Billy Decker's signature plug-in collection is aimed at those who'd rather get things done than get into the details.
Billy Decker is a Nashville-based mix specialist who's equally at home balancing modern country music and extreme metal. What's most remarkable about Decker, though, is the speed at which he works. As he explained in SOS January 2018's Inside Track feature, it typically takes him an astonishing 45 minutes to turn a raw tracking session into a radio-friendly hit single.
This incredible efficiency is made possible by working entirely in the box and, in particular, by the extensive use of templates. Decker has a huge Pro Tools session ready to roll, containing the plug-in chains and drum samples he's honed over many years at the top of his game. So refined is his system that he can get close to a finished mix simply by bringing the target audio into this session — and now Decker has teamed up with Joey Sturgis Tones to make some aspects of his template available to the world at large. These are not simply snapshots or models of the existing plug-ins that Decker uses, but new algorithms created to capture the style of processing he typically applies.
Are You On Glue?
Billy Decker Bus Glue is a suite of plug-ins that follows in the footsteps of the 'celebrity engineer signature sound' model established by the likes of Waves. In other words, the user only sees two or three very stylised controls, often with friendly and non-technical names, but under the hood, these are adjusting multiple parameters. (At least one would hope there's more going on than meets the eye, given that the Mac installer is well over a gigabyte in size!)
The Bus Glue suite is authorised using an iLok account and contains seven plug-ins. As the name suggests, these are designed to sit across the master bus and various subgroups within a typical rock, pop, country or metal mix. The six instrument-specific Bus Glue plug-ins target bass guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards, drums and vocals. Although there are tonal aspects involved, the primary action of each plug-in is dynamic, and if you think of them as preset compressors set up for specific applications, you won't go far wrong.
The parameter sets vary slightly from plug-in to plug-in, but nearly all of them feature a 'one‑knob' compression dial — labelled, variously, Clamp, Squeeze, Staput or, boringly, Compress — and another control simply titled Deckerate. There's an output level control too, as well as a hidden input trim which is accessed by clicking on the virtual VU meter. Some of the plug-ins also have wet/dry mix controls to permit parallel processing.
As you'd expect, the compression characteristics are very appropriate to the sources involved, at least within the musical contexts in which this plug-in is designed to work. It's easy to go from a gentle tickle of the meter to full-on crushing, and make-up gain is automatically applied as you do so. Oddly, however, this is not the case with the Deckerate control, which typically makes things both louder and brighter as you turn it up, and needs to be balanced by judicious use of the output level trim. Deckerate does different things in each plug-in, but typically involves upper-mid boost and either limiting or soft clipping, at least in most of the seven plug-ins.
The one instance where Deckerate doesn't change the perceived level is in the Master plug-in, where it's joined by a separate control labelled Finish, which absolutely does make things louder and brighter. A sort of re-Deckerating function, if you like?
A Full Deck
As you'd expect, these plug-ins are mostly simplicity itself to use. I do wish there was the option to compensate for the gain introduced by the Deckerate controls, but presumably their behaviour mimics faithfully the way Decker's own template works, in which case it's understandable. As long as the signals you feed into these plug-ins are somewhere in the ballpark sonically and stylistically, you can absolutely get together a pretty polished-sounding stem mix in no time at all. Which begs the question of what to do with the other seven hours, 15 minutes of the working day...
- Very simple to use.
- Targeted feature set helps you to get polished results fast.
- Huge installer for such an apparently simple product.
- Some controls are gain-compensated but others aren't.
A suite of instant 'make it sound better' plug-ins targeted at the master bus and instrumental submixes, Billy Decker Bus Glue is simple and effective.