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Hardware-wise, SSL has always been at the forefront. Now with their Fusion Vintage Drive and Stereo Image Plug-ins, software versions of their Fusion Rack are now available for use in the DAW environment.
Starting with The Vintage Drive — the display is easy to read, and the “controls” mimic the feel of the hardware, with input and output VU/level meters, saturation level, input trim, drive (that goes to 11), density control, auto gain, mix and output trim. Installation was very easy, with no problems getting them to run in our Studio One 5 environment.
The gain covers input saturation, while the density adjusts the even order harmonics, and the mix controls the overall level of the effect. The Auto-Gain function matches levels in a totally functional sense and is super intuitive to use. There are presets designed by a variety of producers and are tailored for a range of instruments from guitars and acoustic drums to vocals, keyboards and drum machines. There are also plenty of presets for use as an overall mix. If mixing without outboard gear is your bag, this might be your new essential plug-in.▼ Article continues below ▼
Throwing it on the snare track on a lo-fi indie rock recording mix we already had going, really brought new life to the track, bringing in more warmth and depth, without getting too processed. We had some great results using this on electric guitar tracks and vocals, as well. The big thing we found was that it could easily be subtle, but when really pushing the knobs to their limits, big changes happened, but not in a bad way. It seems to stop short of unusable and unmusical. It certainly depends on what the track needs but knowing it can be pushed hard without being fatiguing is fantastic. Depending on the session, this can really warm up sterile tracks without a lot of hassle, and while the presets were great reference points, just going by ear wasn’t an issue. There’s no parameter option overload. It’s quite an enjoyable “analog” experience.
The Stereo Image plug-in was equally easy to navigate, again with simple and easy controls. A visual representation of the effect’s presence with a vectorscope image that interacts with the track is a handy touch. Space and with functions work in a “depth” functionality, with the shuffle acting as a frequency adjustment from the 40Hz to 400Hz range. Applying this to mono tracks is certainly an option, and does have some very positive results, especially on individual drum stems. It seems to add more air without sounding artificial, which was our chief concern. Thinking of this as a modulation without the de-tuning, it’s quite easy to get practical results quickly. This approach helped add in some nice glassy space on some un-affected guitars, while giving the feel of a wider stereo image it wasn’t originally recorded with.
Again, there are copious amounts of presets, and are great starting points for adjustments, but there’s nothing like tweaking by ear, and as the hardware version has no preset functionality, working the plug-in like an analog device is quite satisfying.
Overall, these are quite powerful pieces of software, and certainly excellent additions to any DAW system. The functionality and overall ease of both of these yields some great results and can be that little extra needed to make a mix really jump, without a lot of effort or cash. SSL has nailed it with these two.
Great price, excellent analog feel and response