A thought occurred to me recently: I have a lot of plug-ins, not as many as some on the team but still a lot. I use some of them every time I use Pro Tools. Others come and go, they might be new and have my attention because of that, they might do something unique, some don't get used as much as they might just because they are good but I have better. A few don't get used because they aren't particularly good or just because I don't like them much - sometimes it just comes down to something as arbitrary as how positively I feel about them based on nothing more than a not very carefully considered snap judgement. But there is a definite category in there of plug-ins I like a great deal yet never make it on to finished tracks. They might get instantiated in a session, I might play with them (sometimes it is just play...) but I then move on and use something else.
I asked the team and there didn't seem to much consensus. In fact, some of the suggestions from other members of the team were plug-ins I use very regularly. So lets hear them.
Julian Rodgers - Kush UBK-1
I can think of a few contenders but I'm going with the UBK-1 from Kush. I love this plug-in and this company. I use Clariphonic all the time for a bit of sparkle on the master but although I really enjoy UBK-1 I find it impossible not to go too far with it. I always end up in a dead end of wild over-compression which while great fun, really isn't helpful. Shame as its one of the most characterful software compressors out there and considering how old it is and how long I've had it, it really was a remarkable plugin.
Dan Cooper - VBC Slate Digital
I also have a sizable list of plug-ins I love yet never use. The first plug-in that comes to mind is the Virtual Buss Compressors by Slate Digital. I remember purchasing VBC when it launched. I didn't even demo it before hand as I was very impressed with how it sounded in Slate's marketing video examples. I mixed through VBC on for about two months then all of a sudden it fizzled out of my workflow. Why? Simple, I slowly reverted back to my previous favourite buss compressor being the very transparent compressor unit in Slate's FG-X mastering plug-in. VBC sold me the idea that I needed hardcore emulations of three famous buss compressors and that my mixes lacked analogue punch without it - in reality, what I wanted was a buss compressor that produced transparent and gentle results. Don't get me wrong, I love VBC and other Slate Digital plug-ins as they do a really great job of adding vibe, depth and character to mixes, I just find that I prefer my compressors to sound more gentle than vibey.
Mike Thornton - Sonnox EQ And Dynamics Plug-ins
I too have a sizeable plug-in folder most of which I just don't use, but that is mainly because they aren't appropriate to what I do. In audio post production, we tend not to use that many plug-ins, and they tend to be the same handful of plug-ins over and over, but this article got me thinking, what plug-ins are in my plug-in folder that I like and really ought to be using. The answer is the Sonnox EQ, Dynamics and Limiter. The reality is for EQ I tend to just go for the stock EQ7 plug-in, for compression I reach for the Avid Pro Compressor and for limiting it is a toss up between the Avid Pro Limiter and the Nugen Audio ISL2 limiter. Now until recently, the Sonnox limiter wasn't a true peak limiter, which a very good reason it hasn't featured in my workflows, but now we have the Sonnox Limiter v2, which is a true peak limiter there is no excuse, other than familiarity, not to use the Sonnox plug-ins, so this article is an excellent reminder to go and try using these excellent plug-ins from Sonnox, thanks Julian.
Alan Sallabank - Rob Papen Explorer
I tend to be very surgical with my plug-in purchases, which stems from originally not being able to afford the complete bundles of things like Waves or Sonnox, and thus simply purchasing what I need, both to operate and remain compatible with my peers. 99% of my plugins are Post Production orientated, so it won't come as much of a surprise to many, that my least used but still well-regarded plug-in is a collection of VI's - the Rob Papen Explorer Bundle. I actually won this in a Facebook competition (see, they do actually have real winners, sometimes...). There's an old industry saying, "behind every dubbing mixer is a failed musician", and that pretty much sums me up. I have used this bundle for the occasional bit of sound design work, and have managed to get some great sounds out of it, but my lack of raw musical talent means that I really don't use it as much as someone more talented would. I don't currently even have it installed, mainly because it doesn't use dongle or iLok security, it uses auth keys, which are linked to your hardware and registered with RP. Moving this software to another machine is a real faff, and that's the main reason why I'm not currently using it at the moment. I would dearly love to have the time to spend just noodling out little tunes, but as that side doesn't pay the rent, I'm not able to prioritise it as much as I would like to.
Eli Krantzberg - Metric Halo Thump
Eli Krantzberg is from our Logic Pro Expert team and when he heard about this team article he offered to share his experiences, but I will let him explain....
Being a drummer, I often track and mix my own drumming. I went through a period where I was really getting into blending the kick drum track with a signal generator plug-in tuned to a low sine wave. I would set up a parallel track with the signal generator, followed by a noise gate. The noise gate’s sidechain input was set to react to the kick drum signal. So each time the kick would hit, the noise gate would be triggered to open and close, letting the sine wave through.
This is a really elegant and simple way to beef up a bass drum track and give it that “hyper-real” low-end vibe we hear in dance music. I could tune the sine wave to the fundamental pitch of the kick drum, and adjust the gate’s attack, hold and release parameters to have the sine wave re-enforcement as subtle or pronounced as I wanted.
Along comes Thump by Metric Halo. It does exactly what I had been doing, plus more, and with finer customised control over the relevant parameters. You can set not one, but two oscillators to individual frequencies, and control the sustain on each. The dedicated amplitude and pitch envelope followers held the promise of marrying the kick to the oscillators more closely than my primitive method. It was on sale, and it seemed like a no-brainer.
It just never sounded right to me for what I wanted to do; which was simply re-enforce and beef up kick drum tracks in a natural sounding way. Thump does have its uses. It’s great for generating really nice pitched sustains with interesting pitch envelopes that are great for dance music. But it just seemed way too fiddly for me to get what I wanted. The frequency and sustain controls for the two separate oscillators never seemed to blend with the kick drum the way I wanted. And tweaking the pitch and amp envelopes only seemed to get me further away than closer to what I was after.
So now it sits in my plug-in list. Every once in a while I bring it up to play with it and explore it’s potential. But sadly, it never made it into my go-to list of kick drum shaping plug-ins I naturally reach for.
James Ivey - Tape Emulation Plug-ins
Ever since I first tried the Avid Reel Tape Suite I have had a love/hate relationship with Tape Emulation plug-ins. From the Universal Audio Studer A800 and Revox ATR-102 UAD-2 plug-ins, via the Slate VTM to the Waves Kramer Tape, I have tested, bought, loved and then forgotten about them all.
It's just not a process I remember to use. There are so many of what I call "vibe" plug-ins available that are supposed to impart the saturation of tape or the warmth of valves (tubes). I hear myself saying "If I wanted tape, I would have recorded to tape. If I wanted a valve tone I would have used a valve amp or pre." Maybe it's my current get it right on the way in mentality but I'm just not reaching for this type of plug-in right now. I'll let you know if that changes any time soon. I have plenty of tape plug-ins to reach for if it does.
Anything I Bought On Black Friday Or Cyber Monday
Come on now, admit it. We all do it. We see the deal of the decade around the end of each and every November and think "YES" I'm going to use that on everything. We cough up the cash, we download the effect or VI and that's it. There is sits to gather virtual dust in our ever-growing list of plug-ins. And I do it every year as I bet you do too. I can't help it. I see a deal and think wow how can I let that slip through the net. This year I'm going to stop myself, whatever!
What Plugins Do You Love But Never Use?
So you've heard ours. Can you think of any plugins you have which you like but never seem to get used in sessions? Why do you think that might be? Let us know in the comments below.