Harmonically Enhanced Algorithm Technology: Sounds like a mouthful to me. HEAT: There, that’s much easier to say!
Either way, it’s a new software release from Avid for Pro Tools HD users that delivers analog warmth to the digital domain. Designed in conjunction with Dave Hill of Crane Song, it’s intended primarily for “in the box” (ITB) mixers seeking the classic sound of analog consoles and outboard gear.
Normally, I might brush a product like this aside as just more “warmth” software (some of which are quite good), but HEAT comes courtesy of a guy — Dave Hill — with quite the lineage in not only analog but digital processing as well. I regularly use his Crane Song Phoenix plug-in on my mixes. Hill’s well-respected Crane Song HEDD-192 (Harmonically Enhanced Digital Device) AD/DA converter also features triode, pentode and tape controls.
HEAT appears in Pro Tools’ Mix window and is referred to as an “add-on” (it is technically not a plug-in), because it is not inserted onto a track; it appears on all audio tracks and is used to create a sum of processed analog sound as a whole.
In his online video, Hill notes that this multiyear design project had the primary objective of taking the “pure” sound of digital and applying an analog tape feel to it. Specifically, it’s designed to “take down” transients and provide the warm midrange that working with tape creates; this is approached by simulating the feel that harmonic distortion provides. As Hill wisely notes, “Distortions in the ear are a very strange world.” We all hear that particular color differently, and with that in mind, I was really looking forward to putting some HEAT across some of my mixes.
It can’t get much easier to use than HEAT. You can enable it by selecting Activate HEAT in the Options menu. It’s automatically applied to all mono, stereo and surround audio tracks in your session. At the top of each audio channel appears a Track Controls GUI with only a BYP (bypass) or PRE (pre insert) button and a small bar that glows displaying the amount of processing on each track.
The HEAT Master Control is enabled by selecting the Show/Hide HEAT Master View. When chosen, a small GUI appears atop the windowpane on the far right. It offers only On/Off, Bypass, a Meter and rotary controls for Drive and Tone.
The Drive control adjusts the amount of overall distortion, like when plugged into an analog channel strip on a console. Straight up (12 o’clock) provides no processing. Adjusting the knob counter-clockwise provides odd harmonics (like tape) and clockwise provides both odd and even harmonics (a combination of tape and triode tube circuit-based effects). Tone adjusts the bass or treble for a mix (darker to the left, brighter to the right), but it is more complex than simply that; it is an altering of a number of algorithms and tables, which affect how frequencies are saturated and compressed. As explained by Avid, “Moving the Tone control away from the center position will accentuate the amount of detail and brightness. The effect of raising the tone control is different, depending on which direction the Drive control is turned. The amount and character of the harmonic content is changed by this control, in a nonlinear fashion, unlike what a tone control in an EQ would do.”
I found it to work best on cleanly recorded tracks/mixes that don’t already have a lot of distortion and processing on them. Tone can either brighten or darken your mix overall, and I most often found myself turning the Tone to around 3 o’clock. Drive seems to be quite track-dependent, and it’s simply a matter of turning left or right! I did quickly become a fan of the odd harmonics Drive setting and used it quite a bit. Sometimes it’s quite subtle, but by pressing that bypass button, it would simply confirm that “yes, this thing sounds good” feeling. It’s the kind of product you simply have to experiment with.
HEAT’s processing is both level- and program-dependent. I think it’s too bad there is no individual channel control for the amount of processing, as it’s either on or not (when individually bypassed).
HEAT’s DSP requirements are fairly modest: an HD Accel chip will run 30 mono instances at 44.1/48 kHz per. Half that for stereo, and a 5.1 track accounts for six mono tracks, etc. It’s also important to note that it does not work on Instrument, Aux or Master tracks. Also, to open your HEAT tracks on a system that doesn’t have it, you’ll need to print them as well.
HEAT is a product designed with guys like me in mind: I’ve been an ITB mixer since the early days of Pro Tools and yes, there are certainly aspects of analog I miss (minus the hiss). I’ve always run tube analog processing on my mix bus, but never had a piece of software that gave me the “feel” of a board and/or tape. HEAT doesn’t deliver “smack you over the head” results, but instead provides a definite analog color to your tracks. It’s not EQ, and it’s not compression: it’s a process that produces results hard to describe, yet it works. Overall though, I like HEAT very much.
Contact: Avid | avid.com