by Steve Cunningham
Plug-ins designed for speech and voiceover evidently comprise a hot little market segment, judging by the email responses I received from the last review of a speech-oriented processor. Several voice artists and producers wrote that the existence of these plugs helped them drop pounds and extra cables from their remote recording rigs, which in many cases are now down to a microphone, a Mic Port Pro or similar, a mic cable, and a laptop computer. The size of their traveling rig now depends primarily on the size of mic they take, as the Mic-Port-ish interface add negligible bulk (about the size of a nice Dominican Robusto).
A mere ninety days after I wrote about an all-in-one processor aimed specifically at vocal work, I got wind of another product aimed at nearly the same market and nearly the same price point. The folks at Wave Arts are offering up their take on a complete plug designed for speech processing. Aptly named Dialog, this plug-in consists of a full set of practical tools for cleaning, enhancing, and otherwise polishing your voiceover tracks, all for $249.95.
It was evident in reading the literature that Wave Arts had determined they were not targeting Dialog at users who record vocal stylings in general, but specifically at those who record voiceovers and dialog, in radio and in post production. As we’ll see, Dialog has the necessary tools for music applications as well, but the specific choices of processors and how they are organized gives Dialog a decided tilt towards speech. Of course, there’s the product name...
Before we begin, it should be noted that Wave Arts consists of a small team of CSGs who have been creating interesting and good-sounding plug-ins since the late 1990s. Many of the modules within Dialog are descended from the company’s Power Suite line that I reviewed some five years ago, so this is no sophomore effort. (Incidentally, CSG stands for Certifiable Smart Guy, and implies no specific gender, race, creed, color, religion, politics, or other organic or inorganic affiliation; just a scary-high level of smartness where digital signal processing is concerned.)
All that’s missing from the tech requirements is some flavor of *nix -- both the Mac and Windows OS are fully supported in pretty much all forms. On the Windows side, Dialog comes in versions for XP, Vista, and Win 7 in either 32-bit or 64-bits; supported formats include DirectX, VST, and RTAS (for Pro Tools). On the Mac side, Dialog supports anything from OSX 10.4 upward, a situation which becomes more rare by the week as support for Tiger wanes. Supported formats include Audio Units, MAS (for Motu), VST, and RTAS; all run in 32-bits. For this review I ran the plug primarily on a Mac running OSX 10.6.7 inside Cockos Reaper in 32-bit mode; I also tried it out briefly in Win XP, again in 32-bit Reaper. I had no problems whatsoever, and noticed no differences in performance.
Authorizing Dialog uses a challenge-response system which works well enough, although I’d rather have used an iLok (mostly because dang near everything else I have uses the iLok; I know, it’s not a good reason, but there it is). With the plug installed and active, selecting the Tools menu reveals an Unlock Plug In... menu. Selecting this generates a machine number for that specific computer. You’ll then need to hit Wave Arts’ registration page with your serial number, your email addy, and the aforementioned machine number. Entering these on the page generates a Key Code that arrives via email in a matter of minutes. As soon as you enter the Code in the window, Dialog is fully authorized for that computer. Wave Arts allows a total of three installations for each serial number, which does reduce my desire for an iLok auth. But I’d still prefer one.
Once active, Dialog is as efficient as one could expect a multi-function plug in of this caliber to be. Considering how many processors are available here, Dialog’s overall CPU use is positively thrifty. Unlike many others of its ilk, including individual plug-ins, Dialog presents a remarkably light load on the CPU.