Oldies but Goodies – Analog Signature Pack from Nomad Factory
Here are three lovely vintage-sounding devices that you should definitely check out – especially since you might already have them on your DAW machine and not even realize it.
by David Baer, Nov. 2016
In this installment of Oldies but Goodies we will look at three stunning pieces of mixing gear that have been around for quite a while. A good number of you readers may already have these and not even realize it. On two occasions, the Nomad Factory Integral Studio Pack has gone on sale for $99 USD. To my mind, these were the deals of the decade, if not century. I know from forum chatter that many astute buyers jumped on the deal.
But with 54 (if I counted correctly) plug-ins in the bundle – yes, that’s less than two bucks apiece at the sale price – how many buyers have actually even tried them all? I know I never got around to it. It was only recently I discovered what a treasure the three plug-ins comprising the Analog Signature Pack actually were. As I recall, long ago I tried one out, thought it sounded horrible and moved on. Thanks to a couple of forum posts on the Cakewalk forum, I later was motivated to give them a second audition, this time with a little more care. Long story short, I ended up being extremely happy I did.
The three units are a compressor, an EQ and a modest channel strip device containing both an EQ and a compressor. Let me caution up front that these units are all easy to overdrive, much to the detriment of the sound. But keep the gain staging in check and don’t overdo any internal drive and saturation settings and the results are vintage magic warmth and goodness. I suspect that my early negative experience had to do with just those issues – overdriving and/or oversaturating that caused modest but unpleasant distortion.
Since these are EQs and compressors, I will not spend a great deal of time discussing their use. I will assume the reader already has a basic understanding of EQ and compression. I also will not keep repeating how pleasing their sound is. But take any one of them, load one of the more modest presets, and you will know immediately if you agree with my assessment. In my book, these are treasures and all three are now in my small collection of go-to plug-ins that I come back to again and again.
They all have splendid vintage-looking user interfaces as well, as you will see. I know this means nothing to the consumer of one’s music, but it does make the mixing experience a bit more enjoyable, and … who knows … maybe make your efforts more inspired as a result.
The EQP-4 Equalizer
This EQ does not have a documented pedigree, but it does have a Pultec-like flavor, that being a low-frequency shelf filter stage that can simultaneously attenuate and boost. The center frequency of the boost is a bit lower than the cut, so one can use this capability to increase the bass and simultaneously reduce the area of “boxiness”. With the highly full-featured software EQs we have available, this may not be appreciated. But back in the day of expensive hardware-only solutions, it was much valued.
The EQP-4 also does this trick on the high end, something the Pultec did not. The figure to the right (click on it to see it larger) shows four curves: no gain, 12 dB attenuation, 12 dB boost, and simultaneous boost and attenuation of 12 dB all around. Low/high cutoff values were 50 Hz and 10 KHz.
The shelf filters on the low and high ends can be replaced with peaking filters, but there is not Q (bandwidth) adjustment available in the low and high stages.
Independent of the low and high stages is a simple low-cut and high-cut filter with a choice of frequencies that can be seen on the interface panel.
The low-mid and high-mid stages are similar with slightly overlapping frequencies. The frequency selector of the low-mid offers a series of fixed frequencies, 35 Hz through 500 Hz. The X10 button multiplies those by 10, so we have a maximum of 5 KHz. There is a readout for this, so you need not memorize the values of the fixed steps. The high-mid frequency range is 200 Hz to 9.6 KHz. Atten/boost offers a range of -18 thru +18 dB. The bandwidth knob does what it says. At the Broad setting, fully clockwise, the peak is very wide indeed.
All the filter stages have an in/out button. There are stereo meters, switchable between input and output levels. There is a switch for flipping the phase, and there is an output gain adjustment control.
And there you have it – a straightforward, lovely EQ that sounds as good as it is easy to use.
The LM-662 Compressor
This is the only unit in the Analog Signature Pack that has a named pedigree. It is a recreation of the classic and revered Fairchild 670 limiting amplifier. There are a good number of emulations of this device available from the likes of UAD, Waves and IK Multimedia, all of which look a good deal more like the original with respect to their user interfaces. The light-colored panel of the LM-662 does not scream “Fairchild 670”. But for the most part, the same controls and meters are there.
The input level control is obvious as to function. Threshold is as well, except that it might be better labelled “Compression”. As the knob is turned clockwise, the threshold actually decreases, which of course causes the amount of compression to rise.
Like the original, the attack and release values are specified by a single knob with discreet stops. In the LM-662, however, we do have more options than the six settings on the original 670, as can be seen in the table (copied from the documentation) to the right.
There is a 12AX7 tube emulator/saturator that can be used to add additional warmth. Be warned – a little can be very nice, but this can easily be overdone to the detriment of the sound.
The Gain Control knob has an obvious function. Not so obvious is the control labelled D.C. Adjust. According to the documentation: By turning the DC Adjust to the left, the LM-662 acts more like a ‘compressor’, by turning the DC Adjust to the right, the LM-662 acts more like a ‘limiter’. Set by ear, or just find a preset close to what you’re looking for and use that preset’s setting.
The SC-226 Channel Strip
The SC-226 is a stereo channel plug-in with both an EQ and a compressor, neither of which duplicate the behavior or control interface of its Analog Signature Pack siblings. A switch allows either an EQ-before-compressor or compressor-before-EQ configuration. Both EQ and compressor offer a single set of controls for both stereo channels.
A simple on/off brick-wall limiter is on board, as is an input low-cut filter with a small fixed set of frequencies. A tube saturation stage identical to that in the LM-662 is also provided.
The compressor is said to deliver the behavior of an optical compressor. Compression is controlled with the Threshold and Compression knobs. Threshold works just like it does in the LM-662, turning clockwise lowers the threshold, increasing the compression.
Separate Attack and Release knobs have fixed-position settings, the values of which are shown in the table to the right (reprinted from the documentation). There is no need to memorize the available values since they are displayed in the interface.
The EQ is a straightforward affair with four stages. The bass and treble stages can be shelf or peak filters. The low-mid and high-mid stages have a Q switch that offers either medium bandwidth or moderately narrow bandwidth. All four stages have individual in/out switches.
The gain range of the bass is -24 to +24 dB. The frequency range is thirteen values between 22 and 820 Hz. Again, the selected value is displayed on the interface. The treble stage has a gain of -20 dB to +20 dB. The frequency range is thirteen values between 2 and 18 KHz.
The low-mid and high-mid both have gain ranges of -16 dB to +16 dB. Both have a selector to choose one of thirteen frequencies: 200 Hz to 3 KHz for the low-mid and 1.2 to 6.8 KHz for the high-mid.
Is the Analog Signature Pack for You?
Should some nasty deity come along and command that I must relinquish all my vintage plug-ins but three, that would be painful, but there’s a fair chance that the three discussed here would all be on that final list of keepers. I have quite honestly fallen in love with them. Certainly, your reaction may not be the same, but I suggest that you’d not be wasting your time to at least just check them out.
If you were one of the astute buyers who picked up the Nomad Factory Integral Studio Pack bundle in one of the two sales-of-the-century, you can form your own opinion easily enough by auditioning the plug-ins you already own. If you missed those sales, the news is not so good. The Integral Studio Pack, which includes the Analog Signature Pack, is currently listed at $479 USD at Don’t Crack. The Analog Signature Pack alone can be had for $119 USD (and the individual plug-ins for $99 USD each). The Analog Signature Pack bundle price is not at all an exorbitant when you consider the value, but it is probably painful when contemplating a missed sale-of-the-century opportunity.
Will another sale-of-the century ever happen again for the Integral Studio Pack? Who can say – but be sure and get on the Don’t Crack mailing list in case it does. There are a number of gems in the Integral Studio Pack beyond the three plug-ins reviewed here. And the Analog Signature Pack or the individual components might be subject to a limited-time, crazy-deep discount sale. It has happened before with other Nomad Factory plug-ins and it could very well happen again.
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