As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of the program EZDrummer. I’ve used it many a time when I needed drums quickly and didn’t have the time or the budget to hire a drummer.

There are plenty of great (and more advanced) drum programming options out there, but EZDrummer was the first one I used, and it worked for what I needed, so I kept using it.

While I think Toontrack is a great company, they’ve been releasing more “EZ” products over the years, one of them is called EZMix. On the product page for EZMix, it says, “Making professional mixes has never been easier!”

Then they just released an expansion pack for it called “Mastering EZMix Pack.” According to their website, with this plugin you can “Start mastering – it’s EZ!”

I’ve never used these products, and perhaps they sound fantastic and are really useful.

However, I gotta call a spade a spade.

None of the stuff we do in the studio is “easy.” If it was easy, everybody would be putting out professional-sounding mixes.

Is it possible to get great-sounding mixes in your homes studio? Absolutely.

Easy? I don’t think so.

At least for me, I’ve had to work a lot of hours to get my mixing and mastering skills to where they are today, and I hope I’m 10 times better in the next 10 years.

It’s an art, not a science, and it simply takes TIME.

That reminds me of an email I got last week from a customer. He was mastering an album he had just finished mixing, and was using a “CD mastering” preset on his mastering plugin. He said it sounded good, but also thought it was over-compressed. “What more should I do?” he asked.

Here was my response:

“The main red flag that I see is that you used a ‘CD mastering’ preset. I almost never use presets, especially for mastering. That might be why you think you got it a bit too compressed.

I try to use a limiter in such a way that it’s only doing small bits of gain reduction on the loudest peaks, then I use compression (usually multi-band compression, but regular compression can work, too) to add any additional loudness IF the track needs it.

Unfortunately there’s not really a formula. You’ll need to do some listening and comparing. I would err on the side of under-compressed rather than over-compressed if I was you.

Hope that helps!”

The problem is simple. Presets don’t have ears.

They can’t listen to the music and make adjustments based on what they HEAR.

You can. (1 point for the humans!)

I’m not knocking presets entirely, but at best they’re only starting points, a springboard to get you moving in the right direction. Use them, but know that you should be listening and changing settings to fit the music.

Besides, if you could really mix or master a song using all presets, where would the satisfaction be?

If I mastered a song using ONLY presets, I would feel like I couldn’t even take a mastering credit on it, because all the creative decisions were made FOR me by the plugins.

And since mastering is the ever-so-crucial final step of the recording process, of course I take time to cover it in-depth during the final weeks of the Production Club material, which you can join right here to get started:

Joe Gilder

11 Responses to “Beware the “Easy” Button”

  1. Joe Orozco

    I’ve used the Toontrack Mastering plugin and they sound pretty darn good… but you have to put your time on the mixing stage to bring it to the next level with these Mastering plugins. As far as the EZ (easy) part, I think think it’s not misleading. EZdrummer gives good grooves with a few clicks, but it’s not necessary easy to get awesome drums sessions. You have to work at it. Same with the Toontrack Mastering plugins… you have to work at it (at the mixing stage) to take advantage of their awesomeness…. just my humble opinion.

  2. Jimmy Robarge

    I use EZmix a lot actually.  For me it’s a lot like a LA2A Compressor, which only has 2 knobs, input and output gain.  EZmix has a lot of stuff working behind the scenes and it gives you control over the most important attributes of whatever effect you are using.  However, like anything else you need to listen to what it sounds like.  The effects are high quality, and I find it a great tool for quickly and easily getting the sound i want out of a compressor, reverb, etc.  That’s my $0.02


    • Joe Gilder

      Well there you go.

      I have no doubt that they plugins sound good and can be helpful. I think my biggest issue is simply the marketing behind it. It tends to promote the idea that all this stuff is easy peasy, and doesn’t really require much work or practice or skill.
      And it’s kind of a catch-22, because typically software companies don’t offer refunds, so if you buy into the false expectation that it will make everything you record sound like a multi-platinum record with the push of a button, you’ll end up disappointed AND you won’t be able to get a refund.
      Final note. I love Toontrack. 🙂

  3. Xan Angelfvkk

    I just had a look at the EZMix software though & am quite disappointed with it. It just sticks plugins onto tracks & I don’t need some software for that, just the plugins!

    I thought it was like that you could dump all your tracks into it, hit a “go” button and vola! Perfect mix, or at leat a starting point… 
    But no.. 🙁

    • letzter geist

       too bad, lol. it would be fun to do. not necessarily to use as your end product, but just to see what the computer comes up with as it’s “perfect” mix, lol.

  4. Temístocles d'Anunciação

    Sometimes people just get overwhelmed by the results, not by the experiece. They think they want to learn how to mix, but deep inside they just want the good music, the results, the glory. It’s really important to make it clear that the experience of developing MUST envolve mistakes, problems, etc otherwise there’s no improvement at all.

    • Joe Gilder

      Yeah, I agree. And expectations need to be appropriate as well. It’s not realistic to expect a plugin to KNOW how to do a creative process, like mixing.


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