Test Drive: Blue Cat Audio Plug-ins

by Steve Cunningham

With the contentious primaries winding down and the even more contentious election campaigns cranking up, it seemed like a good time to stop reading about politics and go looking for some new plug-ins to review. My never-ending search for high-quality yet low-cost plug-ins takes us this month to France, home of Blue Cat Audio.

The developers at Blue Cat are prolific if nothing else, and their current product line consists of thirty-seven plugs and utilities that run the gamut from dynamics to EQ to modulation. All of Blue Cat’s plugs are for Windows XP or Vista, and come in both DirectX and VST formats. And even with a weak dollar, most are a bargain and several are flat out free.

Freebies

FREEBIES!

Blue Cat has bundled all their free plug-ins at their www.bluecataudio.com website. Click on the Products link on the left, then look for the Freeware link in the lower half of the Products page. Click there and download their bundle of nine free plug-ins, either VST or DirectX. While you’re waiting for the download to finish and running the individual installers, I’ll describe ‘em. What you have here are two meters, an EQ, a Gain plug, and five modulation effects, all for free. Go ahead, just do it now.

The meters include a Digital Peak Meter, which is a simple stereo meter with a vertical slider that controls the “ballistics” and can be set from highly damped down to completely jumpy. What is unique about this simple plug is that it generates MIDI continuous controller data from the incoming levels of your audio. So if your editor supports MIDI automation of plug-ins, you can use that MIDI data to record a MIDI representation of the audio envelope to a MIDI track, and then use that data in turn to control yet another effect. You can even do this in Vegas and other programs that don’t support MIDI automation, by means of Blue Cat’s free DXi Manager program. There are complete tutorials showing how you set this up at Blue Cat’s website.

The second meter is called FreqAnalyst, and it is just that — a graphical frequency analyzer that shows you real time frequency curves over a 120 decibel range. It has a peak hold function, so you can view the static max levels at the same time you’re watching the dynamic levels as audio plays. Several controls at the bottom let you scale the display and adjust the response of the frequency curves. Neat.