Stillwell Audio = Awesome
So I’m not sure how I missed these (probably because I am off in Pro Tools land and forget to check out all the amazing developments happening in the VST and AU plug-in world) but I just recently checked out the plug-ins from Stillwell Audio and they are so beyond legit. I am really digging the “Event Horizon” clipper/limiter, it’s freaking incredible. Most brick wall limiters let you get things loud, which is nice, but they tend to pump, jack the imaging and add a lot of color to the signal and sometimes that’s not cool. Mastering engineers will often forgo a brick wall limiter in favor of just clipping the front end of some really hi-end A/D converters (obviously you must do this very carefully and you can definitely tell when you’ve pushed to far). Anyways, Event Horizon kind of emulates this practice in the box, and while you can’t use it like a L2 style brickwall limiter, and you definitely have to know when to stop, it sounds so much better than your standard “look-ahead” style limiter on mixes where maximum RMS is not required (read: mixes that don’t need to be ridiculously loud for “competitive” reasons). Event horizon is also pretty sweet on drum tracks, you can push your kick and snare into it just enough to get the transients to settle into the mix while not eating them alive like most limiters. Recently I was mixing a sort of “Beatles meets Beck” style tune and this really captured the drum sound I was after, a little distorted and ruckus but not like running your drum bus through sans amp kind of ruckus.
Sadly, the Stillwell stuff is currently only available as VST or AU, as is the case with a lot of the little one man development teams that either can’t afford, can’t get approved, or simply have no desire to acquire Avid’s SDK. Using FXpansion’s VST to RTAS wrapper is necessary but seems to be working fine with all of the plug-ins I’ve tried so far. Many of them induce a mean latency that causes the delay compensation in HD to go nuts, so I generally have been using them directly on audio tracks before any TDM plug-ins or on the mix bus with the delay compensation manually disabled (it’s the mix bus, everything is going through it so it doesn’t need delay compensation). Unfortunately, dealing with Pro Tools HD’s piss poor delay compensation system is something I am all too familiar with as the UAD system I use creates some mean delay problems, especially when you start using them on sub-mixes and routing second order sends. Seriously, Avid needs to give us more than 4000 samples of delay compensation, which was cool like 6 years ago when it came out, but that is just not enough for the plug-ins on the market these days. I’m totally willing to forgo some extra DSP if it could be bumped up to over 8000 samples.
At any rate, you should definitely check out the stuff Stillwell is coding, a lot like the Massey gear it is super fresh and costs almost nothing.