The Virtual Preamp Collection is Slate Digital’s latest offering and the first preamp modulation they’ve produced. The FG-73 models a famous discrete solid state British preamp, and the FG-76 is modeled after a famous classic tube preamp. Would these preamps really be able to add enough flavor and vibe to justify adding them into a producer’s arsenal? I decided to put them to the test and find out…
The Virtual Preamp Collection gives the authentic tone of two vintage microphone preamps to your DAW. Each preamp has been modeled using a state of the art modeling technology to recreate the tone of the famous circuits. The modeling algorithm is completely dynamic, and recreates every aspect of the preamp circuit from mild coloration to full on saturation and distortion.
The Virtual Preamp Collection (VPC) was designed to be used with Slate Digital’s VMS ONE Hardware Mic Preamp, but it can be used with onboard preamps and the Virtual Mix Rack to add classic color and vibe to tracks and mixes.
Installation and Overview
The Slate Digital Plug-ins require an iLok2, so the first thing I had to do before testing these plug-ins out was pick one up from my local tech shop. Since it was my first time activating and installing plug-ins on an iLok, I had to contact Slate Digital’s support team. I’m happy to report they got back to me in a timely manner and helped me out to install the plug-ins.
Both the FG-76 and the FG-73 are designed to be used as modules inside Slate Digital’s Virtual Mix Rack, so it’s necessary to have the Virtual Mix Rack installed on your system. Both the FG-73 & the FG-76 have a GUI with a distinctively retro look. I especially liked the look of the FG-76, with its slightly industrial, minimal design.
The controls on both the FG-73 and the FG-76 are simple and easy to understand. At the top, there’s an LED bulb, which displays the amount of “drive” applied to the Preamp. This LED lights up every time the saturation level is reached.
Below the LED bulb is the Virtual Drive knob, which is preamp gain that simulates the hardware gain, but has an external output gain to compensate for any level that’s been added by the gain. When Virtual Drive is added, the saturation level of the Preamp is increased, but no level is added to the output. Virtual Drive can be used to create a thick, rich-sounding distortion effect when the Virtual Drive is turned up.
The third control is the Trim, which is the output gain control. Below the trim is the Phase Reverse Knob, which reverses the signal’s polarity. This switch takes place right after the input, before the audio enters the preamp’s algorithm.
In the Mix
I tried out the Virtual Preamp Collection in a few mixes that I was working on, on vocal, guitar and bass tracks. I don’t own the VMS ONE, and the main purpose of my trials was to evaluate how much “vibe” and color these two plugins would add to my tracks. The FG-76 and FG-73 were able to enhance my recorded audio by adding rich sounding tones and presence. The FG-76 sounded warm and helped to thicken up the sounds of guitar and bass tracks. The FG-73 had a slightly different tone than the FG-76; it added warmth and helped to magnify the sound of digitally recorded tracks.
Tips and Tricks
I think that one of the keys to successfully using the VPC is to find a “sweet spot” as the Virtual Drive is being adjusted. The more you push to hear this sweet spot, the more the preamp characteristics can be heard. The Virtual Drive can be creatively used to add distortion effects to enhance a track. To try this technique out, send a track that you’d like to process with the VPC to a bus, and add the VPC to the bus track. On either the FG-73 or FG-76, turn up the input to add personality and subtly mix this distorted version of the track alongside the dry version. You’ll hear more harmonics from the sound and this trick may help a track cut through the mix. No matter which genre of music you create, the same mixing principles apply so the VPC can effectively assist any music producer or mix engineer to create better sounding mixes.
The VPC collection can be effectively used to thicken up the tone of recordings made with standard digital audio interfaces, which can tend to sound a little flat. Though they won’t make up for a recording that was made using a cheap audio interface, they can some extra finesse to tracks that are well recorded on audio interfaces with average quality converters.
The Sounds of Science
I do feel that I missed out a little bit when trying out the VPC, as I don’t own the VMS ONE. According to Slate Digital, when both modules are used together with the VMS ONE, they produce a result that sounds exactly like the Neve and Telefunken preamps they are modeled after. I’d be curious to test this out in the future as well to see how the VMS ONE and the FG-73 and FG-76 sound together.
I thought that overall the VPC collection sounded great. It was able to color my audio beautifully and add some magic to the mix. Both plug-ins have distinctively different sounds; the FG-76 has a bolder, thicker sound while the FG-73 has a sound that’s slightly warmer and richer. I thought the VPC collection enhanced my tracks and brought out tones that made my recordings sound more present. If you’re looking for two affordably priced plug-ins that can be used to improve the sound of recordings and add an analog type vibe, look no further.
Price: Download (No iLok Included) $149.00 USD / Download (iLok2 Included)$169.00 USD
Pros: Simple controls, Sound quality, Adds color and vibe, Free trial available
Cons: Requires the additional purchase of the Virtual Mix Rack to be used (which is a good thing to have, but does cost a few extra bucks!)
The VPC is available in the Slate Digital Everything Bundles or it can be purchased by itself for use in the Virtual Mix Rack. The VPC can also be downloaded as a free 30-day trial from Slate Digital.