Monthly Archives: July 2015

Slate VCC 2.0 Review – Good Just Got Better

In the era of digital perfection, the music we make tends to lack so-called “vibe” or “analog warmth” that is very much sought after by every music producer and mixer in this modern day. Slate Digital brings exactly these features into the DAW of every music maker in the form of iconic sounds of six legendary mixing consoles. This is the Slate VCC 2.0 review.

VCC 2.0 with the Virtual Mixbuss and Virtual Channel

VCC 2.0 with the Virtual Mixbuss and Virtual Channel

What’s new?

  • Integrated into Virtual Mix Rack
  • A brand new console: Brit 4K E
  • Minor refinements for all algorithms
  • US-A console has a new, improved bottom end
  • Improved RC-Tube algorithm
  • Noise Reduction button
  • Grouping made easy
  • Simplified user interface

The Consoles

Brit 4K E (SSL 4000 ‘E’ –series)

VCC 2.0 includes 6 consoles to choose from

VCC 2.0 includes 6 consoles to choose from

My favorite of the bunch is the Brit 4K E –console. It’s very upfront, energetic and has tons of presence. Great for any kind of music.

Brit 4K G (SSL 4000 ‘E’ –series with G-series upgrades)

The Brit 4K G has a very wide soundstage while having a certain grit that gives it tons of attitude. The 4K is an ideal match if you need some aggression in your mixes.

US A (API)

The US A is shouting “midrange!” This console has a very tight midrange full of excitement. The low end is also very punchy. The US A is a great choice for any midrange-heavy music, such as pop and rock.

Brit N (Neve)

Did someone say bass? Brit N has a huge bottom end that is extremely usable on low-end instruments. It is also a very vibey and sizzling console, though not as snappy and punchy as the SSL or API. Brit N is ideal for fattening up kick drums and bass.

Symbol (Trident)

The Trident is a special console, having a bright and wide top end, with a punchy low end. The midrange is slightly “scooped” compared to the lows and highs, which makes for the classic “smiley-face” EQ-curve. The Trident can work wonders on any kind of music.

RC-Tube (50’s Broadcast Tube)

The RC-Tube is probably the most colored of them all, especially heard when driven hard. The distortions and midrange crunch will leave no one in doubt. This is my favorite for vocal processing, before any compression is applied to give the vocal a tone.

Features

VCC 2.0 includes two versions of the same plugin: the Virtual Mixbuss and Virtual Channel. Ideally, the Mixbuss is designed to be used on the master bus, and the Channel on individual tracks and groups.

Some of the features include:

  • VU level calibration screw, right below the VU meter, to set the reference level

    VU level calibration screw (red arrow)

    VU level calibration screw (red arrow)

  • Input and output trim knobs which can be linked to compensate for the gain changes
  • Console selection knob
  • Console Drive –knob which doesn’t affect the output level but adds some character
  • Grouping function, letting you assign certain instruments to their own VCC groups
  • Noise reduction button – you can disable the modeled console noise
  • Group bypass button, bypassing the processing of the selected group

Visuals

The visuals of VCC 2.0 are very cool and modern-looking, compared to the earlier version. “Look the part, be the part” is a phrase that certainly applies to VCC 2.0, giving the impression that this plugin can introduce some analog vibe into your recordings.

Overall, the visuals are easy to look at and navigate. It’s a breeze to use the plugin.

Before and after - VCC 2.0 on the left, VCC 1.0 on the right

Before and after – VCC 2.0 on the left, VCC 1.0 on the right

Engineers and Musicians United

One of the most amazing things about VCC 2.0 engineers and musicians alike will appreciate, is the beautiful distortion it creates when sound is driven hard into the console using the input gain.

Kick drums and snares, for example, will profit from the added punch and pop when overdriven a little bit.

Another creative advantage of VCC 2.0 is the fact that instances can now be stacked easily inside the Virtual Mix Rack, and you don’t need to waste any insert slots of the DAW’s mixer to achieve the same effect. It’s more intuitive this way.

The flexibility offered by creating custom console chains right inside Virtual Mix Rack enables the user to first drive a signal into an SSL, and then finishing off by injecting a hint of smoothness from a Neve. Since the Virtual Mix Rack isn’t limited to VCC only, you could stack any module in your chains, such as (the free!) Revival and Trimmer plugins.

If you decide to purchase some of Slate’s compressors and EQs, you could have a full-on mixing solution right inside the Mix Rack.

Stacking modules is easy inside the Virtual Mix Rack

Stacking modules is easy inside the Virtual Mix Rack

Conclusion

If you’re a fan of console sound and appreciate the added depth, energy and “life” they provide in your music, then Slate VCC 2.0 is something to consider. It’s very hard to NOT use it after getting accustomed to it in music production and mixing.

Slate VCC 2.0 is a very special and luxurious plug-in, that certainly isn’t a necessity to make music – but if you want the extra 10% in your mixes, I don’t see why you shouldn’t at least try it out.

 

Have you used any analog-modeling plugins such as the VCC 2.0? Leave your comments below and let’s discuss analog modeling!

-JP

Electronic Music: 25 Mixing Tips for Modern Electronic Music Production Book Review

Electronic Music by Roy Wilkenfeld is a book containing 25 different mix tips on how to mix music, aimed exclusively at electronic music producers. The book is essentially a small mixing handbook for modern electronic musicians who need help in mixing. Read on to find out more…

Electronic Music: 25 Mixing Tips for Modern Electronic Music Production

Electronic Music: 25 Mixing Tips for Modern Electronic Music Production

Electronic Music: 25 Tips for Modern Electronic Music Production is an Amazon Kindle Book, containing 25 hand-picked mixing tricks to improve the sound of our music. Let’s hop straight on in to learn more about the book…

The Categories

The book is divided into five different categories in mixing: Mix Essentials, Mix Clarity, Drum Sweetening, Special Stereo Width and Advanced Mixing Techniques. As a result, the categories are very logically arranged to help the reader in the easiest manner possible. Each category also contains 5 tips.

The table of contents showing the different categories.

The table of contents showing the different categories.

The Mix Essentials and Mix Clarity –categories focus on the fundamentals of mixing, such as achieving proper gain staging, mixer fader balance, EQ’ing out unwanted frequencies and cleaning up audio tracks. These categories set a solid foundation for any mix.

The Drum Sweetening –category dives into drum processing, which is highly regarded as the most important part in electronic music production. You’ll learn how to tune your kick drums properly, how to create huge claps and snares and process your drums with punchy parallel compression. Drums can make or break an electronic track – listen to these tips and you’ll stay on the right track.

The Special Stereo Width –category focuses on the widening of the stereo field with different techniques, craved by producers of today. Tricks such as the Haas effect and micro pitch shifting are revealed in this section. I found the tips in this category a good, refreshing selection.

Finally, the Advanced Mixing Techniques –section discusses topics such as achieving musical side chain compression, which is a very interesting subject as it is, to automating fader levels in your mix. Special, cherry-on-the-cake tips belong in this section.

Overall, the categories are very well chosen and divided to offer a spectrum of great mixing techniques.

A deeper look…

Every one of the 25 tips is laid out in similar manner. They all have descriptions explaining the technique with a short tutorial on how to achieve it inside a DAW. My favorite part of the tips is the bonus “Pro Tips” -hints below each “basic” tip, revealing some mixing secrets and extra information about each subject. Very nice touch!

To our pleasure, links and suggestions to certain plugins are provided together with the tips, as well as special websites aimed to help in the mixing process.

The visual look of the tips is clear and clean, pleasing the eye while letting you get straight into the mixing action.

Pro Tips can be found under every "basic" tip.

Pro Tips can be found under every “basic” tip.

Highlights from the book

Here are some of my favorite tips from the book:

#01 Gain Staging

I think getting your gain staging correct is one of the most important steps in any mixing job. Gain staging is clearly explained in the book, as it shouldn’t act as a roadblock for anyone searching for a great sound in their mixes.

#08 EQ the Send Effects

This caught my eye because it is an important one, hence a great addition in the book. In my past years of making music, I never used to EQ any of my send effects, such as reverbs or delays. And that came at a cost. Nowadays, I carefully EQ all of my reverbs, delays and any kind of effects that I might have – for absolute clarity and impact in my mixes. Well chosen tip.

#11 Tuned Kick Drum

As you might have read from my post, tuning kick drums is crucial in electronic music productions, since the kick acts as the lowest musical foundation. That’s why it’s important to tune the kick drum into the right frequency or musical note. Great tip.

#21 Musical Side Chain Compression

This one has been one of my personal secrets for a long time. It can’t be emphasized enough what a difference a well-tuned compressor can make, especially when it’s side chained to an element, such as the kick. This is one of those cutthroat techniques that separate amateurs from the pros.

To conclude

Electronic Music: 25 Mixing Tips for Modern Electronic Music Production is a great little book for beginners and intermediate music producers. It also has quite a few more advanced tricks, so the experienced users won’t be disappointed either.

I like the handbook-style format it’s written in. You can get it on Amazon for Kindle, or read it on your PC or Mac, or any other platform of choice.

For inspiration and fresh mixing and production ideas, highly recommended! And at the price of a soft taco ($2.99), it’s a no brainer.

-JP

Best EQ Plugins – Top 5 EQ Plugins You Need To Mix a Song

Different EQs have different purposes. The best EQ plugins are the ones you know inside and out. While “best” is always subjective, to truly make an EQ the best choice for yourself, you need to know what they can do and what kind of signals they are designed to massage. Here’s my personal top 5:

  1. FabFilter Pro-Q 2

    Fabfilter Pro-Q 2 takes care of all aspects of EQ'ing.

    FabFilter Pro-Q 2 takes care of all aspects of EQ’ing.

You might have noticed from my earlier posts that I vouch for the FabFilter Pro-Q 2. Workflow-wise, it is the greatest EQ plugin I have found. In addition to a stellar workflow, the sound of Pro-Q 2 is superb. The EQ works in Zero Latency, Natural Phase and Linear Phase modes, which offer great options for tracking, mixing and mastering duties. Fabfilter explains these modes in detail.

The area where FabFilter Pro-Q 2 truly shines is in cutting frequencies. For this task, Pro-Q 2 is an excellent choice due to its stealthy filters that truly earn the title transparent. The bad frequencies just seem to disappear, like they weren’t in the signal in the first place. If I had to choose only one EQ to work with, Fabfilter Pro-Q 2 would be it.

  1. Maag EQ4

Maag EQ4 is a special kind of beast.

Maag EQ4 is a special kind of beast.

The Maag EQ4 is a totally special beast. You could use it as a tone-shaping tool, carving delicious EQ curves for your instruments, but I personally like to use it to bring that final stardust into a signal. Each six bands of the EQ4 are fine-tuned to specific frequencies each. To my taste, the Maag EQ4 shines in the lows, low-mids and the very highs. By boosting the 160 Hz low-mid band, you will instantly get those giant low mids heard in countless professional records.

The Maag-exclusive Air-band brings the most sparkling highs heard in any software EQ. It’s good to know though, that even a 0.5dB boost with this EQ will do a lot. The Maag EQ4 is an excellent choice as a secret weapon in EQs. While it is certainly not a necessity, it is a luxury.

  1. PSP McQ

    PSP McQ is great for tone-shaping.

    PSP McQ is great for tone-shaping.

The PSP McQ is a great, easy to use tone-shaping EQ. It has great low and highpass filters and plenty of different filter shape options for each of the bands. The mid and high-mid bands sound especially good, and can bring out specific instruments in a mix easily with tons of clarity. My favorite use for this EQ is to boost some creamy vocal frequencies in the high midrange.

Try this for a vocal with this EQ: apply a 2-6dB cut at around 1kHz in the Mid1-band and a 2-6dB boost at 6.4kHz in the Mid2-band. Did someone say vocal clarity?

  1. PSP NobleQ

    PSP NobleQex is cream for the low end.

    PSP NobleQex is cream for the low end.

PSP NobleQ is like a Pultec with some custom modifications, such as the adjustable valve saturation knob, a high pass filter and an extra midband filter found in the NobleQex version of the plugin, which is also shipped together with the original when bought. The NobleQ has a very special color which can be heard when boosting or shaping the low end with the two interacting filters. The color could be described as gentle, warm and tube-like.

For the low end and bass instruments, the NobleQ is killer. The two low filters can be used to create bass sounds that are so warm and gentle you’ll know exactly why this EQ is no joke. Also, don’t be afraid of boosting the hell out of this EQ – it can handle it. Transparency is not a word associated with the NobleQ. Love it!

  1. Your DAW’s Stock EQ

    Avid EQ3 is the default EQ in Pro Tools. It takes care of business.

    Avid EQ3 is the default EQ in Pro Tools. It takes care of business.

Okay… Forget about all the EQs I mentioned above. The only EQ you really need is the stock EQ plugin that is supplied in your DAW. Why I chose to include the stock DAW EQ in this list is because it’s so easy to get lost in the EQ and plugin jungle while the real tools already exist under your nose. Any stock EQ will get the job done with good results and the rest is just bonus. If you decide to invest some money into third party EQ plugins, you are free to do so, but ask yourself whether you really need all the different EQ plugins, because need is a totally different matter than want.

(With that said, I totally love all the EQs I have purchased over time, but at least I did so with careful consideration and evaluation!)

In the end…

Mixers can easily get off with only one EQ in their mixing duties, but it’s always great to have a selection of a few EQs if there’s a budget for them. The good thing about EQs is that they bring instant inspiration when applied to sound. That’s why I love EQs so much and even though I understand I necessarily don’t need all my EQs, I want to because they lift my spirits in music making and mixing – ultimately letting me make better music.

As long as you’re having fun, right?

I hope my selection of EQs will shed some light to you, perhaps in the situation if you’re looking for a great all around EQ or a more specialized weapon in EQs.

Leave a comment below and share some of your favorite EQs, and what is it you like about them!

-JP