Italian modelling specialists Acustica Audio have been 'sampling' hardware for well over a decade. Their recent release Honey3 (above) exemplifies their approach, taking a classic piece of respected and often rare studio hardware — in this particular case a Harrison 32c console — and making it more accessible, by faithfully modelling its signal path and built-in processing in plug-in form, and adding to the capabilities of the original hardware on the way. In the case of the Honey3 suite, Acustica's collaborators SoundDrops sampled the original console's EQ and circuitry, and then, because the original console didn't feature a compressor, Acustica designed and built a feed-forward design in accordance with the sound of the original desk, and then added that to the plug-in.
The company's most recent plug-in suite, named Cola (above), takes this process even further. In collaboration with Berlin's Vox-Ton studio, where the original equipment was to be found, Acustica have created a plug-in that encompasses a recreation of the three-band inductor EQ from the rare Cadac G228 console, a three-band valve EQ based on a 1950s/60s Vortexion mixer once used by maverick producer Joe Meek, a nine-band graphic equaliser derived from Actronic's germanium-based 1671 EQ and a compressor/limiter modelled on the insanely rare Cadac A505, of which it is thought that the total number produced never exceeded single figures. But the really interesting part of Cola is, as Acustica admit, yet to be explored fully.
According to the manufacturer, Cola employs an intelligent learning method based on Deep Learning AI technology, whereby it learns from pros using the plug-in how to apply itself to particular kinds of audio material, the implication being that it may be able to automatically apply itself to similar material in the future. Early experiments, which involved Cola 'acquiring' knowledge about how it was being used while Vox-Ton's head engineer used it to process some orchestral recordings, and also while Acustica's engineers used it on some sub-groups while mixing their own material — have, according to Acustica, been "very promising indeed". While the company admits it's early days for this kind of tech, we're interested, want to know more, and will be putting this precise aspect of Cola to the test as soon as possible!
Honey3 costs 169 Euros, Cola 159 Euros, and both can be downloaded now from the Acustica website using the company's Aquarius plug-in manager.