The shape of things to come
You could say that a lot about our recording style here is a bit of a throwback. We love to record a take live in the room, we love real amps, instruments and unpredictable performances. That's why i've until now generally not had loads of plugins that I use everyday as part of my workflow. Plug ins were often recreations of the actual gear I have in my rack not 2 meters from where I sit and I just couldn't justify the expense (as most small studio owners are forced to) of gear that I kinda already had.
Excitingly, it seems that we have now crossed into a new paradigm in mixing technology . There are a whole host of new pieces of gear that simply do not model the old approaches. Having been introduced to @soundradix via their 32 lives plug (so I could get my Bias plugs and TT Dynamic Range meter working again on the new iMac) i've recently bought Surfer EQ by Sound Radix . OK so it's an eq that looks a lot like a traditional parametric and shelving combo. But the genius is that the eq tracks the signal just like Melodyne can detect the pitch of an incoming monophonic signal.
Say you have a guitar solo and you want to brighten it up so that it cuts through the mix. Normally you'd have to apply a pretty wide parametric boost with a Q of say 0.33-1 to catch the range of notes. With Surfer EQ you can boost a little level around a specific frequency that is definitely one of the notes being played, set it to 'surf' and it moves the boose up and down acording to the tracked note.
The net positive effect is twofold , a more moderate amaount to boost is needed as the gain is more efficiently applied to necessary notes. So you keep a more natural tone. Secondly due to masking (a natural phenomenon where one sound can mask out another quieter sound) you are less likely to obliterate the detail in the rest of the mix when you are applying that boost.
What I like about this approach is that it's not a tool has existed before, so it feels to me like a whole world of possibilities has opened up for mix engineers.
I'll most likely be investing in more @soundradix plugs soon. The Auto Align plug takes the hard work out of tiny phase misalignment issues on a multitrack recording - most commonly on a 8-10 mic set up on a drum kit. And Pi can be used to detect phase issues in your multitrack mix and auto optimises for natural tone (whereas phase cancellation issues can cause a hollow sound lacking in bass frequencies). These two can in minute detail correct what even a skilled engineer can largely only make a calculated guess at.
It does leave me wondering if in twenty years or less we won't have to mix songs anymore. I think we'll always want to put our arbitrary human mark on a piece of art, so there will be mixing even if it can be cicumnavigated woith software. But if the headscratching agony of some mix difficult sessions is alleviated i'm certainly not going to be a dissenter. More time to have fun with weird effects.