IK Multimedia T-Racks 3 Deluxe Review

T-Racks has been around for about as long, if not longer, than a lot of DAW’s. It has been synonymous with quality, professionalism and the top choice of professionals. Now lets take a step back. IK Multimedia, creators of Amplitube, Ampeg SVX and the newest Amplitube Fender, have done it again and surprised me. T-Racks 3 will soon have its place in top studios across the world. IK Multimedia is known for their knack to model analogue gear to the T, I mean right down to the little things that make a piece of gear special and quit honestly they are one of the best to ever do it. Having just released the third generation of T-Racks, they have once again outdone themselves. I have used a few plug ins in my time but these are special. The T-Racks 3 Deluxe contains the original tools found in the last generation of T-Racks with the addition of 5 new plug ins, 2 of which are revered and favored among the engineering world. The Fairchild and the Pultec. Both favored for their classic color and saturation. In the following we will break each plug in down AND figure out how to use them to compliment your tracks!

First we will look at the classic T-Racks processors and figure out just why they are so loved! There are 4 modules in the classic part of T-Racks. The T-Racks Equalizer is a 6 band equalizer that can work in both L/R modes but also can be used in Mid Side which is great for eqing that stereo signal! (We will cover this a bit more later.) This EQ has been a go to for many engineers for a reason! The T-Racks Compressor is a versatile compressor with a stereo enhancement that can help widen your mixes. The T-Racks Multi-band Limiter that can help compress your mixes in a more precise manner. A lot of times if you use a basic compressor but the low end is out of hand it can ruin your whole mix by compressing more than it should and make the song song “off”. With a Multi-band limiter it is much like having multiple compressors for a specific frequency range. So on that same low end problematic mix you can have separate settings for the lows, mids and highs and make the mix sound a bit more balanced! Then there is the T-Racks Soft Clipper. You use the Soft-clipping stage to create warm, saturated mastering effects. It can also help in adding gain to your mixes!

Next we will get into these new plug ins a bit more in depth as they are new. Up first is the T-Racks Brickwall Limiter. This is easily one of the most transparent limiters I have heard, BUT it also has a selectable style. Now on clean it can add Gobs and gobs of gain without squashing your sound to death. (magnetic, if you get my drift) The other styles it has are Advanced 1 through 4, Clip, and Sat 1,2 and 3. Each of these can affect how the limiter works, It can work cleanly or a bit dirtier. Maybe some saturation for that analogue feel. Either way they all sound great but my favorite is the more modern clean setting. Now you usually use this at the end of the chain to prevent any clipping so you can set it to limit the volume to zero or -.05 to make sure there is no clipping. It limits the sound from going over a certain level that can be set by you. It also has attack and release times to precisely set it up to the song your mastering.

The T-Racks Vintage Equalizer EQP-1A is modeled after the famed Pultec EQP-1. Now this EQ is far from accurate. If you want accuracy you should use the T-Racks Equalizer or the T-Racks Linear Phase Equalizer, BUT if you want mojo, thickness, sheen and flavor THIS IS THE EQ TO HAVE! This is the real deal and easily one of the best things you can add to add color without compressing. You can add a bit of low end and highs and get a great solid sound on just about any source! Best part even if you don’t have any changes to the EQ but just have it in the chain it imparts a sonic character to it that sounds sweet and thick but not overly present or hurting the source signal! This EQ, like the T-Racks Equalizer can also be used in both L/R and Mid Side.

The T-Racks Linear Phase Equalizer is as precise as they come. This is the EQ you want when you have surgery to do. It really is that precise! Much like the other 2 EQ’s that T-Racks has to offer it works in L/R, Mid Side and has 6 bands. Sounds familiar right? Wrong. First of all each of the 6 bands can be configured to work as a high pass, low shelving, peaking, high shelving or low pass, this makes this VERY FLEXIBLE! Linear Phase Equalization in and of it self is a very clean, transparent and precise EQ so this is again another go-to to fix, enhance or just try out new things WITHOUT it sounding “EQ’d”.

The T-Racks Vintage Compressor Model 670 is a God send. No lie. I have used a few Fairchild 670 compressors before but haven’t really liked some of the weird low end that has presented itself in some of the mixes. Well this is the best modeled Fairchild I have yet to hear. Now if you haven’t heard a Fairchild, well trust me you have. Period. This is the “Holy grail” for compressors. So many people have tried to model this, and many times we have been happy….to an extent. Then along comes IK Multimedia and says “BAM! Here you go Obi, take this and create the best mixes you have ever made!”. This works in both L/R and Mid Side. This is my new favorite plug in because it sounds great on just about anything! Now with this plug in we will go in and tackle the Mid Side thing a bit. Now we are only touching base so you understand the basics. With Mid Side (or Lat/Vert as it appears on the plug in) you can take the stereo field and compress JUST that and leave the Mid (Middle part of the stereo signal) and compress that separate. So take a drum loop for instance. You can raise the input gain on say the Side and it will make the room and stereo width sound much bigger and wider. now if you crank the Mid you get a more solid sounding kick and snare. This can help you really bring life to mixes! Another great feature about it is you can unlink it and compress the left and right independently and have both sides set a bit different to create interesting mixes!

The T-Racks Opto Compressor isn’t modeled after anything really. From what Obi’s Intel has gathered it is a “What I would want in the perfect Opto Comp” type of plug in. Basically it’s not modeled after any precise piece of gear, but it’s modeled after real circuit portions, parts and stages. That is part of the secret that helps make this amazing compressor keep total respect of the incoming signal and give absolute transparency to the scource signal. It’s the purest, most transparent yet musical compressor in the box I have heard. Now much like the other plug ins in this bundle, L/R, Mid/Side and linkable. The best way to describe this particular compressor is, well, you can’t really. It is as transparent as can be. You don’t really hear it, which is a great thing! Perfect for adding some sweetness or less apparent compression. Now just to show you the versatility of these plugs you can crank it for that popular “pumping” effect that some people love but when used at even semi high compression levels it is pretty transparent. It is perfect for just about anything. Vocals were the first thing I tried it on. I had it on the vocal folder in Reaper and it helped glue all the parts together without it being noticed at all!

Now to really get down and dirty I am even going to go in depth on the 10th plug in. Now I know I said in the beginning there were 4 classic modules and 5 new ones. “But Obi that makes 9! How can there be 10!?”, listen they packed this thing tight with features! They included a full blown metering suite! Now on most metering software or even mixers there are a few standards: Peak and RMS and on some consoles Phase! Great good for you, but IK Multimedia and T-Racks really wanted to leave a impression! Along with a spectrum meter they included a perceived loudness meter! Not only that but each and every one of these are configurable. For example, the spectrum can be adjusted to react slower or faster, the peak can be set and -90 to 0 db for a full view, 60 to 0 db for a zoomed in view or a 50 to +5 db for a very precise view! Even better is even the perceived loudness meter can be set to a specific genre so you can compare to the perceived loudness on average that the particular genre has and gives you a idea of where to head for loudness!

Now I have saved the best thing for last, EVERY one of these can be used INDEPENDENTLY as separate plug ins and on individual tracks! You can add some of that Vintage Compressor Model 670 flavor to your drums, the Linear Phase Equalizer on your acoustic, the Opto Compressor on those vocals and leave the Metering plug in on the master buss to help you with your levels and spectral balance! This is the best thing you can get for 500! I mean 10 plug ins for 500!? Seriously? Of this quality? Yep. Plus if you don’t want the whole suite say you just want the Vintage Compressor Model 670 or the Vintage Equalizer EQP-1A you can purchase each one for $99! I personally recommend getting the bundle not only to save money but to have some of the best tools for audio at your fingers! It has been said that today you can spend a few thousand and rival big studios but companies like IK Multimedia is making this more and more of a reality with each release! They have outdone themselves with the newest addition to the T-Racks family with T-Racks 3 Deluxe!

IK Multimedia T-Racks 3

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