Sony Oxford EQ and Dynamics Plug-Ins

It was a technical milestone when Sony squeezed the sonic quality of their million dollar Oxford console into the affordable DMX-R100 several years back. The squeeze was taken to the next level with the release of the Sony Oxford line of plug-ins. These include the Oxford EQ, Oxford Dynamics, Inflator, Trans Mod, Reverb, Limiter, and Restoration Tools plug-ins.
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(click thumbnail)Fast FactsApplications: Studio, post production

Key Features: Pro Tools-compatible; PowerCore-compatible; five-band EQ; compressor, limiter, expander, gate; up to 192 kHz

Price: Pro Tools TDM $891; Pro Tools LE $360; TC Powercore $630

Contact: Sony Oxford at www.sonyplugins.com.

Product Points

Plus:

+ Phenomenal sound

+ Supports 192 kHz sample rates

+ Flexible

Minus:

- More expensive than comparable plug-ins

- The GML option is not compatible with TC PowerCore or Pro Tools LE

The Score:

If your DAW simply must have the best sounding EQ and dynamics plug-ins available, then the Sony Oxford plug-ins is something you can't live without.It was a technical milestone when Sony squeezed the sonic quality of their million dollar Oxford console into the affordable DMX-R100 several years back. The squeeze was taken to the next level with the release of the Sony Oxford line of plug-ins. These include the Oxford EQ, Oxford Dynamics, Inflator, Trans Mod, Reverb, Limiter, and Restoration Tools plug-ins. These plug-ins support sample rates up to 192 kHz and provide the sonic performance of the Oxford console with an investment of a few hundred dollars. I was able to spend a couple of months with the Oxford EQ and the Oxford Dynamics plug-ins and was extremely pleased with their performance.

Features

The EQ and the Dynamics plug-ins are compatible with Pro Tools HD/HD Accel, Pro Tools MIX, Pro Tools LE and TC Power Core (the Oxford EQ with the GML option is only supported on the Pro Tools HD/HD Accel and Pro Tools MIX formats). Both plug-ins are based on the Sony Oxford console and are fully automatable.

The EQ plug-in is a fully functional five-band equalizer with selectable shelf settings on the LF and HF sections. There are also separate variable slope (up to 36 dB/octave) low-pass and high-pass filters. The EQ provides four different selectable EQ types (five with the GML 8200 option) that cover various EQ styles that include legacy styles renowned for their artistic capability. The use of novel coefficient generation and intelligent processing design provides remarkable performance in both artistic freedom and sound quality.

The plug-in has a comparison feature that allows instant comparison between two completely independent EQ settings. All EQ functions are fully automatable. Besides supporting sample rates up to 192 kHz, the plug-in offers extremely low noise and distortion. The four versions of the plug-in (five-band EQ with filters, five-band EQ without filters, three-band EQ without LMF and HMF sections and the filter section only), each available in both mono and stereo versions, allow for optimal DSP management (this plug-in is rather processor hungry). The four different EQ types (five with the GML option) included with the Oxford plug-in provide various styles of EQ that take in account gain, Q dependency and overall control ranges.

The Sony Oxford/GML 8200 Option adds the GML 8200 EQ emulation to the plug-in. This accurate emulation was originally designed in collaboration with GML for the OXF-R3 console. It has all the finer characteristics of the classic analogue outboard unit, faithfully reproducing all the control ranges and responses of the original EQ, even to the point of producing center frequencies up to 26 kHz while running at 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz.

The Oxford Dynamics plug-in provides independent compress, limit, expand, gate and side chain EQ functions and it has a signal path noise and distortion level below –130 dBr. The plug-in's two-band side chain EQ can also be used in signal path. The selectable time constant curves and variable soft compress functions allow the user to quickly move from subtle level control to extreme sound manipulation. The plug-in uses a feed-forward architecture with a logarithmic side chain processing making use of look-ahead techniques, consequently ensuring a sonic quality and dynamic accuracy unavailable from other dynamics units, analog or digital.

The plug-in includes a separate bus compressor/limiter with surround support and selectable sub channel filtering and gain contribution control. The fully variable soft ratio function allows for extreme program tolerance and highly musical compression and the variable harmonic enhancement provides extra loudness, presence and punch. There is also a selectable redithering function for word length reduction in mastering situations.

In Use

I had no problems installing the Oxford plug-ins on my Pro Tools rig but getting them to run was a bit of a challenge but after a bit of troubleshooting and then some direction from Sony's online support team (who I found to be impressively fast and knowledgeable) I was quickly up and running.

There are several EQ plug-ins that sound reasonably good when used sparingly. The problem is, as the equalization becomes more drastic, the sound becomes phasey and looses definition. This is not the case with the Oxford plug-in. Regardless of how drastic the equalization is, the Sony Oxford EQ sounds utterly astounding, always smooth, and always natural.

I also found having the option between EQ types to be extremely useful. Although I still vary my EQ type from situation to situation, I have found myself most often using Type 1 (which is reminiscent of an SSL 4000 series) on drums and percussion, Type 3 (which is more reminiscent of a classic Neve EQ) on guitars, bass and strings and the GML 8200 on vocals.

I frequently found myself using the A/B comparison/selection feature. I mixed a track with a lead vocal that went from a whisper in the verses to a full fledged belt in the choruses and needed completely different EQ settings from one section to the other and instead of taking the time to do extreme EQ automation or the extra DSP to insert an additional EQ, I had two settings on the plug-in and I simply automated the A/B switch to go to the proper setting in the correct section of the song.

To test the accuracy of the GML option on the EQ I duplicated the EQ settings on the plug-in with my hardware 8200 so I could compare the two. The difference was amazingly subtle, so much so that I anticipate that all I was hearing was the extra D/A-A/D conversion that using the hardware version required.

The Dynamics plug-in provides an amazing amount of sonic control. I used it on drums, percussion, bass, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards and vocals and was always able to quickly and easily obtain results that I was extremely pleased with. The side chain EQ controls give an amazing amount of control, especially on vocals.

The Dynamics plug-in also works extremely well for stereo bus compression. I had good results using it along with the L3 plug-in, with Digidesign's Impact plug-in and as the sole stereo buss compressor. I unfortunately wasn't able to do a surround project during my review period but I anticipate that the multichannel version of the plug-in would work wonders in this situation.

My only complaint with the plug-ins is that they are fairly DSP-dependent. I would love to have the Sony EQ and Dynamics plug-ins inserted on every channel of my mix but that just isn't possible on most of my projects which run at least 40 or 50 tracks.

Summary

The Sony Oxford EQ and Dynamic plug-ins cost a bit more than most of their competition but they are worth every cent. They are easy to install and use and their sound quality is shockingly good.