There are many mixing and mastering plug-ins on the market today, but users often have to make a difficult choice between price and features. To me, IK Multimedia’s $500 T-RackS 3 Deluxe delivers on both.
T-RackS 3 Deluxe contains three compressors, three equalizers, two limiters, and a clipper. There are a total of eight banks to place any of the plug-ins—four single banks and four double bank—which means that you can put up to 12 plug-ins on a single channel.
For example, let’s say you have a mastering signal chain set up, but you want to try something different to make the drums pop a bit more. Instead of adding another entire plug-in set, you can just switch from channel A to channel B while the music is playing. It gives you the ability to instantly A/B your settings.
But that’s not even my favorite part of T-RackS 3 Deluxe. The best part is the metering section at the bottom of the interface. It delivers a lot of vital information, providing instant feedback for each change you make.
This section gives you a peak meter, perceived loudness meter, RMS (Root Mean Square, showing the power of the audio signal over a certain time window) level meter, a phase scope, and a spectrum analyzer with peak, RMS, and averaging display. That’s a lot of info.
In addition, you can change the peak meter levels to three different scales: -90 to 0db; -50 to +5db; and -60 to 0db. As you work your way through the mix, it is important to be able to zoom in on the peak meter to see your available headroom.
These are classic modules based on the analog gear that’s been used on popular recordings since the 1960s. I love having that vintage warmth in my music and I tend to use both of these plug-ins quite a bit when I mix. (You can download presets for the Fairchild and another for the Pultec that I made for a snare drum.)
There is one thing that I don’t like about the interface—clicking on the name of the plug-in at the top of the interface turns it off instead of changing to that plug-in’s interface. To change to the plug-in you need to click on the buttons labled 1A, 1B, and so on. Not a huge problem, but even after using the software for quite a while, I still make the same mistake.
You can use T-RackS in your digital audio workstation or as a standalone application. This way you can bounce out a mix and use it as a mastering tool.
At $500 T-RackS 3 Deluxe delivers a lot of bang for the buck, giving you the option of using modern or vintage sounding gear in your recordings.