Variety Of Sound – Freebe Fantastico
Three free VST plugins you literally cannot live without. I cannot even begin to tell your how often I use these plugins in my daily studio life, more so than a bunch of other commercial ones I’ve purchased that are gathering digital dust at the back of the rack now.
These are all from a software developer name Variety of Sound, owned by the mysterious ‘Bootsy’. He says he enjoys making plugins free from commercial interests, enjoying replicating classic hardware, but often adding his own special touch of magic. Yes, yes he does that very well.
In use, this is a simple BUS compressor that works more like a levelling amplifier. It has a stereo or duel-mono layout and a special M/S (Middle/Side) setting – The top row of knobs controls the centre of the mix or the more ‘mono’ stuff. The bottom row controls the wider frequencies. It kinda sounds and works like a duel LA2A, but then again not really – but that’s how I approach it in use. It’s way too subtle to be used as a track comp, but on a BUS it works magic ‘glueing’ those dynamics together.
You drive this beastie very simply….range is your threshold, and drive is your boost. The timing knob refers to the release value, but put simply – P1 is fast, and P6 is slow, you will see the meters reacting to your choices. Density Mk3 is so transparent, it’s crazy. You can be hitting 5-6db of gain reduction and not even hear it working. The timing controls will stuff that up if what you’re after is a pumping effect, sure crank it up. But at decent levels, you will not find anything else, free or otherwise, on the market that performs as well as Density does on your mixed busses.
Quick guide: Set it up on a bus channel – say, drums for instance. Make sure there’s a decent level running to it. Range should be all the way up, or clockwise – drive all the way down. Set timing to P4 and makeup to off. Now turn up the drive knob until you reach about 4-6 dB of gain reduction on the meters. You will hear this is pretty extreme compression now, simply wind back the range knob until you can’t hear any pumping or compression. Turn up the make-up gain knob roughly the amount the meters say you’re reducing. Have a play with the colour dial (under the meters) if you feel it’s a bit too crisp or not smooth enough.
The Thrillseeker is a true levelling amplifier compressor. It works in a similar manner to a Distressor or even a hot LA2A running into the 2-inch tape. It’s designed to be placed directly on a track channel, so you don’t get things like M/S processing, but there are loads of side-chain options if that’s your thang’.
The ‘Interstage’ saturation is Thrillseekers party trick. It sounds like subtle tape saturation, but it apparently works on harmonic distortion, that stuff loads of people talk about but don’t really understand. In a nutshell, you set the spectrum control to the area you want to focus on and dial up the THD slider. Works very well on high dynamic range elements like drums, not so noticeably on bass and low dynamic instruments – but it will ever so slightly tighten up low-end punch. The transformer switch adds a super-subtle transient presence boost, but boys it’s hard to hear, and you need to have the compressor pumping like mad to notice it.
Quick guide: As with the Density Mk3, a nice hot signal coming in. Set the range to full (100) and input to 0db. Attack and release in the middle at 12 o’clock. Now increase your input dial until you hit about 4-6db of gain reduction, and pull back the output to compensate. The range as before is the threshold, it adjusts the overall amount of compression. Pull it back till you can’t hear any noticeable compression. Use the on/off switch to check before and after levels are the same. Throw in the Interstage THD saturation to add distortion to the harmonics, much like the old analogue mixing consoles used to do. Total magic.
The Baxter EQ is more of a transparent mastering EQ, its way too smooth and subtle to be used as a track EQ. But when placed on the master bus, all sorts of magical things happen. Think of Baxter as a ‘sheen’ EQ. It adds sparkle or air, or whatever studio lingo you like to call it. It’s the subtle chicken seasoning you apply to your hot chips. This EQ won’t fix a bad mix, but it adds that final little bit of character you don’t pick up on until you hear it. It’s not enough to make your mastering engineer go crazy at you, but it will cap off your mix nicely without totally altering the sonic intent.
Quick guide: That’s a hard one, it’s totally dependent on your material – just use your ears and don’t go for massive changes, but subtly do it. Try some of the presets, they’re all amazing.
So there we go, three of the best…and more to come. Check out all of the Variety of Sounds VST plugins. They are 32-bit however, so be aware you will need to bridge them on a 64-bit system. They all look beautiful, CPU performance is outstanding and they cost no monies at all – freebie fanTASTICO! (bah, lame I know lol)