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Tracktion 2's Final Mix

Mackie's DAW application comes with a powerful mastering plugin as standard equipment By Frank Moldstad

Final MixWhen Mackie's Tracktion 2 was released earlier this year, the onetime shareware application had been transformed into a full-blown professional recording and editing program. Extensive upgrades were made under the hood, while the user-friendly single interface approach that had given Tracktion a loyal following was preserved. Among the more than 100 new features added in Tracktion 2 (MSRP $199) were a new 64-bit mixing engine, 24-bit/192kHz sampling, Broadcast Wave import/export, and a host of new editing tools, virtual instruments and effects.

But with all the excitement, it was easy to overlook the fact that among the additions was a first-rate mastering plugin called Final Mix. Originally developed by Acuma Labs for the Mackie d8b mixer, Final Mix is a professional stereo mastering plug-in that includes multi-band compression and two six-band parametric EQs, which are pre- and post-dynamics.

With a plugin like this built-in, Tracktion 2 has a finishing component that few other DAW programs can match out of the box -- mastering plugins of this quality usually must be purchased separately. The only other way to get Final Mix is to purchase certain Mackie digital hardware products, such as the new dxb mixer or the TT24 live board. Tracktion 2's Final Mix plugin won't work with any other applications, and you can't buy it as a standalone VST plugin.

Having used Final Mix as a plugin on the now-discontinued d8b mixer, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it translated to a DAW plugin. The interface has slightly redesigned, but all the original functions are intact, including editable dynamics key and crossover points, EQ shelving on each band, and detailed graphs with popup windows.

Mackie Final Mix
The Final Mix interface

At first glance, the interface looks complicated, and it might be tempting for new users simply to use the Final Mix presets, of which there are many. But far better results can be obtained by tailoring the EQ and compression for a specific audio track. After a short time, the interface is really not so daunting. There are two main graphs on the interface (above), one for EQ, showing the six-band parametric EQ curve; and the other for Dynamics, displaying the crossover and keying settings. These are the principal tools, supported by a deep subset of tools for manipulating them.

First, we'll examine the EQ section. Because the pre- and post-dynamics EQs can be used simultaneously, there are actually 12 bands of EQ. The post-dynamics EQ is useful for restoring the EQ balance after compression, since compressing a signal can alter the existing EQ curve. The pre- and post-dynamics EQ curves can be compared together on one graph, or viewed separately. Each EQ graph contains six little green circles, or nodes, representing the six bands. Moving the nodes vertically and horizontally adjusts their gain and frequency bandwidths.

EQ section

Double-clicking the EQ graph brings up a popup window with gain, frequency and Q controls for each band. To the right of the graph are four rows of buttons. The top row of buttons turns the Pre and Post EQs on and off and enables a DC filter. The second row selects Pre or Post Edit and View modes. The third row has an on/off button for each band. The fourth row enables/disables EQ shelving for each band.

EQ band editing popup appears when EQ graph is double-clicked. Top to bottom are Gain, Frequency and Q controls.


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Related Keywords:Tracktion 2, Final Mix, Mackie, mastering, plug-in, DAW, dxb mixer


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