Fig. 1. The transient shaper (shown here) and exciter are greatly improved in Alloy 2.
THE ALLOY 2 channel-strip plug-in incorporates an 8-band paragraphic equalizer, harmonic exciter, transient shaper, de-esser, limiter, two dynamics processors, comprehensive metering, and spectrum analyzer into one GUI. Clicking on a processor’s associated tab opens its GUI for editing.
New and Improved Alloy 2’s transient shaper is much improved; I got an excellent kick drum sound in multiband mode. Boosting the high-frequency (2–20kHz) band’s attack control enhanced the beater’s slap, while increasing its bass band’s sustain (below 120Hz) made the shell ring with booming reverberation. Lowering the middle band’s (120–2,000Hz) sustain control attenuated snare drum bleed; conversely, boosting that band’s sustain control provided a more “live” drum sound.
Activating one of Alloy 2’s two dynamics modules downstream from the shaper, I dialed in a 30:1 ratio with peak detection, 0.01ms attack time and a hard knee. Adjusting the module’s sidechain filter (new to Alloy 2) to weed out bass frequencies conditioned the compressor to react only to the beater slap. That de-emphasized the kick’s attack, while makeup gain made the shell thunder even more. Lowering the module’s mix control restored the beater’s punchy thwack, but the shell still sounded easily twice as big. Huge!
Alloy 2’s improved multiband exciter transformed a polite electric bass track into a churlish, burping bad boy by letting me vary the relative amounts of added harmonics emulating tube, tape and “retro” (transistor) circuits. (A “warm” mode—producing only even harmonics—is also available.) I liked adding bass-band retro excitation for a tight bottom, tape-style harmonics between 200 and 950Hz to broaden the mids, and tube-style distortion in the highest band to soften the top end; being able to solo each band made editing easier. Reducing the wet/dry mix control blended in some of the original signal, preserving the track’s focus.
Activating Alloy 2’s limiter module— downstream from the exciter—smoothed the bass track’s level fluctuations and made it sound fuller. I could also unlink the limiter’s two channels on a stereo track for drum-room mics, which Alloy 1 wouldn’t allow, to preserve the soundstage’s width.
Going Solo Alloy 2’s versatile equalizer lets you solo a frequency band, which was really handy when hunting down harsh resonance in a female vocal track; useful keyboard shortcuts speed this process considerably. You can also solo a frequency band in Alloy’s outstanding multiband de-esser module to home in on offending vocal sibilance, and drag a band’s low and high crossover-frequency handles to narrow the bandwidth to cover only the sibilant frequencies.
Chaining Alloy 2’s two dynamics processors in parallel on the lead vocal track allowed creating a blend of two different sounds. One compressor was set to soft knee, 3.5:1 ratio, RMS detection, high threshold and moderate attack and release times to enhance density. The other compressor was set to create audible pumping: hard knee, 20:1 ratio, peak detection, low threshold, and very fast attack and release times. Combining the two processors gave the “stormy” character I wanted without defenestrating the vocal’s fidelity and dynamic range.
Only the Beginning There’s a lot more to Alloy 2; it’s not just a channel strip—it’s a channel universe, filled with processors to color your world. You won’t need NASA’s budget, however, to climb onboard. At only $199 MSRP, Alloy 2 is a steal.
Michael Cooper is the owner of Michael Cooper Recording in Sisters, Oregon (www.myspace.com/michaelcooperrecording), and a contributing editor for Mix magazine.
STRENGTHS: Sounds great. Feature-packed and extremely versatile. Rock-bottom price.
LIMITATIONS: Nothing major.
$199 MSRP, $149 street, $79 upgrade from Alloy 1