When the original version of Alloy was released, Dave Hidek, Chief Recording Engineer of Treelady Studios, wrote an informative review [Tape Op #76] stating:
"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 designer, 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."
-Dave Hidek <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For Alloy 2, Treelady owner and longtime Tape Op contributor Garrett Haines sent Staff Engineer Dylan Ray our way:
"I used Alloy 2 on a few mix projects and was impressed. First, it really is an 'all-in-one' solution. I hate sayingthat because it makes it sound like it's cheap or less than professional, but you could use it as your sole mixing plug- in. The graphic updates in version 2 are pleasing, and you can work with the screen for a long time without getting a headache. The EQs are great. The analog EQ sounds different from any other plug-in we have. It has a very natural sound. The digital EQ has a very neutral sound. Between these two types, you can handle just about anything you need in a mix. As far as compressors are concerned, Alloy 2 strikes a good balance of allowing tweaking power (e.g., wet/dry mix, sidechain, knee) without you getting lost in the options. Some of the modules are CPU-intensive, but iZotope thought of that, allowing you the option to shut off sections you aren't using to free up processing power. I'm not a 'preset' guy, per se, but the presets on the Exciter module are a great crash course on its possibilities. I used the mid-band Exciter on a drum reverb return for a hip-hop mix, with the intention of a dirty/compressed background loop, and the kit just bloomed. Everything had a rich, deep, and for lack of a better term, expensive sound. I would pay the $199 MSRP for the Exciter alone."
-Dylan Ray <email@example.com>
I'll admit that I'm not much of a plug-in guy, having multiple racks of analog dynamics and other processing at my disposal, and I'm very comfortable with the onboard EQs and dynamics processing on every channel of my Sony DMX- R100 digital console [Tape Op #25]. But when I do use a plug-in, I'm very picky, and I expect a lot from it - especially in terms of its control precision and its sound quality. Alloy 2 did not disappoint me. In fact, it's become one of my go-to mix tools.
I haven't had the opportunity to use the original version of Alloy, but everything that Dave wrote about it rings true, so I encourage you to read his complete review on the Tape Op website <www.tapeop.com>. I also agree with Dylan's assessment above of version 2. To their opinions, I'd like to add my own, specific usage notes.
When you first instantiate the plug-in, its window opens up in an Overview mode, with individual panels showing abbreviated control sets for each of the seven modules: Equalizer, Transient, Exciter, Dynamics 1, Dynamics 2, De- Esser, and Limiter. Additionally, there's a set of L/R faders and meters for both input and output; these can be switched between the overall plug-in or the individual module currently receiving the control focus. Even with the control sets of the seven modules distilled, this view can be initially daunting, but after a few uses, you become accustomed to the UI language, and you start to appreciate how quickly you can tweak a vast and powerful selection of processing with just a few mouse clicks and gestures. The informative bar-graph meters throughout, as well as the real-time spectrum analyzer, are extremely helpful in visualizing the effect of any enabled modules, and clicking on them allows you to add or move overlaid controls. However, I still wish there were more mouseable shortcuts. For example, instead of having to click on the skeuomorphic "radio style" buttons along the bottom row to access the detail panels for each module, I wish I could double-click directly on a panel title in the Overview to "zoom in" on that panel/module's full set of controls. Moreover, one of the most powerful features of this plug-in is the ability to reorder the modules - and even parallel process and sidechain some modules - using the Signal Flow Graph. Unfortunately, neither the "radio style" buttons nor the module panels in the Overview rearrange themselves when you change the signal flow, which can lead to some confusion. Luckily, a clickable undo/history log lets you step back from your mistakes. (Why don't all plug-ins and DAWs include a clickable undo/history log, like here and in popular Adobe media-production applications?)
UI idiosyncrasies aside, my favorite use of Alloy 2 is for multi-band processing. For example, on vocals, I like to use both of Alloy's Compressor modules. The first I configure in three bands, with the low and high-frequency bands receiving light compression, while the midrange band is squashed aggressively at a high ratio. I set up the second compressor to do broadband leveling at a lower ratio. Then, depending on the vocal and the effect I'm trying to achieve, I will route these compressors in parallel or I'll route them serially. This kind of multi-band compression combined with broadband leveling can center and stabilize a vocal, even in a dense mix, without all of the emotion of the delivery (as heard in the dynamics of the breathiness and glottal sounds, etc.) being lost. Doing this in analog requires a rat's nest of cables going in and out of the patchbay points for my Drawmer Three-Sum [Tape Op #52] and various compressors. Conversely, in Alloy 2, I can quickly configure the routing, tweak the parameters, and save it all as a preset for later recall.
Another example worth explaining is an acoustic bass part that I recently recorded with too much low-frequency resonance from the bass. Various EQs (digital and analog) could not tame the part without overly thinning it out. So instead, I used Alloy 2 with a gently-sloped low-band EQ, feeding a multi-band compressor to smooth the mids and highs, followed by the Transient module reducing the sustain on the lows, then a broadband compressor gently leveling the performance. Importantly, it was easy to configure the modules with the same crossover settings to keep the multi-band filters phase-aligned for best sound. Again, this kind of processing is effortless to do in Alloy 2, but difficult to accomplish with other non-integrated tools - whether analog or digital.
By the way, my explanation of these multi-module routings shouldn't scare you away from using Alloy 2 for more straightforward tasks using just one or two modules at a time. I found that all of the modules, whether used individually or together, were all very good at what they were designed to do, and they could be easily adjusted to sound transparent or to greatly affect the signal.
If this review has piqued your interest, visit iZotope's website to download the plug-in. In trial mode, it will operate without any restrictions for 10 days, after which point you can choose to purchase a license to restore full functionality. Installing the trial also installs the well-written, interactive help file, which is definitely worth reading, as the feature set of this plug-in is way too deep to cover in this review. Let me end by saying that I've used Alloy 2 on every project since installing it. For me, it truly is a go-to plug-in.