The search for authentic signal paths goes on... Solid State Logic, if you will, “sliced up” the EQ of the 9000 J console (shown here) and the SuperAnalogue mic preamps and repackaged them in the XLogic range
IN THEIR own way, they are The Beatles, The Stones, Dylan and Elvis: evergreen favourites that keep their audiences coming back for more, again and again. Except these audiences are made up of obsessive sound engineers, and the objects of their adulation make far more subtle noises. In fact, the world of classic and vintage outboard commands even greater religious fervour. The search for authentic signal paths of yore is an odd phenomenon. In purely technical terms, the impurities of the past might seem undesirable. Surely, as in all science, audio signals are making progress? Shouldn’t we be leaving the earlier experiments behind? Well, maybe. But audio engineering is like mechanical engineering: for every new twist of ergonomics, there is nostalgia for previous heights. Just like classic cars, items of rackmount rarity are collectable, even fetishistic. But unlike classic cars they can be brought back to working life and born again into a competitive modern environment.
When it first began to dawn on us that old recordings no longer sounded poor but actually, well, kind of cool, many of the tools used to make them were falling into disrepair or simply disappearing altogether. Meanwhile the studio itself was changing into something that men in white coats wouldn’t recognise, but fortunately the new digital technology had a neat trick up its sleeve that would be its saving
The number of unique spatial effects in the Lexicom PCM Native Reverb plug-in
grace. And so, just like photographing rural Norfolk before it becomes a shopping centre, the industry set about generating the plug-in versions of all the old favourites and creating software bundles that promised rarefied slices of audio heaven at the click of a mouse. This sector of the market
remains in rude health. In some corners, very popular hardware originals have been completely
replaced by the manufacturer’s in-house plug-in version – with all the usual economic viability rationale. Most notably, Lexicon hardware reverbs have been phased out in favour of software versions marketed by ‘Lexicon by Harman’, despite the high value of hardware originals sustained by the used gear sector. Some legacy products are supported, like the 960L/LARC2 and the PCM91, but not the original LARC, ALEX, LARES, LXP-1, M224XL and a host of others including the rest of the PCM range.
Instead the Lexicon PCM
Native Reverb plug-in is based on those algorithms, offering seven unique spatial effects. Another route to these sounds is provided by Universal Audio – along with Waves a powerhouse of classic remodelling – via the ‘official’ Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb Emulation for the UAD-2 platform, recreating the first and most celebrated of Lexicon’s digital reverbs from 1978. For UA, of course, it doesn’t stop there. Emulations abound, from the Fairchild 670 compressor to the Pultec Pro EQ plug-in – a combination of the Pultec MEQ-5 Midrange Equalizer and the Pultec EQP- 1A Program Equalizer.
In signal processing, the first wave of software emulation has been succeeded by a cult of hardware replicas. Phil Ward patches in…
Waves has developed its own
Fairchild and Pultec plug-ins, faithfully reproduced in a collaboration with the father of the Fairchild 670 himself: Jack Joseph Puig, leading to the epithet PuigChild 660 and 670 for the software. Avid also supplies a Pultec Bundle made by Bomb Factory, and what all of these clones share is a tough challenge to give the product something of the idiosyncracies of the originals. Tough, because no two hardware units with the same marque and model number on them ever sounded identical: the precise blend of tubes and capacitors conspired with sheer mileage to make them as personal as a guitar, consigning the software plug-ins to at least some form of insurmountable compromise.
SCRATCHING THE SURFACE The same thing can be said of any area of emulation, but despite this there has been a sharp rise in the popularity of those plug-ins that attempt to reintroduce some sense of