Ever since audio plugins have been available on a large scale, a lot of plugin designers have taken to creating software algorithms that emulate classic, and usually popular hardware units. I own and certainly enjoy using many of them, daily. Not all of these “emu” plugins are created equally and almost none of them sound EXACTLY like the hardware they’re supposed to sound and behave like…I think. Of all the “emulating” plugins I have, my current favorites are Universal Audio’s newer/updated series (LA-2, 1176, Pultec, Fairchild, and Studer A800).
However, I will not lie- I have only used a real hardware LA-2A once, used a Studer tape machine for a few weeks in recording school and have never touched a hardware 1176 (sad)! I now use the plugin versions of these on almost every mix I do, because they sound great and have been recommended (and raved about) by those I trust, but…. it makes me wonder what I am “missing” when I hear these emulations of rare and very expensive gear (that I have never really used;)). I’m sure some one who has used LA-2A’s (or whatever piece of hardware) for 15+ years, would have a much better sense of familiarity (or disdain) when hearing the plugin versions. All I know is many of them sound great and are super fast to setup. Now to my point…
This all has made me start to hope that (and wonder if) plugin developers will also start to emulate gear that I am more familiar with- not necessarily “classic” gear, but gear that us “other” and/or younger “kids” actually used, especially before plugins existed… Here’s some examples of modelling/emulation that I’d LOVE to hear/try and would recognize for sure (some would be more useful than others)…
-TASCAM 4 & 8 Track Emulations (ex.428mkII)
(incl. preamp, EQ, tape, summing…I used to have a 4 track and man that would be nice to audition…)
-FOSTEX version(s) of above ideas (also had and used one of these- even a digital 8 track version!)
-Alesis DAT & ADAT a-d and d-a, etc (who wouldn’t wanna hear what THAT could do for your tracks?…Oh, the cold, harsh sounds it could make!)
-ALESIS 3630 compressor (Such a recognizable and sometimes usable sound- Daft Punk used ’em)
-Alesis QUADRAVERB (Would fit with that ADAT emu perfectly…ha ha)
-RADIO SHACK “Reverb” (These little black boxes had SERIOUS mojo)
-Presonus BLUEMAX Compressor (100% underrated…just try one)
-Mackie, Allen & Heath, Soundcraft, Behringer Channel strip/Summing (more “familiar” sounds)
-BEHRINGER Compressors (Alomst everyone had and actually USED them for a while there…)
-Various cheap-y rack effects units from the 80s/90s by Yamaha, Zoom..
-ADA MP-1 guitar preamp (the first major, digital-ish guitar preamp- can you say plug and PRRRAY?!)
-sooo many more…
There are already some existing examples like the ones I previously mentioned (ex. UA’s Boss CE-1 Chorus) and they certainly come close enough to the real thing, in order to be useful. Now, with plugins we can have multiple instances, audition them quickly; and all without the setup, price and sometimes bad reliability of (certain) hardware. ADATS were notorious for breaking down, anything “Behringer-made” only works for a few years (if lucky) and most of mixers/tape machines I mentioned had massive noise and/or connectivity limitations; but that could be turned off or eschewed completely in a plug-in version. I like the way that Waves, UA, Softube and Slate (amongst others) have buttons/sliders to turn down the noise and other, less musical characteristics.
I also think that, as time passes on into a 100% digital audio processing situation, we may lose some of our most beloved sounds (especially of the 70s-2000s) if plugin manufacturers just keep re-doing the same “classic” and popular models they have done over and over….at least give us some more variations and functionality! I am eagerly awaiting the Mackie, Tascam 428 and Bluemax emulations soon from UA or Waves. Time and humanity should not forget what an analog Behringer compressor or (early) digital Alesis Quadraverb could sound like….I’m serious- maybe someone could come out with the “Alesis Collection” or the “Behringer Lineage”- hey Waves, UA, Softube….! -Jon
What do you all think?