A lot of our students ask us, “Is Slate Digital Bundle (All Access Pass) really worth it?” and the answer to this question has never been any different.
Students also asks us, “Is Slate Bundle sufficient enough, or do I have to buy some other plugins as well?”
This is the reason why I have decided to write about Slate Digital today. Slate Bundle is very powerful, needless to say, it is a wholesome package and includes pretty much everything you’ll need and we are going to give you enough of reasons below. Let’s start.
I can’t get tired of praising how cool VMR (Virtual Mix Rack) is, with the recent addition of Custom Opto, VMR has got everything in its package.
The software emulation of a well renowned analogue hardware called LA-2A by Teletronix, FG-2A emulates the optical compression and gives a very creamy and subtle compressed output. Works wonderfully on vocals or on any instrument, which doesn’t has instantaneous transients.
Can’t stress more on how good the compression of Distressor from Empirical Labs is, given the fact that there is a software emulation of this compressor in the packages makes it even more compelling to buy. The nuke mode of FG-Stress is most commonly used for parallel compression, especially on the drums, which makes the drums pop-out really well in the mix.
Well, we all know the wonders of using an FET compressor, the fastest attack time and the color it adds to the sound is pretty amazing to start with. The emulation of 1176 FET compressor is also included in the package, and is known to work best on those elements which has instantaneous transients, as the attack time of this compressor is 4 microseconds. The fact that this is an American compressor, the attack and release settings are exactly the opposite of any conventional compressor. Using “Shift” and clicking on the input or the output gain of this compressor, will make the input and output gain link with each other.
The fact that there are more than one manufacturer of 1176 FET compressors and that every manufacturer made compressor sound different than the conventional one, each one is unique in its own way, and Slate Digital doesn’t forget about this too. Hence, the inclusion of multiple variants of 1176 compressors in the package.
If you have heard about the all-buttons-in mode on 1176 FET compressor, you’d pretty much know what monster does. Basically, in any 1176 FET compressor, there is a special All-Ratio button mode, in which you have to press all the buttons of the ratio, which will make the compressor work in the feedback mode, and hence cause subtle saturation with aggressive compression. Typically used for parallel compression. Not to mention, the feedback mode here is feeding back the output signal into the input, which is completely different from Feedback Vintage Compression mode.
Talk about Tube (Valve-Based) compressor and U73b takes the lead. This compressor was majorly used for radio-broadcasting and hence it is widely used to add aggressive color to the audio signal. Not to mention that a lot of engineers don’t even use the compression mode of this compressor, rather, they just add it and increase the input gain, decrease the output gain the obtain the color.
It’s not always about the color but at times, the engineer also expects the compressor to get the most transparent compression, this is where FG-401, a VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) compressor comes in the picture. It is not said to be completely transparent as the compressor adds very subtle harmonics but even those are negligible. This addition of harmonics is due to the output coupled transformers (an electronic component used for amplified the gain/voltage).
There are two variants of the gate plugin, and we all know what Gate does. It is a dynamic processor, which works in a way which is exactly the opposite of a Limiter. Limiter does not allow the signal to cross a defined ceiling level, the gate doesn’t allow any signal to pass through it when the signal level is below the set threshold. This version of the Gate (which is classic) can be used on recorded Instruments like Guitar, Violin, Ukulele and even on Vocals.
We all know, how painstaking process it is to clean up the bleeding of the microphone when mixing the recorded drums. Gate-drums have some really compelling features to offer, which will make it way too easier for us to get rid of the bleeding. One of the best gate plugins I have personally used for drums.
Talk about EQs and the first EQ that comes to my mind is API-550 series EQs. I personally think that this EQ has been used by majority of the engineers to mix and master their client’s tracks. Its best suited for adding some low-mids and upper-mids. Remember, all of the emulations should be used for additive EQing only. For subtractive EQing, we can all use Digital EQs.
S Stands for SSL (Solid State Logic). I mean, this emulation is used by the majority of the people in the industry and hence the importance of this EQ cannot be quantified in a single paragraph. SSL 4000g/e consoles have been used by giant studios, very well renowned. The FG-S is an emulation of 4000G console, which works really good on drums, especially on cymbals, if you’re wanting to add some brilliance.
I can chit-chat on this EQ for hours and hours, because this is the most powerful EQ I have ever come across. The emulation of analogue hardware EQ: Neve 1073, is what FG-N is. One of the special features of this EQ is its pre-amp, there is a separate drive circuit which allows us to add subtle saturation to the signal works like a charm on bass sounds. FG-N could be used on vocals, bass and even on string or plucked instruments. Not sure about which emulation to add on any element, you could rely on FG-N.
So, there are a few instances, where there is a need to add two different EQs altogether, because of the way they work on different frequencies. Like for instance, if I want to increase the low-mids of the vocals and also add some brilliance, for low-mids I will add FG-A and for brilliance, I will add FG-N. But there are two plugins which are working together, which may increase the CPU throttle. Hence. Custom-Series EQ, a time saver for every engineer. Don’t know which EQ to add on any element, add Custom-Series EQ and it will almost always work like a charm. This is the conglomeration of different hardware EQs combined into one single unit, done in a way that the best EQ is assigned for its relevant band.
Talk about saturation and we have Neve 1073 drive emulation as a separate module ripped apart from EQ. And I could see the reason behind this separation and it is pretty handy as well. If I won’t be using any of the EQ knobs from the module, the why should it be there to vegin with. It is always better to have a separate drive emulation of the same EQ plugins. Works really well on Bass and 808 sounds.
Based on Tube based saturation, FG-76 is all you need to add some even harmonics on any element. Best suited on vocals, drums or percussions.
FG-Bomber is a one stop solution to make your sound fatter, or increase its presence or make it tight.
We all know about three different mixing styles and techniques engineers use, which differs exponentially according to the geography. So, New York style of saturation is typically used on Hip-Hop style tracks. The saturation amount is a bit extreme than other styles.
If you want depth excitement and some bottom end, this is the saturation plugin you should be going for. Not as aggressive as New York, but still works like a charm on almost all of the elements. Best suited on Synthesized elements.
Again, a different Tube based saturation plugin, could be used on vocals or orchestral elements. We all know that London style of mixing is best suited for Orchestral elements. If you’re background scoring for a feature-film or short-film, then this should be the first thing on every element of your channel strip.
A go to plugin to add brilliance or thickness. Works best on vocals, cymbals, guitars and even on drums.
A utility plugin for gain structuring or reversing the phase. The VU meter also, helps us to tell the voltage levels of the audio signal.
Either to add a bottom-end or top-end, custom series lift is used to lift both the ends of the frequency spectrum effectively. A go to plugin to balanced up the frequencies. Both the bands offer 2 algorithms each to control the timbre.
If you are not content with what VMR has to offer, then there is more. Slate Digital also offers VBC called Virtual Buss Compressors.
There are three compressors in the VBC,
It is an SSL 4000g master bus compressor, used specifically for glue compression. It is a VCA compressor and works best on busses or group tracks.
FG-Red is a compressor used by Chris Lord Alge for glue/buss compression and used by many engineers worldwide.
Although all of these compressors are meant to be added on the group channels or group tracks, the utility of the same is completely independent of one another. You can choose to add FG-Grey, even on chords, melodies or a piano track.
A lot of engineers and music producers already know the painstaking process of dealing with vocal processing, especially taming the sibilance sounds, like the “esses”. Slate Digital has partnered with Eiosis to give us an excellent De-esser to tame the harsh frequencies with absolute precision.
Like I said, analogue EQs are mostly used to add harmonics or additive EQing, for surgical EQing, digital EQs are to be used. Air EQ is one of the digital EQs offered in the All access pass which has it’s own unique set of features and character.
Probably one of the sweetest reverb plugins ever made. Slate Digital and LuiquidSonics offer accurate emulations of some of the best reverb units that can be heard on some of your favourite records. Some of the popular emulations are modeled after the Lexicon LX480, EMT 250, TC Electronic TC6000 and Briscati Model 7. Slate Digital says that this isn’t just a reverb, It’s every classic reverb packed into one unit, and I don’t doubt them one bit.
You also get a sweet plate reverb that is again designed by Liquidsonics called Lusturous Plates.
In terms of adding a delay to the audio, Repeater is one of the best delay plugins I have ever come across personally. It’s because this plugin has two “Spread” or stereo widening modes which somehow make the delay spread wider in the stereo spectrum. Also, it has various emulations, each of which imparts a different colour. This makes it a lot easier for us to get better sounds from the delay module without using any other plugin.
FG-X is a mastering processor, which has a compressor and a limiter module. It is used only in the mastering stage to make everything glue together properly, and to get the loudest and most transparent masters as possible. If used precariously, this compressor could make your track sound even worse, so the utility of the compressor is very important here. If you know how to use this compressor efficiently, you’ll make the most out of it.
This is a tape emulation to get the best tape colour and Saturation. We know how the tape-based saturation works and the behavior of a tape machine with respect to the type of tape, input signal and voltage flux. This emulation can control all these parameters to add warmth to the track and make it sound loud and punchy. You can also add some wows and flutters using this plugin if you know how to do it.
Apart from all of the plugins mentioned above, the THU is also a part of package. For the first time, you don’t have to worry about adding guitar effects separately, THU has everything to offer. From distortion stomps to the very wah-wah effect, From different amps and cabinets to different microphones and its types, THU will offer everything you’ll need for guitar processing.
If you aren’t content yet, there is another bundle which Slate Digital All Access Pass has to offer, and that is Kilohertz Bundle. The Kilohertz bundle is very simplistic and yet the most powerful plugins you’ll come across. Plugins like Multipass and Snap Heap can be used to as a multi-band processor and create complicated routing effects chain inside the plugin itself. If you ever wondered how to make Audio Effects Rack like the one in Ableton Live, in any other DAW, Snapheap and Multipass are here to rescue you.
I can’t get tired of talking about Kilohertz Bundle, and if I want to elaborate every plugin in it, it would take another 20 pages for me to explain those things. But the bundle is not that complicated and it’s very simple to use. By looking at the parameters and plugin’s nomenclature, you can easily identify the use case and the utility.
Infinity EQ is one of the sleekest designed EQ plugins I have ever come across. I’m really impressed by the way it works, especially the mid-side mode of EQing. It gives you much greater control over the frequencies, especially when using the EQ in surgical mode. I hope to see more features in future updates because the best part about Slate Digital company is, they listen to their users.
If audio manipulation and processing plugins weren’t enough, Slate Digital All Access Pass have ANA 2 from Sonic Academy included the package. The Version 2 includes 3D wavetables as well, so you can now make some growls, screeches and hard bass sounds with it.
With the advanced features like CMD (Chord Memory Device) and fully customizable ARP, Sonic Academy’s ANA2 is one stop solution for all your sound design needs. The presets and built-in sound libraries are also very compelling when compared with other popular synths.
I personally think, this is all you’ll ever need to produce music, obviously, you’ll need a DAW. Slate Digital also offers really great sample banks. Like I said in the beginning, “Slate Digital Bundle is wholesome”. And their pricing is very convincing. It is a steal deal to take away all of these plugins for as cheap as $15 per month.
They have different pricing options for yearly subscriptions as well. Definitely, you should go for Slate Digital Bundle if you are serious about music production. Thank you for reading this one. I’ll see you in another blog post.