Slate VCC and VMR

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by DonnyThompson, Dec 26, 2014.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I finally broke down and bought an iLok this past weekend - actually my girlfriend bought it for me for Christmas LOL, along with Slate's VCC processor, which I've had my eye (ear) on for awhile now.

    I know that many here are dubious as to claims made by manufacturers, and very often, rightfully so. Like any other audio guy, I have also encountered various plug-ins that weren't effective, or didn't sound good, or, simply weren't worth the price.

    I decided to give the VCC - which is Slate's Virtual Console Collection - a solid try, to see if it would be of any value to me. I have decided that it is. I like the character that I can add to transparently recorded tracks, using various channel strip models from Neve, SSL, Trident, API and RCA Tube Consoles. ( It also comes with a console 2-Bus processor for each of the consoles as well) and I'm happy with the sonics, the efficiency (it's not at all taxing on my CPU - which is an HP, AMD 3.2g Quad Core, 8 gig RAM, 2 TB HDD) and, perhaps most importantly after the sonics of course, is the seamless integration with Sam Pro X 64.

    I've also downloaded a trial version of the VMR collection - which is the Virtual Mix Rack - which gives the EQ and Dynamics sections modeled after desks like the Neve 8048, the SSL 4000, a FET compressor similar to an 1176 and a tube based C/L, similar to an LA2. There is also an added processor that you can add to the track - Revival - which is an harmonic enhancer for upper air/silk, and a thickness control, which does the same with the lower frequencies. The FG 401 strip - which emulates a VCA-based SSL channel compressor, also has a "transformer on/off switch", as well as 2 selectable "circuit paths"; one is punchy and hot, while the other is more transparent and "smoother".

    I have found that, along with native plugs from Sam (both bus and 2-bus processors) these Slate processors make that final "10%" of the mix easier to navigate, and with nicer results than not using it.
    It's the subtle added air, silk, sheen and warmth that so often eludes me in the last stages of a mix - that final 10% that we've discussed here before where a mix can be made - or, destroyed, LOL - and for me, that final 10% stage can be the toughest to get right. It's those final nuances and esoteric alterations that can make the difference between just an "okay" mix and that of a nice, smooth, warm, punchy, great sounding final result. It is my opinion that these Slate plugs serve me very well in that final "make it or break it" stage.

    I'm still learning these processors, working with various settings and combinations, but, at least as of this writing, I am very satisfied with the results I am getting.

    I would encourage those of you who have iLoks to give these plugs a try. You may find that they don't meet your expectations, or that you can accomplish what you want using other processors at your disposal... but speaking for myself, for me, these new Slate processors are the best I've used so far in terms of 3rd party stuff, and, at affordable prices as well.

    I'm sure I'm likely to get both agreement and disagreement on this, and this is the way I think that it should be.
    When we talk about it, debate it, and make the info public so that other people can read these comments from people without agendas - non-biased, non-advertising based descriptions and discussions, I think it serves the audio community in an overall positive way.

    IMHO of course. ;)

  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Update, VMR...

    I really like this rack, but it is missing some things I think would make it far more attractive. After working with this for a few days, here's what I've found so far:

    1. No input gain. Also, no output gain either, other than MU Gain on the VCA compressor... so if you are A/B'ing the rack - say, ON vs. Bypass, there is a noticeable gain boost when engaged, and accordingly, a drop when it is bypassed. I'd like to see both an input trim and output controls (faders) where I could match gain between on and bypass - and still allow me to hear the tonal differences of ON vs. OFF (bypass) Thumbs down. (n)

    2. No input metering or OL indicators. I think it would be a smart addition in future versions of this plug to include some type of input metering. We don't always hear clipping, it's not always audible, so it would be nice to have a visual indicator for this. I know that the rough and dirty workaround is to check your DAW channel's output level, which should match the input level of the strip (if that is the first insert in your chain) but it would be nice to be able to see the input levels (and adjust if needed) on the strip itself. Thumbs down. (n)

    3. No Gating or Dynamics on the SSL Strip, which, as anyone who ever worked on the real E desks knows, was a big part of that channel strip. This isn't a big deal breaker - for me at least - because I rarely use gates anymore... but I can see where it might be an issue with some people who were used to using that function on the real thing. And, if your aim is to replicate the real thing in a virtual GUI, then I think you should replicate it as accurately as possible.
    Thumbs neutral. :unsure:

    4. Good Compressor emulations. The lack of compressor on the SSL strip might be more of an issue for me, although the rack also comes with an 1176 FET Clone and a kind of "Frankenstein" VCA-style "Red" FG401 compressor, which is, as far as I can tell, kind of a combination of several popular vintage VCA compressors from the past. Both are effective and, to my ears, are very good emulations of their real counterparts - and I say that as having experience with the 1176, along with several of the different VCA-style compressors that make up the FG401. Thumbs up. (y)

    5. The 1176 - known as the FG 116 on this rack, doesn't have the classic "all buttons in" mode. Not a huge deal to me, as I can count on one hand the number of times I used a real 1176 in that way over the years, but I could see where some might be thwarted by the lack of this popular setting.
    Thumbs neutral. :unsure:

    6. No obvious/audible indications of phasing or latency issues; There may be some there - I'd have to do a null to see - but from what I can hear so far, the plugs are well-coded and aren't adding any negative artifacts. No obvious smearing, phasing or other anomalies that are so often present in cheap plug-processors. Thumbs up. (y)

    7. Price. $199, price does not include iLok. Certainly worth it for what you get - but taking into account that this plug collection might not serve your style. IMO this price is fair for what you get. Thumbs up. (y)

    All in all, not a bad rack plug-in. Pretty decent, in fact.
    But IMO, certainly not the "mixing rack of your dreams" as Slate Digital claims it to be. You'd have to decide for yourself if it helps - or hinders - your production and mixing style, as well as whether or not you think it's worth it at the $249 price tag. Remember - it's just another tool.
    Personally, I'm dubious when I hear a pitch like "the channel strip of your dreams!" because so many of us have different likes and dislikes, and different mixing methods, that it's virtually impossible for any manufacturer to serve everyone with one processor plug, or even a collection of plugs.
    Thus far, for me, there has been no true "rack of my dreams" that I have come across in VST form, from any plug manufacturer. They are all just tools, with different sonic character(s) that either fit what you are doing at a given time - or, don't.

    For as much as I like what they do, I don't see myself using them all the time. They would have to fit the project I was working on. Again, just more colors to choose from in our sonic palettes.

    It's up to the individual to decide what works best for them, and in the context of what they are working on. ;)

    Final Grade: (y) (with some reservations).


  3. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Glad to hear you like them. Slate stuff is all over my mixes.

    Btw, the next update of VCC (which will be free for existing users) will be as a VMR module and it will have input and output gain.
    From a newsletter regarding VCC 2.0:
    "Next, you'll notice that the GUI's have changed quite a lot! Everything is now available on the front panel. There are no submenus, and the grouping system is much easier and straightforward. You have an input and output trim, and a link switch. By pushing the input and attenuating the output, you'll achieve new types of saturation sounds that will have a different effect than the DRIVE parameter. Now, about that DRIVE parameter, it actually has an increased range so you can get even more color if you so desire!"

    It will be out soon. Hopefully.
    I'm still waiting for the update of their limiter FG-X, which is still 32 bit. Can't use it since the update to Logic Pro X.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    This sounds like a valuable update. Although, I don't own the VMR, so, from what I gather by your post, I'm not sure I'll be able to take advantage of these changes ?

    I've done the trial on the VMR though, and I liked what I heard. OTOH, after also working with some Waves trial plugs, I don't think that the Slate versions of the SSL and Neve EQ are quite as good as the Waves SSL and Scheps 1073 collections.... although this is a personal observation, and like anything, is open to debate.

    I do appreciate your head's up on this though, Ouzo. ;)
  5. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    The VMR shell plugin with the Revival module is free. Only additional modules, like the FG116, cost extra.
    So you will benefit by the VCC update, too. :)

    When you already own an iLok, downloading VMR with Revival is a no-brainer. Even if you won't buy any additional modules.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Ahh! I get it... the VMR shell with Revival is free... and the various modules - the EQ's and Compressors - are the modules that you buy, either one at a time or as a collection... sorry, Ouzo... not quite enough coffee in me this morning yet. ;)

    Has there been a target date for the VCC update release yet?
  7. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Soon. Whatever that means... Could be next week or in 3 months. They really take their time. At least they send an update status every few weeks.
    One drawback with the new version is, that it's not backwards compatible. They've rewritten the complete code. On the other hand, they claim that the CPU consumption is considerably lower.

    So we'll have to wait.
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Backwards Compatible - does this mean that if I open a project where the old VCC was used, that these will no longer work after I do the update? If so, I guess that kinda sucks, but I'm not sure that's a huge deal breaker for me, as all the projects I've already used these on have been completed and put into the can.

    On a related note... I've heard some VCC users complain that the difference(s) between using the VCC and not using it isn't "dramatic" enough.

    I'm wondering if part of this most recent planned update is perhaps in response to these complaints.. ? I'd like to hear your thoughts on this, Ouzo...

    My own response to this complaint would be that the VCC wasn't designed and developed to be that way.

    What we're talking about here are subtle differences - the amount of subtlety depending on how hard you drive the modules, and, how well-tuned the user's ears are, of course. But personally, I've heard substantial differences - not only in using or not using the various console mods - but also between the different console choices as well.

    VCC was designed to emulate the character and color of these various consoles, and often, the most subtle changes can make huge differences in the sonic picture on the whole, especially when used on certain instruments/tracks. I've grown fond of the API setting for guitars, the SSL setting for vocals, and the Neve for drums and bass. I like both the Neve and the SSL as a master bus insert ( not at the same time LOL.. I'm talking between the two).

    I have yet to use the Trident or RCA Tube settings, but that's only because I haven't found a need for those characteristics...yet.

    Everything I use - or, don't use for that matter - is always song-dependent. I never "automatically" reach for any processor that I have, just because I have them.

    I take each song/project on its own, and decide what I will use (or what I won't) depending on what I'm working on at the time, and what I feel adds something positive to the mix. I've done plenty of mixes where I've used no plugs at all, other than the stock EQ that comes with Samplitude, or maybe some very light compression. Other times, I use processors all over the tracks. It's totally song dependent, in the context of the project in front of me at the time.

    More often than not, it's the subtle differences - those minimal yet important, esoteric nuances - that can end up making the biggest differences. It's all about how they are used, where they are used, and what they are used on. ;)

    When I hear someone complain that they can't hear any difference(s), (either good or bad) I tend to believe that they might have cheap monitoring, or that they haven't yet developed a finely-tuned sense of hearing, or, because they have "purchased a screwdriver to hammer in a nail" - in that they are using a particular tool to do something it wasn't designed to do.

    And finally, that perhaps, they aren't as familiar as they should be with the original pieces that the plug is designed to emulate, and are expecting things out of the emulated version that even the original piece couldn't do.

    I think that, with the advent in DAW technology, that there are people out there who expect a function that I like to refer to as the "MMNS" button: MMNS stands for Make Me Not Suck. LOL.

    There are those who are on a constant quest to find that one "magic" plug that can instantly turn their bad mixes into stellar sounding productions, and in their search for this, they are ignoring the obvious...

    That great talent, great knowledge, and great gear make great recordings.... not plugs. ;)

    IMHO of course.

  9. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    I don't think the old version will cease to work. But the new one won't replace the old one automatically and it will sound a bit different. I guess.

    It is quite subtle. But that's the point really. Though you will definitely hear the difference when you bypass all instances in your project.
    But I'm sure they're adding the extra-drive for the people who want a more drastic effect.
    DonnyThompson likes this.
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    That's kinda what I was thinking as well, that perhaps they've added more "obvious" tonal changes for those who can't quite grasp the concept that - very often - changes such as these don't need to be huge in order for them to be effective and beneficial.

    OTOH, I don't really see it as a downside for those of us who do get this concept. It just gives us further tonal "character" options to choose from.

    Thanks for sharing, Ouzo. I think that this has been a positive/beneficial back-and-forth between us; valuable factors for consideration for those who may be thinking about this plug collection.


  11. Smashh

    Smashh Active Member

    I downloaded the VMR and tried it on some instrument tracks . After a couple of days I figure I really like the EQ ( the grey one ) . I can boost the highs and it still sounds nice . The comps are good .
    but I can get near enough to them with existing plug ins that I bought in the past .
    I contacted Slate and asked why I cant buy just one module at a time ( the EQ) , but it is not happening.

    Tell me, can you hear the free one working on the high end shimmer ? . I want to hear it working but its like just not enough and Im still wanting it to give more shimmer . Whats your take on it ?
    Maybe bacause its free , they dont really want it to be doing too much .
  12. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Always a pleasure! :)
  13. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Hm... I can hear it very well. So much, that I have to be careful not to overdo it. It can get quite harsh when pushed too hard.
  14. Smashh

    Smashh Active Member

    great , maybe it didnt work for me on headphones(n)
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Ash, can I ask what you were expecting? And... I really don't mean this to sound sarcastic or abrasive, this isn't my intention..I mean this with all due respect. I am sincerely curious to know exactly what you were wanting or expecting to hear.
  16. Smashh

    Smashh Active Member

    Well for that price .I just went in to try it again and Im pleased to say that I hear it working . I think I mustve previously had it inserted on a track with the whole mix going and maybe it was masked by other things.
    Geez I thought for a secound uh uh , my hearing must be shot :eek:.
    As for expectations , I really didnt have any . From what I heard now , I think this could be good on a group comp aux track , or aux track with reverb maybe ? ( or anywhere it works ...hehe )

    I dont mind you being abrasive , or sarcastic , although I know your not like that Donny :p
  17. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The VCC comes with 2 plugs, the channel and the 2-bus. Inserting the channel plug on a vocal track, or kick, or snare, etc., and then selecting which console emulation you like for each (or all) of them, is one way to use them - another would be to insert them into an Aux, assign whatever tracks you want to be effected to that aux, and through a sort of "parallel" use, determine the amount of coloration by the level of the aux return. Then, you can play around with inserting the 2-bus plug on your master bus, or, on a submix bus. This will allow you to choose a sonic coloration for whatever is being fed to either the submix or master bus on the whole..

    You should also check out the grouping features on the plugs, which can be very convenient for controlling several instances at once.

    BTW, I'm not saying you should use these all the time... they are a "sonic character tool". Use them only when you feel that doing so will benefit the mix. There are times they will work, and other times, perhaps not. There's no plug that I own that I use all the time, no plug that I automatically reach for every time. These are tools, and like any tool, there are times they are beneficial, and times that they are not. I let the song decide what it needs. :)

    I do believe that there is the potential for overusing these, especially since the coloration can be so subtle, it's easy to muddy things up pretty quickly if you're not paying attention to what you are using them on, and to what degree.

    Like any other sonic sculpting tool, it depends entirely on what you are working on at the time, and the sound that you are after. ;)
    kmetal likes this.
  18. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    These are my next purchase on advice from a friend.

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