When it comes to mastering the goal is to make a song or set of songs sound the best that they can on a multitude of different listening devices and formats. T-RackS3 by IK Multimedia is a software based mastering suite that can help achieve this goal. T-RackS3 is the newest version of this program that comes both as a standalone mastering solution and as a plug-in for your DAW.
Keep Reading for our review of T-TrackS3.
I first used T-RackS3 in Sonar as a plug-in on my master bus. Opening it for the first time I was greeted with a nice crisp graphic interface. You see your first processor, your presets, links to all your other processors and processor chains. Also you will see some very useful peak meters, RMS meters, phase and correlation meters, spectrum analysis, and a perceived loudness meter.
I quickly scrolled through some presets and looked at the individual modules. Included vintage modeled processors are the Vintage Tube Compressor/Limiter modeled from the Fairchild 670 and the Vintage Tube Program Equalizer modeled from the Pultec EQP-1A. These processors intrigued me as I have seen many pictures of the real thing and have been curious about them. They appeared to be worn like the models they were modeled from. Also included are the Opto Compressor, the Multi-algorithm Brickwall Limiter and the Linear Phase Equalizer. From the original version of T-RackS you will find the Classic T-RackS Compressor, Multi-band Limiter, Clipper and Equalizer.
I run a Dell XPS 400 dual Pentium with four gigabytes of ram, a RME Fireface 800, Sonar version 8.31, and I monitor through Mackie HR824’s. I would like to state that I am not a professional mastering person but often times need to finish a project in house for various reasons. Also I realize that there is more than one way to master a song and individual preferences will vary but the overall goal is to have it translate on as many listening systems as possible.
My first test was done on an original tune recorded and mixed in my studio. This tune is relatively mellow in rock terms. I put T-RackS3 on the master bus and mixed the 24/44.1 recording down to 16 bit stereo tracks using the dithering in Sonar. I chose the Vintage 1 preset as a starting point and tweaked a few settings (see pictures below). I really enjoyed playing with these vintage tools. They really sound warm imparting a feel that makes me think of The Beatles recordings. Very analogue! I was discussing the mastered sound of the recording with an acquaintance and we agreed that this mastering chain glued the sound together. I believe that the Vintage Tube Compressor/Limiter did a great job of tying the individual components of the song together while still allowing everything to be heard. Adding the Vintage Tube Program Equalizer sweetened the mix up. I brought the levels up using the Classic T-RackS Clipper. I ended up with a louder recording that didn’t sound squashed.
Come Home To Me (T-RackS3) Come Home To Me (Unmastered)
Next I wanted to see how this mastering chain would work with a more aggressive type of sound. I loaded an original song recorded in my studio by a band called Ear Candy. Very quickly I achieved a punchier, warmer, and polished sounding version of the song. I will add that I used separate versions of T-RackS3 on the kick drum and snare drum to make them a bit less dull. I will say that T-RackS3 uses a lot of processor power and with three instances of it going Sonar started dropping out. As of writing this all the processors in T-RackS3 will be available as single plug ins. These will be free to owners of both versions of T-RackS3.
Open Your Eyes (T-RackS3) Open Your Eyes (Unmastered)
Doing double duty I opened the standalone version of T-RackS3 and very easily loaded a tune consisting of acoustic guitar and vocal. I found it as easy to use as the plug in version. Added is a waveform track that allows the adding of fade-ins and fade-outs as well as adding automation to selected portions of songs. Again I achieved results that polished the song compared to the untreated song.
Some other features that I liked were the ability to put in twelve processors in a chain with two rows of parallel slots. This makes for a lot of flexibility. Also T-RackS3 allows you to set up 4 different configurations and it is easy to compare the sound using the Compare feature that keeps the volumes equal between switching configurations so only the sound is compared without the bias of volume.
In conclusion I expect T-RackS3 to be my first go to mastering choice. There are plenty of tools to give your mix a polished sound. There is also a nice manual on file that comes with the software giving the fine points of each knob on the software. I really like the vintage emulations and I am also impressed with the Opto Compressor, which has a whole different feel or sound to it. I know I will be using the individual processors when they come out. This software is easy to use and sounds great! The only limitation is your ears.
You can find more information, pictures, and examples of use at http://www.ikmultimedia.com/ While there also check out ARC System which is a room acoustic correction system that ties in with T-RackS3.
Suggested retail price for the Deluxe Version of T-RackS3 is $499.99 or $229.99 for the standard version.
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- Spence at UberProAudio
Spence has years of experience in the music business, whether it be playing in bands with nationally known musicians, or recording projects of interest out of his New York studio, Pond Rock Studio.