Testing the CA-2A in the Real World: Three Reasons it’s a Must-Have Plugin for Mixing

I was recently hired to burn the ole midnight oil and produce, mix, co-write and play just about every instrument on an EP for an artist out of NYC.  The record is pretty cool, definitely fun to make, and it falls somewhere between Fiona Apple and Taylor Swift.  Considering the genre, I figured it was a great time to try out our new CA-2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier in the field and in a practical situation.

From testing the beta out briefly during development, I knew I was going to like the outcome of using the CA-2A, but what I didn’t expect was the versatility of the plugin.  I ended up using it on a lot more than what I expected.  From smoothing out vocals to arpeggiated guitars to piano tones, I really loved what I was getting from the CA-2A.  I also had the benefit of A/B’ing it with another branded Leveling Amplifier that I use, and I found the Cakewalk CA-2A thicker sounding in general and also more versatile due to the R37 screw [knob.]   Here are the reasons I found myself going to the CA-2A instead of my other comparable leveling amplifier.

1.)    R37 Adjuster on Vocals – This adjustable screw is interesting.  The physical appearance of the screw does not give off the importance of its usefulness.  Basically, this parameter allows you to adjust the compression on the high frequencies.  Since my other Leveling Amplifier does not have this adjustment, I always started out by keeping the screw all the way to the left (0%) and then dialing it in until I found the sweet spot.  The result was amazing especially on vocals.  I was able to always get a warm yet transparent sound but without the harshness on most of the “ess” words.  Since this project is with a female vocalist, I found it especially helpful.  I was also able to work the QuadCurve EQ into the mix and combine it with the CA-2A nicely.  By tweaking the hi-end frequencies on the EQ along with the R37 screw, I was able to get a more present vocals without any harshness.

2.)    “Limit” Mode on Bass Guitar – I’m not sure if it will be like this for every song, but for this track the CA-2A on the bass guitar in “Limit” mode was a magic bullet.  I always run the bass into its separate bus, so I ended up using the limiter on that stage.  I played the bass guitar (as you can hear from the track on this post) with a pick for this song.  The CA-2A in limiting mode on the bass bus really allowed me to fatten up the sound of the low end, but also kept the attack of the pick in focus.  It leveled out the attack of the pick hitting the string but also kept it present.  I had the EQ running on the bass track, and then the limiter on the bass hitting the peak reduction at about -3db.  I kept the R37 at 0% as you can see from the image.

3.)    “Compress” Mode on Piano and Whirlie – fortunately for this track I had the benefit of having David Cook (keyboardist and MD for Taylor Swift) play on the track – the guy is a genius.  I’m pretty much a hack at keyboards so my usual piano editing (to make myself sound decent enough) was not going to cut it.  As you can hear from the attached track, there is a lot going on in the song, so I had to figure out a creative mixing strategy to make room and carve frequencies.  To say that the CA-2A helped me achieve this on the track would be an understatement.  Using the plugin in compress mode on the piano enabled me to really place it in the mix correctly.  It also helped dial in the frequencies to get it out of the way of all the other things that were in the same frequency range.  To get the piano to sit correctly, I hit the compressor pretty hard, used the R37 at 50%, and then notched up the highs of the QuadCurve EQ.  I also used the Channel Tools plugin to give it some more width and depth and get it out of the way of the guitars.  The more I use this, the more I understand the importance of the R37 screw.  It’s almost an oxymoron, but by combining the R37 with the high-end frequencies on the QuadCurve EQ it seems like I am able to get a warm top end sound out of instruments.

On the rest of the track I also ended up using the CA-2A on some acoustic guitar tracks as well as one of the clean electric guitars.  I’m psyched about the performance and versatility of this plugin – instantly you can hear the difference wherever you use it.  I also think this is a plugin that would be a great benefit to folks who are just getting into mixing.  The simplicity of the unit basically makes it fool proof for obtaining professional results without a lot of technical worries – basically just use your ear and turn the knobs;)

Try the CA-2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier for free

Thanks for reading and be sure listen to the mix posted below.

The song on this post uses the CA-2A on exactly the following tracks:
Lead Vocal track (Compress Mode)
Bass bus (Limit mode)
Piano track (Compress Mode)
Whirlie track (Compress Mode)
B3 track (very lightly) (Compress Mode)
Left acoustic guitar track (both mics)  (Compress Mode)
Arpeggiated Electric Guitar track (Compress Mode)
1 of the backing vocal tracks (Compress Mode)
Tom drums bus (Limit mode)
Hi Hat (Compress Mode)
Mandolin track (Compress Mode) (doubled – CA-2A only on 1 of the tracks)

Why Cakewalk’s CA-2A Made a Big Impression at NAMM 2013

Every January, thousands of gear companies, PR professionals, artists, and gear-junkies converge in Anaheim, CA for what is known as one of the world’s biggest music festivals; The NAMM Show.  If you have never been, it’s a playground for the musician where one can find everything from the latest boutique guitar amp to the newest beta software development.

As a software company that participates at the NAMM show year after year, one pattern we have seen which holds true for all companies is that you just know when you have a great product on your hands.  This year was no exception when we unveiled the new CA-2A leveling amplifier to the press, artists and gear-heads; the feedback was beyond our expectations.

The CA-2A had 3 primary points of contact with the public at NAMM:

1. On the show-floor where SONAR X2a was being demonstrated on three machines.

2. The main-stage demonstration area where Cakewalk’s Seth Perlstein (along with other artists) showed off all the features of our software.

3. The Cakewalk V.I.P suite at the Hilton where we set up a studio atmosphere to show off our newest software combines with Roland’s integrated hardware.

While the show-floor and main-stage demo area served as a platform to show our customers and retail buyers our new products, the Hilton suite was where we were able to get the CA-2A in the hands of some well-known artists, along with seasoned experienced gear-savvy journalists.  The beauty of these meetings was that we were not looking for pats on the back or hot air; this was a chance for us to get straight feedback from professional users other than our beta developers for the first time.  After 4 days filled with over 50 meetings, here are a few quotes directly from the demonstrations:

TC Spitfire (producer/songwriter/engineer – Paul Oakenfold, Cher)

“With the style of music I produce on a daily basis, I’m excited to put the CA-2A to work next week.  I absolutely have to have side-chaining capabilities with dance music, so to have that feature in this type of leveling amplifier is huge for me.”

 

 

Tim Wynn (producer/composer/musician – co-owner of SonicFuel studios specializing in Film, Television and interactive media music)

“On any given week I could be writing and producing music for feature films, TV shows or mixing music for some of the biggest titles in video games.  I think the CA-2A is going to be a big part of my plugin arsenal.  From what I just heard in direct comparison to the other leveling amplifiers, I can’t see why anyone would not pick this up.  The fact that it’s lightweight on DSP and you don’t need an external card to run many                                              instances will be a big plus for me; for anyone for that matter.”

Shawn Clement (producer/composer/musician – Clemistry Music at Paramount Studios, Hollywood, CA)

“Anyone looking for a fat classic vintage compression sound will love this thing.  It’s great that you [Cakewalk] guys modeled the R37 screw as well which works miracles on vocals.” [The R37 screw helps control the high-frequency compression.]

 

These were just a few out of the many folks that stopped in to hear the CA-2A up against other leveling amplifiers.  In the next week I will be uploading another blog here exemplifying the sonic capabilities of the CA-2A as I put it to the grind here in my studio in NYC.

A quick look at the CA-2A Feature Highlights:

  • VST, Audio Units & ProChannel compatible (Mac/PC)
  • Meticulously modeled.
  • With only a few simple controls, it’s easy to use and provides instant gratification.
  • Warm, smooth and natural sounding compression characteristics.
  • Frequency-dependent gain reduction.
  • Compressor and Limiter modes.
  • Up to 40 dB of smooth gain reduction.
  • Sidechain input for ducking, de-essing and pumping.
  • Gain reduction CV output to modulate other effects.
  • Zero latency for real-time tracking and mixing.
  • Fully modeled “R37” HF Pre-emphasis control.

See all CA-2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier features

Availability and pricing:

The CA-2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier is now available for $99/£79/€99 and includes VST, AU, and ProChannel Module formats.  Customers who previously purchased the PC2A (ProChannel Module) format can upgrade for $19.99/£15.99/€19.99 on the Cakewalk Store.

Download the CA-2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier

72-hour sale: 50% off the PC2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier

PC2A

72-hour sale: Download the PC2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier for only $39.50
We are making the most popular ProChannel module available at an unbelievable price for the next 72 hours. Faithfully modeled after one of the most sought after studio compressors in history, the PC2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier puts the silky, smooth sound of this highly desirable unit right into SONAR’s ProChannel. Offer ends October 21st at 11:59PM PT.

Key features:

  • Meticulously modeled
  • Native 64-bit operation
  • Zero latency for real-time tracking and mixing
  • Up to 40dB of smooth, transparent gain reduction
  • Frequency dependent compression
  • Program dependent attack/release
  • Fully modeled “R37″
  • HF Pre-emphasis control
  • Dual photocell reset modes (Classic & Fast Reset)
  • 64-bit double-precision audio fidelity

What customers are saying: The PC2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier has been a huge hit with users. Here’s just a sampling of some of the feedback we have received.

“After running comparisons on this plugin over the last hour, I give Cakewalk an A. It’s easily as good as the UAD version and I like the needle response better. Good job guys.”

“I’m really impressed now. The Waves/UAD versions are both $150…This Cakewalk version is a steal!”

“I slapped it on a rhythm guitar buss last night and was rewarded with a lovely, silky sheen…big thumbs up from me.”

“Better than UAD anytime!!”

“I just threw the new PC2A on a vocal track in a tune I’m getting ready to mix.  Holy c**p!! It sounds really nice!”

Note: This product does not run standalone. You must already own SONAR X1 Producer Expanded or SONAR X2 Producer to use this product. You may purchase ProChannel Modules along with your SONAR X2 Producer Upgrade.

Download it today and save 50% off the regular price

What’s in SONAR X1 Producer anyway?

What's in SONAR X1 Producer?

With the First-class Upgrade promotion happening in June, it’s a good time to review the amazing value you get with SONAR X1 Producer. Whether you are upgrading or looking for a new digital audio workstation (DAW), SONAR X1 Producer gives you hundreds of dollars in exclusive features, instruments, and effects that only Cakewalk can offer musicians, producers, and engineers.

Let’s start with a quick video which goes through all the SONAR X1 Producer exclusives:

Now let’s take a look at some of the exclusive features in-depth to see what makes SONAR X1 Producer so special. Continue reading What’s in SONAR X1 Producer anyway?

Introductory offer on the PC2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier for ProChannel [EXTENDED]

PC2A-T-Type-Leveling-Amplifier

Faithfully modeled after one of the most sought after studio compressors in history, the PC2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier puts the silky, smooth sound of this highly desirable unit right into SONAR’s ProChannel.

Special offer [UPDATE]: Due to overwhelming demand, the intro price for this brand new module has been extended.  Customers can now save 50% off the regular price of the PC2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier through March 31st. Regularly $79, we are offering early adopters the opportunity to download it today for only $39.50Act fast to ensure you get it at this amazing price. Continue reading Introductory offer on the PC2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier for ProChannel [EXTENDED]