I love working with classic audio gear, and I’m lucky enough to be “of a certain age” that I’ve been able to get my hands on some really nice knobs. These knobs almost always belonged to someone else… either recording studio, television station or pressing plant. And once you’ve had a taste of really top-quality gear and enjoyed the benefits, it’s really hard to go back.
But in our brave new economic world, creative jobs with access to nice hardware have seriously dwindled, and the handful of folks who have those jobs generally stay put. So, like most of us, I’ve got to bankroll my own hardware addiction, which means that there are some pieces of gear that are just plain off limits… no matter how nice they sound.
For example, let’s consider the EMT 140 plate reverb. One can be bought for about $1500, which isn’t too bad, really. But plate ‘verbs are large, heavy pieces of gear that require a quiet, vibration-free location. Usually found only in large studios, they were generally installed and left alone. So what’s a starving self-funded engineer/producer to do?
Enter Universal Audio. These folks make plugins that model classic gear, and they are very well done. I’ve had a UAD2 Solo/Laptop co-processor for quite a while now, but haven’t had the chance to use it much. But while mixing a recent location recording for Claire Lynch, her lovely vocals were begging for a second reverb. (The Solo comes with RealVerb Pro, and I was using this for the instruments.) I tried some free/shareware plugins, and although they sounded pretty good, I didn’t like the interfaces… I felt like I was writing Fortran code back in college rather than mixing, and never could get a very musical result. (like I said, I’m “of a certain age.”) I still had a credit with UAD from when I bought the Solo, so I sprung for a software version of the EMT 140 plate reverb.
I’m happy to report it works like a charm. They are the perfect complement to Claire’s vocals. UAD’s graphic interface mimics the original very closely, and the original control panel is easy to figure out. I can make adjustments simply and get great results without having to “hunt around” for a particular parameter. (if you’d rather enter adjustments numerically, though, that option is available through keyboard shortcuts).
I don’t buy many plugins, since they’re only going to last as long as your current computer. When I can afford it, I prefer to buy the hardware version of the gear that I need. But in this case, I’ve gotta admit that the plugin has some significant advantages over the real thing. It’s far cheaper, infinitely more portable, fun to use, and most importantly, makes Claire’s voice sound like a million bucks.