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Soundevice Digital Plamen

Multiband Saturation Plug-in By Paul White
Published October 2023

Soundevice Digital Plamen

Created by Soundevice Digital and marketed under the United Plugins umbrella, Plamen is a five‑band saturator, in which each band can be processed using one of five different saturation algorithms. In my own studio, I tend to use subtle multiband saturation mainly when mastering — something I’ve done since before plug‑ins took over the world! — but with Plamen there’s enough scope for adding considerable character to individual tracks too. All the common Mac and Windows plug‑in formats are supported, including AAX, and authorisation is via a personal licence key file that allows you to run the plug‑in on more than one machine.

The resizable GUI is very straightforward, with a dynamic spectral display showing what is being processed within each frequency band. It looks nice enough, though it’s worth noting that ‘selectable’ text is dark purple on a darker purple background, changing to a light blue when selected — I found the purple on purple a bit hard to read on a smaller screen, and would have appreciated the option to make this a little more visible.

Because adding saturation affects the level of the signals being processed, the plug‑in has a set of master controls that include input gain, with a range of ‑24 to +24 dB. There’s also a wet/dry mix control for setting up parallel distortion, and those after a vintage tape vibe can also add a subtle amount of simulated tape wow. An output gain control is available to compensate for any overall level changes caused by the processing. By increasing the input and decreasing the output (or vice versa), the overall amount of saturation can be adjusted, so it might have been a good idea to offer an input/output link to allow the overall input to be changed while keeping the output volume nominally constant.

Tucked away in the top bar is a switchable limiter, a 2x, 4x or 8x oversampling button (better performance at the expense of higher CPU overhead and latency) and a choice of ‘analogue’ or linear‑phase filters for the crossovers. Linear phase is recommended but adds more latency, so it’s best used when mixing rather than when tracking. You’ll also find the buttons for preset management here along with an A/B button for comparing settings. Large horizontal bar meters at the bottom of the GUI track the input and output levels.

Each of the bands is set out with identical controls, starting with mute, solo and AGC Boost buttons. AGC, which stands for ‘automatic gain compensation’, affects the signal feeding the saturator by adding up to 10dB of gain, but then an inverse gain is applied at the output of the saturator to keep the levels consistent. Gain adjusts the input to the band (‑12 to +12 dB) and the crossover frequencies between the bands can each be adjusted over a very wide range. Within the frequency display are draggable marker flags for setting the crossover points.

Mode is where the magic happens, as you can choose between UK, US or German console characteristics, or use emulated magnetic tape saturation; any band can be set to any saturation type so there are plenty of permutations to explore. If those modes are too subtle, there’s also a clip distortion option. The Mojo parameter adjusts the level of saturation in each band.

Subtle use of Plamen makes for bigger, fuller mixes: details stands out more and separation between instruments seems better defined..

Moderate levels of saturation add depth and dimension to the sound in a very positive way but without making the processing obvious. Should you want a touch more ‘nasty’, you can drive the overall input harder. In a mastering context, subtle use of Plamen makes for bigger, fuller mixes: details stands out more and separation between instruments seems better defined. It really is a kind of ‘more of everything’ treatment but without adding to the peak signal level. I found the console EQs to get progressively grainier going from UK to US to German, while Tape can also get quite lively if pushed hard. (But they all work well when used appropriately.)

Clip is useful on percussive sounds and maybe on some synth sounds, but for mastering the composition I happened to be working on, I gravitated towards using the UK console model on the first three bands and Tape on the top two, with around 50 to 60 percent Mojo on all bands other than the lower mid, which I’d set to cover 180 to 800 Hz and dialled down to avoid enhancing that part of the spectrum, as that often starts to sound boxy or congested if too prominent. Adding the AGC on the higher bands also helps lift out detail. This type of setting gives everything a positive lift that can be further fine‑tuned using the wet/dry control. However, there’s a generous set of presets to explore that covers both mix processing and individual track treatments for drums, vocals, strings, bass and so on, and these are easily tweaked to taste. Plamen has much to commend it and I suspect it will become a key part of my mastering chain as well as seeing frequent use as a track sweetener.


€89 (about $96; discounted to €19/$21 when going to press).