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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Avid is wrong. You need more than great Pro Tools plug-ins

Avid says that what you need for great mixes is superior plug-ins, to achieve the polish you crave. I disagree.

by David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass
Avid is wrong. You need more than great Pro Tools plug-ins.
Firstly, I have great respect for Avid, particularly the Avid engineers who make great DAW products for us to use and enjoy. Also, I appreciate that Avid's marketing department has to make statements that sell. Otherwise they won't stay in business.

However, this is really going too far...
"What’s the secret to creating great sounding mixes? Two words—superior plug-ins."
That is an exact quote from recent Avid publicity material, and I want to tell you why it is wrong.

Firstly, many great mixes have been made without plug-ins at all! Pro Tools didn't exist prior to 1991 and no-one is going to tell me that no great mixes were made before then.
Secondly, although it can be true that some plug-ins are better than others, the state of the art in plug-in development is well up there on the point of the curve where things can hardly get any better. Not audibly better anyway.

When you have huge headroom, a frequency response flat as a laser beam across the full audio range and beyond, distortion less than a tenth of a percent and no perceptible noise, unless deliberately added, then there is no technical improvement that will make any worthwhile difference to a mix.

I would agree however that it is possible for a clever designer to make a plug-in that is easier to use effectively, or has controls centered around the sweet spots that we like. In this respect a plug-in can indeed be superior. Also, I am by no means without hope that someone will come up with a genuinely new sound and it hasn't all been done before!

But my personal bottom line is that it's not about the equipment any more. It hasn't been about the equipment for a decade at least (and even then people were making great recordings using equipment that was significantly lesser in quality than the best).

So what actually is the secret to creating great mixes, in two words...?

Care. Experience.

OK, so those two words don't make a sentence, or even a phrase of any kind.

But more importantly than anything, you have to care about what you do. If you really care, you will listen to other people's mixes in great detail, you'll observe the effect they have on music lovers, and you will strive to achieve the same ends in your own mixes.

And as you gain experience, your mixes will get better and better. Because you care.
Avid is wrong here. Anyone who believes that more equipment or more software is the answer to their audio problems is deluding themself.

Success in audio is all down to skills, knowledge and experience. The equipment these days, as long as you know how to use it, is just a detail.
by David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass

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