Recently I’ve been mixing quite a bit. I’ve had some projects that were put on hold that have been brought up from the dead, so to speak. I just found Antress plugins maybe 2 weeks ago and they have been getting HEAVY use on my mixes. Well, as heavy as I can go with them. Some of their plugins will chew right through a CPU. In fact, when I first tried them out, I went nuts on a drum kit with compressors and Eqs. I ran out of CPU power on my AMD Athlon 64 2800. Admittedly, this is not exactly a cutting edge computer, but I do have to say that Antress plugins dramatically more CPU power than the Waves plugins I typically use.
Before we get started, I want to say flat out that I DO NOT care about emulations. I have no idea what a real Neve EQ really sounds like as I’ve only played around with one a single time (although it was pretty damn awesome!!). The real deal Eqs have this way of changing the tone without sounding like you put EQ on it. Plugins have conventionally had this tone where they just added stuff to the track, but really didn’t fix what was in the track. It’s hard to explain. You know how those Boss bass distortion pedals sound? They keep the low end fairly clean but add a bunch of fizz to the high end. That’s kind of what my experience has been with most EQ plugins and NOT what the hardware Eqs I’ve played with from API and Neve sounded like.
Luckily, plugins are improving. The Antress people have included quite a few Neve channel strips in their arsenal. I have to admit that these plugins do have an extra something to them when compared to the Waves stuff that I’m used to. Generally speaking, you won’t catch me boosting much with Waves stuff and if I do it’s usually only a few DB. The Antress Neve stuff is different. I just twist the knobs and it ends up sounding great. I’ve found that I can dial in more click in a metal kick drum with the Antress stuff than I can with the Waves plugins without sounding “weird”. It just sounds more “right” with the Antress stuff.
With that said, I don’t use EQ that much anyway except for getting stuff to fit together in a dense mix. So I really haven’t used the Antress EQ stuff that often. When I have, I’ve been very pleased.
The Antress package comes with numerous compressors. There are probably 10 different compressors in there. Overall, I can’t say that any of them really blew my mind. They did have more “attitude” than the Waves stuff I’m used to. I thought to myself “Alright! Attitude! I’ll same my room mics in DFH Superior and see what happens”. Well, I was a little disappointed. While the compressors do have attitude, I couldn’t find one compressor that was fast enough for my room mic tastes. All of them accentuated that initial click sound in the beginning of the transient. This is useful in some situations, but it was not what I was looking for when crushing my room mics. For all I know, there is no hardware compressor that can do that. I don’t care. After mixing with Waves plugins for years and years, I’ve grown to like the sound of zero attack in my room mics.
With that said, there are have been two compressor type plugins that have really stood out to me and they make my mixes better! The first is the Antress Painkiller. It is very simple. It has a gain knob and a threshold knob (or something to that effect). I appears to be a limiter, but it is just a tad slow, which works out great on drums. I’ve been using it on my drum bus and on my parallel compression bus. I’ll get VERY aggressive on the parallel compression bus but then got quite a bit lighter on the drum bus. I love the fact that there are only 2 knobs. It’s my nature to twist all knobs and really experiment. This is a curse and a blessing. Fortunately, great products like this allow me to get the tones I want without screwing anything up. It’s hard enough to set 2 knobs to sound right, let alone 10. You can hear this in my member’s only, Electric Guitar Mic Shootout.
The other compressor that I’ve been very excited about it is the Manley clone. Again, I have no idea what a real Manley compressor sounds like, but I LOVE this thing on the 2 bus. The Manley adds a bit of crunch to everything even when used subtly. I’m not exactly sure what it is doing or how it is doing it, but I like it. I’ve been using it set fast. I have to be very careful when using too fast of a release time on the 2bus because this can distort the low end. (If the Wavelength of the frequency is larger than the release time of the compressor, distortion can occur).
I tried out every compressor on my distorted electric guitar bus of a rock band I recorded live at Echo Echo Studios. I was looking for a little “grind” or a little “harmonic content”. I was looking for a little “liveliness”. So, I tried out each compressor to knock down 3dB off my electric guitars and then boost them back up so that I could A/B them with uncompressed electric guitars. In this particular application, only 2 of the compressors did anything cooler than the Waves Rcomp. The Antress tube compressor had just a touch of extra something to the track. The Antress Manley clone also added just a little “crunch” just like it did on the 2bus. However, I guess I was getting towards the end of the mix, because both the Manley clone and the tube compressor pushed my CPU over the edge. I went back to the Rcomp and was fine. The extra something in the Antress tube compressor plugin wasn’t worth the CPU troubles in this particular case.
At the competitive price of FREE, the Antress plugins are a hell of a value. I’d recommend them to anyone who wants to try out some new plugins. I’ve been in “new plugins” mode for a while now. The Waves plugins are typically nice and clean, but maybe a little to Switzerlandish to me. (aka neutral). I’m looking for plugins that have more bad settings in them. (The power to destroy is also the power to create in the audio world).
I’m not sure if the Antress plugins are the Holy Grail, but they are certainly a step in the right direction. The fact that some of the plugins chew up so much CPU usage is kind of a real world problem that makes the plugins less useful to me today. However, if upgrading a PC will result in better sounds, maybe this is a good path to take. Then again, maybe something like the Focusrite Liquidmix or UAD-1 cards would get me to where I want to go easier. If nothing else, the Antress plugins have illustrated that an upgrade in plugins can get me closer to the goal.
Antress plugins have made it easier to make my clients happy. I wish the same could be said for all the expensive gear I’ve purchased.