Test Drive: Forty Plugs from P&M

by Steve Cunningham

After a few issues wherein we’ve dealt with various forms of Internet esoterica, this month we’ll get back to the basics of assembling a serviceable audio editing station. Our specific goal this month is to investigate inexpensive plug-ins with a minimum of coloration or “character”. In other words, cheap plugs that sound good. It turns out I may have found some.

This month’s evaluation victims come courtesy of a company that originally acted as both publisher and distributor, with the unlikely moniker of Don’tCrac[k]. No, the [k] is not a typo; instead, it’s a nod to the old school label for software whose copy protection had been circumvented, and then distributed freely on the interwebz. More recently the publishing duties have been assigned to a company called Plug and Mix (or P&M for short), which is owned by the same folks that own the Don’tCrac[k] distribution firm.

P&M now offers a total of 40 different plug-ins, spanning the spectrum from work-a-day signal processing to specialized guitar amp simulation. They’re both inexpensive and generally good-sounding, and allow one to assemble a nice arsenal of processing that works across most every platform and editing program. Let’s take a look.

SO WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE?

Given forty plugs to examine, and given that guitar-oriented processors are not particularly useful in radio production and voice over work, it may serve to break out the plugs into categories. If one decided to buy everything P&M makes, one would end up with a total of thirteen guitar-oriented effects (including amp sims and distorters), six “sound design” processors that mangle audio, five dynamic processors and five EQs, and eleven time-based processors including reverb, echo, phasing and flanging, and bass enhancement.

We’ll tackle a few of the dynamics, EQs, and the best of the time-based processors in this evaluation. This is not to ignore all the others, but one can always download an evaluation copy from the plug and mix website (www.plugandmix.com) for a more personal check out. The demo restrictions are quite reasonable -- a demo plug will work for 30 minutes after which it will stop working, presets cannot be saved, and controls cannot be automated. However, you can get another 30 minutes of evaluation by removing the plug, re-launching your editor, and then re-installing the plug to make it active again.

Understand that with few exceptions, these plug-ins are one trick ponies. Their controls are simple, not always calibrated in standard units, and you’ll either like what they do to your track or you won’t. There are no fancy linear phase processors here, since these are not aimed at mastering engineers. They’re a bit like the Waves One Knob plug-ins that we’ve reviewed in the past, but with more character and more controls.

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