I have been a fan of Steven Slate‘s several companies ever since Mixerman dubbed their digital plug-ins the only ones that sounded as good as their analog originals. From such a hardcore analog enthusiast, this was a huge endorsement. And an accurate one, as usual. Steven Slate and his colleagues have revolutionized recording, from pro studios to home hobbyists. He has made the dream of working with ultra-expensive, classic gear affordable and sonically better than perfect as he often adds features that give many great pieces of classic gear some help from newer technology while retaining their vintage sound.
That and Slate’s continuing innovations alone would have made his name revered among recordists, mixers, producers, and musicians world-wide, but he proceeded to overhaul the way plug-ins are sold by leasing the entire set of Slate Digital effects in the suitably named EVERYTHING Bundle at a price that virtually anyone can afford. And unlike some plug-ins that leave you with buyer’s remorse when you realize that you haven’t used them in months or years (often because the upgrades were just too expensive), you pay Slate Digital only for the months that you are actually using the plug-ins; those fallow months when you are either writing or just taking a break from recording, you don’t pay a cent. And when you return to recording, you will find that all of those plug-ins that have been upgraded are ready for your use.
So what’s new? Well literally, the Virtual Mix Rack has just had a major upgrade, which Slate users (or those subscribed to Steven’s blog, now a vlog) already know. It may shock you to learn that I am not an EVERYTHING Bundle user, only because I have licenses for several individual products, but still I qualify for the upgrade, and there the new story begins. It didn’t work.
This is a surprise, but I admit that I am a special case and the problems arose from the upgrade including ALL of the plug-ins available to EVERYTHING Bundle users, so I just had to delete files for products I do not own. It was a simple fix, made even simpler by an excellent video showing exactly how to carry it out. I then ran into a second problem where my iLok dongle was unrecognized, and here I learned the true depth of the innovation in tech support. I received a quick reply that directed me to another video (with text and graphics for those who prefer that format) that addressed the problem (and that I used to fix it in under a minute), but the reply also included several other ways that I might have caused the error. Paying closer attention this time, I looked over the page and found an entire list of possible problems, including problems that a user might cause themselves by making a mistake during the fix or other problems that a user could run into. So beyond just having instruction on fixing problems, they have figured out issues and problems that users might run into and have pro-actively created support solutions for these! This sets an even higher bar for tech support by plug-in makers.
These DIY videos for fixing problems are great for people who can’t afford to be offline waiting for someone to possibly get back to them. This focus on video education (which it really is) may have come from Steven Slate’s vlog, where he has set aside marketing hype in favour of demonstrating how to use several of the plug-ins to fix specific problems that we all are likely to face. A “great problem to have” is still a problem, and having so many plug-ins, it can be daunting to choose among them in live situations. Steven’s demonstrations show his own working methods as he chooses effects and tweaks them, commenting on what he is doing and why. As he says, fire up your copy and work along with him to get the feel for doing it, then vary it to suit your own taste.
I’ve written more about the technology a lot already (here and also earlier in Just Jazz Guitar), so to return to today’s focus: hats off to Slate Digital’s tech support team for not only solving my problem, but telling me which pitfalls I’m liable to encounter with fixes for them when I ignore the warnings. As usual, a very welcome improvement in an often over-looked part of any business.