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Metric Halo ChannelStrip for GarageBand

Professional audio processing plugin for GarageBand By Dave Nagel
Summary: ChannelStrip for GarageBand is a professional-level, console-style audio processor ported for use in Apple's GarageBand. Coming in at about one-eighth the price of the pro TDM version, ChannelStrip GB offers all of the features of its more expensive sibling, ChannelStrip, including delay, expander/gate, compressor and EQ, all designed to improve the quality of your audio and add the kind of polish to your songs that GarageBand alone can't do.
Developer: Metric Halo (
Platform: Mac OS X
Price: $89
Demo available: Yes
Users: Anybody who uses GarageBand and wants more of a professional polish to their compositions.
Recommendation: Strong Buy

Apple's GarageBand is a fantastic tool for those just getting started in music, arranging songs or making demos. But when you listen to the compositions you create, it's pretty obvious that there's something missing--the kind of polish you'd expect if from pro audio software. Enter ChannelStrip for GarageBand by Metric Halo.

Metric Halo is the developer of ChannelStrip, a professional signal processor that normally sells for $345 to $699, depending on your host application. But in attempt to reach out to beginners and hobbyists, Metric Halo has developed a version that sells for much less--just $89--and that runs exclusively in GarageBand through a special Audio Unit plugin. And it offers all of the features of the more expensive version (minus the bundled phone support) optimized for GarageBand. Plus it offers plenty of presets to help get you started.

To begin, if you're just getting started in music/audio production, you probably don't have the experience or knowledge to go messing around with something as feature-packed as ChannelStrip GB without a head start. And so Metric Halo has included some 115 presets to get you started in the right direction and enhance the sound of various instrument types. These include vocals, guitars, bass, miscellaneous percussion, piano, woodwinds and brass, plus some general sound enhancing presets (low-cut, de-ess, etc.) and special effects (telephone, lo-fi effects and various others).

These presets can be used as-is, or you can use them as the basis for creating your own settings. And to this end, ChannelStrip provides a wealth of controls. It offers:

Six-band parametric EQ
Input level control
Compressor with filtered sidechain
Gate/expander with filtered sidechain
Integrated delay
Phase inversion

ChannelStrip GB is invoked just like any other effect in GarageBand--via the Track Info palette. You select ChannelStrip from the list of available plugins, then choose a preset, if desired.

From there, you can click the Edit button to invoke ChannelStrip's full interface, which is virtually identical to the profession version.

In the screen shot above, you see ChannelStrip's three primary sections (Gate, Compressor and EQ), plus the various sidechain graphs on the right.

The Gate section works on the low-level dynamics of the signal being processed and provides you with controls over threshold, attack and release; sidechain routing; filter types (peaking/parametric, high cut, low cut, low shelf, high shelf and bandpass); filter band boost/cut; filter band frequency; and filter bandwidth. Gating can be enabled or disabled via a single button.

The Compressor section allows you to adjust the high-level dynamics of the audio signal and can be made frequency-sensitive using the sidechain, just like the Gate. The Compressor section provides automatic gain; a post EQ option for placing the Compressor section after the equalizer in the signal chain; make-up gain for adding gain back after the gain is reduced by the Compressor; dynamic character parameters, including smooth, warm and fast; threshold control; ratio control; attack and release control; sidechain routing; filter types (same as the Gate section); filter enable/disable; filter band boost/cut; filter band frequency; and filter bandwidth.

And the EQ section provides you with a six-band, 48-bit parametric EQ. Each band can be filtered using peaking/parametric, high cut, low cut, low shelf, high shelf and bandpass filters. In addition, each band can be pushed up to +24 dB, and the frequency and bandwidth of each band can be adjusted manually.

At the top of the EQ, you'll also find controls for in gain and delay. The delay section allows you to add up to 255 samples of delay to ChannelStrip's output.

There's very little to say in the area of ChannelStrip's performance. It's fast. You aren't going to experience any lags when using it--at least no more than using any other effect in GarageBand.

As for workflow, ChannelStrip is extremely simple to use. The presets included with this software make it easy to get started, and the documentation is thorough in the sense that it tells you not only which buttons, knobs and slides do what, but also what the various parameters and filters mean and what effect they'll have on your sound. The documentation provided is for the TDM version of ChannelStrip, but, again, it's virtually identical to the GarageBand version, so you shouldn't have any trouble adapting the information. (Just disregard the references to Pro Tools.) I would like to see a specific version of the documentation for the ChannelStrip GB version, but, heck, for $89 I can't complain too much about something like that.

The bottom line
Metric Halo's ChannelStrip GB brings professional-level signal processing to GarageBand. Its high performance, high processing quality and ease of use make it an essential tool for those who are looking to produce a more professional sound from GarageBand. Furthermore, it's a great opportunity to learn ChannelStrip for a low cost of entry. If you do eventually upgrade to a higher-end audio system, you'll be able to upgrade ChannelStrip along with it for the difference in the price. Not a bad deal at all. I give ChannelStrip for GarageBand a Strong Buy recommendation. But if you'd like to try it out for yourself, there is a 12-day demo version available on Metric Halo's site. You definitely have to check it out.

ChannelStrip for GarageBand is available now for Mac OS X for $89. For more information, visit

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Related Keywords:garageband, channelstrip, channel strip, signal processor, delay, eq, expander, gate, compressor, plugin, plug-in, audio enthusiasts, mixing, audio enhancing

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