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Review: McDSP Emerald Pack (Bonus)

November 3, 2008
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OUT FOR A SPIN

To get an idea of how the plug-ins in the Emerald Pack work together, I recorded a note-for-note rendition of the Beatles'' “Nowhere Man” to my iZ RADAR hard-disk recorder. For mixdown, I used Pro Tools HD as an 8-channel effects processor, sending grouped tracks from my analog mixer into Pro Tools and back to the console again. McDSP plug-ins provided all signal processing; I used the console only to route signals and set levels. The goal was to try to match the sonic qualities of the original recording. I began by strapping an AC2 tape-simulation plug-in across each channel to emulate a European-type tape EQ curve and the compression characteristics of vintage tape formulations. This added a subtle low-end bump to all the tracks, rounded the highs a bit, and pushed everything forward by emulating tape compression. FilterBank''s British 1 EQ curve brightened the top end of my vocals and electric guitar, putting them into the same sonic ballpark as what I was hearing on the master.

I made liberal use of CompressorBank, using its Fairchild 670 emulation on drums and bass, and the British Compressor 1 patch on vocals and electric guitar. The before/after difference was not subtle. Although I would never be able to create a perfect simulation of the sound (or the performance!) of this great song, using these plug-ins in concert gave me a mix that I was happy with.

I next set out to do a stress test to see how many McDSP plug-in instances my system could handle. I created a typical mix session with 24 mono audio tracks, 4 stereo aux tracks for busing and group effects, and a stereo master fader. I have an original, pre-Accel Pro Tools HD3 system. At 24-bit, 96 kHz, I maxed out at 18 channels of the Channel G dynamics/EQ plug-in. FilterBank and CompressorBank are less CPU hungry, though, so I was able to squeeze out a full mix, thanks to having a FilterBank P6 and CompressorBank CB3 on each of the 24 audio channels, a Channel G on each of the 4 aux tracks, and, to finish it off, a FilterBank P6 and ML4000 Mastering Limiter on the master fader.

At 24-bit, 48 kHz, I was able to upgrade the 24 audio channels to a G Console plug-in, and I replaced the single-band ML4000 with the Gate/Expander/Comp/Limiter ML4000 ML4 version. All of this processing power fit on an HD Core and one Process card, leaving me an entire card to delegate to all the Analog Channel 2s, Chrome Stacks, NF575s, and FutzBoxes I could want. As Revolver is an RTAS-based IR reverb, I had no problem using some of my G5''s native processing power to strap four stereo reverbs across the aux buses.

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