Here is a selection of sound clips comparing the Steinberg RND Portico plug-ins (/sos/dec11/articles/rnd-plug-ins.htm) with the hardware on which they are modelled. The original sound clips used for the plug-ins were run through the same digital converters as the hardware - an Apogee DA16X and an Apogee Rosetta 800 (192kHz version) - at 44.1kHz/24-bit to take them out of the equation.The two signal chains were set up next to each other in Cubase 6 for easy tweaking. Test tones at different levels and frequencies were used for thorough calibration.
RND Portico 5033 EQ
First up is an acoustic guitar that due to close-miking has a rather prominent build-up around 100Hz and is missing some definition in the upper mid-range.
Adding a narrow -8dB filter at 100Hz, Q value 5, and +3dB at 6kHz, Q value 2, takes away the muddy low end and adds some definition.
Here is the same filtering done with the RND 5033 plug-in:
A simple drum loop demonstrates how good the shelving EQ sounds. Here's the unmodified loop:
Applying a low shelf at 70Hz, boosting 7dB, shows how good the analogue hardware sounds, adding a tightly controlled low end without post-ringing.
The plug-in handles the same settings very well too:
Keeping the low shelf enabled and adding a high shelf at 4.5kHz, adding +3.5dB, focuses the sound around the mid-range and treble but without diminishing the low end:
The plug-in is, I think, indistinguishable from the hardware:
Making the VSL Imperial piano into a bright piano suitable for a pop mix can be a challenge. Here's the original:
By adding a low shelf at 150Hz cutting 3dB, cutting 3dB at 1200Hz with Q value 5, and boosting 12dB from 6kHz and upwards, the hardware EQ turns it into a bright pop piano:
The plug-in performs very well doing the same filtering:
Adding a high shelving EQ is pretty much mandatory on pop and rock vocals, and in this case, some extra mid-range is also welcome. This is the original vocal take:
Overdoing the effect a little bit by adding +6dB at 12kHz and up along with +2dB at 2200Hz, Q value 2, shows how well the Neve Portico EQ behaves:
The same is true for the plug-in:
RND Portico 5043 Compressor
Due to the fact that gain-reduction meter on both the plug-in and the hardware doesn't show the actual gain reduction, calibrating the two precisely is difficult. I ended up using test tones at different signal levels, calibrating the threshold by setting the ratio to limit and then adjusting both the plug-in and the hardware until they measured equally. Then the ratio was set to, for example, 3:1 on both units, and new measurements were done to perfect the calibration. All clips have been level-matched as closely as possible.
First up is the drum loop from the previous test, now in stereo.
Using the fastest attack and release setting and the highest ratio made the calibration easier, so the first test was done with the following compressor settings: ratio limit, attack 20ms, release 100ms and feed-forward mode. Here's how the hardware sounded:
At the fastest setting of 20ms attack the plug-in sounds a tad slow, letting some more transients through, but nevertheless very similar to the hardware:
Switching to feedback mode, keeping the other settings the same, makes the compression slightly less 'grabby' and more beefy. It's a subtle change; interestingly the drums peak about 1.5-2dB lower, but still sound equally powerful.
The plug-in has a noticeably slower attack even though it's set to 20ms, just like the hardware, peaking a good 3dB higher than the hardware. Perhaps it doesn't produce exactly the same attack as the hardware, but it gives the drum loop a nice smack:
Raising the release to 50ms makes the hardware sound more like the plug-in at 20ms attack.
The plug-in might sound slightly less open, but try to pick it out in a blind test five times in a row and it will be pretty impossible.
Switching to feed-forward mode, keeping the ratio at limiting, attack 50ms and release 100ms produces a more 'grabby' compression which is nice for parallel compression.
To my ears the plug-in is indistinguishably to the hardware at these settings:
Going back to the original drum loop...
...Then applying more modest compression - feed-forward mode, ratio 3:1, 20ms attack and 100ms release - shows how sympathetically the Portico 5043 compressor handles drums, taking care of the levels without putting a lid on.
The plug-in handles the drums equally well: if you repeatedly can pick them apart 10 times in a row, consider applying for a job at Yamaha!
Keeping the same settings apart from switching to feedback mode beefs up the drums somewhat and make the compression less 'grabby':
Again it's impossible to tell the plug-in from the hardware:
Using a nicely played bass guitar with somewhat uneven dynamics is a good test for checking how well a compressor handles bass. Here's the original:
Setting the Portico compressor to feed-forward mode, ratio 3:1, attack 30ms, release 250ms doing a couple of dB gain reduction shows how well it handles stray notes without taking away too much of the player's natural dynamics.
And the plug-in does it equally well:
Keeping the settings the same apart from switching to feedback mode changes the attack characteristics a little bit, making the bass more round and heavy. It's a subtle change but it's nice to have that option:
Again the plug-in sounds equally good:
Using the same acoustic guitar as before with slightly different filtering shows how well the Portico compressor handles fast dynamics without 'putting on the lid', and even adds a bit of a bite: