#4 - One of your favourite plug-ins?
In this Producer Club, we ask seven audio professionals to tell us about one of their favourite plug-ins...
One of my favourite plug-ins would have to be Soothe2 by Oeksound. This plug-in has saved me hours and hours of finding problematic frequencies. It allows me to detect the resonating frequencies and I can then dial in how much I want to attenuate them - or “soothe” them if you like. I find it's incredible on things like distorted guitars where you can potentially have a few resonating, nasty sounding frequencies. Highly recommended!
My go-to plug-in for long ethereal reverb is the Eventide Blackhole. I use it mainly on vocals but also on instruments on an aux as a traditional reverb effect but also as a punctual effect on an audio track, either rendered or automated. I find that it gives space and dimension to whatever you use it on, without it sounding like a traditional room or hall. It's really useful to give a tail to an instrument that ends a bit abruptly at the end of a track or to make transitions. I sometimes process a single word or a chord with the mix on 100%, reverse it and have it coming in just before the original at a lower level. It has a mix control (wet/dry), the size control is the decay or length of the reverb, it has high and low filters and a mod section which can be synced to the tempo of the song. What is different from other reverbs is the gravity control dial. This creates a reverse reverb effect, which along with the freeze function they kept from the hardware, is really unique to create some cool effects as the Blackhole basically freezes the signal for an infinite reverb !!! Overall a fantastic plug-in, that I use all the time.
A plug-in that finds its' way onto every mix I do is Acustica Audio Taupe from their 'Aqua' range. Taupe is a collection of tape machines, but it's not like your typical algorithmic tape simulator. There's no hiss, wow or flutter, no obvious crunch or distortion. There is some of the subtle limiting that you'd expect from tape, but it's a 'lofi' plug-in, generally speaking. Based on dynamic impulse responses, captured from real machines, it replicates the frequency response, yes, but the real party trick is the way it alters the phase response of a signal, and ultimately it's that midrange phase shift that seems to change a sound into something tangibly more natural: The best way I can describe it is that when switching it in and out, the source goes from 'real' to 'not real'. Without Taupe, I find a vocal, or an acoustic instrument can sound 'captured' - I'd say 'digital' but that admonishment has been so misunderstood and abused over the years that it's better avoided. Let say that the source can seem like a picture of itself, rather than with Taupe, where it becomes somehow 'right' and natural. It seems to then appear out of the speakers in the way it does in reality. It's hard to describe, but an incredible upgrade. I use Taupe on everything from vocals and acoustic instruments to guitars, bass and drums. It's always somewhere on my mix bus, and often on groups. Unlike your typical tape emulation that tends to become 'too much' if it's layered multiple times across the mix structure, Taupe works for me at any or all stages of the mix chain. I've often found when using lesser alternatives that my mix suddenly sounds better when I take the emulation off, but that's never yet been the case with this. It always adds some magic that I can't live without. My favourite presets are A1 and 2, and C1-4. While I rely heavily on a number of Acustica equalisers and compressors, Pink3, White2 and El Ray, for example, Taupe is the one I can't achieve any other way - even with a real tape machine.
It's tough to choose just one favourite plug-in! I use so many useful types…Fabfilter ProQ3, McDSP Filterbank F202, UAD 1176 blue stripe, Acustica Audio Purple (Pultec set), Altiverb - the list goes on. I do find a constant favourite is Overloud Dopamine. It contains emulations of two old noise-reduction modules the 180 and the 361. The 361 works particularly well on vocals, percussion and acoustic guitars as well as a whole buss. It has two modes, A-Type noise reduction and Noise Stressor, each of which has slightly different characters. Super simple to use and as a sonic enhancer in it really brings tracks to life, pulling them to the front of the mix.
One random plug-in I use which gets me out of a lot of trouble is Mathew Lane's DrMS spatial processor. It has so many uses but generally, I use it for when people deliver things so wide they're out of phase. I can usually filter some of the sides, delay it a bit and bring it into the centre. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but for spatial things like that, it's my go-to.
There are so many great plug-ins coming out at the moment as companies seem to be waking up to the fact that digital can do stuff analogue can't and pushing that envelope rather than giving us another 1073 clone. Oeksound is a super forward-thinking company and of course, Soothe is amazing and Soothe2 is even better, but I also really love their other plug-in Spiff. Oeksound Spiff is a transient processor but you aim it more at different parts of the spectrum in the same way you focus Soothe. This means you can have a drum parallel that's all spikey thump and sizzle or a snare parallel that's got a ridiculous attack and it's easy to design how hard you want your drums to hit. It's not just for drums though - it's amazing on vocals! I love the sound of a super smashed vocal parallel through an 1176 but it always brings a bunch of spitty artefacts with it that can limit its usefulness. If you throw Spiff on it directly after, just on the default setting but set to cut, it immediately sorts that out and it becomes immensely usable. It's a really incredible plug-in!
My go-to at the moment is Acustica Audio's Cola channel strip. This plug-in suite is an emulation of a vintage British console from 1972*. The EQ is beautiful and extremely powerful, I've literally been using it on everything! The compressor is crazy, it's smacking and intense. I love driving it as it’s an immediate vibe injector as well as a subtle tone shaper, plus they sampled multiple channels of the console so it has that 'larger desk' effect when you use multiple instances with different channel samples active. I absolutely love it! * The Inductor EQ is based on a rare Cadac G228 console, the valve EQ from a 1950s/60s Vortexion mixer and the compressor from the extremely rare Cadac A505 compressor *