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Review: Slate Digital Virtual Console Collection

It seems like every few weeks there some new piece of audio software that claims to make your music bigger, louder, deeper, and more badass in every way. Every new plugin is announced as a total game changer.

Like that means something.

The Virtual Console Collection

Steven Slate’s Virtual Console Collection is one of those so called game changing plugins. There was SO MUCH HYPE about this product that I was completely put off by the idea of it and tried to ignore it for a while.

VCC is a plugin that claims to make your mixes sound more analog and to make your DAW react exactly like an analog console. Not only that, but you get a choice of several consoles that you can use in any combination.
Say you wanted your guitars mixed on an SSL, drums on a vintage Neve, bass on a vintage RCA tube console, everything else through a Trident console and finally all those tracks summed through  an API. Impossible in real life, but accomplished in a minute with VCC.

VCC Channel Plugin

Details

The Virtual Console Collection is a pair of plugins – the channel and the mix bus. Generally you stick the Mix bus on the master fader and a channel on every track of your project. You can also use the mix bus plugin on submixes if you prefer. The Channel plugin models the inputs of the console, the Mix Bus plugin is the summing and main out of the console. The Mix bus includes some crosstalk in the algorithm.

You get a choice of 5 consoles:
Brit 4K is a 4000 series SSL
US A is a classic API
Brit N is a Neve 8048
Ψ, a Trident 80B shown as just a symbol on the plugin
RC-Tube, a hybrid of two vintage RCA Tube broadcast consoles.

Each console algorithm was made to match the frequency response and overload reaction of the original console. If you push them hard, the console reacts differently, this completely unlike what you’re used to mixing digitally. Each console has it’s own sound. It’s not a huge dramatic change but it makes a noticeable difference.

The interface is really simple and easy to understand right away.
For the channel there is a VU meter at the top, console selection knob, an input trim to tweak + or – 6dB and a drive control which gives you control over the non-linear saturation with + or – 6dB.

The Mix bus plugin has stereo VU meters, console selection and drive control.

VCC Mix Bus Plugin

Both plugins have a group option which opens up an advanced settings panel for grouped settings.
You can have up to 8 groups or have channels independent. Grouped plugins will have all the controls linked which makes it really easy to try out different algorithms.

My first experience with VCC was when Slate released the new RC-Tube console option as a separate plugin. It was about $60 including an iLok 2, which is required to run either version of VCC. I figured if it was anything close to the hype, it would be well worth it.

I really enjoyed using RC-Tube. It really seemed to live up to the hype and it really seemed to make my mixes better. This model has softened highs and makes the bottom end is a little tubbier. It wasn’t long before I was using it on every track in every session.

When the upgrade price to the full version dropped to $130 earlier this year I bought it. The other models are just as useful. The option to mix things up and have multiple groups makes it much more flexible, although a little more time consuming to set up.

It takes a while to get used to hearing the differences with VCC, you might think it’s doing nothing at all till you bypass it and suddenly the whole mix falls apart. This is the sort of effect that works best setting up near the start of the mix. You can add it at the end but it will alter your balances and EQ.

Examples

I made a demo track in a hard rock style. Steven Slate Drums 4, 3 direct guitars played through  Amplitube 3, a bass guitar direct through an MXR M80 Bass DI+. The drums are split out multichannel and an instance of VCC Channel is on each track. There’s no additional processing, no eq, compression or reverb that wasn’t part of the Amplitube preset. It is UNMIXED.
All the VCC channels are on the same group. The input is at -2 and drive is at the default.

VCC bypassed
[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/VCC/Bypass.mp3|titles=Full Mix, VCC Bypassed]

Turning All the VCC channels on, now set to Brit 4k, SSL console
[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/VCC/Brit4K.mp3|titles=Brit 4K Console]

US A, API console
[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/VCC/Us_A.mp3|titles=US A Console]

Brit N, Neve console
[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/VCC/Brit_N.mp3|titles=Brit N Console]

Ψ, Trident console
[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/VCC/Tri.mp3|titles=Ψ Console]

RC-Tube, RCA broadcast console
[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/VCC/Rc_Tube.mp3|titles=RC-Tube Console]

Download all examples (MP3) including stems for drums, guitars, and bass.

As you can hear the effect is not dramatic, its also unique. Its not like adding compression or EQ or distortion.

It’s not an effect you need for a great mix, but it definitely helps and once you’ve tried it I’m sure you’ll find it essential. For me it lives up to the hype, I find it makes a big difference and I don’t want to mix without it now.

For a look at what’s actually going on ‘under the hood’ of these plugins, Eric Beam has done some pretty extensive testing of VCC. Eric and I discussed VCC in great detail on episode 175 of the Home Recording Show Podcast.

17 Comments

  1. Mike Sorensen
    Mike Sorensen July 15, 2012

    Digital technology is truly amazing, isn’t it? Imagine the ability to create different sonic impressions digitally and use them to enhance your mix. They are subtle but different and believable. Analog should be flattered that digital wants to imitate it.

    Cheers,
    Mike

  2. Rupert Brown
    Rupert Brown July 17, 2012

    Thanks for the Samples Jon, to my ears the Brit N easily takes the cake. Really adds a nice depth, I’m impressed.

  3. Jamie
    Jamie July 19, 2012

    Louder Louder LOUDER.
    MUST. BE. LOUDER.
    😉

  4. Dave King
    Dave King August 5, 2012

    Where’s the link for the high-quality samples (not MP3) of the VCC? Thanks!

    • Jon
      Jon August 6, 2012

      Hi Dave, I will email you the files. It’s about 240MB compressed.

      • Dave King
        Dave King August 6, 2012

        Thanks! I have the VCC and the results I have experienced are very subtle so I wanted to compare.

        Thanks again.

  5. Andy Starr McCraw
    Andy Starr McCraw October 1, 2012

    It’s slightly underwhelming. I liked the Neve and RC-Tube instances, but I quickly A/B’d the others and wasn’t really impressed. What would really put this over the top is for them to just do a straight up full console emulation (eq, compression, etc).

    Then you’d see people freaking out.

    • Admin
      Admin October 1, 2012

      Hi Andy
      It’s a tough thing to A/B because it subtly changes several aspects of the mix. The Neve and RC-Tube are the easiest to hear the effects on.

      Its subtle but improves the mix in a way that’s not easy to achieve otherwise.

  6. Arvin
    Arvin October 4, 2012

    Thanks for taking the time to post those examples 🙂

    From my speakers and with regards to excitement and power and groove , NOTHING BEATS YOUR MIX WITHOUT VCC.

    The VCC just killed all the impact and excitement that your kick and other drums had.

    It also muddied up everything.

    VCC made everything sound darker.

    Man are you seriously hearing the VCC doing anything exciting about the mix ? :O

    Are you kidding man ??

    The only settling that did a fairly ok job with regards to excitement and punch relative to the others is the BriT N Neve console.

    All the plugs made the mix smaller in the mid-hi end except the TRIDENT … but the trident didn’t do very good things to the punch.

    The VCC is a joke

  7. Sasha
    Sasha April 15, 2014

    Game-changing? To my ears, the examples sound nearly identical. Listened on studio monitors, and various high-end headphones. I wouldn’t say any of them are clearly superior to the original non-VCC mix, either. This plug-in increases CPU load, takes more time to set up (an instance on every channel!), and creates little (if any) benefit.

    I’ve listened to countless such A/B comparisons, and have been testing the plug-ins on my own mixes (demo download) as well. I must say I just don’t get the hype. Also listened, and where possible, demoed, the competition: Waves NLS, Sonimus Satson, StripBus, and I feel the same about those products.

    Where audible, the results sound mainly like extremely subtle EQ and/or compressor settings changes. As for the idolized “mojo”, “warmth”, “analogueness”, “glue”, “sounds like a record”, etc, I just do not hear these plug-ins providing such a magical result. The mix either has to be great to begin with, in which case adding such emulations is superfluous; or the mix is not particularly great, in which case this provides no silver bullet.

    I appreciate and respect all the work and effort that goes into these plug-ins. With all due respect, I just do not hear this “game-changing” magic….

  8. RSS
    RSS April 27, 2014

    I agree with Arvin and Sasha. For me, VCC kills the life (groove and the movement) of the music. I also dislike what it does to the highs, it sounds artificial to me.

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