The 67A adds some useful features to a nice Altec valve preamp emulation.
Black Rooster Audio were founded in 2016 by Andre Kirtchner and, from their base in Wuppertal, Germany, have released a steady stream of plug‑in emulations of vintage compressors, EQs, preamps and effects processors. Their latest release, Omnitec‑67A, sees them visit a classic valve preamp design from the 1960s that was used on some of the most celebrated music of that era. As with much vintage gear, it’s not the functionality of the design that’s coveted but rather the more characterful side-effects they can impart: the rasping, saturated brass sound on many of the classic Motown‑era records is just one example of how engineers used gear like the Altec 1567A for more than just raising the signal level of a microphone.
The original Altec 1567A has very little going on from a controls point of view, offering just gain (a whopping 97dB, mind!) and a simple two‑band EQ. Black Rooster’s homage to this design aims to capture the essence of the original, whilst also offering some additional features including an extra ‘mid’ EQ band, three different tube options and a ‘bias’ control. There’s also a mix control for parallel processing, but no obvious option for linking the input and output controls which, for a dedicated saturation device, feels like an obvious omission.
Bass guitar seemed like a great place to start and I could hear the subtle saturation effect straight away with the default gain setting, which had the effect of making the more audible midrange frequencies feel more ‘alive’. There’s the option of switching from a line to microphone input, which mimics the change in impedance — this is a bit like increasing the input level to drive the ‘circuitry’ that bit harder, though of course impedance also varies with frequency. When engaging this input control, the internal signal flow of the plug‑in compensates for any increase in level at the output stage, so this is a great way of getting a quick feel for how much character you want to impart. It also goes some way to addressing that minor grumble about not being able to link the input and output controls.
A few weeks on from getting the Omnitec‑67A, I’m still instinctively reaching for it.
On drums, I liked how putting an instance of the 67A on my drum bus helped to tie the sound of a live drum kit together into more of a cohesive sound, especially, how it pulled the top‑end of cymbals. The EQ section worked really well here and the mid‑band seems to be set at around just the right area for pulling some of the boxy low‑midrange area out of a source. Feeling suitably encouraged, I also tried the plug‑in on guitars, vocals and keyboards and in one particular mix, several instances of the 67A were hugely important in coaxing a more ‘authentic’ sound from a collection of instruments that had been recorded in different locations. Although I could hear useful tonal differences when auditioning the options, I rarely found myself straying from the default Tube or Bias settings.
When it comes to saturation, I have a very well‑stocked plug‑in folder. But a few weeks on from getting the Omnitec‑67A I’m still instinctively reaching for it when I crave a bit extra from a source. It certainly does do more extreme personality changes if you want that, but in the middle of a busy mix I’ve found myself using it for subtler enhancement, where it allows me that bit more control. In that scenario, Having the onboard ‘vintage’ EQ makes it perfect for adding a bit of sheen to a lead vocal/acoustic guitar or adding a bit more low end or a kick drum.
As a wider point for discussion, it still impresses me that plug‑in designers can recreate authentic signal flows but, ultimately, the user cares about sound and functionality. As a saturation device, this might be better with automatic gain compensation and high‑ and low‑pass side‑chain options, but even without that I liked the Omnitech 67A a great deal. It adds some very useful extra features to a great‑sounding vintage valve preamp emulation. It’s my first encounter with Black Rooster’s plug‑ins and I’m impressed — and I’m looking forward to trying more.
A great‑sounding vintage valve preamp emulation that makes for a lovely saturation effect, and offers some useful EQ options.