I've been hesitant to write this review, as I'd prefer that no one else know about iZotope's Alloy but me. Being a long time iZotope fan, I was excited to work with their new do-it-all plug-in, and it didn't disappoint. Alloy, like its name suggests, is a conglomerate of several sound-shaping tools, many of which you probably already own, and several of which you may not. Alloy includes an 8-band EQ, an exciter, a transient shaper, two compressors, a de-esser, a limiter, and phase rotation tools, all logically organized into a single plug-in. You may be thinking, "But I already own most of these components; why should this interest me?" Initially I had the same concern but was blown-away by the flexibility offered in this little package. Aside from sounding great, Alloy is one of the most flexible plug-ins that I've come across, and it really allows your creative juices to flow. Just as you start to play with the exciter, which simulates tube, tape, or transistor-basedharmonicsaturation-oranywhereinbetweenviaX/Y grid-yourealizethatAlloyallowsyoutoengagemulti-bandmodeand only apply saturation to the high end... or the high end and the mid range... and so forth. This feature really comes in handy for adding some grit to a vocal or drum bus -or simply making a cold direct bass track more interesting. The multi-band option is also featured on the transient designer, which allows for some very cool drum tweaking, as well as the compressor, which can be made parallel for additional flexibility. Speaking of the compressor, it allows you to switch between "vintage" and "digital" modes, or both if you engage both of the compressors. Vintage mode provides a gentle multi-stage release curve while digital mode provides clean, linear compression. Additionally, Alloy offers "crosschaining," allowing you to trigger dynamics processes on one band with the audio from another. This creates super-flexible gating and ducking possibilities that simply aren't possible with other plug-ins. Another great feature is the phrase-rotation tool set, which allows you to flip the polarity or rotate it by any degree. This can come in handy when that room mic is cancelling out the low end of your snare, or those guitar mics weren't aligned as well as you thought they were. One of my favorite features, and certainly an underrated one in the plug-in world, is an action history, much like you would find in your favorite photo-editing software. The ability to backtrack through what you thought was fine-tuning can really be a lifesaver. Finally, "zero-latency" mode solves all of your issues if you're running a host like Pro Tools LE. After my first couple of hours with Alloy, I was really digging its capabilities but was not looking forward to the inevitable price tag -until I learned it was only $249. My jaw dropped. For that price, it's an absolute steal, and like all of iZotope's products, I give it two thumbs up. ($249 direct; www.izotope.com)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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