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A Review of the Harrison Console's Mix Bus Plug-ins By Bob Green February 27, 2015 When I first started using Mix Bus I was pleased with the sound quality of the basic package right out of the box (download folder). The plug ins that were included were called Mix bus Essentials and they were certainly that. The GVerb+ and the 3D Triple Delay are very track- worthy effects that give a wide range of control over reverbs and delays that run the gamut of spatial Trek-ery. You can go from the lightest of touches for a room to the complete Chinese Olympic Ping Pong team practicing and all points in between. For a great rundown in detail, see the Harrison site at this page - harrisonconsoles.com/site/pluginessentials.html. The real gems of the plug-in treasure chest are the ones that are separate from the basic program and that is what I want to share with you in this piece. I'll start with the Character Plug-in Bundles. The XT-BC and XT-VC are the Bass and Vocal eq's that are unlike any other that you will find, in that they are specifically designed around the tonality and character of those instruments. They are simple and straight forward tools that are pointed at the very areas that need focus in the mix - body and clarity. These tools are very good at note tracking and have a nice frequency analyzer display during playback. The frequencies are selected by either the Body button or the Clarity button, or both. Selecting the yellow "Q" button give you a choice of either a low shelf (on the Body - high shelf on the Clarity) or a variable Q. Raising the B or C buttons raise or lower gain accordingly. In the upper right hand corner is a momentary bypass so you can quickly compare your changes to the original signal. What I particularly like is the addition of markers for harmonics on the display, so you can quickly dial in on those frequencies. Whether you want to fill something up or thin something out, these tools will certainly do it fast and with very little guesswork. I think that most of us have had those singers who just have a voice that has a couple of spots in their range that give fits or a bass part that is just not fitting in. Short of 30 years of experience fixing plumbing issues or taming thundering herds, this could be that answer. XT-EQ Equalizer - The beauty of this 10 band EQ is that you can draw in the shape of the process you want and just as quickly swipe it away. Your mouse is now your best friend, if you are using two buttons and a wheel. Smooth is the adjective I would use, and by design, it is just that. What immediately stands out is that there are no sharp peaks to fix - just rolling hills, as it plays well with adjacent frequencies. That is not to say that it won't give them to you, but like all the Harrison plug ins, quick and transparent is the first order of business and time is money. XT-ME Mastering Equalizer - This is the third octave EQ, and like the 10-band version, you can draw in the adjustments the same way. These EQ's are designed with the ultra-fidelity that Harrison is known for in their consoles. The filters smooth out the rolling waves that, in the past, always leave you thinking that something is missing (it is!) in those little dips between frequency peaks. Harrison calls it "innovative DSP curve match" - that works for me. XT-MC Multiband Compressor - I love the display - and the presets get you off to a great start. It is not unlike other multiband compressors in its controls, so using it for the first time will be very intuitive and comfortable. The amount of information in the display gives you a precise look at what is happening in the mix, and if you are familiar with what goes where, this is the zookeeper that controls the bad animals. The Mixbus channel compressors are not the brightest stars in the DAW world. However, having three choices (Compressor, Limiter, and Leveler) on the right of the fader was very satisfying in certain instances and the leveler was quite useful. That being said, the XT-MC is a rock solid contributor to great sound. From the default settings to well defined statements of dynamic control, this particular plug-in is racking up the stars in the rating game. Like all of the XT series processes, the layout is well thought out and aids in quick and pleasant operational control. XT-DS De-Esser - Goodbye sibilance and good riddance. This is an amazing tool. I always have had trouble getting rid of the sibilance while keeping the energy, clarity, and brightness of a vocal. Compromise until it hurts your head. Well, here it is, the answer to a prayer. Now, I know there are a lot of similar products. Some are mediocre, some adequate, and some are exceptional. The XT-DS sits in the upper level of the group. With this display, you can see your problem frequencies and dial in a solution. I would almost be tempted to insert a joke about the color-blind lighting tech I worked with, at one time, and the analogy I could make about a deaf audio engineer, but...I won't. Sometimes that perfect mic comes up short when the vocalist has nailed the track, except for that "s" that jumps out at you. The way this algorithm is designed, you now have a greater deal of control over that gremlin, but you don't lose that quality the rest of the tracks has. I like it - less compromise, more satisfaction. XT-EG Expander/Gate - Drums make me crazy because of the potential for bleed. So, you gate, hoping that it will ameliorate some of the tragedy. The accountability of the in-between is what I am looking for, and in the box, you are looking for this plug-in. This plug-in defaults to Gate mode and it gives a very natural sound when you fine tune your gating and I mean FINE tune. Look up the term "hysteresis," never mind, here is the definition - "Hysteresis" being the phenomenon in which the value of a physical property lags behind changes in the effect causing it. You had me at Hysteresis... The Expander gives you that bit of increase in the dynamic range on tracks so that they can move up in the mix without boosting the gain much. Standing above the crowd, isn't that what you want? I know I do and I look for tools that will help me make those statements a little larger than life. Finally - Using, these do come at a performance cost in cpu cycles - in particular the character plug-ins for Vocals and Bass. The bigger and badder your computer is, the better it will operate and the more instances of each you can use. I got to make my computer cry a couple of times (Intel i5 3 GHz with 16Gb of ram), I'm looking for an excuse to upgrade anyway, but, with a little common sense and knowing that there were limits to what I could accomplish, given the equipment I had, I was still able to make accurate, polished, and transparent mixes. This, in no way, is a bad thing, just a thing. I have years of experience in bad equipment. The constant fight to make something bad sound good with something cheap, that creates more problems than solutions. Low end plug-ins that say they will do something, and when you are desperate for help, you are left standing on the deck of the Titanic with the band. Harrison has a wonderful product in the Mix Bus DAW. What makes it so good are the tools that they provide to make that mix shine. All of the plug-ins I describe are fully detailed on the Harrison Consoles site and YouTube has tutorials to teach how each one can be used. The help available at the forum is outstanding, and I cannot stress enough that the technical support is phenomenal. You just do not get this kind of attention to detail from a lot of companies these days, but that is a topic for another day. My one and only small regret, is that I can only use them in Mix Bus and not in other platforms. Price vs. Performance is inarguable here. No other DAW can touch it really unless it is free, front to back. Bob.


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