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Slate Digital VMR: What Are the Analog Emulations in Virtual Mix Rack?

For decades plugin manufacturers have been trying to capture the essence of analog signal processing in the digital domain — and they’ve gotten pretty damn good at it.

In particular, Slate Digital has become one of the most popular analog hardware emulators among professional audio engineers. They’ve put together a collection of plugins modeled after some of the most iconic signal processors from the last 50 years. But without knowing the unique characteristics of each plugin, it can be difficult to dial in the sound you’re looking for, or even know which tool is right for the job.

In this article, we’ll break down each plugin in the Virtual Mix Rack and look at what gives them their charm.

Virtual Console Collection

The Virtual Console Collection is designed to emulate the personality of analog mixing consoles. The Virtual Channel is intended for individual channels, while the Virtual Mixbus models the unique effects of analog summing. Although both plugins offer the same console emulations, they each have their own unique tone.

  • Brit 4k E: Modeled after the SSL 4000E console. Known for its tight but punchy low-end, warm low-mids, and a present midrange. Increase the drive for amazing saturation.
  • Brit 4k G: Modeled after the SSL 4000G console. Known for its clean, punchy, wide, and slightly aggressive quality. Great transient response when driven.
  • Brit N: Modeled after the Neve 8048 console. Known for its rich, fat, and warm sound.
  • RC-Tube: Modeled after a vintage RCA Broadcast Tube Console from the 50’s. The all-tube design offers super thick mid-range, smooth high-end, and a fat, warm bottom end.
  • Ψ: Modeled after the legendary Trident 80B console. Known for its wide soundstage, smooth highs, and fat low-end. Drive it hard for increased low-end.
  • US A: Modeled after the API 1604 console. Known for its thick and fat tone with incredible vibe and mid-range punch.

Virtual Tube Collection

Similar to the Virtual Console Collection, Slate also offers three plugins with their Virtual Tube Collection, designed to recreate the sound of classic vintage tube circuits. Each module can act as a preamp, a saturator, or even a virtual tube-summing console.

  • London: Designed to emulate the tube circuits of vintage British consoles. It offers big, warm and bold in the lows and low-mids, with a slightly smoother top-end. Great for adding thickness and plenty of body to mixes.
  • New York: Designed to emulate the solid-state discrete circuits of vintage American consoles. It offers an aggressive mid-range and tight low-end from its unique dynamic harmonic saturation. Great for adding focus and punch to mixes.
  • Hollywood: Designed to be the most colorful of the three modules, with beautiful air, depth, excitement and some really big bottom!

FG-73

Modeled after the infamous Neve 1073 preamp. Known for its bold, present and warm tones. Sounds great on vocals, drums, bass, guitars … pretty much anything that makes noise.

FG-76 

Modeled after a vintage Telefunken V76 preamp. Known for its thick, warm, and colorful tone with unique and musical saturation that sounds great on bass guitars and kick drums.

Equalizers

FG-N 

Modeled after the legendary Neve 1073 EQ module. Designed to recreate the sounds of vintage Class A British console circuitry. Known for its rich harmonic saturation and lush, fat, bold tone. Although the original Neve 1073 only featured a single band for controlling the mid-range, the Slate emulation features two for greater control. Sounds great on drums and vocals.

FG-S 

Modeled after the SSL 4000E console EQ. Known for its rich harmonics and fat, punchy, musical tone. Often described as a “workhorse” EQ. Sounds great on drums and guitars.

AirEQ Air

Modeled after the high band on the Eiosis AirEQ. Designed to add brightness without sounding harsh. Know for its smooth, brilliant top-end. Great for bringing instruments forward in the mix or adding breath to vocal tracks.

AirEQ Earth 

Modeled after the low band on the Eiosis AirEQ. Designed to add deep and solid sub-frequencies. Described by Slate as an “adjustable transformer,” and used to add tight, precise bass tones without sounding muddy. Works particularly well on kick drums and bass guitars.

Custom Series EQ / Lift

As the name implies, the Custom Series EQ’s actually use custom algorithms, although they’re designed by combining a number of classic EQ curves together, which gives them a familiar analog tone.

Revival

OK, so Revival isn’t technically an EQ and its not modeled after any one specific piece of hardware. Instead, Revival borrows aspects of tubes, tape, and transformers, from all sorts of classic audio gear. The Shimmer control is designed to add depth, clarity, space, width, and air, while the Thickness control adds warmth, punch, body, and fatness. Sounds great on vocals, drums, and even the mixbus.

Read more about analog equalizer emulations.

Compressors

FG-116 

According to Slate Digital, the FG-116 is “the most precise digital replication” of the UREI 1176 Rev D compressor. Known for its fat tone, trademark timing characteristics, and extremely musical transformers. Sounds great on vocals, drums, and bass guitars.

Just like the original 1176, the compression characteristics can actually be disabled to impart transformer saturation without reducing the dynamic range of a track. To disable compression, simply Shift+Click the Attack knob.

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FG-116 Vintage

Modeled after the UREI 1176 Rev A compressor. Compared to the black model, these units will have a softer top and bottom-end, and a more defined mid-range.

Circuit 1 is modeled after the original “blue stripe” units. Known for its super fast attack and release times, ‘mid-forward’ character and warmth. Sounds great on vocals, bass, drums, and guitars.

Circuit 2 is modeled after a “rev A” unit that had been updated and refurbished and had a very unique and musical sound. It features bigger lows, and smoother mids and highs.

FG-116 Modern UREI 1176 Rev A

Modeled after a custom revision of the UREI 1176 Rev A compressor, and designed to be a new interpretation of the iconic FET compressor with modern features. Capable of less distortion and much slower attack times than the original hardware. Described as hi-fi, punchy, and musical. Sounds great on drums, bass, and vocals.

Circuit 1 is designed to sound like a cleaner, more pristine version of the vintage Rev A model, while Circuit 2 is designed to have a punchier low-end and smoother top-end response than the original.

The Monster

Modeled after the UREI 1176 “All Buttons Mode”, with newly added features. Known for its loud, exciting, bombastic sound. Designed to add extreme amounts of compression, either in series or parallel, to punch up your mix.

FG-401 

Modeled after the SSL 4000E channel strip compressor, with influence from the Empirical Labs Distressor, dbx 160A and LA-2A compressors. Featuring variable attack and release times for a variety of tonal options.

Circuit 1 is designed to sound punchy and dynamic like a VCA compressor, while Circuit 2 more closely mimics the compression characteristics of optical units, and is known for being transparent with extended low-end.

Audified U73b 

Modeled after a vintage Telefunken U73b compressor. Known for being the German counterpart to the Fairchild 660, the U73b is an all-tube vari-mu compressor and features a warm, musical tone.

FG-Stress 

Modeled after the legendary Empirical Labs Distressor, which itself is modeled after a variety of famous analog compressors. Known for being one of the most flexible and versatile compressors available, it’s capable of recreating many of the sounds found throughout this list.

FG-Bomber

Despite its simple interface, the FG-Bomber is actually an incredibly complex signal processor that combines all analog-modeled transient processing, dynamic frequency manipulation, specialized compression, tube saturation, harmonic generation, and vintage analog filtering. Sounds great on drums, vocals, bass, or even the mixbus.

Read on to learn more about analog compressor emulations.

Now that you’re familiar with all of the tools at your disposal in the Slate Digital Virtual Mix Rack, you should have no problem dialing in the perfect tone for any track during the mix. With a powerful combination of console emulation, preamps, equalizers, compressors and more, you have the power of an entire studio’s worth of vintage gear at your fingertips.

Mixing with Slate Digital Plugins

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Brad Pack

Brad Pack

Brad Pack is an award-winning audio engineer, writer and educator based in Chicago, IL. He helps musicians become artists by creating sustainable careers in the music business. Brad holds a Master's Degree in Electronic Media Production from Central Michigan University. When he’s not in front of his laptop, Brad can be found in the mosh pit. Follow him on Instagram or get in touch on his website.

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