Eventide's range of high-quality Pro Tools plug-ins continues to grow, and the new Anthology II bundle collects together no fewer than 15 separate effects and processors.
Since they launched the Clockworks Legacy bundle three years ago, Eventide have been adding to their range of TDM plug-ins, and the new Anthology II package combines that original suite of effects with the more recent Anthology and several even newer products. The result is a suite of processors and effects that brings together 'retro' and contemporary sounds not only within one bundle, but also in some cases within individual plug-ins.
This bundle consists of precise software models of the Eventide hardware favourites from the 1970s — the Instant Phaser, Instant Flanger, Omnipressor, H910 and H949 Harmonizers. Eventide have resisted the temptation to 'update' them, other than to add some MIDI control and automation of course, preferring to reproduce them warts and all as software plug-ins. SOS reviewed this bundle back in September 2003 (www.soundonsound.com/sos/ sep03/articles/clockworks.htm) so I am going to skip past these processors other than to reaffirm that Instant Flanger is still one of the best flanging effects around. I have always felt that most flanging processors don't quite match the original tape-machine-created effect, but Instant Flanger does it for me.
The only other things I want to mention are to bring up to date some of the findings of the 2003 review. On the reviewer's Mix system, the Harmonizer plug-ins took a whole chip for one mono instance, but I can report that on my HD2 Accel system, H910 took 25 percent of one of my HD Accel chips and H949 took 50 percent of a chip. I too agree that for sci-fi effects these plug-ins are the business, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Paul McFadden, who is part of the audio post-production team for the current Doctor Who series, has them in his 'toolbox'.
Finally, I can't leave this section without commenting on the Omnipressor emulation. I too took a little time to get to grips with the Attenuation and Gain Limit controls and what the meter in Gain mode was telling me, but having seen the logic behind it, I am very taken with being able to limit the amount of gain or attenuation a compressor puts into a signal path; this makes it possible to have a quite high ratio setting whilst making sure the compressor can only apply so much gain or attenuation. I would value a make-up gain control on the Omnipressor plug-in, but I appreciate that would step away from the faithful model of the original hardware unit.
Eventide later added four more plug-ins to the Clockworks Legacy bundle to make the Anthology bundle. These, again, originated in Eventide's hardware processors, but they are much more contemporary in origin. Two of the new plug-ins, Band Delays and Factory, were derived from the H3000-series Harmonizers, and the other two, Reverb and Octavox, are lifted from their flagship Orville hardware unit.
Band Delays (right) and Factory share a similar graphical user interface, which is divided into three sections. At the top there is a virtual H3000 front panel, while the middle is taken up by a Preset Parameter section offering controls such as wet/dry mix, input and output levels, filter settings and tempo-related controls. The bottom section can be set to display in three different modes: Program is the simplest and the most graphical, Expert lists all the settings in a table format, and Function gives you access to things like soft-key settings, and a Function Generator for controlling sweep effects and so on.
Band Delays comprises eight tempo-based multitap delays, each with a programmable filter, feeding back into a stereo mixer. The filters can be set to low-pass, band-pass or high-pass, and can be 'played' using MIDI. The Program section of this plug-in really uses the concept of a graphical interface to the utmost. The left-hand side shows the eight delays, each colour-coded with an 'X'. The right-hand side shows what is happening in a 3D chart, with the X axis showing frequency, the Y axis showing filter gain and the Z axis showing delay length. These track with any modulation programmed in. Try running through some of the presets and watch the graphs bounce around. It is definitely a case of a picture painting a thousand words!
What is it like to use? Well, the enhancements Eventide have added to the plug-in version, together with the ability to sync it up to the song tempo, mean that if you want complex multiple delays then Band Delays can deliver with the correct programming. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I found a trip through the presets gave me a very useful tutorial on what is achievable and then you are really only limited by your imagination and time in achieving some really wild delay-related effects. For example, Band Delays makes it very easy to set a stereo slap echo: try using four delays alternatively panned left and right, spaced a quaver apart and setting low-pass filters to roll off the high frequencies with each successive repeat. I was impressed, although I actually found it easier to set this same effect up on the Waves Stereo Supertap plug-in; while it doesn't have the dancing filter effects, the display is much clearer, and it gives you access to all the controls, rather than having to select the delay and then adjust a common set of controls.
Factory (right) is a modular processor offering two of each of the following modules: delays, filters, virtual VCAs called Ampmods, Scale modules that can be used for either audio or control signals, LFO modules and envelope generators, plus four two-input/one-output mixer modules. In Program mode, the bottom section sports a patch panel just like those early synths, so you can configure the modules in the desired order. However, the quickest way to understand how these can be used is to run through the presets and see how the effects have been created. I was particularly impressed with the section of 'post' friendly presets in the list.
It is difficult to compare Factory with any other plug-in from any other manufacturer, as to me it seems pretty well unique. The possibilities are endless, so I'll just offer one example of the sort of thing that Factory can do: to remove the snare drum spill from the overhead mics on a drum kit rig. You know the scenario — you spend ages getting the snare sound just right, maybe with a gated reverb sound, and then you open up the overhead mics and it all changes. So what if you could duck out the snare from the overhead channels? Well, with Factory you can. Route the overhead mics through the two Ampmod modules and feed the key input from the snare mic through a band-pass filter set to only pass the snare sound and reject the toms, cymbals and so on. Route the output of the band-pass filter to an envelope generator and take the 'ducker' output into the control input of the Ampmods, and by adjusting the envelope generator's attack and release times, the snare sound is ducked out of the overhead channels.
I found that the control surface implementation was very impressive and soon was adjusting paramenters direct from my Command 8.
Reverb is not a particularly imaginative name for a reverb plug-in, especially when you realise that it is a whole load more than just a reverb unit. It includes no fewer than four EQ modules (pre EQ, reverb EQ, delay EQ and post EQ), plus a compressor that can be positioned either before or after the reverb. The reverb section includes the usual controls such as decay, pre-delay, size and so on, but there is also a Lo-fi control to enable you to wreck your lovely clean sound, decreasing the bit depth as you increase the percentage. To cap it off there are two delay lines, one in each output, with up to one second of delay. All of this makes for a very powerful reverb.
I had heard that the basic reverb algorithms weren't anything special, but for me they compared remarkably well with Waves Renaissance and Sony reverbs, although it would be fair to say that if I wanted a 'quality reverb' alone I wouldn't go straight for Eventide's Reverb. Having said that, I tried replacing a Waves Renaissance Reverb on a strings subgroup with the 'Strings Chamber' preset on the Eventide plug-in, and very quickly I had a much lusher sound, so there is definitely some mileage to be had in this reverb plug-in. Add the other features like the EQ options, compressor and delays, all in one plug-in, and Reverb is a very useful tool that stands out from other reverb options.
Octavox is an eight-voice harmoniser with a mono input and mono or stereo output. Each voice has up to 2.4 seconds of delay, pan, volume, feedback and two octaves of pitch-shifting. You can use a combination of preset intervals and pitch cents to produce the desired amount of pitch-shifting. The graphical display on this plug-in is similar to the H3000 emuations but is presented in a more musical way, with a stave which displays both the pitch intervals and the delay loop points. Again, a good range of factory presets give you a good starting point to get the creative juices going. I tried using this on a track where I had originally used Waves Ultrapitch to thicken out a low-level vocal loop, which I had actually created from the original guide vocal and liked it so much it stayed in the final mix. I would have to say that Ultrapitch and Octavox are very similar, but if pushed to point out a difference I would say that Octavox produces a smoother sound and Ultrapitch a richer sound. If you don't have Ultrapitch then you will find this an excellent tool for thickening out vocals, especially backing vocals.
Waves' Gold bundle includes direct alternatives to almost all of the processors and effects in the Anthology II bundle, plus a number of other plug-ins, but the TDM version is rather more expensive than Anthology II. However, there's no obvious equivalent to the Factory plug-in in the Waves range, and perhaps the only real alternative is DUY's rather more complex modular effects plug-in, DSpider.
So to the new plug-ins that Eventide have added to the Anthology bundle to turn it into the Anthology II bundle. The EQ45 parametric equaliser is a recreation of their vintage analogue EQ unit, including 12dB-per-octave high and low cut filters as well as four bands of fully parametric EQ. I have got so used to graphical representations of filter curves and the like, especially on EQ plug-ins, that I felt a little blind presented with just a set of knobs. It is interesting how soon we adjust to new user interfaces! On a control surface or an analogue desk, just having knobs isn't a problem, but when working in Pro Tools I have got so used to having a graphical display to see what the EQ is doing that not having it would be, for me, a good enough reason to go and select a different EQ that did. Perhaps Eventide could consider adding a graphical section to the user interface whilst retaining the model of the original analogue EQ?
The EQ65 filter set is a recreation of an analogue filter set, with 18dB-per-octave high and low cut filters and two tunable notch filters with a depth of up to 150dB! There is also a very high Q setting, so it really enables you to filter out any troublesome tone-type problems with minimal impact on the wanted audio. To put this to the test I set up a Signal Generator to output a 1kHz sine wave tone, and then inserted an EQ65 after it. At first I thought there was a problem, because the tone disappeared completely, but as soon as I adjusted the filter frequency, back came the tone. So I went back to the signal generator and I adjusted the frequency of the tone to see when it would reappear and the 3dB points were at 1035 and 965 Hz — that's a very narrow notch! Again, there isn't really anything to compare this with, but the deep notches make it an excellent tool for solving problems (or should that be 'opportunities'?).
You don't normally associate channel strips with Eventide, but when you look at the range of plug-ins they now offer, it is a sensible and logical move to combine them in this way. Anthology II includes two, Ultra-Channel and E-Channel. The former includes a gate, de-esser, compressor/limiter with side-chain, a separate Omnipressor, a five-band parametric EQ section, stereo delays, and a Harmonizer micro-pitch-shifter for thickening. All the modules except for the last two can be reordered by dragging and dropping to your preferred sequence. However, Ultra-Channel is a chip-hungry plug-in — one instance takes a complete Accel chip — and the point of E-Channel is to enable you to have multiple instances without eating up too many chips. This channel strip still includes a gate, compressor limiter, and a five-band parametric EQ section. One instance takes 17 percent of an Accel chip, but I actually managed to get six instances onto one chip.
I tried both channel strips on a number of Sessions and found them both very useful. I especially liked Ultra-Channel on solo vocals, particularly with a dash of Harmonizer thickening. I was also able to quickly get a very nice bass guitar sound just using E-Channel. Unlike the version from the Clockworks Legacy bundle, the Omnipressor on Ultra-Channel has a make-up gain control as well. However, I have several other observations on the channel-strip plug-ins. Firstly, the de-esser on Ultra-Channel didn't do it for me: I couldn't get the vocal free of sibilance without messing up the sound, so I found myself reaching for my preferred de-esser again. Second, although Ultra-Channel is available as a stereo plug-in, E-Channel doesn't come up as stereo plug-in on a stereo track — you have to use it in multi-mono mode. Finally, I found the limits on the range of the EQ sections a pain; for example, the HF shelving only comes down to 5kHz.
Eventide have included the Quadravox plug-in as a cut-down version of Octavox from the original Anthology bundle; like E-Channel, it's designed to enable you to use multiple instances without eating up too many chips. This is a fine idea in principle, as most of the time a four-voice harmoniser is all that is required, and there's no point in wasting DSP resources on unused features. In practice, however, both the Octavox and Quadravox plug-ins took up a complete chip per instance on my Accel system, so there was no gain. As to the sound of this, it is no different to Octavox, so all my comments about Octavox apply to Quadravox.
The final plug-in in the Anthology II bundle is called Precision Time Align, and as the name suggests, it's intended to offer sample-accurate positive and negative time alignment of individual tracks. Actually there are two versions of this plug-in: Precision Time Align, which will only fully function if you have enabled delay compensation in Pro Tools (if you want to use negative time delay, delay compensation must be enabled), plus a second version called Precision Time Delay for those who don't use delay compensation. What I like about both these plug-ins is that they display the time adjustment not only in time and samples, but also in distance (Imperial and metric!), so if you know that two mics were nine inches apart, you can adjust the plug-in until the distance display reads nine inches.
Eventide have put together a very interesting bundle in Anthology II. For me, it certainly contains some surprises, including the channel strips, Factory, Reverb and EQ65. It is also excellent value for money: 15 plug-ins for £840 means each plug-in comes in at £56, and there is an excellent range of upgrade options for those who already own some Eventide plug-ins. Is it worth it? I would say that if you don't own one of the larger Waves bundles, Anthology II is a compelling alternative, and even if you do have a good number of Waves plug-ins, there are enough different plug-ins in this bundle to make it worth considering. At under £60 per plug-in it is hard to say no!