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.
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.
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.
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.
[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
RC-Tube, RCA broadcast console
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.