I spent the morning playing with the demo of the [[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.uaudio.com/products/software/studer-a800/index.html?UAVID=St…"]UAD-2 Studer A800 plugin[/]="http://www.uaudio.com/products/software/studer-a800/index.html?UAVID=St…"]UAD-2 Studer A800 plugin[/]. For those who don't know, UAD-2 plugings require you to purchase a UAD-2 card to run them. They use the DSP power on the card and therefore don't tax your computer's CPU. I bought a UAD-2 duo card recently and liked it enough that I have a quad on the way.
Their latest plugin is an emulation of a Studer A800 tape deck. As with all their plugins, they offer an unrestricted 14 day demo and I am trying it out now that I have my grades in. (I should be working on a book.)
UAD's advice for using the A800 is to use it as the first plugin on all of your tracks. Essentially, this mimics the workflow of someone who tracks to tape and then transfers to a DAW. I tried that today on the beginnings of a session of Angel from Montgomery. The tracks were Acoustic guitar, Dobro (both Beyer 160 to FMR RNP) Scratch vocals (Mojave MA-200 to DVC), Kick (D4 to API 3124) Snare top (57 to 3124) Snare Bottom (NT55 to Octopre) Overheads (SM81 to 3124). I'll add mando, a real lead vocalist and a couple of harmony vocal tracks later.
So I put the A800 as the only plugin on each track. You can adjust tape type, tape speed, eq type, bias, and a few other settings. I started with a "Country" preset that uses a 15 ips speed. Just to keep things simple I mostly played with the input and output knobs. If you think of the plugin as a compressor (a very reasonable way of looking at it) these are essentially the threshold and makeup gain knobs. The first thing that sparked my attention was how good it made the overhead sound. Just a touch of compression - a nice smooth balanced sound. i was really considering just leaving the drums with there, but I ended up adding a touch of the kick and some of the snares. I was a bit more aggressive on the input/threshold setting of these drums, but I did not use them much. (Sent some of the snares to the reverb bus.) The vocals and guitar were nice. Nothing to make jump up and buy a $350 plugin just listening to the individual tracks. For some reason the dobro sounded exceptionally good today. Maybe John just played well or maybe the plugin added a certain something, but it's the best I've ever done.
At any rate, the key is that I feel like I have a very nice unified sound already. The bass fits in the mix like a glove. I may not add anything. I've recorded better sounding individual guitar tracks many times, and I'm sure I can make this one sound better if I work with EQ and compression on it. But it sits fine in the mix as it is. I'm sure I will be much more gentle with further tweaks after applying the Studer. (Another problem is that I'm playing the guitar. It doesn't sound embarrassing, but it's two strings too many for me. Guitar is my third or fourth instrument at this point.) I didn't really even work with the scratch vocals - done by me before my second cup of coffee.
I want to play more with this mix with just the Studer on every track. I feel like one way to use the plugin effectively is to optimize the sound with just that plug. One conceivable workflow is to track and edit, then bounce a "tape" copy of each track to mix with other plugins. (With the way I work, I probably won't be forced to do that, but it may be a good way to go.)
Anyway, people who worked with a real professional tape machine may have a very different reaction than I did. I only worked with crappy consumer decks back in the day, so my approach is that this is just another dynamics/tone processor. But it's a good start. We'll see what the next few weeks brings.