Toontrack Metal Guitar Gods 2, Andy Sneap and Colin Richardson EZmix Pack Review
For those who hate wasting hours tinkering with busses, effects chains and sends, Toontrack’s EZmix 2 is a godsend. When inspiration strikes and you need to record musical ideas as quickly and painlessly as possible, this time-saving plugin gives you over 350 great-sounding effects chains with the click of a mouse. Users need only pull up some presets and guitar/bass amp simulations with the intuitive interface to have a respectable mix up and running in no time. Not to mention, EZmix 2’s low CPU usage is great for recording on mobile or underpowered systems, and it can even run in standalone mode. Toontrack has recently released a series of add-on expansion packs for EZmix 2, created by such influential metal producers and musicians as Andy Sneap, Colin Richardson, Tosin Abasi, Jeff Loomis, Chris Broderick, and Ryan Knight.
Toontrack’s Andy Sneap EZmix 2 Pack features a selection of fantastic guitar and bass tones created by the British legend himself, who is known for producing some of the hardest hitting metal productions the world has ever seen. Bands such as Killswitch Engage, Testament, Devildriver, Exodus and Accept all come to Andy Sneap for his signature sound, and now bedroom producers and songwriters have instant access to bone-crunching tones at their fingertips. These tones were created by Sneap through emulation and EQ-matched to essentially clone the sounds of some of his finest productions. EZmix users who purchase this pack gain access to a huge assortment of guitar (clean, lead, rhythm) and bass tones as well as mix presets for lead vocals, background vocals and drums. As you can hear in the demo track below (which uses sounds from the Andy Sneap, Colin Richardson and Metal Machine packs), you can get truly impressive results from these presets with a bit of tweaking. Everything is ready to rock and roll with minimal fuss, which is exactly what you want when you’re just trying to mold your ideas into something listenable or quickly put together a preproduction demo.
Colin Richardson, who has produced heavy metal bands such as Trivium, Slipknot, Fear Factory and Bullet For My Valentine to name a few, brings a wealth of experience to his Ezmix pack. Featuring over 50 presets for vocals, synths, drums, guitar and bass, there are plenty of great choices here to liven up a metal mix in moments. There’s lo-fi, trasher and filter FX for drums, as well as individual mic inserts like overhead compression and kick/ snare EQs. You’ve got a few stellar aux inserts for tom reverb and snare reverb, as well as vocals slaps and verbs, FX and more. The guitar and bass amp sims are brutal as expected, with clean, crushing tones that cut through a mix like a hot knife through butter.
The Metal Guitar Gods 2 pack features nothing but amp sims, and man are they incredible. The rhythm sounds are tight and crunchy, the lead tones are smooth and atmospheric, and the clean tones are nothing short of beautiful. Ryan – Ambient Chorus Lead, Tosin – Clean Stereo Delay, Ryan – Edgy Rock Metal Bass and Jeff – Heavy Rhythm were some of my favorites from this pack, but all of them are accurately modeled and sound excellent with minimal tweaking. As these are essentially EQ-matched impulse responses of the guitarists’ rigs, it’s the closest you can get to playing through their signature setup without purchasing every piece of their physical gear yourself.
Ezmix 2 makes it very simple to dial in a nice sound, because there are only two dials for the most part. In an effort to keep things as straightforward as possible, all of the presets are broken down into about two effects dials – for example, in a bass preset you might find roundness and compression. On a drum bus preset you may see a knob for EQ + Compression and one for Tape. A guitar amp simulation preset may feature Drive and Delay knobs. You can dial these anywhere from 1 to 100, but that’s as far as you can tweak things in the plugin itself. This helps keep users’ eye on the ball and moving forward in the song creation process, rather than obsessing over pan pots and effects faders, which would defeat the entire purpose of this software. EZmix 2 is also fantastic for beginners who know very little about the mixing process, as they can jump in head first and get good results quickly, and have some great reference points from which to develop their own sounds when they become more experienced. If you really dig a certain sound you can click the star to favorite it for easy access later, but that’s pretty much as far as customization goes here. Of course, you can tweak the sound after the fact with additional EQs and other plugins in your DAW.
The one downside to the simplicity of EZmix 2 is that experienced mixers will likely feel a bit restrained by its limitations. For example, a vocal preset may have knobs to adjust EQ and compression, but not reverb and delay. In these cases you’ll need to use two instances of the plugin, one for shaping the sound and another for atmospheric effects. I realize that having too many knobs and sliders would overcomplicate the software and defeat its purpose, but incorporating perhaps one or two more knobs into a future update (perhaps behind an “advanced” switch) would allow for more creativity without cluttering the plugin’s interface.
Overall, Toontrack’s EZmix 2 is a fantastic plugin that I could see getting a lot of use in the future, in both demos and full-scale productions. The guitar and bass tones emulated in these expansion packs are so stunningly accurate as to be practically indistinguishable from the real thing, and the utility presets for things like EQ, delay, FX and compression could certainly save a mix or two down the road. Check out the audio demos on Toontrack’s website – I think you’ll be equally impressed.