Variety of Sound does it again. The newest addition to the plugin family is the Thrillseeker VBL (Vintage Broadcast Limiter). Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does and the best part is that all his plugins are FREE – including this one.
This plugin is an emulation of the the early 1950’s Variable-Mu design principles. This version, however, has been modified to not only allow for the classic gain reduction but also allows for
“detailed access the amount and appearance of harmonic tube amplifier distortion occurring in the analog tube circuit.”
As a result you can get some nice analog magic that can sometimes be absent in the digital world we work in.
H.L. Goldberg references his innovative Stateful Saturation approach for letting him model a more accurate transformer coupled tube circuit. This allows for a more authentic transformer simulation which not only
“models the typical low-end harmonic distortion but also all the frequency- and load dependent subtleties occurring in a transformer coupled tube circuit, and which add up to that typical mojo we know from the analog classics.”
The Sound of The Plugin
So is the sound of the plugin any good?
Friggin right sounds good! Like anything new, it takes a little while to get used to but after playing with it for about 10-20 minutes you immediately start to fall in love with the tone. I know I did.
It’s really hard to find a good sounding plugin that just works with bass and drums but this one seems to do the trick.
I was a huge fan of the way the FerricTDS handled the low end instruments but I think I might have to start taking this VBL out more often. In all honesty the FerricTDS probably does a much better job at handling the MIX BUS but I think that the VBL could take the cake on Bass guitars, Kick Drums and even Pianos. Of course it is a case by case basis when you’re mixing a song, and neither of those 2 plugins may work, but I think it’s a great start.
If you don’t know anything about Variety of Sound, then just know this – ALL THE PLUGINS ARE FREE!!! I could easily see myself paying $50 or more for this plugin but we are blessed to be able to access it for free.
Yes, it’s true that these plugins aren’t Pro Tools compatible (sucks I know) but I think one day they just might be 😀 but in the mean time why not get your hands on the Blue Cat Mb-7 Mixer 2? It will let you use VST’s inside of Pro Tools.
A Run Down of what Everything Does
- IN GAIN – Controls the amount of signal gain coming into the plugin
- STEREO – DUAL M – While on STEREO, the left and right channel are linked together resulting in the same amount of compression and distortion on both channels.While on DUAL-M (dual mono) the left and right channel are independent of one another and the amount of compression and distortion will vary based on the input of each channel
- TRAFO – Given the TRAFO switch, one can dial in all kinds of artifacts related to an audio transformer coupled circuit. If it’s on, the distortion increases with lower frequency and higher system load.” (From VBL Manual)
- COMP – Dial in the amount of compression you want by rotating this knob clockwise.
- EMPHASIS – This knob is like a High Pass filter where you can let the lower frequencies pass through unaffected and have the rest of the signal processed.
- BIAS – The actual effect of the BIAS dial is that the HF distortion gets more pronounced, and the signal distortion might appear tighter and brighter the more it gets turned clock-wise. It does not affect the compression directly.” (From VBL Manual)
- AMP – Dial in the amount of distortion you want by rotating this knob clockwise
- BRILLIANCE – When dialing in the distortion there tends to be some high frequency loss. By turning this knob clockwise, a high shelf boost is applied to the signal so the user can bring back some high frequency information.
- OUTPUT – Controls the signal gain leaving the plugin.
- DRY/WET – Allows the user to control the amount of processed and unprocessed signal that is mixed together. “When the TRAFO switch is on, phase distortion occurs making it impossible to use external dry/wet mixing outside the plug-in without causing drastic frequency changes of the signal. Use DRY:WET instead, this offers safe, phase coherent internal mixing of unprocessed and processed signals.” (From VBL Manual)
- ON/OFF – Allows the user to bypass the plugin for easy before and after comparison.
Testing it Out (with examples)
I tested this plugin on a bunch of different sources and found thus far that I like it best on Piano, Bass and Drums. I tried it when mixing vocals but I just wasn’t a fan. It could just be a situational thing, I don’t know, but then again we have many more tools to handle the vocals so I’m definitely not that worried about it. What this does to the Bass and Kick Drum completely makes up for it x10.
If you want to know more about the independent controls of the plugin, I suggest that you download the plugin and reference the manual.
The goal with this plugin was to get a little more mid range out of the bass as it was primarily focused in the lower register. As well I was trying to tighten it up as much as I possibly could and I think this plugin did a really great job at that.
The first thing I did was just play around with some of the Presets to see if I could find anything that I liked. I ended up landing on the Boosties Choice setting which was close to where I was going. I generally don’t like to use presets but since I am still getting used to this plugin, I like to flip around and see what it does.
Once I had the preset loaded up, I started tweeking from there.
This is what my Bass settings looked like
AMP – I cranked this one pretty much all the way so get those nice mid range harmonics. The stock preset setting was much more conservative, I just went all the way with it.
Brilliance – I believe I left this setting the same but either way its at about 75% of its full capability. Adding more high end really helped to get the bass to catch your ear.
COMP – This I left stock to whatever the preset came with but it’s just there to catch some peaks and make the bass more consistant.
EMPHASIS – This knob was turned to about 20%-25% so that a portion of the bass frequencies could come through unaffected.
BIAS – I left this the way it was but it was cranked all the way to the right. I can’t pin point exactly what was the reason for the bass sounding tighter but I believe it was because of this setting.
TRAFO – I engaged this button to give the bass some more “MOJO”
Let’s listen to the bass in SOLO before any processing
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Bass-RAW.mp3|titles=Bass in SOLO (Plugin Bypassed)]
Now let’s listen to the Bass in Solo again but this time with the plugin engaged
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Bass-VBL-ON.mp3|titles=Bass in SOLO (Plugin Engaged)]
Here is the Bass with out any processing with the rest of the music
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Bass-RAW-Music.mp3|titles=Bass + Music (Plugin Bypassed)]
Here is the Bass with the VBL engaged and the rest of the music playing
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Bass-VBL-ON-Music.mp3|titles=Bass + Music (Plugin Engaged)]
This kick drum sample was fairly good to begin with. I think that it was a couple of kicks layered together – An 808 style kick and a live sample or something that sounds like it. I really just wanted to add a bit more beef and click to this sound so that it was easier to spot in the mix
I loaded the plugin up stock this time and began tweaking it until I got what I wanted. There really isn’t any magic to doing it you just need to have the sound you want, in your head, and just tweak until you can get it there.
This is what my Kick Drum settings looked like
AMP – The AMP here is set to about half way which was just the right amount of distortion to accent the click
Brilliance – This is maybe at 70% and does a good job of bringing back all the top end that the AMP took out.
COMP – I used a lot less compression on the kick so that the life wasn’t being sucked out of it. Just enough here to shape the peak.
EMPHASIS – Just like on the bass, I turned this clockwise to let through some of those low frequencies
BIAS – I left this the way it was but it was cranked all the way to the right. It really does help to sharpen things up.
Less listen to the Kick Drum in SOLO before any processing
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Kick-RAW.mp3|titles=Kick Drum in SOLO (Plugin Bypassed)]
Now let’s listen to the Kick Drum in Solo again but this time with the plugin engaged
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Kick-VBL-ON.mp3|titles=Kick Drum in SOLO (Plugin Engaged)]
Here is the Kick Drum with out any processing with the rest of the music
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Bass-VBL-ON-Music.mp3|titles=Kick Drum + Music (Plugin Bypassed)]
Here is the Kick Drum with the VBL engaged and the rest of the music playing
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Kick-VBL-ON-Music.mp3|titles=Kick Drum + Music (Plugin Engaged)]
With the Piano it was a bit more complex than the bass and kick drum. Here I wanted to get it a little bit dirt because it was pretty clean and in records like this with a moody vibe you can get things a little bit dirtier sounding and not worry so much because it actually adds to the mood. The other thing I was trying to do was fill in some of the dynamics to make the piano sustain a little longer. Between each note change, the sustain died out fairly quickly making it feel bouncy and not quite as dreamy. Once the plugin was engaged you could sense that dreamy vibe I was looking for.
I approached this one just like I did on the kick – I started from scratch. I played with the settings until I felt like I was getting exactly what I wanted from the plugin.
This is what my Kick Drum settings looked like
DUAL-M – I set this one to dual-mono so that the left and right channel were being treated independently. It helped a bit in keeping the stereo image wide.
TRAFO – I turned the transformer on to add more beef which this switch seems to gives off, when engaged.
DRY/WET – Since I couldn’t get the sound I wanted with the Wet set to 100%, I decided to over due the settings and then use this mix knob to add in the overly processed sound to the piano. This worked out much better.
AMP – This is set to 100% which is literally crushing the sound and adding in all these beautiful distortions
Brilliance – Just like the AMP this is set to 100% which is basically an extreme high shelving EQ boost. It just did something to the mid range and top end that I liked.
COMP – Although not as aggresive as I innitialely had it, it’s set to a bounce where it’s allowing the piano to sustain for a period of time thus helping it fit that “Dreamy” vibe in the track.
EMPHASIS – This was left at 0 because I wanted the entire sound to be effected
BIAS – I left this the way it was but it was cranked all the way to the right. It felt right at the time. Whether this is doing any major work or not, I can’t be certain but it sounded good.
Less listen to the Piano in SOLO before any processing
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Piano-RAW.mp3|titles=Piano in SOLO (Plugin Bypassed)]
Now let’s listen to the Piano in Solo again but this time with the plugin engaged
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Piano-VBL-ON.mp3|titles=Piano in SOLO (Plugin Engaged)]
Here is the Piano with out any processing with the rest of the music
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Kick-VBL-ON-Music.mp3|titles=Piano + Music (Plugin Bypassed)]
Here is the Piano with the VBL engaged and the rest of the music playing
[audio:https://modernmixing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Piano-VBL-ON-Music.mp3|titles=Piano + Music (Plugin Engaged)]
Conclusion and Download Link
So basically I think this plugin is worth every penny and that you should go
buy it now download it now. You have absolutely nothing to lose and in fact you have everything to gain.
You can also Download All 3 plugin presets, for the VBL, which were created based on the settings in this article
Looking forward to your thoughts on this article and the plugin.
YouTube Video Source: FREE Plugin: ThrillseekerVBL (Vintage Broadcast Limiter)