support reviews loopcloud.com

Slate Digital Virtual Mix Rack Review at Ask Audio Magazine

Slate Digital's new Virtual Mix Rack looks set to really shake up the mixing plug-ins industry and this is just the beginning. Rishabh Rajan explores VMR in immense depth with audio examples.

The Virtual Mix Rack could be the most anticipated release in the history of audio plug-in processors, though that might have something to do with the fact that Steven Slate announced the plug-in in October of 2013. Slightly over a year later Slate Digital finally made the plug-in available commercially. Slate Digital products are known to have a lot of hype surrounding them, but the positive is that their products live up to the hype more often than not. Personally I don’t mind waiting for a product that is being perfected rather than use a prematurely released buggy software.

The Slate Digital VMR is a collection of 4+1 analog modeled plug-ins usable in a 500 series modular style virtual mix rack. The +1 refers to Revival, one of the free modules in VMR. Now when it comes to analog modeling, the poster boy for algorithm design is Fabrice Gabriel, the man behind the algorithm designs of all modules in VMR. Fabrice also developed algorithms for the widely used Virtual Console Collection, Virtual Buss Compressors and Virtual Tape Machines all sold by Slate Digital. Clearly, he has experience creating virtual emulations of analog hardware so it's no surprise that his initials are on all the VMR modules.

The Mix Rack

The Virtual Mix Rack with 5 modules loaded. Only 4 are visible.

The VMR is a 500 series style virtual rack that will let you load any combination of the 5 modules in series. You can load a maximum of 8 modules per instance of the mix rack, though in practice this might be overkill, but to each his own. The mix rack will only show you four modules at a time but you can horizontally scroll to see additional modules that are loaded in a chain. Its quite easy to move around modules in the rack and even in between different racks by using mouse drag and drop gestures. You can save presets for individual modules or custom chains of modules. You can also setup A/B snapshots of your entire chains to make comparisons. There is a solo and bypass switch for individual modules, though the bypass is not level compensated and there isn’t a trim control on any of the modules. So it will be quite hard to do true before/after comparisons due to perceived level changes. Steven has mentioned on a popular audio forum that he is addressing the trim issue in a future update.

Key Features

As of right now there are 5 modules available for use in the mix rack (the fifth being free).

    FG-N - Neve style EQ
    FG-S - SSL 4000 style EQ
    FG-401 - SSL Console style VCA Compressor
    FG-116 - UREI 1176 FET style compressor
    Revival - Harmonic exciter (Free)

Conclusion

The Virtual Mix Rack with its 5 modules is an achievement that is commendable to say the least. With additional modules coming out in the future, VMR may cover more ground other than just EQ & compression. With Native processing being as powerful as it is today VMR may eventually be the death of hardware-based DSP accelerator systems for plug-in processing. As with most Slate Digital plugins, I noticed very minimal CPU usage on my mid-2012 MacBook Pro. Regarding analog emulation in the box, you can’t go wrong with these plug-ins. Considering the introductory price, it's pretty much a no-brainer purchase. I suppose the more pertinent question is, do you really need this if you have every other analog modeled plug-in in the market? Probably not but considering the price, you will definitely be tempted. If you are starting off in the analog emulation world and can’t afford DSP accelerated systems, VMR would be perfect for you. When it comes to analog modeled plug-ins, VMR is at par with the best in the market, if not even better. 

Pros: Accurate Analog emulation of classic hardware. Routing flexibility with the Virtual Mix Rack. Compressors have mix dials for parallel compression. Free Revival module.

Cons: Needs 2nd gen. ilok. No trim dials. No auto-release or Side-Chain filter on compressors. Modules can’t be used outside the rack.

A more detailed version of this review is available at Ask Audio Magazine.

Related Articles