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EZMix 2 by Eric Parsons

EZMix 2…  Many of us have home-based recording setups.  And many of us may be only marginally proficient in the art of recording.  By ‘marginal’ I mean that while it’s relatively easy to record music, it can be quite difficult to produce a finished product that compares favorably to a commercial release.

The reason for this discrepancy in quality is really quite simple: the folks who do this for a living are incredibly talented and have been practicing and perfecting their craft for years, they work with high caliber musical artists, and they have access to the best gear that money can buy.

Many of us who dabble in audio recording strive to improve our skills by listening to a lot of well-produced music, reading books by engineers we admire, buying gear, attending seminars, buying even more gear, and then praying that all of this effort and expense is actually taking us down the path toward sonic excellence….

If any of the above mini-rant on home recording seems a bit daunting and depressing, take heart – help may be on the way.

So…. What Exactly is EZMix 2?

In techno-geek speak:  EZMix 2 is a multi-effect preset-driven plugin with over 350 pre-configured signal chain options.  Translation:  EZMix 2, by Toontrack, gives you access to a toolbox full of mixing presets to help get you a little closer to achieving your goal of producing pro-sounding tracks.  List price is $179.00.

Installation and Registration

The download, installation, and registration of EZMIX 2 was quick and easy.  I’ve owned software from Toontracks for a few years and registration used to be a little bit confusing, but they’ve really worked at simplifying this process for the end user.  EZMix 2 requires a minimum of Windows XP SP3 or newer or Mac OS 10.5 or higher.  There are 32 and 64 bit versions.  Toontrack provides you with a well-written manual in PDF should you have any additional questions regarding this process.

In Use

You treat EZMix 2 like any other plugin or VST instrument, so just follow the procedures recommended by your DAW to insert it on a track, channel strip, or buss.  Again, you can refer to the EZMix 2 operation manual, should you have any questions.

Once opened up, EZMIX 2 provides you with a nice GUI to help you browse and select the appropriate preset.  You can narrow down your choices by filtering by Instrumental Group, Effect, Type or Genre.  At any time, you can apply a given preset to your track by simply clicking on the preset row and then listen to how it sounds.  Depending on the selected preset, you are provided with up to two additional controls to vary certain aspects of the sound.

Toontrack has stuffed over 350 presets into EZMix 2 and I really felt like a kid in a candy store, exploring all the options.  There are separate presets for bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, percussion, strings, vocals, and even ‘miscellaneous’.  In addition, you can select different presets for modeled amplifiers and speaker cabinets as well as all the classic studio effects, including chorus, compression, delay, distortion, EQ, flanger, gate, reverb, rotary speaker, stereo enhancer, tape simulator, tremolo and wah-wah.   Many of these presets are constructed of multiple chained effects, which give the user an even wider palette to choose from.

A Simple Example

EZMIX Bass Sample, please click to listen:         

The file is a short looping clip of my bass.  Every time you hear a triangle ring, an additional EZMIX 2 effect is added.

It starts out totally flat (with old strings to boot!).

Ding! – A kick drum preset (SubKick2) that adds lows and highs and cuts the mids…

Ding! – Another drum preset (Parallel Drums) that adds parallel compression…

Ding! – A vocal preset (Wide Vocals) that is an enhancer and chorus…

Ding! – Another drum preset (Distorted Drums) that adds some distortion…

I found this plug-in to be extremely functional in the studio—you can mix and match settings from any of the available categories.  (As I was writing this up, it occurred to me that I didn’t even include a preset from the bass category…, which just shows you how usable many of the presets can be, regardless of how they’re labeled.)

While I focused on the bass guitar in the above example, EZMix 2 is designed to work not only with a wide variety of musical instruments, but also in various locations within your setup.  You can apply EZMix 2 as an insert in a channel, as I did in the example, or to a group buss when you want the same effect applied to multiple tracks, or as a mastering effect for overall eq or compression to the entire mix.   EZMix 2 also has a relatively light footprint on system resources.  I was running 10 EZMix Plugins on an older dual core system and still only using 15% of the available CPU.

In Closing

I find EZMIX 2 to be an easy-to-use, fun, and effective tool to quickly dial in usable sounds.  I’ve already used it on a project where I added chorus to a fretless bass track for a client.  I’ve just scratched the surface of all that EZMIX 2 has to offer.  In addition to what we’ve covered here, EZMix 2 has automation capabilities and can operate as a stand-alone product.   Also, Toontrack offers a variety of EZMix expansion packs with presets developed by top flight engineers such as Chuck Ainlay and Mark Needham.  I would encourage you to check out Toontrack.com, watch the videos, and then download the available demo to try it out for yourself … it just might help you kick your tracks up a notch.

For more information, visit www.toontrack.com

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Raul Amador

    Raul Amador

    March 10, 2012 at 1:45 am

    Very Cool “toy” Eric!
    What I mean is that a very useful piece of software can be easy and fun too!

    Well done!

  2. Eric Parsons

    Eric

    March 11, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Hey Raul – I agree completely! It’s a fun way to quickly evaluate whether or not a certain part could benefit from
    added eq or chorus or whatever…. I’ve also been checking out the additional sounds that are provided in the core expansion pack ( Thanks Toontrack!!! ) and there are some very cool sounds here too.

  3. Eddie

    January 19, 2013 at 11:13 am

    I got EZMix 2 fro Christmas. I’m a songwriter and drummer. Overall I think it’s s a decent product, if not a bit overpriced (he add-on packs are priced far too high as well, $19.99 would be more like it ). I like some of the guitar sims and presets for drums. And the bass presets usually do help my bass track to sit better in the mix. However many of “mastering” presets seem to just add volume. If you slap, say the “soft pop master” on your mix buss, then set the output gain to match the level of the non-processed mix and A-B them, there is zero difference in sound. This was true with several of the “master” affects. Of course sometimes you just want some subtle compression to “glue” you tracks together, but subtle and non-existing are not the same. i know this is a “EZ” product, but a little more control on some of the presets would be nice. There are some drum insert affects, that would work better as bus affects if they were 100% wet. The problem is, you can’t always control the dry/wet amount, thus your stuck with the amount of affect mixed into the preset. Want less room ambiance on those drums? tough! There’s a particulate drum “room” I love but it’s too wet for an insert and too dry for a bus. Yes, you can still use it on the bus, but it’s not the same. This was a gift from the wife and she got int on sale for $75.00, so no complaints. If I paid $150 for it I think I’d be a little disappointed.

  4. Raul Amador

    Raul Amador

    January 19, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Hey Eddie,

    Good input and thanks for your comment!

    Cheers,

    Raul

  5. Devon Wau

    February 13, 2015 at 5:06 am

    Hi Eric, i just wanted to know if you did any eqing before you dropped the EZMix on the track. And is it recommended to do so. I was wondering if the plugin has eq behind the scenes. Thanks in advance. Anyone with knowledge of this please feel free to comment. Thanks again. Great post.

  6. Eric Parsons

    Eric

    February 13, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Devon – First off, thanks for reading Bass Musician Magazine!

    These are some really good questions. I will try to answer them in the order you asked them.

    The bass track was recorded dry using an Ernie Ball Musicman Stingray, with the pickup switch in the back position. So while no additional eq was utilized, this is a very scooped sounding bass – which makes it great for slapping.

    As far as whether or not one should eq during tracking, it is totally up to your taste on any given situation. I will say that with modern technology, I hardly ever do any radical adjusting while recording. In the old days when I recorded on analog gear, I was much more concerned about saving my limited tracks and trying to avoid adding noise so I would eq on the way in. These days I record in 24 bit and never push the signal above -6db, so I hardly even compress while tracking, let alone eq – with the amazing signal to noise modern gear has – I think it’s best to do everything in the mixing phase.

    Now as far as what is going on under the hood in EZMix – I honestly don’t know. But, I think you have brought up a really important issue that is worth exploring.

    When we think about signal processing we generally categorize them into three categories: Time Based (reverb, echo, chorus, etc.) Dynamic Based ( compressors, limiters, maximizers, etc.) and Frequency Based ( equalization, distortion, low-pass and hi-pass filters, etc.)

    While these are really neat and tidy categories, things just don’t work that cleanly in the real world. Many effects affect more than just one domain ( how’s that for a confusing statement). Example: Adding chorus to the entire bass signal will often thin out the sound. Adding distortion to a signal almost always adds some compression. Adding compression to a complex signal – like the entire mix of a band – can noticeable affect the eq – emphasizing some frequencies and de-emphasizing others ( because the louder peaks are compressed – there by bring up other frequencies into greater prominence.)

    This is a really long winded response to say that when using any audio plugin, it’s important to use your ears to determine how it is manipulating the sound. If it sounds like it is doing more than originally advertised… it probably is and you must adjust accordingly.

    Hope this helps!

    Eric

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