Going ITB: Slate Virtual Mix Rack
Look around the BB4 Website, and you’ll see plenty of affection for outboard gear. Knobs, levers, switches, analog outputs -- what’s not to love about that?
But we heart going ITB as much as the next engineer, and we’ve got an ever-growing plethora of plugins to accomplish just that. One of our newest faves? The Slate VMR (Virtual Mix Rack), which makes us that much more jacked to mix.
Our philosophy on new plugin purchases mirrors our MO on hardware -- it’s got to do something different than what we’ve already got on hand. The Slate VMR qualifies first with its workflow: Like all things Slate, it’s extremely well thought-out. Onscreen you see a 500 series-style rack with modules including vintage EQs, compressors, enhancers, filters and more, all of which can be dragged/dropped to reorder (and quickly recalled). Even better is the A/B function, which allows you to clone a signal chain, modify to taste, and then compare to the original. Smart!
Within the VMR, BB4 Chief Engineer Kiara Mudd has a few fave raves. They include:
FG 116 -- They can’t say it, but we can -- this is an 1176 limiting amplifier inside your DAW. We’ve got our own hardware 1176, but the Slate VMR version has the sound of a different edition. The FG-116 is very punchy, and even if it’s dialed way up doesn’t sound like its overcompressed.
It also has some helpful extra features you won’t find on the physical unit, like a mix knob to facilitate parallel compression, and two circuit buttons to change the character (Circuit One is a little more grimey than Circuit Two). BB4 sez: excellent on drums, and for certain vocal scenarios. Our go-to drum recipe is a medium attack and fast release, set to the second circuit.
Revival -- This is Slate’s saturator, a two-knob distillation of several classic analog pieces that they hand-picked. Hit “Thickness” and it does just that, especially on vox -- if the recording was too thin, that control gives us the MORE we’re looking for. With “Shimmer,” you’ll get key frequencies you may be lacking in top end. But be careful with this magic box! A little goes a looooooong way.
Virtual Mixbuss -- this one is actually part of their Virtual Console Collection. OK, it’s great! This plugin is like having a summing mixer in the box. It really opens up an ITB mix and can rescue it from the dreaded sterile digital sound. Our tip: pump the input while engaging the RC tube option, while leaving the drive alone. A big drop of that glues everything together.