One app to mix them all
Toontrack EZmix 2 provides a wealth of processing presets designed to simplify the task of mixing while giving you professional-level results. When it comes to mixing a song, musicians often don’t know how to assemble and use basic signal processing tools in order to achieve pro-level results. Although many plugins provide helpful presets, they are rarely gathered together in an organized way based on how they are meant to be used.
Toontrack EZmix 2 provides a suite of effects designed to simplify a wide range of mixing tasks, from processing instrumental and vocal tracks to bass and guitar-amp simulation. Available as a standalone application that comes with AU, VST, and RTAS plug-ins, EZmix 2 provides useful, application-specific libraries of effects chains, many of which were designed by luminaries such as Chuck Ainlay and Mark Needham.
The user interface comprises a browser, a control section, and a panel that displays the patch-chain components. A model of clarity, the browser starts with an Instrumental Group, then lets you select an Instrument followed by an Effect, such as a chorus or an exciter.
The Type column groups patches by function: Amplifier shows cabinets, heads, stomp boxes, and anything else you might find in a bass or guitar rig; Aux holds effects— primarily reverb and delay—that are suitable for auxiliary channels; and Group Bus concentrates mostly on dynamics processing, tape saturation, and the like for drum kits and percussion. Insert handles individual tracks and generally draws from modulation effects, reverbs, delays, dynamics, and tape saturation, with presets that range from single-processor to elaborate effects chains. Master hosts multiband compression and limiting, EQ and tape-saturation effects, as well as reverbs—anything you would use on the master bus of a mix. Additional filters sort presets by musical genre and expansion pack.
The Control section is basic. Knobs for input and output levels flank the preset title. The functions of the larger knobs depend on the preset you select. For example, choosing a wah-wah guitar preset could assign a sensitivity control, with the second knob controlling drive on a virtual amp. Tweaking those knobs is the extent of EZmix 2 patch editing: You cannot, for instance, change the wah-wah’s center frequency or add a chorus to a patch where none exists. You can save your tweaks as favorites, and even rename your favorite, but that’s about it. Additionally, there is no option to swap out processors or choose, for instance, between a tweed guitar amp and a modern boutique model; what you hear is what you get. I understand the intent of protecting the end user from a sea of knobs and faders, but my wish list for a future update would include a Professional mode, which would let users unlock the innards of the patches to create their own preset chains.
Nonetheless, I found it refreshing the way EZmix 2 sets up the more mundane aspects of a mix so I could get them out of the way quickly. I appreciated the way the effects chains sounded excellent and enabled tracks to sit effectively in a mix with a minimum of “showcase” patches, which often dominate and distract from their surroundings. Even experienced recordists will enjoy using this product for accomplishing what is often an overwhelming task. Overall, EZmix 2 sounds great and lays out a quick, simplified path from your DAW to your audience.
Marty Cutler likes playing drums with a five-string banjo neck and strings attached.
Strengths Wide range of great-sounding processing chains. Easy to navigate.
Limitations Not user configurable. Minimal patch editing.
Expansion Packs, $49 each