AIR makes a number of software effects and instruments, and as is common when a company has a large stable of products, it bundles some of these together to provide themed collections. In the case of the Creative FX Collection Plus, that theme is very broad as the name might suggest. In fact, it’s designed to cover pretty much all your mixing and mastering needs, as well as providing some more specialized effect processing tools for sound mangling. The idea is not only can the collection replace or supplement the plug-ins that come with your DAW, but it also gives you a set of tools that have all been designed by the same company and therefore provide a consistency of approach and design.
There are 28 plug-ins provided, and 20 of these are the “classic” Creative FX collection that have been part of Pro Tools since version 8. As such they have found their way onto countless recordings and could arguably considered a “standard” in the pro audio world based on the fact that many producers will be using them. In addition to the existing Pro Tools’ AAX format these have now been updated to run in VST and AU formats as well, making them compatible with more or less every major DAW on the market. They’re 64-bit and also come in 32-bit VST format for hosts that still run that slightly older format. For clarity, the distributors told us that: “you get the 20 original AAX plugins within Pro Tools as part of your purchase of Pro Tools. A Pro Tools user upgrading would get AU/VST support (for use in other DAWS) and the eight new plug-ins to use in Pro Tools or any DAW. A non Pro Tools user would use the full 28 in AU/VST format.”
All the plugs in the collection—except the last one in the list.
Also in every format are the eight new plug-ins which we’ll look at a little later. All the processors in the collection have received updates with remastered user interfaces that bring support for higher resolution displays, support for the Virtual Instrument Player 2 included with controllers from Akai, M-Audio and Alesis as well as support for Akai’s MPC software and Mixmeister. These are welcome changes, especially the higher resolution graphics in this age where an increasing number of pro audio computers are running very high res screens.
The plug-ins share a common design and preset system as well as being fully automatable and having MIDI learn capability with min and max range controls accessible via right-clicking on any of their parameters. The emphasis doesn’t seem to be on flashy graphics or gimmicks but rather a really solid set of mixing, mastering and processing tools that you will use in everyday situations. The bread and butter of most production work is after all things like reverb, compression, EQ, delay and the like. This Plus version of the collection does add some more esoteric stuff with the new eight plugs.
The original (though updated) 20 plug-ins consist of a range of mixing and effects tools, all prefaced with “AIR” in their names. There’s a chorus to add richness and space to the signal, an ensemble effect to bring modulation and movement and a flanger for a classic '70s modulated effect. A multi-chorus can be used for even more complex chorus effects, and a phaser rounds out the vintage sounding modules for now.
You get three reverbs, each with different characters. There’s a basic reverb as well as a non-linear model for gated and reversed processing, great for more unusual effects. A spring reverb unit brings a more retro reverb sound like you get in guitar amps. Delays are well catered for too, with a multi delay providing up to five levels of delay to your signal and a dynamic delay with DAW tempo sync and the capacity to be modulated by an envelope follower. A stereo width plug-in is handy for widening the soundstage of any sound.
From here, things get a little more unusual with a frequency shifter that can bend the individual frequencies within a sound, a distortion unit for adding drive and crunch and a fuzz wah for transistor-style warming effects. A lo-fi effect can be used to downsample and bitcrush signal, an enhancer to push the low and high parts of the frequency and a vintage filter that adds modulated filter effects. A filter gate is great for electronic music and brings cut-up effects, KillEQ can knock out the low, mid or high frequencies from any sound (popular with DJs) and finally Talkbox adds voice-style resonance to whatever you put through it.
The eight new effects cover broadly different ground, though there are a couple of familiar tools in the shape of a parametric EQ, saturation filter, a new compressor and a TubeDrive for tube-style distortion. The DiffusorDelay lets you control the diffusion of your delayed signal while AIRMaximizer is a professional limiter, good for mastering. AIR Pumper creates a rhythmic pumping effect a,kin to sidechained compression, an effect popular in EDM, and Spectral analyses audio and lets you create a resynthesized output for more experimental results.
The obvious question is: if you have a decent mid to high-level DAW with a bunch of mixing plug-ins bundled already, why buy another collection? The answer to that will depend largely on which DAW it is that you actually have. They all come with differing sets of effects and effects of differing quality, so there’s no catch-all answer. What can be said for certain about this collection is that it’s an extremely solid toolbox that will cover practically every aspect of what you might need to do in your everyday music production work. The unified design gives a good sense of consistency across all the effects and the audio quality is excellent.
They’re absolutely a match for the plugs that came with your higher end DAW, and almost definitely better than the stock plugs from more entry level hosts.
Key also is their affordability. With universal compatibility, updated UIs and now eight extra effects, you might expect to pay more for this collection but at $150 it’s got to work out far cheaper than buying 28 effects from different places. There’s a 15-day trial available so you can check them out for yourself.
Pros: Very solid FX collection to cover practically all your processing needs. Updated, retina-ready UIs. AU and VST support. Great audio quality. Affordable.
Cons: You may feel that your higher-end DAW covers some of these bases with its stock effects.