I’m back into music after a hiatus. My most recent efforts (mainly in the 2010s) were composing to picture with (mostly) orchestral samples. While studio rats had been using multiband compression for years, amateur computer-oriented musicians only started getting our hand on it in that timeframe. The technology brought my masters to the next level.
With Gig Performer, I’m developing a one-man-band with backing tracks set for micro-venues. Naturally, I’m approaching it from an auto-mastering point of view, rather than a mixing-board-with live-engineer world. One of the first things I did was put a multiband compressor in my global rackspace. I just threw some free VST at it to start.
Today, I got the demo of Waves L3. Wow. I put L3-LL Multimaximizer (1.5ms latency) just before the output, and after perusing some - and choosing one - preset, the result is just what I wanted. I ended up with the Donal Hodgseon preset, pulled the output down a touch, and I’m there. I’ve gone with the L3-LL Ultramaximizer (it’s simpler, with lower CPU load - for ear protection) on the monitor (headphone) output. The MON out put can include a click, as well as a personal mix.
I’ll also demo the F6 Floating Band Dynamic EQ. I can use it for poking a hole in the bass for the kick drum. I might also use it for vocals. It also has low-latency for live performance and does its magic hands-free. We will see.
What led me to the Waves family (in addition to its reputation a decade or two ago) was the need for an octave doubler on the guitar. Line 6 has Helix Poly Capo, which seems to be excellent, but I didn’t find a standalone version. Waves recently released their Vocal Bender product for retuning voice. I downloaded the demo. It works well on single notes, has variable formant, and sounds good, so I’m good to go.
In my specific use, I need to play on the upper frets and double an octave down. (doublers respond more quickly to high, frequencies, so I prefer to double down, rather than up.) I tried a free octave doubler, but it got very weak on the high notes. Vocal Bender stays strong across the full range of the guitar. Oh, and I mapped a pedal to the formant, so I can change the tone from a sine wave to gritty.
The last thing I tried is Tune Real Time, which is an autotuner with low latency that can be subtle. I’m no great vocalist. It will take me some time to see if I like it.
All in all, these plugs have low latency, the CPU hit is reasonable, and they seem to have good quality. The Vocal Bender is really good for single guitar notes. The L3 impresses me right out of the box. I haven’t yet played with the F6 dynamic EQ, aside from adding it to the vocal chain and giving it a vocal preset (kill the lows and clarify the high mids), but I’m confident that it will work well. On the autotuner, I’ll need to buy it and play with it for a good long while to see it it’s useful or not. I simply can’t tell in real time, and for every improvement, there can be an artifact, so the jury is out.
The nice things are that the collection of plugins is gigantic (too much choice, frankly), the barrier to entry is low, it’s not some free thing from an unknown (malware) source, it has low-latency options, the CPU load is reasonable, the user interfaces are clear, and they do good quality work.
I’m not a fanboy, and I don’t expect to become a plugin addict. I’m just looking to solve problems. Autotune might or might not be valuable. A detuner is just an effect that people might not need. The dynamic EQ might be a step too far for many (though it might be a good addition to the vocal chain for singers.) The big winner, to me and probably for anybody doing solo work with backing, is the L3. It instantly took my sound from “it never sounds quite right no matter how I mix it” to “harmonious” and “integrated.”
Hey, the demos are free. Check it out.