Now if the freeware writers were a bunch of skill-less hacks then fine, download, try and discard; a little time and bandwidth wasted but job done. Unfortunately many of them have a bit of a talent; indeed quite a few of their offerings can stand shoulder to shoulder with all but the best (in some cases the very best) of the commercial products out there. What's the problem then? Option Anxiety - that's the problem then! For every choice made there is an "Opportunity Cost"; if I do this, then I can't do this! If I use the Melda MEqualiser (it's very good by the way) then I'm not going to use the others, and I might be missing something. Add to this the fact that each brand has its own interface quirks (sorry, I clearly mean "style") that I seem to need to relearn every time and a simple bracketing filter on an electric guitar part can take a morning to apply, and leave my ears shot for the next hour or so - and I still wouldn't be sure if I'd made the right choice.
So, any hints as to a solution. Yup - it's called the Uninstall Solution. There is a small number of freeware plugins that fall into the category (in mind they do anyway) of tools/problem solvers. Betabugs PhaseBug (phase alignment) works fine wherever I need it, Voxgeno Span (real time spectrum analyser) is on every bus. I don't suffer any anxiety with these tools at all, I just use them. As for the others, I made a decision that I would play this the Hardware Way - I invested in one Eq and one Compressor and they will be my first point-of-call for everything until such a time as I identify a different need, at which time I will address that need specifically. I have deleted almost all of my freeware plugins and suites, (I kept the Reaper stuff and some individual "character" pieces like SonEqQ and Bootsy's Ferric that I particularly like) and used the time I save by not having to make choices to actually read the manuals for the stuff I actually do use. End result? Well, panic. But after that a certain feeling that my studio is now, somehow more "My Studio"! with its own identity forged by its limitations. Because I actually spent proper money on the tools I use I feel a commitment to make the most of them, to use them to the limits to make them work. That they do work (and rather well) is of course a huge help.