Barry has teamed up with For The Record to share his reviews with the latest in recording products. Barry is a recording engineer/producer and contributing editor for MIX Magazine, ‘New Toys’ columnist for L.A.’s Music Connection Magazine, and writer for www.prosoundweb.com. He also is editor/writer of Gear Lust, his online special review section at www.barryrudolph.com.
PanMan is a rhythmic auto-panner plug-in with a groove control feature. In stereo mixing, changes in the basic nature of a vocal or instrument track are limited to the level or loudness of a track, its equalization/tone, whatever added effects (reverb, chorus, flanging delays etc), and it’s panoramic position–it’s placement across the stereo field as created by left and right placed loudspeakers.
PanMan addresses and allows full access to this important aspect of mixing with tools that offer new panning treatments that go way beyond the abilities of classic hardware analog panners such as PanScan or Spanner. PanMan will control the pan type, reaction time, pan position, and pan width–even beyond the physical position of your stereo speakers.
PanMan has six modes including two rhythm modes complete with a user-programmable rhythm editor and numerous parameters for precisely determining the way any mono or stereo track in your mix can “dance” across the speakers. Some of the panning actions possible are: ping-pong triggered panning and random triggered panning with user-definable trigger divider as found in the PanScan hardware unit; and LFO-style continuous panning with selectable pan shapes and precise dynamics control. After installing PanMan into my Pro Tools HD rig I was panning everything as if I was discovering stereo sound for the first time! I would suggest going through the big collection of presets and modifying one of them that is close to what you’re looking for.
I seemed to gravitate towards the Rhythm Step panning modes where you can designate multiple “hard” pan positions (up to five positions) that change in locked session tempo fashion. Leave it to SoundToys to also provide controls called Feel and Rhythm to further sync the panning action to the feel of the music. Borrowed from SoundToys’ Tremolator and FilterFreak is the Custom Rhythm Editor–actually two editors for two different panning approaches–break point editors for designing complex modulation waveforms. These are brilliant features!
I also liked using the LFO-based panners for more dreamy-sounding treatments. You have complete control over the LFO’s speed or rate and the direction of the pan movement: Left-to-Right, Back-and-Forth, and Right-to-Left. I used one of the wider panners for a reverb return I mixed with another instantiation of the same reverb patch. This animated the reverb “cake” I was cooking up for a big vocal harmony stack. The Tweak button opens a whole LFO dynamics GUI for setting up modulation of the rate, changing the pan offset (shifts the left and right panorama itself anywhere–leaning to the left or right), defining the panning width (Width Mod) and panning rate (Rate Mod) depending on the level. The Threshold, Attack, and Release knobs control the envelope detector that determines dynamics modulation.
I did find the triggered panning very accurate and foolproof for causing a track to reposition itself predicated on it exceeding a certain level as set with the Threshold control. I also like the Width control for setting how far or wide to the left and right a track pans–all the way beyond 180 degrees (hard left and right) to 210 degrees or outside of the speakers.
Auto panning has the potential to be a distraction for the listener and the Smoothing control will set the transition from position to position anywhere from an instant and super hard “snap” to much slower, lazier or liquid movement.
An unexpected feature in PanMan are the different Analog modes where you can change from the clean digital operating mode to any of seven different analog distortion characteristics whose amount is controlled by the Input and Output I/O knobs. Dirty up any panned track using: Clean, Fat, Squash, Dirt, Crunch, Shred, or the ridiculously sounding Pump characteristic models. These sound like they may have been borrowed from SoundToys’ FilterFreak and other SoundToys plug-ins.
As with most of the SoundToys plug-ins, the programming detail and feature sets go on and on and PanMan is no different in that regard. But I’m a beginner and I have had no problems getting beautifully ornate panning treatments very quickly. This is a sound designer’s dream tool that pays off more and more as I learn more about the internal tweak controls. Like Decapitator, PanMan is a big winner for me here at my Tones 4 $ Studios!!
There are demo versions posted at www.soundtoys.com. It sells as a single plug-in for $349 in TDM and $179 Native. The SoundToys TDM Effects Version 4 bundle sells for $1,195 and includes eleven plug-ins. Both Decapitator and PanMan are exclusive to V4 along with a new preset management system, and many new presets. The Version 4 upgrades cost $99 for Native and $199 for TDM. Check: www.soundtoys.com for more information.