Hands on with T-RackS 5

Keith White
17 April, 2018
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My head is still spinning from my first session with T-RackS 5 Max which is the premium collection of 38 virtual sound processing modules from IK Multimedia. These modules – compressors, limiters, reverbs, EQs and interesting others, are all faithfully modelled on classic analogue versions from bygone years. As well as a wide range of presets, many created by luminary audio engineers, each module has a full set of controls to allow infinite variations, which I can then save as my personal presets.

Disclaimer follows: while I have done a great deal of basic sound editing over the last thirty years, I wouldn’t really consider myself to be a sound engineer. This is the first time I have used a suite of audio tools of this professional quality. Space doesn’t permit me to do a detailed appraisal of each module so I picked out three for starters and ran them through their paces embedded as plug-ins in Logic Pro X. When selected each module opens up in a floating window. As a guinea pig I used a multitrack MIDI file of Burning Love by Elvis Presley which has a dozen tracks – guitars, drums, bass, keyboards, brass and choir. Plenty of variety for my shiny new tools to work on.

First up Mic Room. This is a virtual microphone tool which offers me a collection of more than 20 classic microphones – dynamic, condenser and ribbon – any of which I can use to emulate the Source (the original recording) and the Target (the final mix). Some of Mic Room’s presets have understandable labels (Tube Harmonics, Darken Electric Guitar) while others, like Starting to Fry and Rolling in the Deep are less so. However, I was fascinated to listen to the differences each pair of microphones made when I used it on individual tracks and also on the whole mix.

I’ve always been a big fan of reverb so next up I trialled CSR Hall Reverb with presets which gave me an impressive range of acoustic spaces from cavernous auditoriums to small rooms. Other presets in this module are tailored to individual instruments such as vox, guitar and drums. I had a lot of fun playing with this one.

And lastly the Dyna-Mu which is a virtual tube compressor modelled on the famous American Vari-mu, which was renowned for its warm analogue tone. And I certainly could hear this in the T-RackS version. Once again I tried it on individual tracks and then the whole mix with quite outstanding results.

Other modules which I have promised myself to investigate more fully over the coming weeks include Master Match, which analyses up to three selected source tracks and then applies the same sonic profile to any new track that I want to work on. And then Tape Echo. Having been fortunate enough to get my hands on one of the first tape echo machines in the 1960s I am looking forward to hearing how the virtual module matches up. I’m promised ‘authentic tape hiss, wow and flutter and line hum’. Can’t wait!

After this I ran T-RackS in standalone mode. The resizable interface is beautifully designed with stunning recreations of each module’s original control panel. I can switch between a

waveform view of my audio and a chain view in which I can drag and drop individual modules in and out of a chain. I can also move individual modules to different positions in the chain to create subtle differences. I can access the presets either from a global list or by module.

Loading up my Band in a Box backing track for Roy Orbison’s Blue Bayou I ran through some of the presets module by module, using the Bypass switch to get a quick Before and After comparison. It was really cool to use one preset to sharpen up the snare drum and another to fatten up the bottom end. Some of the results were amazing. I was particularly impressed with One, which combines several functions in a single module. Great for beginners and a very simple way to get quick improvements.

T-RackS 5 comes in three configurations. For beginners there are 9 modules. The Deluxe version has 22 and Max has 38. You can start with the basic version and add modules as required from the online Custom Shop, although pricewise the bundles are a much better deal.

The T-RackS 5 family offers sound engineers from novice to pro an incredible array of powerful tools to produce great sounding audio. You can expect the same sound quality of the original analogue versions for a fraction of the price.

You can find a detailed description of each of the 38 modules at http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/tr5max/. There are samples unprocessed and processed for you to hear the difference. You also get a free 14 day trial of any module.

T-RackS 5 (9 modules) $249.99

T-RackS 5 Deluxe (22 modules) $489.99

T-Racks 5 MAX (38 modules) $799.99. Upgrade/crossgrade from $489.99

All versions available via download. T-Racks 5 MAX has a boxed USB drive option.

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