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TrackPlug 5

New version of WaveArts' virtual channel strip adds peak limiter, brickwall filter and more By Frank Moldstad

TrackPlug 5 interface in Logic Pro 7
As the name implies, WaveArts TrackPlug 5 is a virtual channel strip for in-the-box audio mixers. It provides an extensive toolkit for shaping the dynamics and EQ of individual tracks, including a 10-band EQ, two compressors, a gate, a brickwall filter, and a look-ahead peak limiter.

It is available as a standalone plugin for $199.95, or as part of WaveArts PowerSuite v5, a $599.95  five-plugin bundle that also includes WaveArts MasterVerb 5, FinalPlug 5,  MultiDynamics 5 and Panorama 5. All five plugins run on either Mac OS X (AU/VST/MAS/RTAS) or Windows (DX/VST/RTAS) computers. They can be purchased and downloaded from the WaveArts web site, which also offers fully functional 30-day demo versions of each of the plugins.

The tools in TrackPlug 5 offer many options for giving a track a distinctive sound that still sits well in a mix.  There are deep parameters for controlling EQ, compression, and gating. The EQ, for instance, includes 10 bands with 11 different filter types. It can be routed pre or post dynamics, and theres a dual EQ comparison sidechain mode for de-essing. Similarly, the two compressors and the gate have side-chain EQ control, variable knees and look-ahead delay options. For good measure, theres a built-in lookahead peak limiter and low and high pass brickwall filters.

Browsing global presets
I tried TrackPlug 5 out in both Logic Pro 7 on a Mac and SONAR 5 on a PC. It installed without a problem on both platforms and seemed to have identical performance. As in, a very clean sound that can become dirty when pushed, with excellent sonics overall. The 34 presets cover all the basic food groups, from drums and guitars to vocals and bass, with a few interesting variations such as Ukelephone thrown in.

But one of the other valuable things about this plugin is that the individual processors can also be used as standalone modules. Each section can be enabled or disabled, depending on your preference. The EQ, gate and both compressors even come with their own specific presets. That means you can employ TrackPlug 5 on one track as an EQ, on another as a compressor, and on a third as a gate. And so on down the line. Plus, there are individual meters for the gate, both compressors and the main outputs.

Of course, because its a channel strip, TrackPlug 5s processors are designed to work together, something they do extremely well. The signal path goes like this:

The first thing a signal hits in TrackPlug 5 is the new brickwall filter, which gets rid of extraneous noise, thumps, rumble and hum. Both highpass and lowpass filters are provided. From there the signal goes through the gate, attenuating background noise such as headphone leakage into a microphone when a vocalist is not singing. Pre EQ goes next, followed by the compressors. But if the tonal qualities of post EQ are preferred, the EQ follows the compressors. Next is the new peak limiter function, for preventing signal distortion. This is controlled by a rotary knob on the main output strip to hold levels at whatever threshold you select

With 10 bands of EQ, theres plenty of control over the tone. The EQ bands are adjusted with familiar little round handles that can be spaced anywhere across the frequency band or packed tightly together in one area if desired. The sonics are clear and clean, and for character, theres a vintage shelf filter. This was modeled from ?the response shapes of  certain analog equalizers, according to the manual -- and I liked the sound very much.

Dynamics section
There are 11 different filters available per EQ band. The choices are: parametric EQ; a Shelf filter with standard, resonant, and vintage variations; a notch filter; a Bandpass filter; and lowpass and highpass filters. The analog low/high shelf and resonant low/high shelf filters are new in version 5. Another new feature in version 5 is Dual EQ comparison sidechain modes to make de-essing vocals easier.

The compressors have good range, from clean to aggressive distortion. The best aggressive sounds are gotten by pushing the settings in any of the three new vintage modes, which add analog-style colorization. Altogether, there are five modes: Clean Peak, Clean RMS, Vintage Peak, Vintage RMS and Vintage Warm. The inclusion of Peak and RMS modes allow the compressors to be configured either for a signals peak levels or its average values. The luxury of two compressors and a gate allows precise signal manipulation, with hard knee, soft knee, and other variables that can be applied to one or all three dynamics processors.

New in version 5 is Sidechain EQ support on each dynamics section (gate, compressor 1 and compressor 2). I really liked the tonal variations when engaging the sidechain equalizers on the compressors. They produced unique textures that could be dialed in by moving around the sidechain curves. There are dedicated panes in the EQ section for viewing the sidechain curves for the gate and the compressors. These panes are accessible by clicking small buttons marked G-SC, C1-SC and C2-SC under the main EQ screen.

Now at version 5, TrackPlug has stood the test of time, expanding the flexibility of its tools and adding valuable new features as it goes along, such as the peak limiter. Veteran users will notice that the version 5 interface was redesigned, with a warm colorful look that still presents all the tools in a manageable form. Under the hood, it retains the CPU efficiency its always had, meaning you can apply many instances before taxing the computer.

Those who mix with independent dynamics and EQ processors on each track will appreciate TrackPlug 5s global approach, and the way it takes advantage of how one process impacts another. Overall, the sound is excellent, no doubt aided by the EQ sections 64-bit internal processing. I recommend TrackPlug 5 as a refined tool with extensive parameters for whipping DAW tracks into shape. But you can decide for yourself by downloading a fully functioning 30 day demo here .


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Related Keywords:WaveArts, TrackPlug 5, channel strip, plugin, EQ, compressor, brickwall filter, peak limiter, gating


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