Freebie of the Month – Blue Cat Gain Suite
Here’s a simple plug-in that does more than you’d think on first glance, and every now and then it turns out to be indispensable.
by David Baer, May 2016
Blue Cat Audio is not a developer who we have covered in the past – but that will change since we have a series of three reviews of some very interesting software gear starting in our next issue of SoundBytes. In the meantime, there’s this: the free BC Gain Suite. This is consists of three different plug-ins that do essentially the same thing, just control gain: one for mono, one for stereo and one for dual stereo (L and R treated independently with an added M/S capability). They actually come in a downloadable bundle with a number of other freebies, but we are just considering the three gain controllers here.
The mono and stereo versions basically look identical, having a single knob to control gain. So what’s the big deal? Your DAW has got faders for that, plus you probably have a pre-channel level control for each track well. Well, you might be surprised at how often these things can come in handy when you have them on hand. For one thing, your DAW gives you one fader, but sometimes it’s quite useful to be able to put a gain control between two insert plug-ins. And then there’s the situation where you have meticulously applied automation to the fader and don’t want to mess that up, and yet you’d like to experiment with some alternative options just to see what the result would be. A gain plug-in is just the thing. It’s as simple as could be, yet highly affective.
In the mono and stereo versions, there is just one control: gain. With it you can attenuate or amplify the signal by up to 60 dB, which means you cannot enforce complete silence but can get reasonably close. The controls can be MIDI-learned and automated, just as with any respectable commercial plug-in. By the way, even the VST3 format version has separate mono and stereo plug-ins.
The dual version, not surprisingly, has two controls. In normal mode these can independently control the left and right channels. But notice the screen shot. The two controls are labelled Gain (Mid) and Gain (Side). This is because the Mid/Side button above has been engaged. In this mode, the input will be converted from stereo to M/S on the way in and back from M/S to stereo on the way out. In this mode, you can adjust the Mid and Side levels rather than left and right. One good use for this is in controlling the stereo width of a track.
There’s no way to keep the signal as M/S upon output. If you need to do something like this, check out Voxengo’s MSED plug-in (also an excellent freebie) here:
If you don’t know what you can do with M/S processing, you might want to check out a short PDF tutorial provided by Blue Cat which can be found here:
So, already we can see that this little gem does more than just volume control – but wait … there’s more!
The final feature is really cool for a freebie. Multiple instances of the gain plug-in can be used in a mix and linked. There are nine different link groups with which an instance can be assigned. Once linked, all members of the group behave the same. For example, if you had one instance set to -18 dB and another to +2 dB, increase the gain in either by 6 dB and the result will be -12dB and +8 dB respectively.
Furthermore, they can be set as reverse group members. Change the level of the non-reversed instance, and all the other non-reversed instances will change likewise, while the level of all the reversed instances will change in the opposite direction. Pretty nifty capability for a freebie, I think you’ll agree.
One restriction (a most reasonable one) is that only like plug-in types can be linked. You cannot, for example, link a mono instance and a dual instance.
One last thing: the gain suite is available in pretty much any format you’d like for Mac or PC, both 32-bit and 64-bit, and including VST3 (see list at right). How much more could one expect from a freebie? This one is definitely not to be missed!
Get the BC Gain Control suite here, and while there, you might want to check out some of the other fine Blue Cat offerings: