Is T-Racks Really Extinct?

March 04, 2002

Well, it happened again.... I sat down at the computer, all ready to get on with the work that needed to be done for the day - I had to build an online signup page for namesuppressed beta-testers - and instead I got distracted and ended up playing with my music again.

I received the latest newsletter from Jeffrey P Fisher's email list, today he made a list of all the gear he uses for his own music. I made a similar list on the weekend, so I decided to compare them - and frankly, there's not that much difference. But one thing stood out in his list - he uses T-Racks.

There's something strange about this T-Racks program, it seems to have a "religious" following, its supporters swear by it. (Kind've how a Macintosh owner devoutly praises the virtues of Macs as opposed to PCs). And Banco De Gaia uses the thing... not that I like his stuff much, but he has a good reputation. So what did I miss in T-Racks last time I tried it?

I think T-Racks' success lies in how easy it is to use and how quickly you can make something sound good. I loaded the latest demo of I Could Never Love You into T-Racks, and within 10 minutes I'd come up with a near-perfect setting. I was stunned... huh? That's it? I thought audio mastering was supposed to be difficult. There's got to be a catch...

And there is... sort of. T-Racks consists of just 4 key components - an EQ, a multi-band compressor, a multi-band limiter, and a stereo widener, all for $US299. Maybe I can get the same effect from what I already have?

I can make a similar EQ setting using Cool Edit 2000's Quick Filter - $Free. I can widen the stereo using the Cool Edit Tweakin' Toys - $US49. For the compressor and limiter, I can use the PSP VintageWarmer - $US149. All up, I can save $US100... and I can use the VintageWarmer on my vocals & samples too, which I can't do easily with T-Racks. I'm getting more value for money this way.

It's comforting to read the gear setup of a pro, and realise my equipment is on roughly the same level. OK sure, I don't have a mic-preamp, decent microphone or even a guitar anymore, but I've got everything else, and in some cases I've got even better gear. Which just goes to show, it's not about the kit you have, but how you use it. To quote Jeffrey,

"It is also quite refreshing not to be burdened by too much gear. This way I can learn to use a few tools really well and forget about other stuff I probably wouldn't use anyway."

That's my philosophy too. I've tried nearly every audio plug-in out there now, and at one point had all of them installed at once. But you get very confused that way, you're dazzled by choice - "Which is the best reverb to use on this sample? Should I use the Puncher? Does that plugin even work? Do I ever use it anyway??" You only slow yourself down making so many irrelevant decisions... I'm testament to that, it's been, what, 5 years since my last album? It's better to find the gear you like, that you work best with, and learn to use it well. Get rid of everything else, they're just distractions.

T-Racks is a great piece of software, and you can get fantastic results from it. But $US299 is a hefty, hefty price tag for me, and it doesn't suit the way I work.

It's better to work with what you've got.