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Vienna Symphonic Library Vienna Suite Plug-Ins (Mac/Win) Quick Pick Review

May 1, 2009
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The graphic interfaces on Vienna Suite''s EQ and Limiter plug-ins show exactly how the processors affect your audio.

The graphic interfaces on Vienna Suite''s EQ and Limiter plug-ins show exactly how the processors affect your audio.

Vienna Symphonic Library (VSL) has a great reputation for providing composers with superb orchestral sample libraries. Noting a lack of effects plug-ins offering full 64-bit processing, the company developed the Vienna Suite plug-ins (approximately $537). Although the plug-ins' presets are primarily geared for use with VSL virtual instruments, these effects work remarkably well in other types of audio production.

Installation of the Vienna Suite is easy. You need a Syncrosoft USB key to hold the authorization, which you buy through VSL or a third-party vendor. The downloadable installer provides VST (Mac/Win) as well as AU and RTAS (both Mac-only) versions.

EQUALIZE THIS

The eight plug-ins possess no-nonsense names: Equalizer, Master Equalizer, Limiter, Compressor, Multiband Limiter, PowerPan, Exciter, and Analyzer. The primary difference between the two EQs is that Master Equalizer has high- and low-shelving filters in addition to the five fully parametric bands of Equalizer. Master EQ has three different filter types for each of the bell bands and two each for the shelving bands. And Master Equalizer employs 45 oversampling for a significantly higher resolution at a cost of slightly higher latency and CPU usage.

Both EQs share a sleek GUI, BREAKpoint and numerical data editing, and a real-time 120-band pre- or post-EQ spectrum view overlaid on the EQ curve. That gives you a tremendous amount of insight into which frequencies to target and how the EQ is affecting the signal, and it is unique among EQ plug-ins I have used.

LIMITED EDITION

The Limiter plug-in is a brickwall-type digital limiter. It is useful for getting program material or a single track to have a louder apparent volume. The controls are straightforward, but the display has some unusual features.

You see the audio passing through the plug-in as a scrolling waveform, with different shades for the input and output signals. In addition to the standard gain-reduction meter, an indicator line dips down in real time to show the curve of attenuation. That is unlike any limiter display I've seen, and it permits a greater understanding of the effect that limiting is having on the envelope of your signal.

The Compressor plug-in has a similar display without the attenuation curve. It boasts a few other bells and whistles: three different sidechain filters, Opto mode using vintage knee characteristics, and Fat mode adding tapelike harmonic distortion.

Multiband Limiter has four bands, with adjustable crossover frequencies and Threshold, Gain, Attack, and Release controls for each band. It also provides an Opto mode, and it offers an optional brickwall limiter at the end of the signal path.

ODDS AND ENDS

Exciter is the first of three wild-card plug-ins in the Vienna Suite. It generates odd or even harmonics to give your tracks more presence without using EQ. It can drive the harmonics into distortion, providing even more sonic sculpting capabilities, and when used subtly, it can really make a track come alive in a mix.

PowerPan is a comprehensive panning tool for managing where and how stereo tracks appear in the stereo field. Its balance, center, width, and level sliders are augmented by channel-swap and individual-channel polarity-reverse buttons.

The Analyzer tool is a 120-band frequency analyzer, similar to the one embedded in the EQ plug-ins. The frequency spectrum of your signal is displayed as 120 small bars or as a continuous line graph, and you can change the ballistic behavior of the analyzer as well as enable a peak-hold feature. In a useful touch, Analyzer indicates the loudest frequency of the signal as a MIDI note name.

SUITE DEAL

I found the Vienna Suite very useful in both Pro Tools LE 8 and BIAS Peak Pro 5.2. I and other engineers at my studio now rely heavily on the plug-ins for mix duties. Our consensus is that the plug-ins, especially the EQs and Compressor, have a gentle approach that is highly effective without being too noticeable, perhaps due to the 64-bit computations (see Web Clips 1, 2, 3, and 4).

I have plenty of plug-ins that produce a colored, heavy-handed sound, but the Vienna Suite offers a more transparent way of getting your tracks to behave. The display options also got my attention. My only issues were with some GUI stickiness, which the company claims to have addressed in a new release, and with the lack of a manual. Other than those trifles, the Vienna Suite is a winner, even for those not using Vienna Symphonic Library sounds.


Value (1 through 5): 4
Vienna Symphonic Library
vsl.co.at

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