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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

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