• My review of Rock! EZX for EZdrummer

    Rock! EZX

    Rock! EZX is a new expansion module for Toontrack’s EZdrummer and make no mistake, it is a great quality expansion which is sure to bring life to your rock tracks.  The expansion can also be used with EZDrummer’s big brother Superior Drummer 2.0.  As per Toontrack’s official product page, this new expansion contains the following:

    ·         Eight (8) complete drum kits mixed by Neil Dorfsman (Dire Straits, Sting, Bruce Springsteen)
    ·         Drums recorded in various top studios in New York, Nashville, London and Stockholm
    ·         Extensive MIDI library included

    The drum kits are nothing short of excellent and cover anything from vintage to modern.  What really caught my attention was the airy feel to them. Among the 8 custom kits, the 80s Rock Kit has quickly become my favorite.  This powerful kit has a sound similar to the ones which can be heard in old hair metal band records from the 80s and it’s a combination of a Slingerland kick, Ludwig snare and toms, Sabian cymbals as well as various samples from Neil Dorfsman’s private library.  In addition to the 80′s kit, you will also find selections for Bright Ambient kit, Vintage Punch, Tight Punch, Ringy, High & Dry, Classic Dry and Woody.  There is something for every taste.

    If you are familiar with EZdrummer, then you know that the kits can be mixed and matched via the pull down menus in the main virtual drum interface.  This allows you to make your own customized kit for a unique sound.  It doesn’t get any easier than that.

    Main drum interface with pull-down menu
    Main drum interface with pull-down menu

    The mixer interface can be accessed by pressing on the open mixer button on the main interface.  The mixer has 12 channels which allow you to control volume, panning, solo, mute, ambience, drive and subsqueeze.  There are mix presets for different drum sounds.  You can also turn the bleed control for the overheads mics on and off. The output of each channel can be routed to individual tracks within your main DAW for even more fine-tuning and control.

    The Mixer
    The Mixer

    ROCK! EZX also comes with a library of midi grooves ready for use, simply choose a groove and then drag/drop into your host.  The library can be accessed by pressing on the open grooves button on the main interface.  There are many grooves to chose from, all performed by real drummers.

    Midi Grooves
    Midi Grooves

    Each of the 8 kits in ROCK! EZX sounds unique and the samples sound pro.  These samples were recorded over a 10 yr span or so at various well known studios (Blackbird in Nashville, Allaire Studios in New York and 2 KHz Studios in London).  Neil Dorfsman did an outstanding job in blending all these custom drum samples together for a great expansion module which is sure to make a great addition to your library of virtual instruments.

    For more detail and information or to purchase a copy please visit the official page for Rock EZX.

  • My review of Pro Tools 11


    If you have been holding back from upgrading your current Pro Tools system, then I can tell you now is the time.  Pro Tools 11 marks the beginning of a new chapter in the life of this well acclaimed “industry standard” for audio production.  Pro Tools 11 has been rewritten from the ground up to take full advantage of today’s multi-core 64-bit computer systems with a  new audio engine, offline bouncing, low latency input buffer, dynamic host processing, expanded metering, new AAX plug-in format and much more.  While the interface has the look of previous versions, under the hood, man it’s a whole new level of awesome! And the best part of it is: you may not need to upgrade your computer.

    What’s New in Pro Tools 11 (as per Avid’s specs)

    Turbocharged performance—Fully redesigned audio engine and 64-bit architecture

    • New Avid® Audio Engine—Delivers multiple times more processing power than previous versions of Pro Tools, on the same hardware configurations, to work with more virtual instruments and effects than ever before

    • 64-bit architecture—Provides more accessible RAM, exponentially increasing the number of simultaneous virtual instruments, and boosting performance to handle the most sophisticated sessions, with more memory headroom to go even bigger

    • Offline bounce—Speeds delivery of mixes with up to 150 times faster-than-real-time bounce

    • Low-latency input buffer—Ensures ultra-low latency record monitoring without sacrificing plug-in performance

    • Dynamic host processing—Maximizes plug-in count by reallocating processing resources as needed

    Expanded metering (Pro Tools HD 11 only)

    • Extended standards support—Features a broad range of built-in metering standards, from peak and average to VU, K, and PPM, to maintain adherence to regional broadcast requirements

    • Gain reduction—Shows gain reduction for all dynamics plug-ins on each channel

    Direct HD video workflows

    • Built-in Avid Video Engine—Enables audio post professionals to play and edit a wide range of HD video formats, including Avid DNxHD®, directly in the Pro Tools timeline without transcoding, using the same core engine as in Media Composer®
    • Video interface support—Enables monitoring of DNxHD and QuickTime media through Avid Nitris® DX, Mojo® DX, and other third-party video interfaces

    Find out about all the new features in Pro Tools 11 and Pro Tools HD 11 on the Pro Tools 11 product pages.

    At First Glance

    One of the first things I noticed when I opened up a session in Pro Tools 11 was how quick everything loaded.  Literally seconds.  I had a couple of virtual instruments in the session and the sounds loaded much quicker than with previous versions (I’m using a late 2011 MacBook Pro with 4gb of memory).

    The look and feel of the interface edit/mix windows was essentially the same as PT10.  However, I did notice that in the mix section the fader meters had a new look to them.  The range of the metering has been pushed up.  This helps you in a way that when you are tracking, you will see your levels up higher than you did in the past.  This will help prevent the tendency to push your levels up since now it looks like you have a visually hotter signal while still recording at a conservative level.


    Dynamic Processing

    The great thing about this new version (and thanks to 64-bit architecture) of Pro Tools 11 is its ability to allocate resources to those plug-ins which have audio passing through.  In other words, even if you had a plug-in applied to a channel but there is no audio playing on that channel, the audio engine is smart enough to know this and not use up your computer cpu resources/memory if there is no audio passing through said plug-in.  This allows for bigger sessions, more plug-ins (even RAM-intensive virtual instruments), much smoother playback and less room for errors.  Much better power management if you ask me.


    Off-line Bounce

    A feature everyone has been waiting for quite a long time.  You no longer need to wait to bounce a track in real time.  Imagine that, with speeds upwards of 150x faster than real-time, you can bounce multiple tracks that much quicker without having to wait for the entire song to play through.  In a test session with about 18 tracks and multiple plug-ins and about 4 minutes long I was able to bounce it in a little over 20 seconds.  Wow!  You also have the ability to bounce multiple tracks as well as bounce to mp3 at the same time as your sessions bounce.  It is absolutely impressive when compared to previous versions.


    New AAX Plug-in Format

    The new AAX plug-in format is supported by Pro Tools 11.  Avid developed this new format to take advantage of the 64-bit system.  The new format allows the plug-ins to access more RAM especially when processing virtual instruments.  There are many manufacturers who currently support this new format.  If you are moving from a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) other than Pro Tools, before you upgrade, you should check with the manufacturer of your favorite plug-in to ensure it is compatible with Pro Tools 11.


     These are only some of the key features of Pro Tools 11.  Additionally, there are other useful features such as:

    • Automation during recording: this is especially useful during live recordings.

    • Retina Display Support:  higher resolution means sharper and clearer images on your monitor.

    • Avid Satellite technology: now included in Pro Tools 11 at no additional charge.  Visit Video Satellite LE for additional details on this feature.

    • Workflow enhancements: Pro Tools 11 includes a number of new shortcuts to speed up your workflow:

      • Restore previously shown tracks using the Track List

      • Access plug-in presets through right-click menus

      • Keep the beat with the new AAX Native Click II plug-in

      • Add up to four seconds of fade time with the Transport Fade-In command, which helps avoid loud bursts when relocating playback

      • Create new tracks by simply double-clicking

      • Bypass sends using new commands and shortcut options

      • Bypass inserts using new commands and shortcut options

      • Search faster with optimized media management

      • Search and audition sound effects easily

      • Perform advanced searches


    Pro Tools 10 and Pro Tools 11 Dual Install

    Pro Tools 11 includes installs for both Pro Tools 11 and Pro Tools 10, both of which can be installed on the same boot drive. This enables you to switch between either version, which is especially important if you have older Pro Tools sessions that use plug-ins not compatible with Pro Tools 11.

    Please note that Pro Tools 11 requires an iLok 2 USB key (pictured below). Installation has also been simplified for Mac users—just drag and drop to install.

    Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 10.04.49 AM

    Whether you are a current user or if you’ve been sitting on the fence about making the jump to Pro Tools 11 I highly recommend you upgrade now.  My sessions run incredibly fast, smooth and error-free (running Pro Tools 11 version 11.0.2 on Mac OS X 10.8.5 as of this writing).

  • My review of Screenflow – A screen capturing software


    I’ve been looking for a screen capturing software that is powerful but without a huge learning curve.  Enter Screenflow.  This software works on the OS (Mac) platform (version 4 as of this writing).  Screenflow is great for producing product reviews, tutorials, presentations and much more.  It has the bells and whistles, video filters, transitions, titles, zoom, pan, video camera capture, external/internal mic audio, and you can import your own audio as well, use images, etc.  You can then edit it all together and produce a high quality, low file size movie in many formats. It’s really a great piece of software.

    In action

    Screenflow installs in seconds.  When you 1st launch it, it gives you a window with recording preferences (Figure 1).  From here you can choose to record the screen by itself, or you can capture video from the computer’s internal/external video camera.  This way, you can be on screen while you narrate the video for a more intimate presenter/audience experience.  You also have the option to include audio from the computer’s built-in microphone or input if you want to connect and external computer microphone.  An option to record the computer’s internal sounds is also available.  If you click on the arrow on the right of said window it will give you a set timer option so you can dictate how long the recording should go on for (Figure 2).  This is ideal when you are doing a screencast and want to keep it to a specified time, or if you are recording let’s say a live 20 minute presentation and need to step away.

    Screenflow initial screen 1  

    Figure 1

    Screenflow initial screen 2

    Figure 2


    By pressing Shit + Command + 2 (or a menu command) you can start/stop the screen recording process.  I recorded for approximately 2 minutes and then stopped recording.  I was expecting the program to go through some kind of rendering process before I could see what I had just recorded; but the video editor came up right away with the footage I had just recorded and I was able to immediately play it back and start editing. It was a wow! moment.  A big plus for such a time saving capability.

    The editing interface is loaded with powerful tools but it is intuitive enough to not scare you away with an overly complicated layout.  The timeline is where you can see your captured video and where can place all of your additional content (e.g. audio, pictures, additional video).  You can split video and/or audio and trim to taste (in the event you with to use separately recorded audio.  I was able to split clips, add transitions, zoom into sections of a clip when I wanted a portion of the video to be the center of attention. All of this was possible in a matter of minutes.

    Screenflow Timeline

    One of the most notable features is the ability to nest video clips (another time saver).  Take a number of clips you have worked with an combine them into one.  Let’s say you need to correct the color on the clips or add an effect, with the nested clip you can do the color correction/add effect and it will be applied to all clips as opposed to having to modify each clip at a time.  This function is reversible if needed.

    The chroma-key filter is another great feature if you want to use green-screen effects.  You can make your videos look pro instantly by adding a background image or video footage (green-screen required).

    There is a long list of audio/video filters also available which give you the ability to adjust your videos to taste (blur, color correction, distortion, etc) as well as your audio (eq, delay, compression/limiting).  You can also make annotations, add text/titles, create callouts and much more.

    With all these great features and tools readily available at your fingertips, Screenflow is a great choice whether your are only starting out or are already familiar with video capturing software.  Although it may not have all the bells and whistles of a full scale video editing software, it does give you everything you need to turn your presentations from average to awesome.

    If you are new to screencasting/video editing, then go on Telestream’s website, they offer videos/tutorials if you’d like some more in depth information or if you feel that you need some tutoring before you jump into your first project.

    Screenflow retails for US $99.  You can purchase or download a free trial of Screenflow directly from Telestream’s website: http://www.telestream.net/screenflow/

  • My review of Slate Digital Virtual Buss Compressors VBC

    There are many plug-ins out there that emulate the sound of analog gear and mixing consoles.  However, if you are looking for well rounded master buss compressors which stand out from the competition, then look no further.  Slate Digital has been developing quality plug-ins that live to their expectations and the Virtual Buss Compressors are no exception.

    This plug-in gives you a trio of flavors.  That’s three (3) separate compressors to choose from.  The FG-Grey, FG-Red and the FG-MU.  You can use each compressor individually or together (rack mode) to add your own blend of creatively customized sounds.  Each compressor comes equipped with a hi-pass filter and mix knob so you can adjust the compressed to dry signal ratio.  These compressors also come with a variety of presets by highly acclaimed mixers to get you started.  Although the Virtual Buss Compressors can be used on the master buss, they can also be applied to drums, vocals, etc.

    The FG-Grey Compressor was designed to emulate a British 4000 series console compressor.  When put into the master buss you can immediately notice a big difference (as if by magic) by merely turning the compressor on.  The bottom end gets thicker and punchier, the top end becomes crispier and opens up the overall mix.  The sound seems to maintain its presence even when heavily pushing the compressor.  This compressor has quickly become my favorite.


    The FG-Red Compressor was modeled after the classic RED faced compressor.  This compressor adds it’s own of greatness and is due to it’s Drive knob.  Again, just by turning on the plug-in and pushing the drive knob you can hear a difference in the punch and clarity of the mix.  In my opinion, having that drive knob makes this compressor ideal for rock mixes.  Word has it that this compressor is a favorite of Grammy award-winning master mixer Chris Lord-Alge and for good reason, as it takes your mixes to a new level.


    The FG-MU Compressor has been designed after the Fairchild 670 and Manley Vari Mu, both of which are tube type compressors.  The tube design adds coloration by simply passing audio through it.  This quality has been translated into this virtual compressor to give you that analog old school sound.  When added to the master buss, you notice how the bottom end and upper mid-range get tighter along with high frequencies that sizzle.  This compressor also has a stereo/mid-side switch. Try using this compressor in combination with the FG-Grey or FG-Red and your in the box mixes come alive in ways you’ve never heard before.


    Talk about adding “glue” to your mixes.  All three of the compressor accomplish that and more.  My mixes sound that much better and gives them that professional warmth and analog feel that many in the box mixers feel their DAWs lack.  Compare the Virtual Buss Compressors against your favorite go-to or stock compressor and hear he difference for yourself.  You can demo this plug-in or you can buy it at a great price considering you get 3 separate compressors.  The Virtual Buss Compressors plug-in can be purchased as a download or as a boxed product which includes a free iLok2 (required to run the pug-in).  Do yourself and your mixes a favor and try Slate Digital’s VBC.  I promise you won’t regret it.

    The Rack
    The Rack