Avid’s Heat mixer plug-in sounds great, It has been around for a while and, while originally only available to uses of Pro Tools DSP systems, it is now available to non HDX users. In spite of liking the sound I often overlook it which is a pity because, while everyone doesn’t have it, it is probably more common than any of the third party alternatives among the Pro Tools community, and session compatibility is a valuable thing for many of us.
Heat Only Available On Audio Tracks
Probably the biggest reason I overlook Heat is because it is only available on audio tracks. As a subtle, cumulative effect, to get the benefit of the gentle saturation it introduces it should be used on every element of a mix and with any session which includes Virtual Instruments or significant numbers of Aux tracks then this cumulative effect isn’t as cumulative as it might be.
How Can I Use Heat On Instrument Tracks?
Unfortunately the only answer is to print the instrument to an Audio Track. Printing to tracks has become less and less necessary as the sonic differences between bouncing to disc and printing to track are no longer the issue they were years ago. The introduction of Track Freeze and Commit mean that it is no longer necessary to print to an Audio Track in order to free up system resources. However to use Heat on your virtual Instruments it is still necessary to print.
How Should I Print My Virtual Instruments To Audio?
There are a few ways but my preferred option is to use Bounce to Disc. If you anticipate using Heat in your session it is far better to mix into it rather than putting on your mix afterwards. Set the output of each of your Virtual Instruments to its own bus and route the inputs of audio tracks to these same busses. In this way you can work in input monitor on the virtual instrument tracks and you can print the output to that track and make your instrument tracks inactive if necessary.
Under some circumstances routing into audio tracks can present issues with latency compensation. HDX users have a dedicated Re-recorder workflow, referred to informally as Blue Mode. To find out more about this see the section in this article about Pro Tools 12.6, the version in which this was introduced.