Q-Clone was the single most impressive thing I saw at the 2005 NAMM show last January. There's rarely any truly new technology at the audio trade shows, but mostly refinements of existing technology. Q-Clone is a very cool and unique plug-in that uses convolution processing to "sample" your hardware EQ's. For instance, you're running the lead vocal through your beloved, but sole, Pultec EQH-2, and you really want to use it on the stereo background vocals too. Who can afford three Pultecs? With Q-Clone, you can sample, using the Q-Capture plug-in, the impulse response of the Pultec and its settings on the lead vocal and then insert that as a Q-Clone EQ on the lead vocal. Repeat this process two more times (or as many times as you'd like) with different or the same EQ settings on the background vocals, and then finally you can use the real Pultec on yet another track/channel.
How well does it work, and does it really accurately capture the sound of a high-end hardware EQ? It works really well (more later), and in listening tests in my studio using our Pultec EQ, it nearly perfectly captured the sound of the EQ. In fact, in tests comparing the Pultec to Pultec plug-ins, it was the only plug-in that really nailed the Pultec sound exactly. This of course is also related to the fact that no two Pultecs sound the same anyway. Nonetheless, when Robert and I were doing these tests, the Q-Clone was so close to the hardware EQ that we grabbed mastering engineer Eric Broyhill to come give it a listen as well. The usually stoic Mr. Broyhill had a facial expression that indicated puzzlement and concurred that Q-Clone was pretty dead on with the Pultec.
When I first saw Q-Clone at NAMM last year, I was hanging out with a rep from a very well respected British hardware company well known for their great EQ's. Waves had one of their boxes in their demo booth. My friend's comment, in a typically humorous dry British kind of voice, was "That's quite scary actually, they seem to have nailed it, haven't they?"
In terms of usage, Q-Clone is very easy to use and works fine, but because it's such a new concept, it actually sat un-used on the studio computer for almost a year because none of the engineers, including myself, were able-or more accurately willing to take the time-to figure out how it worked. As with anything brand new, it's not intuitive. But once we dug out the PDF file and walked through the step-by-step instructions, it worked perfectly. As mentioned earlier, it's actually two plug-ins, Q-Capture and Q-Clone. In Pro Tools for instance, once you have a sound dialed in on the hardware EQ, you disconnect it from the audio path and reconnect it to an aux input with the input and output on the same channel, essentially creating a loop with Q-Capture inserted. You then open up Q-Clone on the track you want to EQ with the "sampled" EQ and hit the capture button on Q-Clone. It's actually very easy and fast, but like nothing you've ever done before. The only minor problem we had with Q-Clone is that there is some amount of latency, which is true for all plug-ins, but especially noticeable for those that use high- resolution convolution. In real-world usage on vocals and such, you'd never hear this, but on one track of a multitracked drum set, for instance, you'd need to be aware of it and compensate accordingly.
This plug-in is obviously very specialized, catering to DAW users with great hardware EQ's (but not many of each!)-a fairly small group of recordists. But if you fall into that group, this is truly one of the most amazing pieces of software I've ever heard. It should be mentioned that Q-Clone does come with a substantial library of pre-sampled EQ's, but I'm not sure the hefty price tag will warrant the purchase for folks without their own EQ's to sample.
($1000 direct, www.waves.com)