Softube Drawmer S73 – Master Blaster
Welcome to our review of Softube’s new Drawmer S73 mastering processor. If like me you thought this might be a clever emulation of the 1973 multiband compressor you will be disappointed, it’s not. S73 is a bus processor designed to deliver a signature Drawmer 1973 multiband compressor-style sound with minimal fuss.
UPDATED 22nd OCTOBER, 2017
Consisting of a single processing amount knob and a choice of ‘air’ and ‘style’, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with the S73. While there are many such ‘easy-mode’ plugins on the market, few have the heritage behind them as both Softube and Drawmer, so there’s a comfort knowing you’re working in a world-class environment. Titled an ‘intelligent’ mastering processor worries me, as how much control are you sacrificing for all this magic? Let’s jump in and see.
Using S73 is simple – choose a style, bring up the amount until it sounds right, then balance the wet/dry mix till it blends. For a mastering processor, most of the styles are very intense, so the careful application of the S73 if you plan on inserting it over subgroups or even individual tracks.
Oddly, the unit comes with presets that simply change the style, something you can quite easily do yourself – basically useless. Some usable settings might have been handy, such as voice, guitar or rock mix – an indication of where the device could be used. Though there’s a gain reduction meter, it’s not the most responsive I’ve seen, best avoid using your eyes and let your ears judge the levels.
For my ears, the unit is way too coloured to be inserted as a track effect, and even on a subgroup it’s nice but very aggressive. Typical of enhancers like the BBE Sonic Maximiser and the likes – they sound fantastic when applied once, but garbage when used everywhere. So restraint is the key, and when used sensibly over a group you can achieve wonderful and subtle results.
Of course, on the master bus where it’s designed to live its magic. Even sitting in neutral mode will add nice saturation and subtle width to your mix, and as always, gentle application of various style choices will deliver impressive results. Though I like all of the clean styles, in particular, the ambience setting is excellent and something I found myself reaching for mostly. I found the wide mix and vocal enhancement too much for my taste, but this will come down to personal preference. There is an uncomfortable harshness to the air setting on the S73, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I generally turn it off for better results. This is an area the device could have benefited from a little more control over, perhaps a frequency sweep or mix control.
Though there are only 10 styles to choose from the unit is surprisingly flexible. All areas I would use the effect for in the studio are covered here, and with the mix control knob, you can regulate the unit’s influence nicely.
Softube Drawmer S73 is a wonderful-sounding and easy-to-use piece of kit that could be part of your go-to tool kit if you like the bold upfront sound. If you’re looking for something with character, at $99 there’s not much else that delivers it in spades like this. To say this is a ‘hate it or love it’ plugin is unfair, as you will definitely love it – it’s more will you actually USE it, and that is down to the style of music you produce mostly.
There is a 20-day free trial available which you should make use of to see if this is for you.