Metric Halo (MH) has largely made its name on the merits of high-quality hardware and converters, specifically DAW interfaces like their LIO and ULN. They now also offer a suite of plug-ins known as the Production Bundle, covering all the basics (and a few novelties) of signal processing ($699 direct). Sale priced at a heavily discounted $299 (for the moment), MH’s Production Bundle is screaming for your attention. Eight plug-in modules make up the bundle, and are as follows:
Channel Strip: Includes gate/expander (with tunable side-chain), compressor (fully-featured with continuously variable knee and a tunable side-chain), six-band parametric EQ (with numerous selectable filter types); output limiter, fader, polarity flip, lots of metering and SpectraFoo frequency analysis. Channel Strip has just about everything needed to effectively manage a mono signal, except to add some character.
Character: MH modeled 20 different analog devices to capture their “euphonic distortion” and reject all undesirables (phase shift, noise, hum, etc). Character’s 20 preset names evasively indicate what analog source are modeled, yet the actual operation leaves few questions. Drive and Gain provide the plug’s only controls, dialing in subtle transformer and tube non-linearities in useful ways (mostly subtle enough for tracks and mixes), avoiding the cartoonish destruction a cynic might have expected.
Halo Verb: Based on MH's hardware reverbs, this plug-in offers pre- and post-filters, adjustable width control, damping, pre-delay, and essentially the whole nine yards. Oddly, users must select a preset to select a room type, but this plug-in is otherwise efficient. There’s something about these room algorithms I really like. Across the Halo Verb palette, all are useful and musically adaptive (rooms, halls, arenas, plates, etc) and are offered in both Aux bus and Mix bus varieties.
Dirty Delay: This unique plug-in is ideal for lovers of echo and delay who especially prefer a little grit in their repeats. Dual delay lines are offered (with Feedback and Crossfeed controls) with dual gain controls and delay time, tapped or synced; the key is the choice of colorations (with both Drive and Gain controls). Very much “today” for pop vocals, this plug-in is a dream come true for EDM producers who have never bloomed an echo repeat without coloring and texturizing it (and likely automating some aspect of the process for even more uniqueness). This is my new go-to plug for lightly-colored, straight up vocal repeats (even if I look elsewhere for the really weird and filtery stuff).
De-Esser: It’s a fully-featured sibilance and excessive high-energy remover that has ample provisions. Everything is included—excellent metering, tune-ability, ratio, attack and release, but most importantly users can monitor the de-essed signal, the sibilance itself, or the out-of-band signal (helpful in finding the right frequency). Like most de-essers, it can be finicky about which singers/mics/sound sources it enhances (all three of my de-essers get frequent use, sometimes daisy-chained up in succession). That said, this is as good as my equally-finicky favorites, and sometimes better.
Multiband Dynamics: This processor is ready to make things loud and steady. Features include three bands, an output limiter, Mid-Side (M-S) processing, switchable auto-gain and ample metering. There's enough power here to radically re-balance a poor mix or completely screw up a fine mix; in my opinion, that’s the mark of a properly powerful multi-band processor. Most notably, it’s on par with similar offerings from Universal Audio, MOTU and Waves, all of which I regularly employ.
Multiband Expander: With three frequency bands, threshold, attack, release and SpectraFoo analysis, this plug-in allows downward expansion. Such a process could be used for noise reduction (allowing users to hone in on hum or buzz), for the rhythmic control of a loop, or for drum leakage management. It’s not something I use everyday, but it’s a capable and useful tool nonetheless.
TransientControl: For altering the ADSR envelope of a sound event—not unlike SPL’s beloved Transient Designer—TransientControl allows dynamic management and “forwardness” control. There’s lots of power contained here, enough to radically alter the envelope with fast-attack, slow-attack and release controls found on both the Transient and Sustain sections. I really like this module a lot, as it injects life into crappy snares and toms, allows artfully over-the-top reconstruction of snare samples and has a earned a permanent place in all my rock mixes.
I went into this MH Production Bundle review thinking that the last thing I needed were more plug-ins, but it won me over with near-effortless install/validation, simple and uncluttered GUIs, deep feature sets, direct numerical value entry and surprisingly useful sounds/tones/effects. I wish the windows were re-sizable, but that’s really my only complaint. At this current sales price of $299, it is an easy recommendation. I'd still recommend it even if Transient Control, Dirty Delay and Character were the only modules!
Sidebar: Metric Halo Production Bundle Breakdown
Some of these models are best applied to tracks, others for the L/R bus, and still others inserted on all tracks for a “vintage mixing board” effect. I was pretty sure I could name most of these models; try Metric Halo’s free trial download and see for yourself.
Here's the cryptic model descriptions as lifted from the owner's manual:
Transformer: Applies the harmonic distortion signature of a transformer-coupled input.
Valve: A tube-based EQ input stage.
FET: Model of a solid state (transistor) front end.
Soft Sat: Tube-based EQ with saturation.
Boutique Tube: Hand-made tube mic pre.
American Transformer 1: A variation of the “Transformer” model.
American Transformer 2: Second variation of the “Transformer” model.
California Tube Mic: American designed tube mic pre
California Tube Line: American designed tube line input.
Modern Tube DI: Mastering quality tube DI.
Modern Tube EQ: Mastering quality EQ.
Modern Tube Soft Sat: Mastering quality EQ with saturation.
Modern Tube LG: A tube mic pre with a low gain setting.
Modern Tube MG: A tube mic pre with a medium gain setting.
Modern Tube HG: A tube mic pre with a high gain setting.
Modern Tube Sym: Mastering quality EQ
Modern Tube Soft Sat: Mastering quality tube mic pre with saturation.
Classic British Mic Pre: A favorite large console mic pre.
American Solid State: FET mastering EQ.
California Vocal Box: Transformer coupled tube vocal processor.
California Vocal Box Drive: Transformer coupled tube vocal processor with increased gain.
British Mic Pre Clone: A popular clone of a favorite British mic pre.