The Virtual Channel “sidecar” shows grouping, where the group controls affect all grouped modules simultaneously. The Virtual MixBuss plug-in is toward the left.
Emulations for “in the box” mixing
There’s a lot of controversy about mixing in the box, digital summing, and whether analog consoles give a mix more “life.” Actually, there’s nothing wrong with digital summing; it’s accurate and predictable. But analog consoles have idiosyncrasies and nonlinearities that digital doesn’t . . . but which digital can theoretically reproduce, given the right algorithms.
VCC includes two plug-ins, the Virtual Channel for insertion into individual channels, and the Virtual MixBuss for buses. Each offers four different console models (SSL 4000G, Neve 8048, API, and Trident 80B). The only editable parameters (aside from some global settings in Preferences, like “drift”) are Input and Drive on the channels, and Drive on the bus. Note this has nothing to do with console processors like EQ or dynamics; VCC is solely about emulating a mixer’s quantifiable analog characteristics.
VCC has two extremely cool features. With channel grouping (eight groups total), adjusting one channel makes the same adjustment in other channels. Also, you can “decouple” the modules, so you could have a drum group going through the SSL and background vocals through the Trident—or mix and match bus/ channel characteristics.
Do the models sound like the consoles they emulate? Haul them into my studio, give me three months, and I’ll get back to you. The real questions are, can they give your mixes more life, or make it easier to get a good mix.
For any given channel, the effect is subtle, and the differences among models are subtle as well. VCC comes into its own cumulatively, as you add Virtual Channels to multiple tracks. I loaded VCC into a Sonar X1 project because it has a global effects bypass control; being able to do this kind of A/B test definitely highlighted the differences, which are very much like what analog fans claim—a better soundstage, more definition, and an undefinable “sweeter” sound.
I approached VCC with skepticism, because I’ve been able to get good mixes with analog and digital gear—I don’t have an analog fetish, nor do I think that digital is perfect. But after extensive listening tests, there’s no doubt that Slate is on to something. The difference isn’t earth-shattering, but VCC gives that extra 7% that can push a mix up to the next level—perhaps more importantly, it does so effortlessly. You can wrestle vaguely similar results with a fistful of conventional processors, but VCC makes the process painless—and the price is right.
SLATE DIGITAL VIRTUAL CONSOLE COLLECTION $249.99 (ILOK 2 REQUIRED) WINDOWS VST, MAC VST/AU/RTAS
STRENGTHS: Really does enhance “in the box” mixes. Four console emulations. Separate plug-ins for channels and buses. Grouping allows treating individual modules as an integrated mixer.
LIMITATIONS: iLok2 required. No RTAS version for Windows (yet).
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