It seems like every few weeks there is some new piece of audio software that claims to make your music bigger, louder, deeper, and more bad-ass in every way. Every new plug-in is announced as a total game changer.
Like that means something…
Steven Slate’s Virtual Console Collection (VCC) is one of those so-called game changing plug-ins. 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 plug-in 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 plug-in (click to enlarge)
VCC is a pair of plug-ins – 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 plug-in on submixes if you prefer. The channel plug-in models the inputs of the console, the mix bus plug-in is the summing and main out of the console.
The miix bus includes some crosstalk in the algorithm.
You get a choice of five consoles:
—Brit 4K is a 4000 Series SSL
—US A is a classic API
—Brit N is a Neve 8048
—Ψ is a Trident 80B, shown as just a symbol on the plug-in
—RC-Tube is 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 – 6 dB, and a drive control which gives you control over the non-linear saturation with + or – 6 dB.
The mix bus plug-in has stereo VU meters, console selection and drive control.
VCC mix bus (click to enlarge)
VCC Mix Bus Plug-in
Both plug-ins have a group option which opens up an advanced settings panel for grouped settings.
You can have up to eight 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 until 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, three direct guitars played through Amplitube 3, and 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 of the VCC channels are on the same group. The input is at -2, and drive is at the default. Click on each to listen.
Turning all VCC channels on, now set to Brit 4K (SSL console)
US A (API console)
Brit N (Neve console)
Ψ (Trident console)
RC-Tube (RCA broadcast console)
As you can hear, the effect is not dramatic, but its also unique—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, but no written explanation of the results yet. He and I also discussed VCC in great detail on episode 175 of the Home Recording Show Podcast.
Slate Virtual Console Collection (VCC)
Jon Tidey is a Producer/Engineer who runs his own studio, EPIC Sounds, and enjoys writing about audio on his blog AudioGeekZine.com. To comment or ask questions about this article go here.