The new EverPack bundle from DUY Research contains fivehigh-quality processor plug-ins: Max DUY, DUY Shape, DaD Valve, DUYWide, and Z-Room. All five plug-ins are installed from the sameCD-ROM, which provides both VST and MAS versions. EverPack uses theubiquitous challenge-and-response code of the PACE copy-protectionscheme, and because the manufacturer is located in Spain, thecompany issues responses only by e-mail.
Shape and Valve have been previously reviewed (see the March1998 issue of EM), so this article will focus on the bundle's threeremaining applications. Max is a limiting application forpremastering that raises the overall average program level whilepreventing digital clipping; Wide enhances the stereo audio'sspatial imaging and boosts certain frequencies to compensate forloss in the imaging process; and Z-Room is a reverb and ambienceplug-in that provides detailed control of parameters.
TO THE MAX
Thanks to hardware boxes such as TC Electronic's Finalizer andsoftware applications such as Waves' L1, premastering tools arecommonplace in the project studio. Max joins the fray as ano-nonsense plug-in that combines level and bit-rate maximizationwith brick-wall limiting.
Max is a single-band processor with 48-bit internal resolution.It employs the proprietary Intelligent Level Optimization (ILO)algorithm, which features control parameters that are updated everysample. According to the manufacturer, ILO uses a psychoacousticmodel that creates an output signal based on complexcalculations.
Combined with excellent I/O metering, three controls areprovided: Input, Max dB (threshold), and Output (see Fig. 1). TheInput level allows you to trim the incoming signal to preventclipping. The Output control lets you attenuate the output signalto avoid clipping indicators in any of the connected devices; it'salso useful if you want to prevent the signal from reachingfull-bit resolution.
Max's threshold slider controls most of the action. As you moveit to the left, the overall level is raised. Although a numericalreading shows the highest level reached at the input and output,there's no indication of how much attenuation is introduced by thebrick-wall limiting. I would prefer real-time displays showing theamount of gain reduction being introduced and the maximum peakthat's been squashed. Although you have to make optimal settings byear, such a critical process requires as much information aspossible, and the lack of visual feedback is a significantoversight. (DUY promises to include improved metering in the nextupdate.)
As for sound quality, Max is adequate; limiting is applied tothe entire frequency range of the program material. (Shape offersmultiband compression.) As with most maximizing processes, a littlegoes a long way; it's easy to apply too much limiting and causeaudible distortion. Without visual information about how muchcompression is being applied, you have to be content using theplug-in's two meters (as well as your ears) to find the appropriatethreshold setting. On program material that originally peaks atseveral decibels below 0 dB, Max is able to raise the overall levelwithout audible negative side effects. If your intent is to raisethe level of your final mixes and add a touch of brick-walllimiting, Max will serve you well.
WIDE, OPEN SPACES
Wide is a spatial enhancer designed primarily to widen theimaging of stereo material. (It doesn't work on monophonic audiofiles.) Unlike image enhancers that provide only a single controlfor the amount of processing, Wide lets you boost user-selectedfrequencies to accommodate low-end loss. The plug-in can also flipthe phase (polarity) of either or both audio channels. Its internalprocessing resolution is 48 bits.
Wide is intended for enhancing stereo mixes and individualtracks. The metering is excellent; a graph shows the phasecorrelation in degrees between the left and right signals. Thisdisplay is particularly handy because higher processing percentagesresult in less monophonic compatibility between the left and rightchannels. Values higher than about 40 percent become audibly phaseshifted and unnatural sounding, but you might like that effect forsome material. In smaller doses, Wide does a nice job of spreadingout stereo material, especially padlike instruments such as stringsand organs. The input control can only be trimmed back from amaximum of 0 dB and can't be boosted if the incoming signal isparticularly low. Around -3 to -4 dB seems to be the most commonsetting for passing a signal through unaffected.
The Boost function lets you add back some of the low frequenciesthat are lost during the widening process. The definable frequencyrange is roughly 100 Hz to 1 kHz, but the boost amount is expressedas a percentage between 0 and 100 percent rather than in decibels.Wide has no control for the shape of the boost, which sounds like asimple shelving EQ. The Boost function is not stellar in mostcases. For situations in which I added so much widening effect to asound that it affected the perceived frequency content, I preferredto follow Wide's image processing with a more controllable EQplug-in.
Overall, Wide is useful when it's applied in moderation.Although the Boost frequencies section can be troublesome ifmisused, the graphic display of the phase relationship between theleft and right channels is nice. By leaving the Amount set to 0percent, the display doubles as a way to check the monocompatibility of a stereo source. Used with taste, Wide reallyspreads out stereo sound in an appealing manner.
Z-ROOM IS NOW OPEN
Like most good reverb plug-ins, Z-Room voraciously eats upcomputer resources. However, the exchange of computer power for theexcellence of Z-Room's ambience presets is a fair trade-off.Furthermore, the diverse presets collection can be extensivelyedited and saved for later recall. Unlike EverPack's otherplug-ins, Z-Room offers 64-bit processing.
Z-Room provides great metering. Its interface is divided intosix sections: Input, Early Reflections, Diffusion, Mass, Color, andMixer (see Fig. 2). Each section includes three or four editableparameters. A Rehearsal button emits a short impulse tone that letsthe user test the current setting's response. Early Reflections andreverb responses scroll along the bottom of the display to providevisual data. To buy back a little CPU power, I'd like the option ofdisabling that feature.
Z-Room runs in Deluxe, Economy, or Earlies mode. Economy modereduces the draw on computer resources at the expense of soundquality, though the gain in CPU power isn't equal to the loss offidelity. When I tested Z-Room on a Mac G3/400 MHz, Deluxe modeused about 20 percent of the overall CPU power, and Economy modeused 15 percent. If you can run only one or two instances of Z-Roomas your main reverb, use Deluxe mode. However, on a multiprocessorG4 machine Economy mode may become more useful, because you shouldhave the power to run several instances of Z-Room in both Deluxeand Economy mode and apply them according to the importance of thesignal.
In addition to Deluxe and Economy, an Earlies mode consistsmostly of discrete echoes to simulate early reflections. The soundof Z-Room's early reflections is excellent. Earlies mode uses evenless processing power than Economy mode.
Over time, I've grown less fond of reverb plug-ins; to my ears,they usually don't have the front-to-back depth of a great hardwareunit or, better yet, a pair of mics recording a real room. However,Z-Room in Deluxe mode sounds great on most instruments, especiallydrums and guitars. It can sound either neutral or colored,imparting its own character to the sound.
If you're looking for a thick, Lexicon-like pop vocal sound, youmay be disappointed. If that's what you want, a Lexicon reverb unitis the place to get it. For everything else, Z-Room works well ifyou can afford the CPU resources.
ALL BUNDLED UP
The EverPack plug-ins' graphic interfaces are visuallystimulating, but some of the parameters are hard to read because ofdark backgrounds or the treatment of the text fonts.
Each EverPack plug-in is high quality, and I applaud DUY fordesigning and including both MAS and VST versions in the samebundle. I especially like the Valve and Z-Room plug-ins, and Shapeis a powerful multiband compressor. Max and Wide are useful tools,but similar products perform the same functions better. As abundle, however, EverPack is a powerful and affordablecollection.
Rob Shrock was recently a music director for the 72nd AcademyAwards. He has recorded or performed with Burt Bacharach, SherylCrow, Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Mikaila, ’N Sync, and manyothers.
Minimum System Requirements
Power Macintosh; 800 KB RAM for first instance and 200 KB for eachadditional instance; Mac OS 8.1 or higher (host program may requirea higher OS version)
audio plug-in bundle
FEATURES 3.5 AUDIO QUALITY 3.5 EASE OF USE 4.0 VALUE 4.0 RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Good collection of useful plug-ins. Detailed, high-qualityreverb sounds. Excellent emulation of analog tape saturation. Goodmulti-band compression.
CONS: Some graphics are too artsy and difficult to read. Maxdistorts easily when pushed too hard.