Learning the craft of mixing audio can be a daunting task, especially when you factor in not just the number of different types of processing available, but also the sheer amount of choice when it comes to picking a certain manufacturer’s product. We’ve seen a number of plug-ins over the last couple of years that aim to simplify this task by offering a stripped-back interface and limited but carefully selected controls, forcing you into using the most important tool of all – your ears.
EZmix 2, from drum specialists Toontrack, is an all-in-one mixing tool that includes a range of specialist effects chains created by industry pros. There are presets for vocals, drums, keyboards, guitars and bass, plus mastering and buss processing settings, each of which uses a combination of different effects.
One of the main improvements over EZmix 1 is the much more advanced and flexible search engine, which now enables you to filter different criteria or search for a specific instrument, effect or genre. Once your preset is selected, all of the complex controls are simplified down to two knobs, with text to either side informing you about what each one does. For example, one knob may increase compression, while the other brings up the level of some parallel distortion. In another scenario, one may add some thick chorus and doubling to a vocal, while the second blends in some reverb and adds brightness to the EQ.
The 205 presets from the original have also been added to, with 148 new signal chains that make use of the added cabinet and amp modelling, and the new multiband compressor, mastering limiter, stereo enhancer and aural exciter modules. To help illustrate which processors are present in each setup, the GUI has been extended to show darkened images of amps, effects and pedals that illuminate when in use. There is also a decent number of genre-specific preset packs available for £21.95 each.
The Perfect Blend
There are many aspects of EZmix 2 that have been very well thought-out. Firstly, Toontrack has streamlined its registration process – no longer do you have to open your browser to enter your serial, and more importantly, if you’re upgrading from EZmix 1, the plug-in simply replaces the previous version, meaning backwards-compatibility with older DAW sessions. There is also a fully functional demo version (which you’ll find on the DVD) with three projects in different styles downloadable from the Toontrack website. These songs feature unmixed stems with an instance of EZmix 2 used on each instrument to create a full, pro-sounding mix.
All of the effects modules have been provided by plug-in-makers Overloud and the sound quality is superb, especially in the crunchy new guitar amps and cabs. We also found the mastering settings to be a surprisingly quick and effective solution to bulking up the overall mix with minimal artefacts. We welcome the more flexible search options, which become essential when you start to add in the additional presets packs, and the new section showing each module on the right hand-side of the GUI is a nice touch.
The main issue we have is with the massive price jump from the previous version, which was available for around £50. To be fair, the upgrade price isn’t that bad, but to more than double the cost for newcomers seems a bit steep, despite the new presets and improved search options.
There’s no denying that EZmix 2 can get good results quickly, especially if you’re mixing band-based music. Pros might find the lack of controls a bit frustrating, and beginners may struggle and end up over-processing due to a lack of visual feedback. However, if you’ve got good ears and can make sensible judgements about what sounds good for each instrument, you’re likely to get on well.
+ Great sound, high-quality effects
+ Broad range of uses
– Pricey for newcomers
– Lack of visual feedback
A pricey but great-sounding and easy-to-use mixing plug-in.