Manny Marroquin is a star. Or as much of one as an engineer can be. Folks ranging from Alicia Keys and Lana Del Rey to Linkin Park and the Rolling Stones have turned to him for the certain something.
Waves has been doing engineer-specific bundles for a while now with Eddie Kramer and Chris Lord-Alge already in the stable. Now they are turning to one of the Young Guns to put together a bundle that epitomizes some of his typical signal processing setups. The Marroquin plugins include EQ,Delay, Reverb, Tone Shaper, Triple D and Distortion. Let’s break down each one of these….
Marroquin EQ is a four-band equalizer augmented with high and low-pass filters. The tone shaping characteristics for each band were inspired by a variety of analog EQs including the Quad 8 console equalizer,Neve 1073, API 550B, Avalon 2055 and SSL 9000 Series console. I found this EQ very useful and musical on a variety of sources. The low-pass filter (LPF) is sorely missed from other plugins. By taking it down to 1.6 kHz and raising the HPF up to 40 Hz I could turn a modern kick into a retro Motown-type kick. On bass it was amazing how much I could punch up 110 Hz without making the bass sound sloppy, and cracking open the mid band at 1.6 kHz brought out finger noise and articulation when needed.
In general the action of this EQ is more on the subtle side — which is fine by me. The high- and high-mid bands can be used to brighten up strings without making them screechy(though things get a bit crunchy when you wind up 1.6 kHz all the way). On a kick drum +2 at 110 Hz, -4 at 400 Hz and +6 at 5 kHz was wonderful.
Unlike a lot of EQs, you can boost in the lower mids without causing harm to a sound. I typically stay away from boosting in the region between 200 and 400 Hz but the MM EQ’s lower-midband is so smooth that you can boost in that region to add weight to a snare drum without causing a midrange bloat. Ditto for acoustic guitar which also benefitted from a few dB added at 320 or 400 Hz. A very musical, general purpose EQ.
The Tone Shaper is a parallel compressor with four bands plus EQ and a few “secret ingredients” used to modify the tone of a track. This was my least favorite of the collection, probably because the interface is not calibrated and I didn’t really know what it was doing (thoughI certainly could hear what is was doing). On drum overheads Tone Shaper added presence and sparkle without letting the drums take over the mix. The default setting for the “direct” slider is 0. Does this mean 50/50 wet/dry? Maybe. I backed it down to “-7,” making the effect more subtle. Inserted on a Rhodes-type electric piano in a very dense mix, Tone Shaper helped pop out the track where previously it was lost.
The Lo Mid band is one of the ugliest EQs I’ve heard, and Hi Mid should be relabeled ‘crunch.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The presets are very useful, especially if you are seeking that crunchy overcompressed, distorted sound prevalent on the radio, particularly for drums. The Yoad Nevo Bass Drum preset added presence to a kick drum and the MM Bass preset provided a nice character to an otherwise very boring DI’d bass track. The Mo Bass preset was even better for curing low-end anemia on thin bass tracks.
The distortion plug-in does exactly that, and does it very well. It was perfect for adding a bit of hair to a Rhodes or Wurlitzer sound, or adding some attitude to a bass track.
MM Delay was undoubtedly my favorite of the collection.It’s a stereo delay with controls for delay time, feedback, high and low-pass filters and mix. Delay time may be set as milliseconds or note value derived from song tempo. L/R delay times may be linked or set separately, and you can set the left and right channel to independent note values for rhythmic ping-pong effects. The high-pass filter is nothing new but I love the low-pass filter because chopping off the high-frequency response of the delay leaves room for the fidelity of a guitar solo or lead vocal.
In addition to the usual delay parameters MM Delay adds four knobs, each for an additional process: Reverb, Distortion, Doubler and Phaser — really making this the last delay plug in that you’ll ever need. Each knob has an associated slider for a parameter or two such as Size for the Verb, or Detune for the Doubler. The ability to simply dial in distortion is way easier than the old days when I’d have to send the Emperor out for a break while I created the routing.
The Doubler is excellent. I cranked it up it on a vocal with the delay set at 0 so that I could get just the doubling effect, the result of which reminds me of the Ozzy vocal sound from the early 80’s (that’s 1980s for you youngsters). The Doubler also proved to be very tasty on acoustic guitar,as did the Phaser. The reverb on this plugin is serviceable as long as you keep the size under approximately ‘40’ (otherwise it gets sloppy). This is an excellent tool and Waves does makes it available as a one-off if you want just the delay.
MM Reverb is a convolution reverb with integrated EQ, compression, phaser and distortion.That’s a lot of stuff going on, maybe too much for some folks. The reverb sounds very good, with Medium Hall providing a natural sounding environment fora lead vocal (try Hall, Medium, Time at 9 o’clock, a bit of Predelay… very nice). Snare drums loved theMedium Room and so did I. If you are in the mood, it is capable of creating your favorite cheesy 80s reverb effects.Try the following settings — Space, Small, Time and Predelay set to minimum,and compressor at 10 o’clock — and it’s time for the new INXS record.
I found the action of the Time and Predelay knobs a little weird. When you grab them with your mouse and start to move them, you do not hear the parameter change until you let go of the knob. When you do let go, the effect is muted very briefly and then you’ll hear the change in the parameter. A bit odd if nothing more and true in both Digital Performer and Pro Tools.
I preferred to route MMReverb using an aux send and separate return because EQ applies to the dry and wet signals. In other words, even with the Reverb Amount set to Off, you’ll still hear the effects of the EQ on the dry signal. The same concept holds true for the compressor, phaser and distortion. Adding the phaser is interesting for a bit of swish on the tail of the verb but since it also applies to the original signal you’ll sort of hear the dry vocal phase as well. Some of the presets are fun even if they are not so useful on a daily basis (check out MM Phasing Hall)while others such as the Ambiance algorithm were very realistic.
Triple D is a vocal tool intended to solve boxiness,harshness and sibilance on vocals. Of the three processors the DeEsser was the most effective, easily able to tame overzealous S sounds. On one particularly tough vocal track MM DeEsser reigned in the sibilance and at the same time somehow made the singer less nasal sounding (maybe there’s a DeNoser hidden in there). DeBoxy did in fact make lead vocals more articulate but quite frankly I can get the same results using a parametric EQ. Ditto for DeHarsher. People who fear parametric EQ will find that DeBoxy and DeHarsher provides quick results.
It bears mentioning that I had occasional latency issues with some of these plugins when used in DigitalPerformer. For example if I tried to insert the Tone Shaper while the session was playing, I’d hear a timing offset from the other tracks. Stopping and restarting the transport cleared the problem. While I’m nit picking I also noticed that sometimes when I first opened an MM plugin, the window could not be moved/dragged around the screen. I had to close the window (not the plugin)and reopen it to clear this issue.
All of the elements in the MM Signature Collection are useful, some more than others and perhaps dependent upon one’s ability to wrestle with traditional plugin tools. My favorites were the Reverb and Delay,which sounded great and provide a huge palate from which to work. Tone Shaper and Triple D provide effects that can be obtained using traditional means but the MM ‘plugs are far easier and faster to use than setting up parallel compression buses with EQ etc. Definitely worth a test drive.
Our Sith Audio Lord his own bad self, Darth Fader, set himself up in the Death Star Studio and walks us through using the delay portion on a vocal.