“One cannot have a too fast a CPU or own too many plug-ins” would be a more DAW specific and politically correct adaptation of Wallis Simpson’s quote from the last century “A women cannot be too thin or have too much money”. Rather than discussing royal scandals and the lifestyles of the rich and famous, let’s dig deep into the inner world of the anti-socialite, the Logic Pro X power user. Of course, I have tongue in cheek here, however, I think we’ll all agree that the acquisition of a mastery of a sufficient quantity of Logic’s immense feature set may involve skipping a few polo matches and jaunts on the private jet to meet the latest paramour.
Plug-ins are the hot topic for today and we’ll leave CPU’s for another time.
On one hand, they are in boundless supply with new offerings almost daily. Many times there could be an improved amalgamation of a process, a new PI from a brand or developer we like and are enticed to add. Or on the other hand, it could just be something as superficial and fun as a more engaging or genuine UI.
Much like as youngsters, we wanted to collect all the baseball cards for a particular season or to be more modern, collect Japanese anime characters with our phones; catch them all or be nothing. There’s a non-stop barrage of flash sales, coupon codes, introductory offers, bundles, cross-grades, upgrades, freebies, buckies (ok I just made that up), last day, final offers that you can’t miss, all day, every day via Facebook, forums, emails, and alas even here on Logic Pro Expert. How can one resist?
Ironically perhaps, the more logical arguments are “it’s the swordsman, not the sword”, Logic Pro X already comes turnkey with an amazing selection of exceptional plug-ins, knowledge of how and why to apply the assets within one’s toolbox is crucial to sowing the maximum benefit, “jack of all trades- master of none” and the list of valid arguments goes on. Plug-ins can be extremely sophisticated, with their staggering array of available parameters, preset libraries, and most importantly, stealth attributes we will call the sweet spot, either in replicating the behavior of a real piece of hardware or as an artifact of a process unique to a plug-in.
The latter is perhaps the most important aspect that is neither obvious nor often presented in the creator’s marketing or the first wave of social media, reviews on youtube and commentary from “alpha” forumites. Finding the sweet spot on any processor is essential to getting optimum performance. Furthermore, these sweet spots will likely be unique to you, your creations and your studio.
Own The Sweet Spot
The enigma gains extra dimensions of complexity as one adds ancillary equipment before and after. A producer may only use a certain microphone and preamp combination when capturing a particular type of singer or a guitarist may only use a specific guitar and fuzz pedal into a particular vintage amp. The examples and applications are boundless. The same applies to plug-ins and their settings. A plug-in may suddenly spring to life with a certain combination of settings, a source’s signal level, frequency content, or additional process before or after.
The best audio engineers find, curate and combine the sweet spots of every piece of gear they use. We often see mix professionals dedicate a multiprocessor insert chain to a particular instrument or function with each knob marked to the exact place it can never be dialed away from just because the combination is pure magic. Logic Pro X in many ways leads the DAW world with their Channel Strip functionality whereby a multi-plug-in chain and all their respective settings are stored as a single entity in much the same spirit.
The question then becomes how does one survive in this complex ecosystem? Even if one takes a complete vow of abstinence (from plug-in acquisition syndrome, adapting the guitarist forum acronym of GAS to our virtual world), Logic Pro X's upgrade progression often includes significant new plug-ins or a major upheaval of the previous toolkit forcing a change in workflow and application.
Necesse est Mutatio (Change is Inevitable)
We may well be in the golden age of recording right now. Putting aside the debate on the monetization side of the transition to cloud content delivery to the consumer and focusing entirely on the technology, these are very good times. We access audio processes like never before. We have tools that are reliable, repeatable, precise, fun and without the limitations of imposing a cult of cognitive dissonance in order to accept their convenience and lower cost.
Does one freeze the incoming technology in order to create or ride the bleeding edge of new, hot, trendy and edgy? Most of us will find ourselves somewhere in the middle. We use and appreciate what we have already. We strive to master our craft and recognize that many new plug-ins have finally hit the threshold whereby they either meet the performance their analog forebears or offer a fantastic new and undiscovered frontier in audio processing. We also have a great appreciation for nuance and audio quality as well as the fragility of the creative process when disrupted. Finally, we have some available financial resources to dedicate to our business, passion or hopefully both.
Making It All Work
All this is to bring forward the key element of this discussion. How do we best integrate new plug-ins into our creative and technical workflow?
One of the best recent features some developers have added is a way to flag certain patches either by a rating system or favorites folder. This is a great way to make the most of an initial tour of a particular plug-in or a deep dive one may choose to take when not dealing with a specific production or deadline. I propose adopting a similar workaround for all one’s plug-ins.
For any and all plug-ins, simply take a setting that you like, even starting with a preset without the slightest modification and “save as” and create and then save within a “Favorites” folder. Plug-in presets do not take any significant memory and Logic is set up so each plug-in has its own associated user folder so the files remain tidy and organized. It becomes easy to quickly make a useful folder of greatest hits so that once one is in a creative mode, one can quickly grab a useful setting.
These favorites then serve as launching points when it comes time to select processing in new projects. The beauty of this is that one can limit going off on a tangent of plug–in experimentation during a phase critical to making music, which remains the ultimate goal of the whole exercise. In a similar manner, Logic’s Channel Strip can be used to manage and recall a string of plug-ins and settings that would otherwise require countless hours of perhaps fruitless experimentation or a perfect memory of one instant of a session possibly days, months or years ago.
Enjoy your plug-ins, get them all or at least the ones you like or can afford, and most importantly, pick favorites, find the sweet spots and stay creative.
For some further reading on this topic, check out the results of this readers poll over on Production Expert.