Hi all. Thought I’d do a quick rundown of four of my favourite plugins I’m using on current projects. I’ll run through two audio effects with side by side audio comparisons, my favourite synth I’m currently using and my favourite sample set.
EQ Gliss EQ by Voxengo
Imagine a suave Mediterranean sidechain compressor locking eyes with a beautiful quirky EQ across a crowded salsa bar. They ditch their friends and head out for candlelit tapas followed by coffee back at her place. Everything moves at just the right pace and nine-and-a-bit months later, voila! Gliss EQ is born. The metaphor is important because what Gliss EQ is NOT is the result of a CLA-76 and your DAW’s inbuilt EQ frantically rutting in the park after a hasty tinder date at Burger King. Gliss is delicate, transparent and responsive with an intuitive interface and a vast range of capabilities, not some messed up meth-baby plugin.
I’ll just run through the two key features of the Gliss EQ seeing as all the info is on the website
if you want to dive deeper.
The first and most important is that Gliss is a ‘dynamic’ EQ, meaning that the effect on a certain frequency band can be modulated by the amplitude of that frequency band in the input signal (I say ‘can be’ because Gliss has a dynamic control that lets you blend between a fully dynamic and a regular EQ for each frequency band).
To illustrate, imagine you have a lovely twangy guitar track but every now and then there’s a harsh peak @ 3kHz that jumps out of the mix to assault your eardrums. Using a regular EQ, you could make a notch at 3k to remove offending frequencies. However, unless you automate the EQ on/off for each peak in the whole track, that notch is going to be affecting the guitar sound regardless of whether or not it’s an unwanted peak or the desirable signal. A great deal of a guitar’s presence and character comes at around the 3kHz mark and so by applying a blanket EQ you will dull the sound for the entire track.
With Gliss EQ you can surgically cut the offending frequencies, but by turning up the dynamic control the EQ will only
kick in when the guitar input reaches a certain amplitude, i.e. at the peaks. The rest of the time the EQ will lay dormant leaving your beautiful rich sound unaffected. Gliss is so transparent that you can make extreme notches affecting tight frequency bands without audible artefacts, meaning that you can even back off your compressor and leave more dynamic range in the sound!
The second less-exciting-but-still-awesome feature is that Gliss is also a mid-side EQ. This means that you can affect the centre channel and the side channels independently. To have a play around with this I recommend starting with the ‘wider highs’ preset and sticking it on some drum overheads. The smooth transparency of the plugin lets you push some real sparkle into your cymbals without them sounding harsh and the fact that it’s only affecting the side channels brings width to the mix and leaves headroom for more HF elements in the centre.
Here’s a quick side by side of Gliss EQ in action on a lead vocal I’m working on. The first track is unaffected and the second track is treated with Gliss and a tiny touch of compression. I chose Gliss EQ because the vocal is in the jazz style and I wanted to clear out all the mud from the low end without sacrificing the beautiful deep timbre of the singer’s voice. Note also how a boost in the high end around 3kHz pushes the vocal to the forefront of the mix without ever sounding overly harsh:
Gliss EQ OFF: https://clyp.it/z0wdu350
Gliss EQ ON: https://clyp.it/vjkvhknn
REVERB PSP EasyVerb by PSP Audioware
I’m going to break the mould a little bit here by going for a plugin that you would struggle to even hear working in most of my mixes. Nevertheless, PSP EasyVerb has insinuated itself into every single audio project I have completed since I first heard it at least 8 years ago. It is an absolute workhorse and when used subtly it adds a tremendous cohesiveness to your tracks.
EasyVerb is like Ronseal, it does exactly what it says on the tin. There are a few space algorithms to choose form ranging between ambience and cathedral (plus a spring and a plate) but for what I use it for I never go larger than ‘room’. On top of the space algorithm there are controls for pre-delay (first reflection), time (size/reflectiveness of space), dampness (reflection of HF or lack thereof), and low and hi EQ shelves. That’s it!
The way I use EasyVerb is as a ‘glue’ reverb, which is to say I set it up on a couple of auxiliary/bus channels and send a tiny bit of every channel to these auxes (there are some exceptions; when making glitch music I love the impact of sudden digital silence so I will often leave the bass sounds dry). This situates the various elements of a track in the same space and despite the subtlety of the effect, the psychoacoustics are extremely powerful making the song feel more ‘together’.
My usual settings are to have a small ambience on one aux channel and a large ambience on a second (as these are on aux channels you want the mix set to 100%, otherwise you will get dry signal coming through on the aux and affecting the amplitude of your original instrument or track). Sometimes for my large ambience I will use the ‘room’ algorithm but often I will use the ‘ambience’ algorithm on both, with the ‘time’ and the ‘damp’ set higher on the large ambience. For both I will set the pre-delay to around 10-12ms to avoid comb filtering and usually I will bring the low shelf down by about 5dB at around 100-200Hz to avoid muddying the LF. If you want more fine-grain control on this you could obviously put an EQ after the verb but again, I use these so subtly it hardly seems necessary to introduce the extra artefacts.
In order to get these EQ’s right for me I will use the ‘send’ control on the channel I want to effect (which obviously leads to the reverb bus), whack it on full and then gradually bring it down until I can’t hear it any more, then I will add like 5% and leave it. I do exactly the same thing for the large ambience, whack it on full, bring it down until it’s barely perceptible and then just add a tiny bit. If by the end of the track you feel like you’ve overcooked it you can just being the volume fader on you aux down o get fine-grain control of the overall glue.
It would be difficult to clearly demonstrate the impact of a glue reverb in the whole track so I’ve knocked up a quick drum break made from an old Isaac Hayes track, as well as additional samples to thicken kicks and snares. In the first audio example you hear the unaffected break, which sounds very disjointed and unnatural. It also has a ton of room sound that doesn’t fit properly because of tempo and timing differences. In the second audio example I have used an enveloper to kill the original room sound and tighten up the break. I have then replaced the OG room sound with PSP EasyVerb (Small amb, large amb and a larger room space) to bring the individual samples together. It’s a bit rough around the edges but I did it in half an hour so please forgive me!
PSP EasyVerb OFF: https://clyp.it/vrpxdoed
PSP EasyVerb ON: https://clyp.it/mszaajix
SYNTH RayBlaster by Tone 2
I’ve waffled on for ages now so I’ll keep the next two brief. Tone 2’s RayBlaster is simply a powerhouse for all kinds of heavy electro. It’s an ‘impulse modelling’ synthesizer, which means that instead of frequency modulation or adding/subtracting waveforms from each other, it blasts out a metric shit-ton of tiny impulses that combine to create an absolutely massive sound.
You don’t technically need to understand about impulse modelling to be able to use RayBlaster as many of the controls are familiar to regular synth users. The main different is that instead of selecting between oscillators you are selecting between impulses, which I like to think of as tiny ‘noise bullets’.
Sonically, I think about RayBlaster as a more ‘analogue’ sounding NI Massive. I used to love Massive but eventually I got really tired of the thin digital sound and now whenever I hear it in a track it just bores me. RayBlaster is fresh and rich and the slight variations in the design from traditional synthesizers force you to explore new ideas and new ways of working.
Additionally, if you’re newer to synthesis the presets are fucking amazing!
Here’s RayBlaster at work in a glitchy dub track: https://clyp.it/q3zboflo Last but not least…
SAMPLE PACKS EastWest Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra
If you’re not down with orchestral sounds then I just don’t think we can ever be friends. I love the emotion that a well arranged and beautifully sampled set of strings or horns can add to a track.
I have the platinum version of EWQLSO which was expensive (think it was like £400 when I was a student or something) but it has been worth EVERY GOD DAMN PENNY. There are hundreds of instruments and combinations of instrument with a ton of different articulations. If you have the patience you can create beautiful string solos that IMO are almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
The platinum version of EWQLSO comes with close mic, whereas the gold version is just stage mics. I would recommend (if you can) getting the platinum version for electronic music because every now and then you want a really raucous trumpet popping right out in your face and you just can’t quite get the clarity with the stage versions. The close-mic’d cellos are also incredible, you can practically hear every horsehair tugging the strings.
If you can’t fork out on the platinum version, don’t worry! You can use processing to bring out the more characterful elements of the sounds and then either the inbuilt envelope controls or your own enveloper to kill the stage ambience, which you can then replace with your own reverb as you desire. I actually do this with the close-mic versions as well to make the trumpets pop and to being the percussion forward in the mix.
EWQLSO is also great for hip-hop as enhancements to your other sampled records. If you don’t like the harmony or want to add a bit of sustain to pre-recorded strings then you can layer up EWQLSO under your samples, blend them together and then you have way more scope for adjusting the samples musically to exactly fit your composition.
In the example below, pretty much all the sounds except for the drums are from EWQLSO. I hope people agree with me that to the casual listener the double bass and the trumpets sound like they could have been recorded specifically for the track. Obviously the real thing is best, but not all of us have access to session musicians and if you love real instruments I’m convinced this is the next best thing:
Example of arranged double bass, piano and trumpets from the EWQLSO sample set: https://clyp.it/1l2yxzoe
That’s all for now. I really hope some of you will find it useful! TL;DR: Just listen to the audio examples and if you’re interested in the different elements then dig into the text :)