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My opinions on 3rd party plugins and track cloning

Posted by Johnny Geib on January 5, 2015 at 8:00 PM

I received an email today asking my thoughts on this. He apologized for a long winded email and I responded with an even longer email (not purposly mind you) and I came to think my response was worthy of a Blog entry.

The question was: "So I guess the short form of my question/confusion is this. Shouldn't the eq and compression tools inside Studio One provide enough flexibility to craft [the same] beautiful sound?"

My response:

Well, this is a question that can be based on several things and is so completely open to opinion that everyone you ask may have a different answer.


The short answer is Yes. Everything you hear in the bigger plugins should be, at least, mostly attainable in the native plugins in any DAW. SHOULD BE!! Now, the reality is presets and algorithms can contain so many different settings that to match the sound of one preset in a Slate Digital plugin, you may need 4 or 5 Native plugins in Studio One to even come close to that exact sound. Not to mention the fact you may never find it at all. That's what makes the question so hard to really answer solidly.


Now for the longer answer. This, for me, is one reason I don't use 3rd party plugins very much, even when they look as awesome as Slate Digital's do. When I bought Studio One back in 2009, I loved the simplicity and the fact that there were few options to have to learn. I wanted to really learn what each plugin did and learn it well. Since it had all the basics that I had in my analog rack, that was all I needed at that point. I just wanted to learn to do in it. what I already did with my outboard gear. Once I did that, I began exploring features I found interesting or simply stumbled upon during my learning process and went from there.


Now here's a point I want to make based on a comment you made.


You said: couldn't one just do the same thing with Parallel compression on a duplicate of the track in question, with a low filter and some eq?


Never duplicate (or clone) a track like that. Since all plugins in Studio One have a "Mix' adjustment, you can adjust the level of the original track against the effect. Duplicating (or cloning) a track will, most times, cause "Phasing" and make your tracks cancel each other out because they are identical. So a good rule of thumb to follow is to never copy tracks unless you are going to de-tune them or severely edit them. 2 Identical tracks playing at the same time increases volume, not fatness.

There are techniques for track cloning that can make for a "Fat" but that would be another long email....lol

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Reply Bobby Reed
12:43 PM on January 16, 2015 
Johnny, great answer to cloning. I've experimented with this approach but was never satisfied with my results. The phasing drove me crazy. Hence, I don't waste time on that any more and I am able to get really nice sounds using a single track. Keep up the good work!
Reply Martin Weeks
9:49 PM on August 13, 2016 
Bobby Reed says...
Johnny, great answer to cloning. I've experimented with this approach but was never satisfied with my results. The phasing drove me crazy. Hence, I don't waste time on that any more and I am able to get really nice sounds using a single track. Keep up the good work!
Reply Martin Weeks
4:48 PM on August 18, 2016 
On the subject of 3rd party plugins:
To me it's actually not really about which or what is better. It has do do with other matters.
3rd party Plugins really have to be viewed on a case by case or song by song level.
It comes down to the difference between "Value" of usage vs. time involved in using.
An example of this follows:
Several months ago I downloaded a trial version of "Izotope's Nectar 2 Suite Bundle" I was curious as to whether or not it would really make a difference in the quality and dynamics of vocal tracks. Since we are actively writing, mixing and publishing songs, I wanted to know if this particular plugin would really make a significant difference in the vocals and possible other "Mic'd Instruments" like acoustic guitar.
Since it was a trial version (try before buy) I jumped into this with both feet. Pulled up an older mix that wasn't being groomed for publishing and tried out the software and compared it to an identical vocal track, just using stock plugins from my DAW.
Essentially everything in the Nectar could in fact be duplicated using stock plugins with my DAW. There was EQ of course, compression of course, Gate, lots of presets and Saturation.
Really the only difference for me was:
1.) Time
2.) fine tuning so to speak.
I could in fact use stock plugins to do the same thing as the Nectar did. With one simple difference.
Time efficiency. The workflow was faster because I could fly through and real time listen to what was happening with the vocal tracks.
This is why I stated "Value" not cost. (a lot of my 3rd party plugins are in fact totally free and excellent)
So the question becomes efficiency of the plugin and time saver for work flow and publishing purposes. In our business/craft certain things are always constant. Namely due to competition, we all have to put out LOTS OF PRODUCT. Whether it's submissions to a label, or publisher or advertiser, or just lots of streaming and soundloud stuff, volume of submissions is essential if we want to build a steady passive income from royalties or ads.
So when it comes to something as important as vocals, if the plug does the same or better work as a long series of independent plugins (stock or otherwise) and does it in half the time. More than likely for that particular song or project that is what I would do. For other parts of the song most likely Ii would still use the stock plugins for efficiency and ease on CPU and Memory usage.
The other factor is "How much time" do I want to spend using independent stock plugins vs. the quality of presets (Ii use presets as a starting point then edit and tweak...I don't rely on just on the preset.) Comes down to time saver and better work flow.
Just my two cents worth.
What do you think?