Its been an eventful few days with lots of news coming out of Plugin Alliance this week. Two new Brainworx plugins have just been announced, namely the bx_delay and the bx_2098, a TMT EQ based on the Amek 9098 with a full console plugin apparently in the works as well. They also just announced a new buy in option called the ‘Pick Pack‘ which allows you to select 10 plugins, use them immediately and pay them off at $29.00 per month for 29 months. Let me reiterate, this is a ‘rent to own’ scheme and not a subscription service as is the case with many other plugin developers these days. Personally I think this system is fantastic, you end up with something that you own, plus you have full control over what you’re paying for as opposed to subscribing to a catalogue of plugins of which half you never use. Plugin Alliance still has fantastic sales regularly so you can always add plugins outside of the monthly payments you make if the need arrises.
So, now the million dollar question… you want to put together a pack, but you do you pick? Its no secret I’m a fan of Plugin Alliance software and use them regularly in my productions, plus I’ve been very lucky to be a part of their beta testing team and so have access to their entire catalogue of plugins. Of course you yourself can go grab a free demo for any of their plugins, and you should, but some experience using these plugins I thought I’d make a few suggestions to anyone a little stuck choosing which plugins would be best to include their packs. Since the monthly rate and amount of plugins you choose is fixed regardless of price, I’m taking into account the cost of each plugin as well how good or useful they are. Plugin Alliance has some excellent cheaper plugins on offer, but if you want the best value for money those are probably best left to be picked up individually on sales or when one of their tasty loyalty vouchers turns up in your inbox.
1. Black Box Analogue Designs HG-2
From what I’ve seen so far, this one is the first plugin everyone adds to the top of their list, and rightly so, I’ve been singing the praises of the HG-2 for a while now. As far as capturing the sound of real hardware, this is about as good as it gets and the plugin has an remarkable ability to bring out incredible depth in anything you feed through it. This makes an appearence in every one of my projects these days, be it on a master bus or for spicing up synth tracks and bass lines.
2. Vertigo VSM3 Mix Satellite
Another harmonics generator and distortion box, but still a very different beast to the HG-2. The VSM3 sounds great and has some super flexible routing options including and intuitive THD mixer to blend between 2nd and 3rd harmonics, as well as a MS matrix, making it ideal for effecting more focused areas of your audio.
3. Vertigo VSC2 Compressor
I’ve written about the VSC2 before, I’ve also been using it for ages now and I absolutely love it. Furthermore, the VSC2 and the VSM3 are a match made in heaven so if you don’t have either of these plugins, adding them both is a great idea. Dubbed the ‘mercedes of VCA compressors’, its no surprise you want this in your list.
4. BX_Console G
Brainworx has three flavours of their rather excellent TMT console series plugins available. The N, G and the E, modelled after a Neve VXS, SSL G Series and SSL E series consoles respectively. They all employ TMT technology where by the subtle differences between all 72 channels have been painstakingly modelled, resulting in the probably the most accurate and realistic digital representations of these consoles to date. While they all sound fantastic, my personal favourite is the G channel. I’m probably in a minority here as the most popular seems to be the E series channel. The dynamics module is interchangeable between the two consoles, meaning you can select whether to use the compressors from either the E or G, however the EQ’s do sound completely different. The G Series makes use of a proportional Q setting as oppose to fixed Q on the E. Either way, whichever plugin you go for, having one of these (or all?) in your plugin arsenal is a solid investment.
5. BX_Digital V3
Probably one of the best EQ’s you’ll ever own. It ships with the standard full plugin as well as a stripped back ‘mix’ version. There’s very little out there to compete with this plugins quality and flexibility. Featuring Brainworx’s trademark MS technology, a dynamic EQ section, sublime sounding filters and some ingenious features like the ‘gain scale’ control, everyone should have this in their tool kit.
6. Maag Audio EQ4
Unlike the surgical precision of the BX_digital V3, the Maag EQ4 is a character EQ for sweetening your sound. Its worth buying just for the AIR BAND® though, nothing sounds quite like the sheen this EQ imparts on your highs and it’ll bring vocals to life like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
7. SPL Vitalizer MK2-T
Vitalizer is an enhancement plugin based on the tube hardware of the same name. It was designed to ‘unmask’ audio in mixes by slightly delaying louder frequencies in overlapping audio. The end result is more clarity to the effected sound. This plugin is great on a master as it tends to stretch out and open up your mix by pulling up low and high frequencies (hence taming the mids slightly and increasing perceived loudness, much like Fletcher Munson curves) but I also use it a lot to tighten up or enhance kick drums as well as to make drums or synths jump out in the mix.
8. Elysia Alpha Compressor
Out of all the excellent offerings from Elysia (Museq, Karakter, Mpressor, Nvelope) I’m recommending their Alpha Compressor for its incredible ability to be pushed with allowing the sound to break up at all. It’s one of the most transparent compressors I’ve heard and it just excels on a bus or as a mastering compressor, although don’t discount it for everyday mixing duties either, it ships with a mix version as well for just such occasions.
9. Pro Audio DSP Dynamic Spectrum Mapper
Why? Cause there’s nothing else like this out there as far as I know. It uses FFT as the detector phase of the compressor, then allows you to apply parameters like threshold, ratio etc. however, not to the audio but to the FFT itself. The result is you get whats essentially an 18 band multi band compressor with little not not phase issues around the crossovers, something you won’t find in any other multi band compressor. While it can be complex, and I suggest taking the time to read through the manual to fully understand how it works, operation can also be as simple as analysing a few seconds of an audio before applying the characteristics of the source dynamics to whatever you’re compressing.
10. Millenia TCL-2 Twincom
This final entry was either a toss up between the Twincom or the Acme Audio Opticon XLA-3 compressor. The Opticon is just dripping with character, but I ended up adding the Twincom to my recommendation because I believe its more versatile. Also, this thing sounds like money, something expensive… its fantastic. The ‘Twin Topology’ allows you to select either a tube or FET signal path so its essentially two different compressors in one, plus you can do anything from super transparent to incredibly punchy or pumping compression effects.
There’s a bunch of other plugins that were just edged out for me due to not being as versatile, or not as expensive. As I mentioned, the price of these was a factor since as you pay a set amount, adding more expensive plugins is better value for money as you can generally still pick up the cheaper ones on sales. Thats not to say they’re not stunningly good plugins though. Of the 75 odd plugins that Plugin Alliance offers, here’s a selection of plugins that I’d also highly recommend you check out before whipping out the old credit card for your bundle.
Dynamics : Acme Audio Opticon XLA-3, BX_Opto Compressor, Elysia Mpressor, Unfiltered Audio Zip, SPL Transient Designer Plus
EQ’s and Filters : BX_Cleansweep Pro, Millenia NSEQ-2, SPL EQ Ranger Plus
Reverbs & Delays : BX_RooMs, Unfiltered Audio Sandman Pro
Others : BX_Meter, Unfiltered Audio Fault, Noveltech Character