Metric Halo ChannelStrip 12 Plug-In

Taking a new approach to plug-in architecture, Metric Halo has released ChannelStrip 1.2. The idea behind this software is that it marries the sound and feel of a mixing console with the power and flexibility of a digital audio workstation. This Mac plug-in is available in Digidesign's TDM (reviewed here), RTAS and AudioSuite formats, as well as MOTU's MAS format.
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Taking a new approach to plug-in architecture, Metric Halo has released ChannelStrip 1.2. The idea behind this software is that it marries the sound and feel of a mixing console with the power and flexibility of a digital audio workstation. This Mac plug-in is available in Digidesign's TDM (reviewed here), RTAS and AudioSuite formats, as well as MOTU's MAS format.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, postproduction

Key Features: Expander/gate and compressor with side chain filter; six-band parametric EQ; phase invert switch; sample delay parameter

Price: ChannelStrip: $699 TDM/RTAS/AS; $345 RTAS/AS/MAS; ChannelStrip SP $349 TDM/RTAS/AS; $175 RTAS/AS/MAS

Contact: Metric Halo at 888-638-4527 845-831-8600; Web Site
Features

While most plug-ins handle one type of processing, ChannelStrip ($175-$699) performs several. Contained in this package are an expander/gate and compressor with a side-chain filter, six-band parametric EQ, a phase invert switch; and a sample delay parameter. ChannelStrip allows users to turn any of the processing modules on or off as needed.

On the left-hand side of the plug-in window are virtual knobs and buttons for adjusting parameter settings. There are also three peak meters for each module and a gain-reduction meter for the compressor. On the right side are five adjustable response graphs. These graphs provide a visual display of each module and the side chain inputs. Positioned in the center are stereo meters and a gain control. Users familiar with the company's SpectraFoo plug-in will recognize the same high-quality Peak, RMS and VU meters.

Yes, ChannelStrip is a large plug-in. Metric Halo, however, has an option for closing the graphs, which reduces the size of the window. Also cool: the window may be oriented vertically or horizontally. I wish other manufacturers provided this kind of flexibility.

In use

The dynamics section offers the choice of processing the signal pre- or post-EQ. All things being equal, I find it is usually best to add EQ after compression. ChannelStrip provides three different modes of compression. Warm is the most versatile setting and is ideal for a wide range of instruments; Fast works best on material with quick transients and fast attacks like drums or percussion; Smooth is the best choice for mix-bus compression. Of course, ChannelStrip has all the standard compression settings for adjusting threshold, attack, release and ratio. There is also an automatic gain control feature.

The EQ module provides six bands of 48-bit parametric equalization (eight if you include the two side chain bands). Each band has six different types of filter shapes, including peaking/parametric, high-shelf, low-shelf, high-cut, low-cut and bandpass.

The amount of boost/cut for a given frequency is determined by the choice of the filter band. For example, the maximum boost/cut for the peaking filters is 24 dB. For the frequency width, Metric Halo uses a bandwidth calculation (as opposed to "Q"). Therefore, small numbers indicate narrow filters while large numbers are wide filters. This may be the opposite of what you are used to.

ChannelStrip ships with 127 presets in 11 different categories - plenty for most people to get started. Check out the settings for Full Mix, as well as presets for vocals, drums and other instruments. My only complaint is that a few of the presets popped into the red when initially engaged. Hopefully, this will be resolved in the next upgrade.

Summary

Users who don't mind sacrificing features to save money may want to consider ChannelStrip SP. This "lite" version has fewer functions but provides the same audio quality as the full version. An important point to note is that ChannelStrip is highly DSP efficient. This all-in-one plug-in uses the same resources as most single application plug-ins.

So what's the bottom line? Metric Halo' ChannelStrip sounds excellent. Sonically, it is warm and smooth. Dare I say almost analog-like? Download a free demo at (http://www.mhlabs.com/demo.html).