Native Instruments have teamed up with Softube to model three pieces of highly regarded valve outboard gear.
As well as instruments that run natively, the Native Instruments product range also includes quite a few effects and processing plug-ins, from original products like The Mouth and The Finger, to emulations of classic gear. The new Premium Tube Series falls into the latter category, containing two equalisers and a compressor that are, in all but name, modelled after well-known hardware processors from Manley. Unlike most NI plug-ins, though, the Premium Tube Series was developed out-of-house by Softube; and, perhaps as a consequence, it dispenses with the need to use NI’s Guitar Rig Player as a ‘shell’ plug-in. Instead, all three plug-ins can be called up directly in any VST, AU, RTAS or AAX host, and the bundle uses NI’s standard Web-based authorisation system.
Although the visual layout and colour scheme of the Premium Tube Series plug-ins recalls the original hardware, NI and Softube have avoided any attempt at photo-realism, and the user interfaces are surprisingly plain by today’s standards. The most elaborate of them is Passive EQ, which is obviously intended to replicate Manley’s celebrated Massive Passive equaliser: an interesting design which, as well as high- and low-pass filters, features four main EQ bands with stepped frequency controls. Any or all of these can be set to shelving mode as well as ‘bell’ or quasi-parametric mode, and the Bandwidth control is active in both. This permits a variety of strange but effective Pultec-like configurations involving overlapping frequency bands and so on. As the name suggests, the Massive Passive uses no active components in its EQ circuitry; any level lost in equalisation is restored using a tube make-up gain amplifier.
As far as I know, the only existing plug-in version of the Massive Passive is Universal Audio’s officially licensed emulation for their UAD platform, so the availability of a faithful copy in native form will be welcome news for many — though not, presumably, for Manley or UA. Unlike UA, NI haven’t chosen to emulate the alternative Mastering version of the Massive Passive, with its stepped gain ranges, but they have added an M/S matrix, which can be useful in mastering contexts.
The Bandwidth Of A Circle