to be $500, but now it’s free in Logic 6 & 7. For good ol’ synthetic reverb, I’ve been using and liking Logic’s PlatinumVerb and EnVerb, along with Magnus’ donationware Ambience. Surprisingly, I’ve been impressed by Apple’s own AU Matrix Reverb too. That one is built into OS X itself! Total cost for reverb: $0.

Dynamics – For general dynamics like vocal bus, de-essing, and the like, I’ve already picked up Elemental Audio’s Neodynium which can be configured to do all sorts of cool digital tricks ($69 for previous EA customers). On the other hand, nothing beats old fashioned phatness, and that’s where PSP Vintage Warmer will come in (group buy, $69). Logic’s dynamics plug-ins are decent, and I’ll probably use Battery 2‘s built-in compression for most drums. For mastering and limiting, I just tested and purchased iZotope Ozone (group buy, $145). In a 1:1 showdown versus several other limiters at +12 dB on a difficult piece of audio, Ozone’s limiter section did the best job with the least audible destruction. It even beat out Waves L3 ($600), which was a shocker.

Look Ma, no iLok!

Virtual instruments are an entirely new world altogether. Next time…