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Steven Slate, known for his virtual drum software, has announced that he is launching two new pro audio companies at AES 2009: Slate Digital and Slate Pro Audio.

We'll concentrate on Slate Digital here as Slate Digital is debuting two new plug-ins at AES that are based around the company's new Advanced Algorithms - FG-X Virtual Mastering Console and Trigger Advanced Drum Replacement. Pricing and release dates have not yet been announced. Formats are VST, AU and RTAS, presumably for both Windows and Mac OS X.

According to Fabrice Gabriel, Slate Digital's CTO and chief algorithm engineer: "The 'Advanced Algorithm' is a term that describes a very complex new form of DSP code that is written entirely from the ground up, based on revolutionary new technology and science. It redefines the way that different DSP modules can communicate. It allows us to achieve in our new audio plug-in line what no other plug-in manufacturer has achieved before".

FG-X Virtual Mastering ConsoleFG-X Virtual Mastering Console
The first plug-in from Slate Digital is the FG-X Virtual Mastering Console Dynamics Module, the initial plug-in in Slate Digital's new mastering line.

The Concept
Imagine mastering your mixes without causing the lifeless, squashed, and over compressed sound that has become so common in modern music. We have all been at the mercy of the "loudness wars" for over ten years now. Masters have become louder and louder, at the expense of the music becoming harsh and lacking punch and dynamics. One of the main causes of this epidemic is the use of the Peak Limiter to achieve increased levels in the mastering stage. Peak limiters attenuate transients and often reduce punch, stereo imaging, can greatly alter mix balances, and cause a fatiguing result to the ears.

Some of the top mastering engineers have found ways to combat this sonic degradation by using techniques other then Peak Limiting. One of the more popular techniques is the use of saturation in both the analog and digital domain. Another popular method is clipping the front end of expensive A/D converters.

However, both of these methods, while usually more unobtrusive then peak limiting, have their downfalls. Static saturation curves are not universal in their ability to sound good on all transients. Clipping greatly reduces low end punch and is very poor at retaining sub bass. Both static saturation and clipping have a small window of gain maximizing before audible distortion. Enter Slate Digital.

FG-X Dynamics Rack
Two years ago Steven Slate and expert algorithm engineer Fabrice Gabriel started working out the concept for a digital audio process that could increase the level of a mix without altering the punch and dynamic feel, or make the mix sound squashed and lifeless. They started by researching saturation curves and their effect on various types of transient material. After several months of study and hundreds of listening tests, they made some fascinating discoveries. What they found, was that in order to transparently add level to a mix, a dynamic and intelligent transient saturation system would have to be developed.

New Advanced Algorithms were created to execute the extremely complex communication system that would be needed to properly perform the new dynamic operations. A new algorithm was formed, and the process was named "Intelligent Transient Preservation", or ITP.

ITP - Intelligent Transient Preservation
The ITP process uses a complex lookahead detection algorithm to analyze oncoming transients and groups of transients. It then optimizes a specialized set of saturation curves for that specific transient. For example, if the ITP algorithm's lookahead identifies a kick drum transient, it will optimize the algorithm so that it preserves low frequency energy. For a snare drum transient, it will optimize the algorithm to preserve upper mid range punch. The result is the most transparent means of level maximization the industry has ever heard, with extreme transparency, and no degrading artifacts common to peak limiters.

Control
The FG Level maximization plug-in offers the user complete control of their mix, before and after the level maximization process. The Transient function contains two controls to fine tune mix transients. Enhance allows you to transparently increase the level of the transients in a mix, increasing the punch and dynamics without altering other elements of the mix. Detail adds more clarity and focus to the transients, perfect for buried snares or kicks. You will find the Transient functions not only ideal for mastering, but as great tools for the mixbuss and even drumbuss.

After the ITP powered Gain maximizer, there is a function called Impact. This new process can make even the loudest masters sound more dynamic, open, and punchy, even though the master has much more limited dynamic range then the mix.

Be Safe
In the rare case that a mix has poor frequency balance or small bursts of low frequency energy (such as a quick floor tom hit), the Safety slider prevents unwanted distortions or crackles, that until now have been extremely hard to prevent or tame. The dynamic multiband Safety algorithm reacts quickly and backs off quickly, allowing the FG Level to remain transparent and create worry free masters without artifacts.

Mastering Quality Compression
Some mastering compressor plug-ins try to emulate vintage analog units and add color, harmonics, and different filters that change the way your mix sounds. Most top mastering engineers use very little or no compression. When they do use compression, they use only the most transparent compressors that will not alter the tone or balance of the mix.

Slate Digital says the FG Dynamics plug-in is a true mastering quality compressor meant to control the dynamics of your mix in the most transparent way possible, not to color it with digitally modeled harmonics or distortions. The FG Dynamics compressor assumes that you have used your favorite color or tone compressor to achieve the sound on your final mix. It is the job of the FG Dynamics compressor to maintain that quality, not alter it. The advanced dynamics algorithm is claimed to be so transparent, you'll wonder if its on.

Quality Tested
In order to fine tune the FG-X Virtual Mastering Console, Slate Digital has had some of the top mastering engineers in the world help test out the algorithms to ensure that they work in the most accurate way possible.

Slate Digital says the FG-X Mastering Suite will change the way you make music, and listen to music. Loud masters aren't going away, so the only option is MAKE LOUD BETTER. The FG Level is such a powerful tool, that you can maximize a mix to commercial mastering levels and have the result sound just as punchy, dynamic, and exciting as the original mix.

Trigger Advanced Drum ReplacementTrigger Advanced Drum Replacement
Trigger is an advanced drum replacement plug-in. At the heart of Trigger is a new triggering engine with Slate Digital's Advanced Algorithms. The engine also contains the AMG humanization algorithm. AMG is a physically modeled triggering algorithm that allows the triggered drums to play with an extremely realistic and natural response. Even ghost notes and complex drum fills can now be retriggered with ease, naturally.

Features
Trigger has a multi-layered triggering engine with 6 stereo channels. This means in one instance of the plug-in, you can trigger a close mic'd sample, a stereo overhead sample, and a stereo room mic sample, all at once from a single drum track. This allows the user to recreate the sound of natural drums with real multi-tracked samples. Each sample layer has parameters for customization such as velocity, tune, pan, dynamic control, sustain, and independent levels. Other features include positional sensing, automation for all parameters, MIDI in/out, visual hit detector, and 127 different articulations per sample layer. Aside from using multi-tracked samples, Trigger allows you to stack samples however you'd like to create custom drum sounds.

For The Mixer In All Of Us
Got a really heavy mix and need an aggressive and punchy drum sound that cuts like a knife? Simply enable Trigger's aggro mode, which forces it to use only the loudest sample velocities. Got a mix that you need easy soft drum sounds? Enable the soft mode, and instantly all the aggressive rimshot samples are muted. Trigger sample pools contain numerous presets that can cater towards any mix, just the way you like it.

Sample Accurate Triggering
When using Trigger, you will hear tight, sample accurate drum triggering without unwanted mis-triggers, flamming, or phasing. Kick samples line up tight with the original kick drums, snare drum transients align perfectly, and tom fills come out exactly like the original tracks. The Trigger algorithm uses advanced transient detection DSP modules and will produce accurate results from even complex snare rolls and fills, without hours of tweaking or having to manually move around hits.

Two Modes
Trigger comes with two modes, Live and Accurate. Live mode is geared for live on-stage triggering and has a no-latency engine. Accurate mode is the professional studio setting, which enables Trigger's advanced engine to replicate the original drum track with the most precise detail and natural velocity response.

Steven Slate Drums
Trigger comes with a library of the Steven Slate Drums drum samples. Mixers such as Chris Lord Alge, Mike Shipley, Dave Way, Jeff Juliano, Jay Baumgardner, Ben Grosse, David Kahn, and many more top names have relied on Steven Slate Drums to help enhance the drum sounds in their mixes for years. All the samples in Steven Slate Drums are recorded to 2 inch tape and processed with the finest in vintage and modern analog gear. Steven Slate Drums include three sample layers including stereo room mic samples from the famous NRG Recording in North Hollywood, California.

Steven Slate Drums "Deluxe"
Included in Trigger Platinum are drum samples from the new Steven Slate Drums "Deluxe" series. The Deluxe series of samples are recorded with an extreme attention to detail with multiple articulations, and include mono direct mics, stereo overheads, stereo room mics from NRG Recording, and stereo reverb samples from the Bricasti M7 digital reverb. With Slate Digital's Trigger, you can trigger all of these layers from one drum track, with one instance of the plug-in.

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