June 15, 2014

I Downloaded This Amazing Free Plug-in, And You Won't Believe What Happens Next...

by Chris Randall

I'm experimenting with clickbait-style post titles. Other audio blogs appear to be testing the waters with this information abortion, so I figure "hey, why not join the crowd?" How am I doing?

Anyhow, this is just a general info-dump of goings-on in my little corner of the world.

1. Unless you live under a rock, you know about the Eventide freebie, UltraChannel. I actually wouldn't normally bring it up here at all, as even though the Eventide guys are BFFs of ours and make stupifyingly good plug-ins (and even better hardware), their plugs are iLok only. However, as a result of a UI contract I'm currently doing, I had to install and tame an iLok. (And, god forbid, PT11.) Since I have one now, I was all "fuck it" and furthermore "whatevs." And got myself an UltraChannel. (And all the other Eventide native plugs while I was at it.) I'll say this much: UltraChannel is almost worth sucking it up for iLok. A fantastic, creative channel plug that is light on the CPU, yet extremely capable. If you have an iLok, or are thinking about buying one of those little buttplugs, here's where you get the Ultrachannel; use coupon code 0F736710. It'll be like $249 or something in a month or two, so if you're gonna do it, do it now.

2. Just in case you think I might have changed my mind or am in any way endorsing it, fuck PACE and fuck iLok.

3. I'm pleased to report that my schedule, which was a bit hairy there for a while, is returning, slowly and surely, to its normal lazy, meandering ways, which means I'll be able to finish off the Audio Damage DRM Removal Event, and also bring the next Audio Damage plug-in to the finish line while Adam flails about in his Code Hole whipping Sequencer 1 in to shape. It was a little ridiculous there for a while, but I've cleared a majority of the nonsense now, and am back to being my usual self.

4. And finally, a question: what constitutes an "album" these days? Throughout my (first) career, I was all 10 SONGS OR BUST but the idea of a complete record seems to be slipping through the cracks in favor of a burst mode kind of release system. I tried this out a couple years ago, by pooping out 4 of what our oldsters call "EPs" in a row, and it was somehow... uh... unsatisfying? Even without physical media, there's just something about a cohesive chunk of music that is more visceral, at least to the maker. So my general takeaway: it is far easier to come up with 5 cohesive songs than 10, and the consumer seems to be indifferent. My forthcoming release that I'm just finishing up now is 10 tracks, but I'm left with the lingering impression that I should strip it to a pair of 5-track releases. Thoughts?


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Jun.17.2014 @ 1:07 PM
Chris Randall
It's not just a trust issue, but if it was, here's three things worth considering:

1. You, the developer, are saying "trust this 3rd party, and trust us, but we don't trust you even a tiny bit." Trust is a two-way street. If it's not, it just becomes expectation.

2. The physical dongle (not necessary for Eventide products, but necessary for, say, Soundtoys, so you might as well have it) is something you have to pay quite a bit of money for, at least relative to the parts cost, which at that volume is essentially nothing. And it is a physical thing, with all that entails (theft, breakage, loss), all of which require multiple hoop-jumps from the "trusted" consumer.

3. Taking in to account the cost of the dongle, and the per-unit fee paid to PACE, how much am I paying to be so trustworthy?


Jun.17.2014 @ 1:22 PM
Adam Schabtach
Regarding convincing people that PACE has reformed (if it has), the problem is twofold: First, PACE changes now and then, and at least one person has been punched in the face by each generation of PACE. Second, when PACE does fail, it often fails spectacularly. To carry your analogy further, it's more like the guard punches you in the face, takes your merchandise away from you but doesn't refund your money, and then goes out to the parking lot and slashes the tires on your car. Meanwhile, the maker of the merchandise stands by watching, wringing their hands and saying, "gee, I'm sorry about that."

I'm certainly not unsympathetic to the desire of Eventide and other fellow makers of software to protect themselves against piracy. However, I won't blame anyone for passing up good products for the sake of avoiding PACE. When it bites, it bites hard, and people don't forget that.


Jun.17.2014 @ 1:27 PM
I really liked the feel of the Micronaut albums. The fact that they were fairly reduced in the scope of what was being done in order to make the albums was quite interesting as both an experiment, and a grouping mechanism for the tracks. It's possible that an album made using some similarly reduced creation method could feel a bit repetitive in tone or feel, so EP would likely be the right choice for that kind of thing.

I mostly don't use iLok type stuff for plugins, and as a mostly hobbyist, that's not much of a constraint, though it does mean that I don't casually use the plugins that use iLok, as I have to go grab the dongle. For a pro, I'd have to assume that it would be much more likely you'd be forced into using the dongle due to a band having already recorded some stuff using a plugin, or wanting some specific sound. In this case, these people are being more or less forced to attach a kind of pointless object to their computer. Even if it works perfectly and never has problems, this is going to make people annoyed or even angry.

The one case where I chose to go iLok is for Max/MSP, as it allows me to plug in the dongle to a machine that is running an installation and edit from there and be absolutely sure it's going to work, vs editing on my laptop and having to push files back and forth until I get something working correctly. However, whenever I do this, I'm fairly freaked out the whole time that I'm going to lose the dongle and have to repurchase some fairly expensive software. Same when I'm doing visuals, I always worry the dongle and any other small stuff will be stolen. So instead of just having this software be a boon in all of the great things it allows me to do, I'm worrying about a stupid little usb stick that blocks ports and makes me have to remember to do things like bring a usb hub around. Avoiding anxiety can be a strong motivator for people.

Jun.17.2014 @ 1:37 PM
"I don't think it punches anyone in the face nowadays, but it sounds like maybe it has in the past, and hasn't done a good job convincing people it's reformed?"

My punched face happened roughly 5 years ago, which was long after PACE's 1.0 mea culpa, so OS destruction theoretically was already behind them at that point.

As a consumer, with so much choice these days, I'm pretty comfortable holding an irrational grudge against PACE indefinitely, not sure any amount of technical turnaround on their part would matter. As Chris said above, the trouble is PACE offers no value to me, the end user, only distrust and inconvenience. I can overlook their inconvenience to get at the things that do offer me value, as long as they don't offend.

Jun.17.2014 @ 2:31 PM
Thanks for the feedback.

For the record, I would never hold it against anyone for not wanting to use PACE. Ultimately, you're the customer and we aim to serve you as best we can (which includes keeping ourselves in business). I'm just trying to get the lay of the land, 2014 edition.


Jun.17.2014 @ 5:20 PM
I've avoided iLoks excepting where I have to, (sound toys etc), and I jumped on the eventide ultra channel, and because I have spent the last 2 years seeing threads on Gearslutz proclaiming "DON'T INSTALL ILOK!!" etc. w/o reading the 10 thousand pages... I actually found it quite painless. I had to login in ilok to retrieve my password...(been years)... and it wasn't that big of a deal, so those of you out there worried... even for a curmudgeon like myself, I found it worth the research, and little time to try out what is a pretty good plugin. Of course it's a gateway drug, because now I want to buy their other stuff and don't have a pot to piss in so.....

granted, it's like an 8 year old plugin, but it does some stuff really well... and eventide are awesome.... although I have used only their hardware in the past extensively...

I honestly have had more problems with arturia and their esynchro shitifier or whatever. I was working on a new track with our old friend m.walker CR, and went to go open an old session, and boom, none of my arturia stuff was seen by it's dongle/licensor and whatnot. 3 hours later of troubleshooting, I got it sussed, but did NOT get any work done. Honestly, having bought all their stuff, I hate to admit it, but I have seen many a people who bought it all legit and are using the [K]'s to avoid hassle. There are craploads of problems with it.

I hate physical dongles (not too big a deal in my "studio" room), but those things have been stolen, broken, whatever too many times to deal with in a sane manner. At CRC in chicago I had a 2nd engineer crack it in half while running cables or something, so had to wait whatever 2 weeks or whatnot to get that software up and running.

Ultimately I believe "most" people want to do the right thing, and buy what they use, (if they aren't going to pay a fair price for what AD and Valhalla offer, they weren't going to buy it anyways)... but the penalization of legitimate users is absurd.... but that of course is a tired/beaten to death/dealt with conversation.

Jun.17.2014 @ 6:39 PM
I've never had an issue with iLok in the 8 years or so I've had to use it for Pro Tools installs & a few plugins. Actually prefer the usb method to anything cloud check-in based, the Adobe system at present for instance is horrible.

Can easily identify with the EP as an form to output a short idea, feels very satisfying in that mode.

Jun.17.2014 @ 11:27 PM
I've had big problems with iLok, but not for the last 10-15 years. I actually find it works pretty well, but I say all that as someone who just doesn't like iLok. As Mr Randall pointed out, the idea that I have to pay for YOUR copy protection has seriously rubbed me the wrong way since the late 90's.

My main problem though is it just doesn't work for my workflow, but then nothing does. I switch between the desktop and laptop which are always synced up. If I sit down at my laptop and want to fool around with a track I'm too lazy to go find the iLok. Therefore I most often just end up purposely not using those plugins on tracks (which is also one of the main reasons I don't use Pro Tools for my personal stuff, only for actual paying work). I'm not going to go get the iLok to use a delay, reverb, compressor, etc. when I have 6 or 8 or 12 others available.

Then again, there are things like Slate's Trigger, Auto Tune, etc. that are perfect for iLok. I can take them into any studio, use them, print them, done. They aren't the kind of plugs that sit on tracks for a year (or 8).

Jun.18.2014 @ 1:45 AM
@DGillespie it's really awesome that you're taking an interest and discussion... Eventide make great products. Thanks for the Space btw :-)

As you probably know, Audio Damage have a very progressive policy on copy protection. I'd love to see other plugins makers adopt the same. But it would probably not work for Eventide. AD has built up their 'audience' over a long time, and buying their products feels like supporting an indie band.

Eventide has a lengendary status, but not the same kinda communication with your customers.

However, you guys make great hardware! Why don't you do like UA and make a 'value added via DSP' dongle?
... or a better/more original idea :-) you guys are the geniuses

Jun.18.2014 @ 7:05 AM
Idea for Chris's next clickbait title: "7 things we'd like to see Eventide do next"

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