I’m all giddy about the new release of Analog Channel and am using it all over the place once again. I figured there’s probably a lot of new users by now so I decided to put together a post with some tips for getting the most out of it.
First, Analog Channel is two plugins: AC1, an input stage emulator and AC2, a tape emulator. I’ll share some tips with both. It doesn’t matter whether you use the new Analog Channel or the old.
You can use Analog Channel, either AC1 or AC2, as a simple dynamic tool. Play around with the controls for different types of reaction to the signal and watch the gain reduction meter. AC2 can be made to sound punchy and nice on drums. Also remember that AC2 in particular can change the frequencies. Most of the time it roll off the lowest of lows, adds a little bump in the bass and either roll off or add some highs. If you’re really cocky – and I know I am sometimes – use either one of them as your basic compressor/limiter on any given track.
Adding some hair
While AC2 might be the tool of choice for changing the dynamics (or not, it’s your call) AC1 is awesome for adding some hair to the signal. Crank the input and the drive for some saturated goodies. I find it very useful on aggressive vocals but it can of course be used on just about anything from drums to synths to guitars to balalaikas.
Use the presets
McDSP has always been great at providing presets and Analog Channel is no exception. Use them, they’re good. Just pick one and stick with it or use them as starting points. I rarely change the tape presets, and often the only thing I change when picking a preset for AC1 is the drive control.
I think I first heard this trick from Colin McDowell himself. I’ve tried it, but to be honest felt it was too much of a hassle… But whatever floats your boat. What you do is insert AC1 on every track, preferably with the same settings. Now, instead of using the regular faders for controlling levels you’ll use the controls in the AC1 plugin. This is kind of a complete console emulation.
Speaking of the consoles, you might have seen the AC1 has three console presets – but what are they based on? From what I’ve heard, Console 1 is a Neve, Console 2 is SSL and Console 3 is a combination of the two.
The Charles Dye method
I don’t know if Charles Dye invented this trick or not but I – and many others – learned it from his great mixing DVD Mix it Like a Record. What you do is insert AC1 on the master right away when you start mixing. This way you mix into it and all your decisions will be based on having it there. If you instead just put it on afterwards you’ll find that it makes very little difference. When mixing into it on the other hand it will make a world of difference! Try it and then remove it and you’ll see what I mean.
Here’s a little trick that goes against just about everything we’re taught today. If you have a track that’s clipping, simply insert AC1 and it will take care of it in much the same way as a limiter and start to saturate as well. Bring up the drive knob a little for even more crunch. “But you shouldn’t mix that hot in the first place!”, “you’re gonna squash the signal” – blah blah blah. If it sounds good, it is good.
Are you stuck with generic and clean sounding delays, or just happen to like their functionality better than your other ones? You can turn them into a tape echo, sort of, by simply inserting an instance of AC2 on the same track or aux.
Using AC2 on the master fader or main outputs is perhaps what most people will do. But where to place it in the chain? You can of course insert it wherever you like but I’ve usually had it towards the end, that is after any EQ or compression that I might use. If anything, there would be a limiter or a dither after, depending on the need. If you find that the tape emulation darkens the sound too much, you can also use an EQ afterwards to simply compensate for the loss of highs.