When I think of Audio Ease, I think of innovation and absolute top quality. When I first saw the demo of Speakerphone I was rally impressed. I thought it looked absolutely stunning. After having worked with it, I dare say that it’s even more impressive than I actually ever hoped it would be.
Walkie-talkies, radios and toys
Speakerphone emulates speakers. That’s the easy way to describe this monster of a plug-in. And it features tons of speakers on top of that. Radios, telephones, guitar amps, you name it – Speakerphone has it. There is, however, much more to it. Audio Ease realized that just emulating a speaker isn’t really enough. For instance, walkie-talkies often sound a little distorted – so they added a distortion unit. Old radios and cables crackle – so they added crackling in forms of samples. Then of course these radios and phones need to be in a room, so they added a reverb.
That’s not all though. Not even the tip of the iceberg. Speakerphone have, modulation effects, EQ, codecs, a dynamics section, and a big selection of samples for a more realistic room simulation (footsteps, applauds, talking etc, etc.). I won’t talk about this in detail. it’s simply too much and would probably be too boring. Let me just say that “Speakerphone has it”.
The GUI looks pretty good. At first it might seem a little confusing, but as you work more and more in it you’ll realize that it’s kind of logical and actually very smart designed as well. For instance, if you look at the samples in the sample bay (at the bottom) you’ll see that each name have sort of a background. This background is actually the volume control that’s adjustable by simple clicking and dragging. Another smart things is the very quick MIDI learn function, just right-click any control and choose it from the menu. What else? On/off buttons for every section, several mix knobs, a help function, quick access to all the effects and samples, and much more.
On the phone
So what’s Speakerphone like to work with? As I said, when you first open it up it can look more than a little bit overwhelming, but just take a peek at the video over at Audio Ease’s website and you’ll get a hang of it rather quickly. Make sure you have got the time for it though! Don’t do what I did and fire it up the first time to test it when you only have about half an hour free. I ended up being late to a meeting because it was just so fun to play with!
At first I’m a little restrictive with it, narrowing it to just being a speaker emulator, but I soon get out of my too tight trousers and start trying it on… Well, everything! For a while I actually have one of those golden moments that are so rare with gear. You know, when you think that you could actually toss half of your stuff out of the window just because of this one new thing. I begin to wonder what I need all of my old lo-fi, distortion and amp plug-ins for now that I have Speakerphone.
Reality soon catches up with me however. Speakerphones delay is 592, which can be a bit of a drag to work with, (especially on LE which I have at home where I do most of my work). Furthermore it isn’t exactly light on the CPU. I have to say though, I actually expected it to be heavier. I guess it’s because many of the new plug-ins are so brutal on the CPU that you kind of get used to it.
A couple of specific use areas
One of the first things that I try it on is vocals. I like lo-fi vocals and use all kinds of plug-ins to mess them up sometimes. The first vocal I try it on is sort of half-spoken with only very little singing. I choose a radio setting and it of course sounds like it comes through a radio. I realize I have a reverb send on the vocal and that it’s completely unnecessary as Speakerphone actually have one of the best reverbs in the world (the impulses are from Altiverb). So I ditch the send and uses the built-in reverb instead. I then realize that Speakerphone also has an EQ. OK, so I ditch the EQ on the track as well. Wait a minute. Am I actually using Speakerphone as a channelstrip? Yep, that I do.
I try it on a couple of other spoken word bits. Something that I want to lay in the background of a song in sort of an FX type of way. I place them in something along the lines of a 50’s radio in a big ball room. It sounds really amazing. I can even have people talking, applauding or whatever, just by clicking the appropriate samples in the sample bay. It’s of course also possible to load your own samples. I try a couple of these scenarios just to get a hang of how it would work in post, and it just comes out as great sounding.
I assume some of you are interested in how it sounds as a guitar amp. Audio Ease have included lots of guitar presets to start from, so you don’t have to build everything from scratch for yourself. Most of the sounds that I was able to squeeze out of it were kind of unflattering. What I mean is that sometimes guitar amp emulations just sound “too good”. Often Speakerphone sounds to me like you’re sitting with the amp in your room. Despite this unflattering and realistic sound, I wasn’t a big fan of the more distorted sounds, but the clean actually sounds really cool. There’s no problem in tweaking in a decent sounding rockabilly amp. So I have got to say, while you certainly can use Speakerphone as your main guitar amp emulator, I don’t. Amplitube 2 and Eleven are still standing on the number one spot for me.
It’s not only the guitar FX preset folder that’s filled. There are tons of presets that Audio Ease have squeezed in that are not so obvious. They really try to make us understand that Speakerphone is not just for creating the sound of a person talking in the phone, it’s in fact a tool for drum crushing, guitar amping, vocal mauling and so much more. Could probably do wonders with synthesizers as well.
On rare occasions a product is released that does what nothing else does. This is one of those occasions and Speakerphone does just that – what nothing else does. While others emulate guitar cabinets or telephone voices, Speakerphone emulates just about any speaker you can think of. Audio Ease didn’t stop there however, they also included lots of effects for sculpting the speaker, as well as samples and a very high quality reverb to put it somewhere. Speakerphone might not be of great importance to everyone, after all, not everyone is in need of something like this. For me it’s very useful in music and podcast mixes, and if you’re doing post production then it’s very likely that this will be you new best friend. It’s with this motivation that I for the second time in ProToolers entire history give away the wicked approval – our award for completely outstanding products.