Toontrack EZmix (Mac/Win) Review

Instant gratification is hard to come by when mixing. But thanks to Toontrack, you can now get closer than you might expect. The EZmix($69, AU/VST/RTAS) plug-in
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EZmix''s presets range from single effects to multi-effects chains as shown in this acoustic guitar setting.

Instant gratification is hard to come by when mixing. But thanks to Toontrack, you can now get closer than you might expect. The EZmix ($69, AU/VST/RTAS) plug-in, which was developed with Overloud, is essentially a mixer''s toolbox. It comes with 200 presets that run the gamut from a simple reverb or chorus to a snare effect chain with EQ, compression, and a transient shaper to multi-effect patches like Distorted Reverbed Delay, which contains a lowpass and highpass filter, tape simulator, distortion, reverb, and delay. There is a particular emphasis on mix presets for individual drums, but there are plenty of settings for drum kits; bass, acoustic, and electric guitars; vocals; and more.

Using EZmix is simple. Open an instance of it on the channel you want to process, pick the preset that fits your situation (you usually get several choices for each effect or instrument type), and away you go. Programmability is limited, however. Each preset has three sliders—on some only two are active—that allow some parameter tweaking. For example, you might get a reverb setting with a wet/dry control, a room size control, and a master level control. (All are automatable if your DAW supports it.) You can save presets to a Favorites menu, rename them, and save your effects tweaks with them. When you open the plug-in, it''s set on a null setting so that you don''t hear a random effect on your track before you choose what you want—neat.

You can sort the presets by name, effect type, or instrument type, which makes it easier to find what you want from the long effects list. There''s also a search box where you can type in keywords. Before I was familiar with the range of presets available, I found it a tad confusing at times because if you sort by instrument type, the individual drum effects are sorted under the name of the drum (snare, kick, hats, etc.), whereas the kit presets are listed under the category of Drums. As a result, the two groups don''t show up consecutively.

I tested EZmix on a variety of mixes in Apple Logic Pro and MOTU Digital Performer on my Apple Mac Pro, and also in Logic Pro on my three-year-old MacBook, and the plug-in proved versatile and powerful. On one song, with a MIDI drum part, I used one of the kit presets, and it made a pedestrian-sounding track come to life (see Web Clip 1). On another, with individual drums, I used snare, kick, and overhead, and drum bus presets with excellent results (see Web Clip 2). The bass presets beefed up my DI bass tracks, and the acoustic guitar presets made my tracks ringy and warm (see Web Clip 3). The reverbs were decent. The tape simulator, which can be dialed up alone or in some of the multi-effect presets, sounded quite good, as did the tape delay. There are even two mastering presets, which sounded good on the stereo bus. As an experiment, I tried one mix where the only plug-ins that I used (other than channel EQ) were instances of EZmix. I expected it to sound inferior to the same song mixed with my favorite plug-ins, but other than the reverbs, it held its own and in some aspects was superior.

EZmix is also easy on your CPU. I tried opening 20 instances of the plug-in, with a range of different presets chosen, and my Mac Pro''s CPU usage topped out at 17 percent. A similar test on my much-less-powerful MacBook used only about 50 percent of the CPU.

Overall, I''m quite impressed. EZmix offers plenty of good- to excellent-sounding presets that cover a range of mix situations. Yes, parameter tweaking is extremely limited, but to get this level of quality for only $69, there''s no reason not to have EZmix as an option. Don''t let the “EZ” part scare you off: This is no beginner''s toy. It delivers on its promise of making mixing easier and faster.

Overall rating (1 through 5): 5
EZmix Product Page