Q It Up: Time to get an update on your favorite plugs! What are some of your favorite 3rd party plug-ins? Who makes them? What do they do? Any new plugs on your wish list?
Jay Rose [jay[at]dplay.com]: My favorite plug-in is an 8-year old dinosaur: SFXMachine. When I was programming the Eventide DSP-4000B in the mid-90s, I fell in love with the idea of free-form DSP for effects creation. This is a system that lets you string together equalizers, compressors, delays, and almost any other audio building block imaginable... not just in series or parallel, like a patchbay, but also so that individual blocks can modify the behavior of others.
If you’re into creating or manipulating sounds, it’s a powerful technique. It let me write a hundred cool broadcast production presets for the 4000B (eventide.com), and even more for their staggeringly powerful and expensive Orville processor.
Then I came across SFXMachine, which does the same thing for a couple of bucks on a desktop. The original version, still at SFXMachine.com for $25, lets you use up to 8 simultaneous filters, envelope followers, or oscillators. It runs under Mac OS9 and requires Premiere-format host software like early versions of Peak, but is powerful enough for some of the demonstrations in my Audio Postproduction book/CD. (There’s a lot in that book for radio production types; details at dplay.com/book... but that’s another kind of plug.)
More recent versions of SFXMachine run in Windows and Mac OSX, are compatible with most current audio software, and cost $100. They don’t let you string together modules arbitrarily the way the original version did, but come with a few hundred pre-built and tunable effects: ear-catching stuff you won’t find in most other plug-ins.
Download the demo from their website, and spend a few minutes running voices through it. Or music. Or sound effects. You’ll be hooked.
Craig Jackman [craigj[at]canada.com], Rogers Media, Ottawa Canada: With no conflict of interest, the only plug-ins that I have installed that I ever use are from iZotope. I really love Spectron and use it a lot for sci-fi sounds and weird noises, Vinyl 1.6 for making something sound like a garage sale record or similar lo-fi abuse, and on occasion Ozone 3 for mastering use to make something as big as it can be. Not to be a complete company shill, but even though Trash is installed, I haven’t found much use for it other than the occasional voice distortion effect when I’m searching for an idea. That’s it. Oh sure, there are some VST freeware plug-ins sitting there, but I never use them. Nothing worth mentioning so I won’t.
What do I have on my wish list? I have serious gear-slut lust for a UAD-1 card and it’s plug-ins that would work in Audition. Either that or VST or DX versions of the TDM plug-ins from Bomb Factory of their vintage compressors like the LA-2A or Fairchild limiter. I had a version of the Steinberg TL Audio EQ-1 equalizer that I liked a lot, but it was of questionable legality so I got rid of it — a real one of those would be on my list. There are two Waves plug-ins that I like a lot, the Renaissance Compressor and C4 multi-band limiter, but the rest of the Waves line doesn’t do much for me.
Dave Spiker [DaveSpiker[at]aol.com], Imagination Media: My favorites would have to be the Sonic Foundry Direct X plug-ins (now adopted by Sony). I also like the Anwida bundle, the dB-ware plug-ins, and some of the weird ones in the Hyperprism bundle from Arboretum. On my wish list is the SFX Machine RT from www.sfxmachine.com. When I win the lottery, perhaps a WAVES bundle.
Carson Manette [cmanette[at]cogeco .ca]: I know that everybody is gonna say “I love Waves...” and hell I love ‘em too. But there’s a lot of other good stuff for PC’s out there, like Antares Filter (DX/VST/RTAS at www.antarestech.com) — not just a variable filter plug, it’s got delays, tempo sync and a gadjillion presets to tweak. It’s more like an fx toolbox. If you like ‘em free, Izotope Vinyl (DX/VST/RTAS) is probably the best turntable emulator plug going, and it’s totally free. Finally, the one plug-in that all the millionaires need to get (and by the way you all owe me $5 for this tip) is the KT Granulator (VST/AU at www.smart electronix.com) Free again, and I can’t even explain what this one does, but the kid who invented it should be in the space program. Here’s what the website says:
“Incoming (mono) sound is fed into a delay line from which small pieces of various durations and at different moments in the past are selected. Each of these pieces is then amplified, transposed and enveloped to form a “grain”. Each grain is also randomly panned and the whole mix is sent out to a stereo output stream. Feedback of the grain output back into the delay line is also provided, and the delay line can also be frozen so that the grains are only taken from what is currently stored in the delay line.”
As far as plugs on my wish list, don’t need one. Just check out www.kvr audio.com. This site has a catalog of links to VST and DX plug-ins and about 50% of them are freeware, created by some really talented guys who probably don’t get enough fresh air.
Richard Stroobant [bigdick[at]cjay92 .com], CJAY 92/VIBE 98.5/AM 1060 CKMX, Calgary, Alberta, Canada: We run ProTools here on a Mac. My favorite plug-in is STILL Pitchblender. Now, Pitchblender is not my most used plug-in, but it is my fav. My most used are, for EQ, you can’t beat Focusrite, The L-1 Compressor in the Waves bundle is great for compression, and D-Verb is an excellent reverb unit for voice. I run almost everything through those 3 plug-ins. But when I am looking for an effect, PitchBlender is my choice. I am pretty sure the guys who designed PitchBlender also were part of the Eventide Harmonizer outboard gear (that’s probably the only outboard gear I still wish I had). PitchBlender has a ton of presets on it, however, every one of them is MAXED out, so it takes some time to adjust the effect down to the desired level. But once you find a setting you like, save it as a favorite and you’re good to go. The package I got had TimeBlender and PitchDoctor included in it, and they also have some very cool effects (again, they are maxed).
Jason Skaggs [zackl[at]zrgmail.com], Joplin, Missouri: I like everything “Ozone” has to offer. From compression, EQ’s… and their reverb’s not bad either. I don’t use them every time, but in most cases I’ll use a very light compression setting on the entire mix down.
As for new plugs on my wish list? Hmmmmm… I wish someone, somewhere with a big fat computer, maybe a Mac 6, or even a Pentium 8, and with more brain’s than I would ever have in a million years, could come up with a plug-in that would once and for all solve the problem of VERY BAD RUN ON SENTENCES like this one. Sorry, inside joke. Gotta love local ad agencies trying to write copy. It’s a Freakin’ Joke!!! They care nothing about the client; it’s all about their pocket book. Sorry, what where we talking about.....oh, yes.... PLUG IN’S. I love ‘em!