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electronic MUSICIAN

IK MULTIMEDIA

By Steve Broderson | November 1, 2001

As 24-bit resolution becomes more prevalent in the recording studio, software makers are busy releasing 24-bit versions of their products. Fortunately, IK Multimedia has done more than simply add higher resolution to one of its products, now called T-Racks 24 ($299). It's almost a new program, and it's free for registered users of the original T-Racks (see the April 2000 issue for the T-Racks review).

New Racks

When you upgrade to T-Racks 24, you can joyfully rip out (I mean, gently remove) the hardware dongle from your computer, because it's been replaced with a software encryption scheme. As its name implies, T-Racks 24 now reads and writes 24-bit audio files, and if necessary, it can convert them to 16-bit, 44.1 kHz audio. It also processes single Pro Tools 24-bit audio tracks at full resolution, though not in real time, because T-Racks 24 is a standalone program rather than a plug-in.

T-Racks' elegant design resembling a stack of analog gear is intact, but users of previous T-Racks versions will notice some new knobs. A Ratio control that ranges from 1.5:1 to 4.68:1 now appears on the compressor. The compression is on the gentle side, but if you use it in conjunction with the limiter module, you can still throw your sound against a pretty solid brick wall.

T-Racks 24's improved multiband limiter offers a new algorithm that lets it work more transparently as it increases apparent loudness. The output stage has a new attitude, too, featuring a Saturation knob; the original version had only a Hard/Soft toggle switch. The Saturation control allows hard-edged digital clipping, warmer analog saturation, and all points in between.

The update includes eight new skins for giving your virtual analog rack a makeover. The new visuals aren't entirely eye candy; the pop-up level meter now has a toggle button, labeled 10x, with which you can zoom in at high resolution on only the top level of your peaks (from 7.2 to 0 dB). If you see “overs” this close, believe me, you have overs. For quick reference, additional over LEDs appear at the output section.

Another new touch offered by T-Racks 24 is a three-position switch for stereo, mono, and difference monitoring, allowing you to spot phase and stereo-image problems. Although the mastering stage is a bit late for discovering such problems, it's still a nice final check. More than 50 presets have been added, and they're implemented in a more flexible manner than those in the previous version. Former presets affected all four modules (EQ, compressor, limiter, and output stage) simultaneously; the new presets affect only one module at a time, and by selecting a different preset for each module, you can mix and match at will.

Removing the Cover

One of T-Racks 24's new additions is the ability to tweak internal settings that were fixed and inaccessible in the original version. By manipulating those settings in a text file, you can tell T-Racks 24 to perform frequency-dependent compression and limiting (de-essing) or to change the multiband limiter's input threshold, among other things. Even if you're not inclined to tweak parameters, you can still benefit from the feature by downloading home-brewed configurations that others have uploaded to the T-Racks Web site.

T-Racks 24 retains the feel and improves the sonic characteristics of its predecessor. The interface is still intuitive to navigate and to manipulate, and I'm amazed at the gain I can squeeze out of my audio files. Some of the knobs, such as Ratio and the Saturation knee controls, are tiny, but I had no trouble dialing in precisely the values I wanted. The T-Racks Web site has posted patches that fix problems with T-Racks 24's handling of mono files, which were the only bugs I encountered. Unfortunately, MIDI control is not supported. As a result, you cannot automate changes or use a controller other than a mouse.

For Everyone

New users will love the warm analog sound that T-Racks has always exhibited; mastering professionals will love the precision peak meters; and original T-Racks users certainly will love the big jump in their investments' functionality at no cost to them. IK Multimedia hasn't even raised the price with the T-Racks 24 release. The upgrade is not merely a superficial touch-up or bug fix: T-Racks 24 is a thoroughly well executed overhaul to an already great product. Download a demo of T-Racks 24 from T-Racks' Web site.


Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 3.5

IK Multimedia; tel. (866) 243-1718; e-mail info@t-racks.com; Web www.t-racks.com

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