19 Feb

The search for the ultimate vintage emulation

Few weeks ago I was in a big search for a truly amazing vintage compressor plugin. As usual, I’ve searched many forums, read even more reviews and finally, downloaded crazy amount of demos to test them in real situations. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I really wanted. The aim was to find a kind of old analogue magic in a plugin, which fits many style, can be subtle or aggressive depending on my needs.

After a few days of mad testing I was exhausted and frankly quite embarrassed. After trying so many different plugins I couldn’t find any which I liked without any reservation. Which is very surprising to me as we all know that there are quite a few plugin manufacturer who really knows this stuff and almost everyone praise them for their sonic achievements. Obviously I felt that the problem must be on my side. To be as fair as possible I took a few days break from testing, the only thing I did is a special test session which contains very wide range of material from individual instruments through mixed material, sound effects, dialogue, really, everything imaginable. I even stopped reading about these emulations. I wanted to really forget the whole thing for a few days so my head is not filled with any preconception.

vintageemulations

Then after I felt ready for another big ride, I launched my carefully crafted test session and started the whole process again from the very beginning. And honestly I’ve found a few plugins that I really, really liked, although I wouldn’t say that I liked any of it so much that I couldn’t easily hold myself back from buying it. On a side note, I’m extremely picky about plugins, even more so if we’re talking about analogue emulations. I was so certain that I will find some real gem among the million plugs. I continued to test even more in the next week or two, making detailed notes about the pros and cons of each tested candidate. To my great surprise, drum roll…. I haven’t found an utterly convincing plugin emulation that I wanted to own immediately.

Than I thought to myself the problem must be in my brain, if the whole internet praise these things, it’s must be me somehow. Fortunately I had to test these things while I still had to mix many shows along the way, so I decided to observe my mixes from a more technical point of view to spot my problem with these plugs. And bingo, this was what I needed. I mentioned that I am extremely picky when it comes to plugins in general. And as it turned out, this is exactly my problem, because I simply don’t like one trick ponies, and to be honest, most of these well-known emulations are not so versatile instruments. I know many of you disagree with this statements, but please consider my needs, it is simply not enough if for example a compressor is good on drums and bass, but not good on voice and sound effects. I know it seems a bit crazy, but I’ve spent countless hours, days, months finding the very best plugins, all of which can serve me very well if I happen to mix a concert show, but satisfy me equally well if I mix dialogue, or recording and mixing a film score. See? This is the root of the problem.

My job require to switch gears in a blink of an eye many times daily. So as I see it I cannot afford to lock myself into some analogue mojo and loose the ability to shape the sound in a so flexible way that frankly analogue and its emulations couldn’t even dream of.
Before you prepare your weapon to kill me, I’m in post production, with often unbelievably short deadlines, with very broad tasks to accomplish, where disaster recovery is a daily exercise, where TV shows need to be edited and mixed in just a few days. With this in mind, I truly think that this few weeks of diligent testing showed me that I need tools that can be as transparent as possible, or even the contrary, need to be obvious in a moment and able serve multiple tasks.

In short, this is how I re-discovered the Sonnox Dynamics again, and finally, after so many pleasant encounters during the years, I finally bought it to my personal collection. As soon as I’ll have a little time, I’m going to write about it, it is so utterly brilliant.

2 thoughts on “The search for the ultimate vintage emulation

  1. I really like UAD, but for many reasons I’m not a UAD owner. I don’t like their closed DSP system, and while I agree that they make very fine plugins, imho you can find just as fine ones in the Native world. With this you’ve got more power, with often less latency during the mixing process. I’m on the side where many serious independent developer: I think their cards are a bit underpowered for the price. Of course YMMV.

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