Slate Digital — Virtual Console Collection (VCC)
For many years the there has been a fundamental difference in warmth, character and richness that analogue processing can provide compared to their digital counterparts.
Only the top mix engineers and high profile recording studios could afford the hybrid approach to mixing required to get the best of both the analogue and digital worlds.
This gap has steadily become less obvious with the progression of digital emulation, the popularity of analogue summing mixers and a plethora of tape saturation plug-ins. But have we really reached the point where we don’t need an analogue desk to produce the rich, punchy and warm tone associated with many a hit record? This is the bold and lofty claim that Steven Slate Digital has said to achieve with VCC.
It is a shock therefore that more research and resources haven’t been thrown into emulating the most popular and classic consoles that many hit records were made on, in a processor friendly manner to bring it to the masses. Granted there are a couple out there but none with as much forethought and hype as VCC.
VCC actually has two plug-in modes, one is a virtual channel, which is intended to be put on every instrument channel in your mix and the second is the mixbus, which you guessed it, is bound for the erm mixbus.
You can see that from opening a virtual channel that it has 5 different modeled consoles and a little bit of deduction would tell you that the Brit 4k is an SSL console, the US A is an API, the Brit N is a Neve and the greek symbol is actually a trident. The other RC-Tube is based on an RCA broadcast desk.
Much like the mass of tape saturation plug-ins on the market it is best to load VCC on each channel first and mix with it already on to make the most audible difference to your mix. In fact if you load a single instance of VCC and then A/B it with the plug-in bypassed only the most seasoned of mix engineers will hear any difference. This plug-ins magic (just as with the actual desks) is in the cumulative effects over a whole mix and using the drive function properly to let the console emulation really work for you. The slight distortion, saturation and other theoretically negative side effects of analogue circuitry make the difference in warm, punch and richness previously discussed.
In short VCC sounds fantastic and not at all dissimilar to the original desks they are emulating (from memory of what the API pres. SSL and Neve desks I’ve used sounded like). Does it remove the need for an analogue desk? I’m not completely convinced but it does get me MUCH, MUCH, MUCH closer than ever before to striking it off the wish list. Please also stay tuned for a video of me comparing VCC to an analogue summing mixer, which is in the pipeline.
The API had the punch and liked being driven hard. The SSL was a good all rounder and the Neve had that noticeably classic British warmth in the bottom end. The Trident and RCA were the more unfamiliar desks to me so judging them purely on sound I’d say that they are both best used when you want a more old school type of recording sound.
The only real noticeable flaws to VCC are in CPU usage and also the fact that setting up VCC takes a little longer than using Heat on a Pro Tools HD system (which is in-built as an optional upgrade into Pro Tools HD).
Speaking of CPU usage I have a pretty damn powerful Mac Pro (Dual Quad Core 2.8Ghz Intel, with 16 GB RAM) and although it ran smoothly and without flaw with as many tracks as I could throw at it in its normal mode. As soon as I tried to put it into its heaviest oversampling modes Pro Tools started to crash. The problem is these heaviest oversampling modes just sounded so much better!
Overall if you are a decent ITB (In the box) mix engineer and want to take your productions to the next level on a budget then VCC is for you. If you are a bit of a n00b VCC is still a worthy purchase, just don’t expect that it will be a magic pill to make your mixes sound great. Partly because no such thing exists but also due to the fact that gain structure and de-cluttering the low-mids to make a mix breathe, whilst retaining punch and warmth is even more critical once you start experimenting with consoles.
Steven Slate VCC is avilable here:
PRICE = $249