Slate Digital Virtual Buss Compressors Review
Steven Slate and Fabrice Gabriel continue to impress with the Slate Digital Virtual Buss Compressors ($199.99, iLok 2) plugin, which models three of the most highly-acclaimed hardware compressors to ever hit the market. While compressors are mostly used for their ability to control dynamic range on an audio source, they can also impart unique qualities onto a mix – for instance warmth, fatness, or punch. While buss compression can add glue to a mix, the wrong amount or style of compression can ruin it in short order, making everything dull and lifeless. Luckily Slate Digital has given us not just one but three great emulations of some of the most sought-after hardware compressors, with a fourth option to use all of them at once. The Slate Digital Virtual Buss Compressors plugin makes it incredibly easy to find the best compression style for your mix in minutes.
All of the units feature the letters FG, the initials of Fabrice Gabriel, who came up with the algorithms. The FG-GREY unit is modeled after one of the most popular buss compressors by SSL, while the FG-RED (my personal favorite) is based on a Focusrite Red 3, and the FG-MU is based on the various old-school Vari-Mu compressors like the Fairchild 670. The unit which the FG-RED is based on is a favorite of Chris Lord Alge, and his mix buss settings are available here in preset form. This version has been modified to include a DRIVE knob which never appeared on the original Focusrite Red 3 – it emulates pushing the makeup gain on the output for a punchier, more aggressive sound. As the Focusrite Red 3 has rarely been seen in plugin form, it’s great to see it recreated in such exact detail sound-wise here. The FG-MU has that classic tube-based compressor sound, tightening up the low end and adding some sparkle to the highs. One of the cooler aspects of this unit is that it can greatly affect the sound of your mix without any gain reduction at all – so it’s a good idea to run your audio through it even if you’re only using the FG-RED or FG-GREY. The FG-MU’s Mid/Side mode and switchable stereo link are also appreciated, but there’s no ratio control or auto-release on this one. Overall, I’d say that the FG-GREY is more suited towards pop music, while the FG-RED is great for rock and metal music.
Beyond that, there’s a High-Pass Filter and Mix knob on every one of these compressors, which makes dialing in the perfect tone even easier. The FG-Rack mode is awesome for auditioning the various compressors and seeing which one is best for your current mix. It should be noted that all of the compressors in the Virtual Buss Compressors plugin impart certain modeled non-linearities, with each giving a unique tone. This is something that I personally have no problem with, but it’s not exactly transparent in that manner.
With detailed emulations of three amazing compressors, along with added mix controls and a host of presets from top mix engineers, Slate Digital’s Virtual Buss Compressors plugin is tough to beat. As with the company’s Virtual Tape Machines and Virtual Console Collection, this plugin can add life to your mixes, putting them one step closer to achieving that musical, warm analog sound in the box.