Beyond Basic Audio Effects

Infinite Monkeys

There’s a famous theory that if you took an infinite number of monkeys and placed them in front of an infinite amount of typewriters and had them randomly hit keys, you would eventually get every one of Shakespeare’s works. Well, plug-in designers are much smarter than monkeys, and they have been at work now for decades creating phenomenal tools for making music sound better and/or different. Engineers—solving problems and creating efficiencies since the beginning of time.

Multiple Impulse Response Reverb

Reverb has evolved to where you can place each instrument on a virtual stage, with a specific impulse response from that spot on stage and reflection information from the specific orchestral instrument. This one is the handiwork of Vienna Symphonic Library and their MIR Pro plug-in. Naturally, it takes quite the machine to apply a separate impulse response to every instrument in an orchestra, but the results can be astounding.

Assisted Mixing

iZotope’s Neutron automatically analyzes your track and gives you an EQ curve, compressor, exciter, transient shaper, and limiter to start mixing with. It’s EQ is also among the new trend of dynamic EQs; it turns on only when needed, and is bypassed the rest of the time (like Wave’s F6 EQ). It can also be edited opposite other EQs, so when you boost your vocal a few dB at 5k, other instruments can be cut at that same spot automatically to make some extra room.

Signature Signal Paths

Waves is famous for emulating analog gear (like tapes, tubes, transistors, SSL and API consoles, compressors, etc . . .). They do single units and manufacturer’s sets quite often, but also take entire effects chains from top producers and compact them into easy to use single effects and effects packs. Producers’ sounds that have been modeled are Jack Joseph Puig (U2, Green Day), Eddie Kramer, Cris Lord-Alge (U2, Green Day), Manny Marroquin (Rhianna Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys), Tony Maserati (David Bowie, Beyonce, Jay Z), Greg Wells (Katy Perry, One Republic).

Harmonic Enhancers and Analog Warmth

When a sound’s harmonic content isn’t quite right or is lacking altogether, there are plug-ins that can add overtones and other rich content that wasn’t there in the first place. APHEX’s aural exciter is one of the more classic examples. iZotope’s Ozone and Waves’ Vitamin Sonic Enhancer and Infected Mushroom Pusher are newer units. The most sought-after sonic enhancement comes from warm, pleasing harmonics and distortion, usually from analog-modeled gear—the plug-in equivalent of having $100k in analog gear to run a final mix through before calling it good.

Psychoacoustic Bass Enhancement

Wave’s MaxxBass takes content from the actual bass (and sub bass) range and copies it to higher octaves. It wouldn’t be remarkable if it just doubled things up in higher pitches. Instead, it doubles using psychoacoustics in a way that if you listen on speakers that don’t have enough low end, your brain recreates some of that low end so the bass doesn’t suffer too much.

Monitoring Environment Emulation

Waves also has a plug-in/hardware combination that allows you to emulate a pro-sounding monitoring room with your current studio headphones (even doing 7.1 mixing on stereo headphones). It comes with a head tracker so that when you walk around, it sounds like you’re actually walking around a pro mastering suite. It’s a great tool for mixing/mastering on the road or for when you can’t afford a great room or great monitors yet.

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