Why Innovate When You Can Emulate? Exploring Contemporary Plugin
Development And Potential Innovation
ABSTRACT: As software driven approaches to mixing audio have become increasingly prevalent there has been a continuous improvement in quality in these digital mixing tools. Mix workflow in the box has developed through the established workflow presented by a traditional mixer, with the DAW offering a combination of the tape machine and the routing and processing matrix to the end user. One of the most common categories of plugin is represented by emulation, with classic hardware modeled often to component level by developers looking to create devices as measurably close as possible to a hardware reference.
The second category of contemporary plug-in development is based around tools, which rather than focusing on copying an established tool instead are targeting specific mix elements or sonic signatures. Some companies such as Waves have built on the reputations of mix engineers, offering users an insight into their sounds through named plugins. The CLA Signature Series and the Tony Maserati Signature Series are two such collections based around element specific processors. The CLA collection offers processing around commonly understood mix processes, with the Maserati drums instead featuring more descriptive parameters such as thump and snap.
The third category of plugin development incorporates plugins which rather than basing their approach on existing hardware tools or established mix practice are looking to incorporate new approaches to mix processing.
In this paper I am looking to analyse current developments, looking at these categories and how innovation can be incorporated into new mix tools. Emulation of tools leads to a mix economy based around knowledge of the tools and the re-creation of existing mix practice. New tools offer a unique opportunity, with direct access to the characteristics of sound. Through analyzing existing tools it is possible to understand the important characteristics, incorporating these into new contemporary mix processors.
Today’s presentation was inspired, Andrew says, by a conversation he had with the head of an [unnamed] Pro Audio company, who stated that he was looking to develop more mass-market hardware products with fewer features in a ‘race to the bottom’. Andrew’s disappointment with this conversation has led him to investigate categories of plugins.