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Pocketmags Digital Magazines

FUTURE EFFECTS

Clever developers are finding new techniques to process audio in innovative ways. Alex Holmes explores some cutting-edge software and looks at the pros and cons of using these tools…

MT COVER FEATURE

OK. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for new technology and plug-ins that can make my life easier. When you’re dealing with the last 1% of a mix, sometimes even a well balanced track with decent dynamics can still be squeezed to sound a little better. Be it through notching out stray resonant peaks or phase issues that you may have missed, or simply by having creative tools that make your mix more interesting to listen to. Around four-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a similar feature forMusicTechthat included a whole load of these cutting-edge plug-ins that did useful and innovative things to audio. Whilst I still use a lot of them, and they’re still pretty flashy, technology moves pretty fast in this game. In 2018 the tech on offer is significantly more advanced than what was around in 2013. Therefore, we thought it was high time we revisited the topic and round up a new batch of interesting, next level software that does things to audio we could previously only dream of.

Gullfoss is an intelligent, automatic EQ plug-in that uses auditory perception to identify and resolve problems and frequency imbalances in your mix.
iZotope’s Neutron 2 is a versatile poster child for futuristic plug-ins

NOT ALL EQS ARE EQUAL

Let’s start with EQ, as it’s one of the most fundamental parts of any mixing process and learning to EQ effectively can take years of experimentation and training up your ears. Most of the mix decisions you make are often largely based on the instrument in question, genre, and intended playback medium. That said, there are scientific curves and settings that can be followed, which will give you a distribution that sounds pleasing to the average human ear.

Arguably the poster child for futuristic plug-ins, is iZotope’s Neutron 2 ($199 standard version) with a host of useful tools such as the Masking Meter, which can show frequency collisions between two instruments. The most impressive feature, however (and one which is now present in Ozone 8 for mastering duties), is the Track Assistant that listens to the audio for around 10 seconds, detects the instrument type based on machine learning, and then sets up a preset to work from. This means you get custom-made boosts and cuts in the EQ module to help your track sit better in the mix. Something inside me wanted it not to work, if only to validate that I was better than the machines, but after using it on a number of mixes, I have to say it works surprisingly well, albeit with a few further tweaks to its suggestions.

However, one of the issues here is that the EQ suggestion is only based on the portion of the track that it analyses, and most tracks are fairly dynamic.

For this you could turn to plug-ins like Sonible’s smart:EQ Live (€229), and Soundtheory’s Gullfoss (£139), which listen to the incoming signal and make real-time adjustments to turn down peaks, and turn up troughs, giving you smoother sounding audio across the entire length of the track.

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About MusicTech

Though it was only a few issues ago that we contemplated the future of music, we came to the realisation that the future is now! With more effects at our disposal than ever before, we tour the modern arsenal of plug-in effects, tools and software that you might not even realise existed! Elsewhere, we speak to the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff about his production and DJing ethos, and join Detroit-based artist Klayton, whose love of 80s electronic and metal bands has borne many fruitful projects, not to mention an amazing studio. We put Hans Zimmer Strings to the test, as well as a slew of new pieces of gear and software in our expanded reviews section. Additionally, there’s 4 new tutorials for Live, Logic, Cubase and Pro Tools, brand-new tips, retrospectives and our Essential Guide series draws to a close with a 101 to recording. We hope you enjoy the issue!