Wave Arts'' TrackPlug 5 is a channel strip plug-in that offers up to ten bands of EQ, a gate, two compressors, a peak limiter, and more.
The first thing you notice when you open TrackPlug 5 ($199), the latest version of Wave Arts' channel strip plug-in, is its snazzy new user interface. Gone is the metallic look of previous versions, replaced by a new design scheme with a “vintage” vibe to it. Besides revamping its look, Wave Arts has added a slew of new processing algorithms and features, making it the most powerful TrackPlug to date.
The plug-in is compatible with AU, VST, MAS, and RTAS on the Mac, and DX, VST, and RTAS in Windows. TrackPlug 5 will run as either a mono or stereo processor and supports sampling rates up to 192 kHz.
Under the Hood
TrackPlug 5 has three sections: EQ, Dynamics, and Output. The EQ section can be configured with up to ten bands (the more bands you activate, the more processing it uses), and each band can be set to a wide range of different EQ types. Retained from TrackPlug 4 are basic EQ varieties like Parametric, Low Shelf, High Shelf, Lowpass, Highpass, Notch, and Bandpass. New to this version are Resonant Low Shelf, Resonant High Shelf, Vintage Low Shelf, and Vintage High Shelf.
All the EQs sound good and are easy to set. You can adjust them graphically by dragging points in a graph, by turning virtual knobs, or by typing values into fields below the knobs. I was particularly impressed with the Vintage Low and High Shelf filters, which were very warm sounding.
Also new to the EQ section are the Highpass and Lowpass Brickwall filters, which eliminate all frequencies above (in the case of the Lowpass filter) and below (in the case of the Highpass filter) what they're set for. For applications like setting up quick telephone EQs or cutting out unneeded frequencies, these filters give you results fast.
The Dynamics section provides a gate and two compressors. (Previous versions of TrackPlug had only one compressor.) Having two is particularly handy for vocals, because you can use one for dynamics and one for de-essing.
Wave Arts carried over its Clean RMS and Clean Peak compressor algorithms from previous versions of TrackPlug and added three new ones: Vintage Peak, Vintage RMS, and Vintage Warm. The Clean settings are the most transparent, while the Vintage settings are designed to impart an old-style analog sound. On a snare drum, for instance, I found the Vintage Warm setting (with hard-knee compression selected) produced a fatter sound than the Clean algorithm.
Both the compressors and the gate offer the same set of controls: Attack, Release, Threshold, Ratio, (makeup) Gain, Knee (soft, medium, or hard), and Lookahead (Off, 1 ms, 2 ms, or 5 ms). A sidechain is available for such chores as de-essing, or triggering compression or gating from a specific frequency for other purposes. There's no external key input for the gate, though, so you can't trigger gate effects using audio tracks. As in the EQ section, the dynamics processors can be controlled by dragging control points in a graph, by turning onscreen knobs, or by entering numeric values.
Reaching the Peak
The final stage of TrackPlug 5 is the Output, which has a Gain control for boosting the overall level, and a peak limiter. The limiter lets you maximize levels, and allows you to get some heavily compressed sounds when you crank the gain. I was able to really squash some drum loops with it (see Web Clip 1).
The peak limiter's controls are quite simple. You can turn it on and off, and goose the level going into it using the Gain control. According to Wave Arts, the peak limiter is best used on individual tracks rather than for entire mixes. For the latter, the company recommends FinalPlug 5, its dedicated limiter plug-in.
A Final Plug
Overall, TrackPlug 5 is much improved from previous versions. You get a full-featured channel strip that offers good sound quality and plenty of EQ and dynamics options. The peak limiter is a nice added feature.
TrackPlug 5 is easy to use, easy on your eyes, easy on your CPU, and relatively easy on your pocketbook. You can buy it standalone or as part of a Wave Arts bundle.
Value (1 through 5): 4