Waves Soundgrid: Top 5 – Part 2

Welcome back to week 2 of our Waves series talking about my top 5 plugins. As I mentioned last night, I see this question being asked all the time, sometimes of me, and so I thought I’d do a series talking about my top 5 plugins, how to operate them, and how I use them. Last week (here is a link in case you missed it) I talked about the CLA-76. While I use it a lot, I can often get pretty close with other options in the arsenal if I can’t use it. This week, I’m talking about harmonizers. It was really a toss up between two plugins with an ever-so-slight winner. This tie is made of Vitamin Sonic Enhancer and Scheps Parallel Particles. Both sound great, are easy to use, and are used frequently if I get the chance. Vitamin allows for granular control over what is added while Parallel Particles allows for a more cohesive experience because of it’s design. I give the edge here to Vitamin however. Because you can really tweak exactly what you want to add that, in my mind, gives it the edge because in theory you can create what you hear in Scheps with Vitamin. But, I use Scheps a lot where I used to use vitamin because I can get what I want quicker and easier while vitamin takes a bit to get really dialed. In many ways, Scheps is the one-knob plugin for harmonizers. However, for things like toms where I need to really control and tune what is happening Vitamin is the perfect fit and if I had to pick just one, I’d land with the Vitamin Sonic Enhancer.

Waves describes Vitamin like this, “Waves Vitamin is a multiband harmonic enhancer and tone-shaping plugin that can make any track sound powerful and full of spark by mixing an enriched version with the original signal.” Sort of like the C6 in operation, you set the frequency band in which each channel of the plugin works, set stereo width, and then attenuate the direct sound (what equates to a wet/dry knob) and that’s it. It also has a convenient punch setting that works a lot like the punch knob in Hcomp which can create some fun adjustments. Often times I’ll get the plugin reacting like I want it to with the 5 channels and then grab the master and adjust to taste. If you struggle to get moving or don’t know where to start the plugin is loaded with presets that can get you pretty far down the road. 

Probably a favorite and yet underused feature of this plugin is the solo option. When you click on it, you hear what is happening in the band only. This can really help you identify what needs to go up or down as you can solo one or a few of them to help identify where things are going wrong if you are having issues. Another great feature is the direct fader. Think of it like this, there are two paths for the audio through the plugin one is unprocessed, one is processed. You can’t attenuate the wet path but you can mix in or out, the direct path which can help you really get the exact amount of harmonics added. This feature differentiates this plugin from most other harmonics plugins because, much like old school FX units, you are basically getting what equates to a wet/dry setup. 

I could find myself using it on toms when I need a really big tom sound for big concerts or just a bigger/wider sound. I also use it regularly on electric guitar inputs to accentuate their role in the song (for lead guitars I use it to enhance the presence and top end, for rhythm guitars vitamin helps me get a big deep phat sound). My acoustic guitar chain usually has a parallel particles inserted in the middle of the omni-channel but I occasionally need to swap out for vitamin if I’m having a tough time locking it in. I love to use it on synths and electric pianos as well to help things just pop. 
So that’s number 4, the Vitamin Sonic Enhancer. Do you guys use it alot? If so, what do you use it with? Any tricks I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below! Next we are on to dig into my top 3 plugins starting with a plugin that probably everyone knows about. If you don’t want to miss out be sure to subscribe at this link. Lastly, if you have any questions, email us at engineers@studiostagelive.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. See you all on the flipside!

Waves Soundgrid: Top 5

Welcome to a new series I’ve entitled “Top 5.” So many times people ask what plugins people use the most or one they should definitely get when they first starting out. This is what that series aims to answer, at least from my viewpoint. Keep in mind, these are my top 5 favorite plugins, and they are that way because of the context that I’m working in. I’m sure a studio guy might have a different set or someone that mixes monitors might have even another different set of tools they use the most. I wanted to share them though because in learning how someone else uses their tools, you might learn something new or try something new. So read these posts with that in mind. Second on my list of quick disclaimers for the series is that these plugins should never be the things that your mix depends on. Practically, what you do with the faders and eq settings on your console should get your mix most of the way there. The plugins are the “icing on the cake.” Your cake must be mixed well, formed with intention, and baked perfectly (isn’t the analogy great?!?!?) before you put the icing on it. A lump of flour and sugar or a burnt piece of whatever is not magically made into a cake with the addition of icing. Great mixes are possible without the use of outboard plugins. All that aside, enough people ask, here is my answer. I’ve looked through my multirack templates, looked at what I go to when I need that extra something, and came up with 5 plugins that I’ve ranked appropriately. This week I’ll start with number 5.

My 5th favorite plugin is the CLA-76. The waves website describes it pretty well so I’ll drop in a quick quote that sums things up really well. Here it is:

The CLA-76 is modeled after one of the best renowned solid state compressor/limiters in music history, which uniquely used Field Effect Transistors (FETs) as gain control devices. Some 8,000 units were originally manufactured, and went through at least 13 revisions during their run. Waves modeled two of these highly-regarded revisions: 

-Revision D-LN (Low Noise), also known as the Blackface. It is perhaps the most famous version of this classic compressor. 
-Revision B, also known as the Silverface Bluestripe. The unit we modeled is CLA’s personal favorite. 

The main differences between the two units are slightly different gain stages and time constants, as well as THD and noise levels. For the CLA-76 plug-ins, we modeled the original pre-amp noise. 

Mechanically the CLA-76 works a bit differently than most compressors with a set threshold and adjustable input and output gains. I drive the input up until I’m getting the amount of compression I’m looking for and then adjust the output until I hear it sitting where I want. For vocals I’ll run a slower attack (lower numbers) and a faster release (higher numbers). For next level transparency I’ll crank that release up all the way. I’ll also run 4 or 8 ratio for vocals and 12 or 20 for instruments. For something like a snare drum I often find using the all-buttons option. Just be careful, this can be a really big gain stage if you aren’t watching your input and output levels.

I use this plugin on all four kick and snare inputs, occasionally trade it in for my main bass compressor (over my standard CLA-2a), and on any and all vocals as the final stage of compression. It does make its appearance on a few tracks inputs as needed as well.

But why is it my favorite you ask? Well the biggest reason is just the speed that this compressor works. Not only is it a zero latency plugin but it’s also incredibly fast when turned up all the way. It doesn’t slow down a whole lot when you turn the attack and release times down but it still covers such a broad area it makes it incredibly versatile. The speed of the attack and release also serve to bring the image of the input right up in front. This is why it’s great for vocals! When you compare it to other heavy hitting compressors that have a large user base like the Hcomp or the Rvox, the CLA-76 stands above the rest as this plugin just sounds better, cleaner, and in some cases more natural (likely a result of the speed that it can release the compression). Probably it’s only real issue is that it is very easy to over-compress with this plugin. As we use more and more tools it’s hard to watch and monitor them all. Add to that the ability for this thing to respond so quickly it’s easy for it to do too much. For that reason, I’m usually parking on the instance of the CLA-76 that’s on my lead vocal so I can make adjustments on the fly as necessary. 

So what do you guys think about the CLA-76? Do you use it a lot if at all? Any uses for it that departs from the mainstream? If you’re curious about waves plugins head on over the waves store and check some of them out at this link (referral link). Please leave a comment below or on Facebook and let us know. I know I write these articles as much to learn from you as to share what I know. Next week I’ll dive into number 4 as we discuss a tight race to my favorite harmonics plugin. Be sure to subscribe at this link to be informed when that post goes live. Thanks again for stopping by! See you next week and happy mixing! 

Meet an Engineer: Eddie Torres

Welcome to a new series I’ve been wanting to get rolling now for awhile. “Meet an Engineer” is coming from a desire of mine to meet other people doing what I do. Live, studio, touring, etc; I just want to meet and learn, which is the whole premise of this blog. I haven’t done much work with Eddie but he has been quite busy recently producing and scoring music for the film industry and is now working on a collaboration with a recent contestant from American Idol. I picked out 10 questions for him to answer and below are his answers. He does great work both personally and professionally and I hope you enjoy!

1. Who are you? Where are you from? Where or who do you mix for? 
Film Composer/Music Producer/Musician for over 20 years. A career musician and also a member of the Grammys in a voting capacity in 4 categories including engineering. Born In North side of Chicago (Wrigleyville), currently residing in North Aurora, IL. I mix at my production recording studio in North Aurora. Mostly mix projects I produce but have other industry mixing engineers who mix my projects as well.

2. What type of music do you listen to the most? 
Though I have as film composer and music producer I have a broad list of different types of music and genres I’ve enjoyed, I’ve always had a special enjoyment of contemporary jazz music such as Spyro Gyra, Yellow Jackets Keiko Matsui to mention a few.

3. Do you specialize in live sound (FOH, monitors, etc) or studio sound (broadcast, recording, etc)? Do you like the other? 
Studio is my specialty. Though as a musician and previous music director roles I’ve also had my hands on FOH, I still enjoy studio sound better.

4. How did you get into the audio industry? What/who inspired you? Play any instruments?
My dad gave me a $26 guitar when I was nine and by 11 I was performing with bass being my current lead instrument. As a musician I was inspired by other musicians I learn from at 9-10 years old from church.

5. Would you consider yourself an audiophile? Have any cool gear at home? How do you listen to music (i.e. cds, records, streaming services, etc)? 
Yes, I would say I do consider myself an audiophile because in order to get that right tone, the right sound and levels are super important. Especially in my career. I have a full blown recording studio in which I had professionally and acoustically built. Took a few months to build it and do it right. I work with multiple Apple systems such as a Pro Tools HD 3 system for live recording to my composing system also running latest Pro Tools. I also have my mobile rig when on the road. I also run Cubase software though this is a more recent add. My sound library is pretty intense with several terabytes of industry libraries. Outboard gear I have several Mic preamps such as API, Neve, UA, Maag, Avalon and others. I’m a fan of the API lunchbox 500 series gear. One of my goto mics is Manley Gold Reference but also enjoy the AKG 414 all around great industry mic along with many others. Lately I’ve been listening via streaming services such as Apple music and spotify but can also enjoy a good CD.

6. Favorite console of all time and why? 
Trident Series 80 analog board. I don’t have it anymore unfortunately but which I kept it. The mic pre’s were amazing but the EQs!! Wow they were sweet. Just a natural sweetness to them whether dial in some lows or bumping up some air on the highs.

7. Most memorable show for you (one you either attended, played for, or mixed)?
I would say a show I played bass on at the Chicago UIC pavillion where ten thousand kids attended. Chicago bears Hall of Fame Mike Singletary was the host and Tom Lister (Deebo) from the movie “Friday” was the co-host.

8. Favorite or most used audio tool? (no rules here, anything goes)
My go to audio I would say is my API lunchbox racked with several mic preamps/compressors. The old saying is always about getting the “best signal to tape”. The fact that I can pull out and add any outboard gear to it so conveniently makes it a favorite. But then I role into my Plugin Alliance plugins such as the Console SSL 4000 E or G or even the Focusrite Console SC. Add these to my sessions and you’ve got game. As a bass player i love the Ampeg plugin also by Plugin Alliance in which they featured me on their site with one of the Ampeg plugins. Love it!  The team at Plugin Alliance really know how to engineer amazing plugins for your audio work. 

9. What is something that you do differently than others? Any ideas you think more people should know about? (feel free to describe a few)
One trick I learned a long time ago when mixing is shelving the low end up to 125 hrtz @ -6 as a starting point to instruments with low end to them to help clear some mud. You can tweak from there

10. If possible, where can we listen to your work (online web stream, published music, etc)?
For some of my work, and links as well as demo reel are available on my website www.eddietorresmusic.com

Thanks Eddie for taking the time to answer a few questions. He didn’t mention this but here is his Instagram profile that you can see pictures of people he has worked with and his studio. Be sure to check it out! Every now and then I’ll mix these in so we can all see what others are doing and maybe make a new connection if you find someone who is working near you. As always if you have any questions drop a not below or on Facebook or email us at engineers@studiostagelive.com. Next week we will start a new waves plugin series talking about some of my most used plugins. It’ll be a few weeks of practical waves advice that you can use immediately. If you want to be notified when those go live just follow this link and subscribe to the blog. See you next week!