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Microphone Month 3

Hands On: 64-bit Plug-ins

Pro Tools 11

When Pro Tools 11 was released, it meant big changes. For one thing, RTAS plug-ins were no longer supported. In addition to that, Pro Tools 11 is exclusively 64-bit, so the first generation of Avid’s new AAX plug-ins are also incompatible — plug-ins now have to conform to AAX 64-bit format in order to work in Pro Tools 11. A major change, to be sure! But fear not, software manufacturers are on the ball, and they’ve delivered on their promise of compatible plug-ins. The assortment we have available today is massive — during the course of writing this article, I installed hundreds of plug-ins that covered every need a songwriter, engineer, producer, composer, or recording studio might have, from standard needs such as EQ and compression to exotic processors and virtual instruments.

A big leap forward for AAX 64-bit support was the release of Waves plug-ins for the new format (see below). This alone gives us a tremendous variety of plug-ins to choose from. But Waves is just one of the important manufacturers who now support AAX 64-bit: I installed plug-ins from McDSP, Sonnox, iZotope, Rob Papen (see below), Celemony, Arturia, Flux, and more. And, at this writing, several other major manufacturers are in public beta with their AAX 64-bit plug-ins; I expect them to be released by the time you receive this issue of SweetNotes. Let’s not forget, Avid’s own plug-ins support AAX 64-bit — not surprising, given that they developed the new format and the Pro Tools 11 software.

So what, exactly, does 64-bit support mean for plug-ins? “64-bit” doesn’t refer to audio resolution or quality. Rather, 64-bit refers to the computer/software architecture driving Pro Tools 11. The big difference is the amount of computer memory that 64-bit operation supports — for all intents and purposes, a 64-bit system can access unlimited RAM. This has big benefits for virtual instruments, especially those that are based on huge libraries, containing thousands of samples. 64-bit operation has dramatically upped the efficiency of Pro Tools 11, and with the efficiency up-tick has come an increase in the power available for plug-in processors and virtual instruments. You’ll find that you can run more plug-ins in a session than ever before and that everything just feels smoother and faster — it’s like getting an instant upgrade to your computer!

So what’s the moral of the story? If you’ve been waiting to update your system to Pro Tools 11 until there were plug-ins that supported the new format, then your wait is over! The assortment of plug-ins available for AAX 64-bit/Pro Tools 11 is huge, with all the bases covered, and all of the major manufacturers either already there or becoming available in the very immediate future.

Personally, I’m glad I made the leap into Pro Tools 11. I’ve got the plug-ins I need to get my work done. Whether I need the basics or the exotics, I haven’t been stuck needing a plug-in I couldn’t get. Pro Tools 11 is a major leap forward, and the AAX 64-bit format is a big part of that leap. Don’t wait, take the plunge! You won’t regret it.

Waves and AAX 64-bit

With more plug-ins than any other manufacturer, Waves support for AAX 64-bit and Pro Tools 11 is critical for many users. As of this writing, Waves has just released AAX 64-bit-compatible plug-ins. I installed the Mercury and Studio Classics bundles onto my computer and began instantiating plug-ins into Pro Tools 11. From old favorites such as L3 and Supertap to new favorites such as the celebrity engineer signature collections (Chris Lord-Alge, Jack Joseph Puig, Eddie Kramer, and more) and the ultra-easy OneKnob plug-ins, all of them worked flawlessly.

I especially enjoyed getting to know Waves’ newest plug-ins in Pro Tools 11, such as the GEQ graphic equalizer, the Element synthesizer, the vintage-styled RS56 passive equalizer, and the wonderful REDD plug-ins, which model vintage Abbey Road studios processors.

The Studio Classics bundle gives you the sounds of famous recording consoles from SSL, API, and Neve. Having access to this collection helps give your Pro Tools rig that classic analog vibe even when you’re working 100% in the box. And being able to choose the exact console EQ you want for each track allows you tremendous tone-shaping flexibility.

Waves brings tons of plug-ins to Pro Tools 11 – the Mercury bundle features 130 plug-ins and over 400 components – certainly plenty to provide a well-stocked plug-in locker for PT 11 users! But any of the Waves bundles will give you a wide variety of plug-in processing options for Pro Tools, all with the audio quality and ease of use we’ve come to expect from Waves!

Rob Papen and AAX 64-bit

If you’re after aggressive, powerful virtual instruments and effects, then turn your gaze toward Rob Papen! Papen’s instruments consistently sit on the cutting edge of synthesis, offering incredible tone-generating power. These instruments have been used for dance tracks, electronic music, film scores, rock music, R&B, hip-hop, and many other styles, so it was imperative that they be available for Pro Tools 11. Rob Papen jumped on the bandwagon quickly and was one of the first virtual instrument developers to offer native AAX 64-bit support.

I installed Papen’s Explorer II bundle into my Pro Tools system. Explorer II includes all of Papen’s synths: Blue (multi-format synthesis), Blade (slashing power synthesis), Predator (fat analog), SubBoomBass (subsonic groove bass), Punch (power drum machine), and RG (electric and acoustic guitar grooves), plus effects processors including Predator FX (filter and vocoder effects), RP-Delay (super-flexible delay effects), RP-Verb (lush reverb), and RP-Distort (creative distortion processor). With this collection, your Pro Tools 11 rig has access to a tremendous array of fresh sounds. And, there’s plenty of power and tweakability for designing your own signature sounds.

There are plenty of great virtual instruments that aim to provide you with emulations of traditional acoustic instruments of all kinds, and many others that simulate the sound of vintage synthesizers. With Papen’s Explorer II bundle, the goal is different: to inspire you through new, contemporary timbres and effects. And Papen has certainly succeeded. No matter what style of music you’re working in, with Explorer II, your tonal palette will receive a big wake-up call!

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