In Plug-in UI design virtual racks are popular at the moment. As is the possibility to mix and match different modules to provide different colours in your processing chain. With the announcement of the new 6050 channel strip plug-in at NAMM McDSP have continued to build on the success of the 6030 compressors and the 6020 EQs. It made me think about McDSPs current lineup and I realised that while I like most of the McDSP products, I don’t use that many of them regularly. Looking at these overlooked plug-ins it occurred to me that there were some real gems.
Apart from the 6030 and 6020 there are a few plug-ins in the McDSP line I think of as being the celebs, the ones which attract the attention. To me they are the AE400, like many I’m a huge fan, the F202, which illustrates that people notice when you do the basics well and Futzbox - I don’t work in post but this is still just so powerful, even for music.
Here’s my list of McDSP plug-ins which deserve more attention.
Learning compression can be a barrier to novices, There have been some real advances in metering which can help. The kind of gain reduction over time graphs offered by Fabfilter and iZotope can be very helpful, I’ve spoken before about how useful the solo button is in Pro Compressor but when someone is comfortable with the basics I recommend CompressorBank. It's old but it's still good and the ability to model the characteristics of well known hardware compressors really helps develop an appreciation of what is important in compression.
I’ve been surprised by how much I use this as a utility compressor. If I want to hear my compression I’ll very often use this, If I want transparent compression I tend towards the Avid Pro Compressor. Both are perfectly capable of character and transparent compression but that is how I tend to use them. The thing which first attracted me to CompressorBank is that it offers auto release. My background is in live sound and when using hardware comps like the Drawmer DL421 I would always use the auto function unless I had a specific reason not to. In my experience very few plug-in compressors offer auto release. Until recently almost none did but the CompressorBank was a notable exception.
CompressorBank offers comprehensive control of its transfer characteristics. Because of this it can emulate any compressor you care to name and while it does it very well, I’ve always missed the option of seeing a transfer curve. There is some unfamiliar terminology in CompressorBank and when describing terms like overshoot its so much easier to understand if you can see a transfer curve. I’m not a fan of Avid’s recent direction with transfer curves, plotting input against gain reduction (so 1:1 is a horizontal line) rather than input vs output (where 1:1 is a 45º line).
SPC2000 is a series/parallel compressor which offers up to 4 CompressorBank compressors which can be routed in any combination of series and parallel. In truth I have only ever used this with two compressors in series to offer high ratio/high threshold compression with low ratio/low threshold compression, like running a vocal through both an 1176 and an LA2a in series. The thing about the SPC2000 I like is that the compressors feature the transfer curve display missing in the standalone CompressorBank plug-in. It helps you understand CompressorBank and compression better.
I think most people agree that simplicity is a good thing and the Retro bundle is so refreshing, especially if you limit yourself to just using Retro bundle plug-ins unless you absolutely have to use something else. Try it and you’ll probably be surprised how far you can get on just these plug-ins and just how good they sound. I’ve recommended these to students wanting to get into third-party plug-ins but pleading poverty as, especially when they are on offer, they are ridiculously cheap. Try the limiter on bass, pushing it quite hard…
I first used this plug-in years ago and kind of ignored it but I’ve come back round to it and in truth this plug-in is the inspiration behind this article. It's just so much better that I ever realised. I’ve naturally leaned towards algorithmic reverbs in the past but once you understand the UI this is a very powerful plug-in. I’m not going to say too much on this one as I might well come back to this in another article.
This was the first McDSP plug-in I bought. At the time I was using a D Control most days and a main feature of the Channel G was to offer a channel strip plug-in which had an identical control layout as the EQ and Dynamics sections of the D Control. Unfortunately I never did buy my own D Control (I’m joking, but once Avid stop supporting them, and the ES only has 19 months to go, the blue D control hasn’t been supported for over a year, I’d expect them to become postively affordable). When I wasn’t using the D control any more this plug-in got forgotten about but dusting it off again while researching this article I have to say its very useful. A friend described it as looking like a TV graphic off Fox news but I’d never be so rude!
Do you have any favourite plug-ins which don't receive the attention you think they deserve?