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TC Electronic System 6000 Native Bundle

Plug-in Collection By Sam Inglis
Published June 2024

VSS3 exemplifies the System 6000 user interface, with its row of six ‘focus fields’ at the bottom.VSS3 exemplifies the System 6000 user interface, with its row of six ‘focus fields’ at the bottom.

Is there still a place in our plug‑in folders for the core algorithms from TC Electronic’s legendary System 6000?

When I joined the staff of Sound On Sound, sometime in the 18th Century, there were three big names in digital effects: Lexicon, Eventide and TC Electronic. And, at the time, they were all busy spinning the technology from their high‑end studio processors out into more affordable units. In the case of Danish DSP wizards TC Electronic, that gave us project studio staples like the Triple C dynamics processor and M One effects unit, and perhaps most ubiquitously, the Finalizer range of mastering processors. And TC had their fingers in many other pies too, for example with rackmounting guitar effects like the Gforce, not to mention the Dice II chipset that powered many FireWire audio interfaces.

As the market for digital studio hardware dwindled in the 2010s, new opportunities arose elsewhere. Now part of Music Tribe, TC currently make a huge range of guitar and bass effects pedals, floorboards and bass amps. But the studio expertise that powered iconic products like the System 6000 hasn’t been neglected. Indeed, several members of the team that developed those products are still active at TC, including studio product specialist Christian Gadegaard Frandsen.

Back in the day, TC were quick to spot the potential of the Pro Tools TDM system, and eventually introduced their own Powercore DSP co‑processor. Both platforms allowed engineers mixing ‘in the box’ to employ TC signal processing algorithms as plug‑ins, rather than routing the signal out of the computer to a black box in a rack. Fast‑forward to 2024, and there is now a comprehensive range of TC plug‑ins in all the major native formats, available individually or in themed bundles. Some are entirely new, some are essentially ports of those classic algorithms, and some are faithful emulations of even older TC hardware products. The ‘one ring to rule them all’ is the TC Studio Elite Collection, which includes a total of 20 plug‑ins encompassing seven themed collections. Among them is the System 6000 Native Bundle, the subject of this review.

Feeding Of The 6000

The TC System 6000 was TC’s flagship digital processor. A rackmounting unit with a separate remote controller called the Icon, it was offered in several ‘mainframe’ configurations to suit particular use cases, with additional algorithms available to buy separately. For example, you could buy it as a Reverb 6000, pre‑loaded with reverbs and other effects, and then later upgrade to full System 6000 specs by adding dynamics, EQ, noise reduction and other algorithms; or you could opt for the Mastering 6000, which shipped with various dynamics and EQ capabilities but could likewise be upgraded. Some individual System 6000 algorithms were also available as plug‑ins for TDM and Powercore systems.

Although there were all sorts of effects and processes available, the Virtual Space Simulation reverbs and multiband dynamics were the jewels in the System 6000’s crown, and the five plug‑ins that form the System 6000 Native Bundle repackage those key algorithms. There are three reverb plug‑ins — VSS3 Native, VSS4HD Native and Nonlin2 Native — plus the MD3 Native and MD4HD Native mastering processors. All major native plug‑in formats on macOS and Windows are supported, and authorisation is to an iLok account.

The native plug‑ins are, as far as possible, faithful to the implementations that appeared in the original hardware and Powercore/TDM plug‑ins, which in turn means they largely replicate the user interfaces as they appeared on the Icon controller’s touchscreen. This used a control paradigm whereby parameters were selected for editing by touching an on‑screen button, then adjusted by moving a fader. Consequently, even on/off switches and settings chosen from lists appear as ‘rotary’ controls. Retaining the System 6000 interfaces also means these plug‑ins don’t have the visual bells and whistles you find in many modern rivals. For example, many multiband processors display the crossover frequencies and other parameters graphically over an FFT display of the incoming signal, but that’s not an option in MD3 or MD4HD.

These are relatively complex plug‑ins, with at least 20 parameters exposed and often many more, yet they never feel overwhelming or unclear.

Considering its age, though, I actually think the user interface paradigm has held up rather well. These are relatively complex plug‑ins, with at least 20 parameters exposed and often many more, yet they never feel overwhelming or unclear. The controls are sensibly distributed across multiple tabs, and the freely resizeable windows can be made compact enough to fit comfortably on any laptop screen, or large enough for the most ginormous monitor. These aren’t the sort of plug‑ins where you can randomly drag pretty graphics around and hope for the best, but as long as you have some understanding and experience of the basic processing types and parameters, they’ll be straightforward, logical and fast to use. There’s also a commendable consistency of design between all five plug‑ins in this suite, meaning that once you’ve learned one of them, the others are easy to pick up.

A good example of this is the six ‘focus fields’ that appear along the bottom of each plug‑in window. These remain visible whatever editing page you’re on, and can be assigned to any control...

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