The mysterious obsession with virtual channel strips

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tronam
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Post 10 Sep 2021

I have somehow managed to buy several reputable channel strip plugins over the years and ultimately never use them, instead opting for more flexible individual EQs, compressors and saturators. Considering the deluge of new rehashes of SSL, Neve, API etc... strips year after year, clearly people must be buying them. What am I missing? Aside from the nostalgic vibes of old mixing desk workflows, is there really much practical benefit for mostly in-the-box electronic musicians who don't record live instruments?

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Loque
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Post 10 Sep 2021

Its the secret whish to become a better mixing engineer by buying a well known name.
:reason: 11, Win10 64Bit.

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guitfnky
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Post 10 Sep 2021

I came at it from the opposite direction. I never understood the appeal considering how much more flexible it is to be able to just add devices/plugins as needed, in whatever order you like.

the problem there, for me, was that with so many choices for this EQ or that compressor, I was basically just arbitrarily picking stuff. sure, I would pick a digital EQ if I wanted something detailed, or an analogue one for less precise work, but it was still somewhat random within those groups.

then I decided to finally give the Reason channel strip a proper go, stopped using the EQ display and mixing with my eyes, and found that I really loved that workflow. it meant less guesswork/random decisions, and I got more comfortable with what each of the components does. and more importantly for me, it reduced my reliance on those precision EQs and compressors. I’m able to get really good results with the channel strip more often than not, and don’t even need to reach for them.

then when I switched to Live as my main DAW, I initially would set up tracks with a default suite of the Reason rack versions of the channel stuff, but that seemed clunkier than I wanted, so I got one of the Brainworx SSL emulations and use that as my go-to, now. I don’t think I’ll ever want to go back to reaching for the too-fancy stuff I used to use before I’ve done everything I can with a channel strip first.
I write bad music for good people

latest release—The Lake Door:
bit.ly/TheLakeDoor-Soundcloud
https://slowrobot.bandcamp.com/track/the-lake-door

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guitfnky
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Post 10 Sep 2021

Loque wrote:
10 Sep 2021
Its the secret whish to become a better mixing engineer by buying a well known name.
right, and the many professional mix engineers who use them just really swear by the name on the label.
I write bad music for good people

latest release—The Lake Door:
bit.ly/TheLakeDoor-Soundcloud
https://slowrobot.bandcamp.com/track/the-lake-door

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tronam
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Post 10 Sep 2021

guitfnky wrote:
10 Sep 2021
I came at it from the opposite direction. I never understood the appeal considering how much more flexible it is to be able to just add devices/plugins as needed, in whatever order you like.

the problem there, for me, was that with so many choices for this EQ or that compressor, I was basically just arbitrarily picking stuff. sure, I would pick a digital EQ if I wanted something detailed, or an analogue one for less precise work, but it was still somewhat random within those groups.

then I decided to finally give the Reason channel strip a proper go, stopped using the EQ display and mixing with my eyes, and found that I really loved that workflow. it meant less guesswork/random decisions, and I got more comfortable with what each of the components does. and more importantly for me, it reduced my reliance on those precision EQs and compressors. I’m able to get really good results with the channel strip more often than not, and don’t even need to reach for them.

then when I switched to Live as my main DAW, I initially would set up tracks with a default suite of the Reason rack versions of the channel stuff, but that seemed clunkier than I wanted, so I got one of the Brainworx SSL emulations and use that as my go-to, now. I don’t think I’ll ever want to go back to reaching for the too-fancy stuff I used to use before I’ve done everything I can with a channel strip first.
Great points. I do see the attraction of a simpler, more consistent and predictable workflow you can learn so well that it becomes intuitive by ear, at least when it comes to the fundamental effects. It seems easier than ever nowadays to get bogged down in the technical details with the sheer number of available plugins on the market screaming for our attention, even just in freeware alone. That's probably what piqued my interest in the first place; a desire to streamline and simplify. Perhaps I just haven't found a channel strip yet with the right balance of flexibility and ease of use for me. I definitely dislike the trend toward those concentric dual knobs that rotate in opposite directions; They may be authentic, but feel fiddly with a mouse. Which SSL strip did you end up settling on? Brainworx have so many now.

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guitfnky
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Post 10 Sep 2021

tronam wrote:
10 Sep 2021
guitfnky wrote:
10 Sep 2021
I came at it from the opposite direction. I never understood the appeal considering how much more flexible it is to be able to just add devices/plugins as needed, in whatever order you like.

the problem there, for me, was that with so many choices for this EQ or that compressor, I was basically just arbitrarily picking stuff. sure, I would pick a digital EQ if I wanted something detailed, or an analogue one for less precise work, but it was still somewhat random within those groups.

then I decided to finally give the Reason channel strip a proper go, stopped using the EQ display and mixing with my eyes, and found that I really loved that workflow. it meant less guesswork/random decisions, and I got more comfortable with what each of the components does. and more importantly for me, it reduced my reliance on those precision EQs and compressors. I’m able to get really good results with the channel strip more often than not, and don’t even need to reach for them.

then when I switched to Live as my main DAW, I initially would set up tracks with a default suite of the Reason rack versions of the channel stuff, but that seemed clunkier than I wanted, so I got one of the Brainworx SSL emulations and use that as my go-to, now. I don’t think I’ll ever want to go back to reaching for the too-fancy stuff I used to use before I’ve done everything I can with a channel strip first.
Great points. I do see the attraction of a simpler, more consistent and predictable workflow you can learn so well that it becomes intuitive by ear, at least when it comes to the fundamental effects. It seems easier than ever nowadays to get bogged down in the technical details with the sheer number of available plugins on the market screaming for our attention, even just in freeware alone. That's probably what piqued my interest in the first place; a desire to streamline and simplify. Perhaps I just haven't found a channel strip yet with the right balance of flexibility and ease of use for me. I definitely dislike the trend toward those concentric dual knobs that rotate in opposite directions; They may be authentic, but feel fiddly with a mouse. Which SSL strip did you end up settling on? Brainworx have so many now.
yeah, you mean the API style knobs? I bought one of those emulations from Waves and it sounds great but I never use it because that knob functionality just doesn’t feel right to me for some reason.

I went with the 4000 E, because I want to say it’s the same model the curves in Reason’s channel strip are based on. either way, I really enjoy it.
I write bad music for good people

latest release—The Lake Door:
bit.ly/TheLakeDoor-Soundcloud
https://slowrobot.bandcamp.com/track/the-lake-door

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selig
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Post 11 Sep 2021

Coming from hardware, channel strips make sense to me because we either use a console for everything or outboard “channel strips” from vintage console for a large part of everything, exceptions being few (Pultec EQ, 1176 & LA-2a compressors). When I moved to ITB starting in the late 1990s there were not any channel strips options - I’d often use a multiband on vocals in a similar way, with LA-2a type on the lowband, sibilance control on the high band, mid control on another band, and “EQ” via the band mix levels. Then came Reason, and shortly after the SSL - which is essentially a built in channel strip on every channel. It didn’t hurt it was modeled after SSL, which I had worked on for over 20 years by that point (so naturally I’m biased…).
Selig Audio, LLC

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MixerJaexx
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Post 11 Sep 2021

I love the virtual (unofficial) SSL 9000K of Reason. 99% all of my EQing of individual tracks is done via the channel strip of Reason (DAW) using my free 24 channel MJ X-Touch Trinity mixer interface.

A lot of people using Softube’s Console 1 hit me up, interested in using one of my mixer interfaces for Reason, and end up not using their Softube. If I were using another DAW, even though we have the channel strip and dynamic devices we can load via the Reason Rack Plugin, I think I’d end up buying the Console 1. Other DAW’s (to my knowledge) don’t have a set up where you create a new mix or audio channel and all the channel strip features similar to Reason’s virtual SSL 9000K are available right from your hardware mixer, no mouse clicking required. And you can instantly select any channel to edit those parameters without mouse or keyboard clicking.

Other DAWs, such as Ableton Live, have superior sequencer and editing via hardware like the Ableton Push, but when using Reason with a mixer running one of my free mixer interfaces, you can’t get SSL-like workflow on each channel without touching a mouse.

Nearly every user of Reason (include those are Reason Studios) only think of Reason as sequencer and rack, but the mixer is just as important (it’s just people don’t realize the power behind it).

Controlling a software emulation of a 9000K via hardware is awesome. It feels good, looks good and is groovy as s…

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bxbrkrz
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Post 11 Sep 2021



:puf_smile: :thumbs_up:
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Jackjackdaw
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Post 11 Sep 2021

I use Reason and Cubase which both have native channel strips and I love them just being to hand when I need them. When I was checking Reaper out I made a template with Arturia plugins as default on each track but it took ages to load so I can see the appeal of a channel strip VST if the Daw doesn't have one.

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tronam
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Post 11 Sep 2021

guitfnky wrote:
10 Sep 2021
yeah, you mean the API style knobs? I bought one of those emulations from Waves and it sounds great but I never use it because that knob functionality just doesn’t feel right to me for some reason.

I went with the 4000 E, because I want to say it’s the same model the curves in Reason’s channel strip are based on. either way, I really enjoy it.
PA often have flash sales and vouchers, so I'll keep an eye out for their version of the E-channel since it's a strip I've actually ended up using quite a bit over the years in Reason. I'm probably more familiar with it than I realize.

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tronam
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Post 11 Sep 2021

selig wrote:
11 Sep 2021
Coming from hardware, channel strips make sense to me because we either use a console for everything or outboard “channel strips” from vintage console for a large part of everything, exceptions being few (Pultec EQ, 1176 & LA-2a compressors). When I moved to ITB starting in the late 1990s there were not any channel strips options - I’d often use a multiband on vocals in a similar way, with LA-2a type on the lowband, sibilance control on the high band, mid control on another band, and “EQ” via the band mix levels. Then came Reason, and shortly after the SSL - which is essentially a built in channel strip on every channel. It didn’t hurt it was modeled after SSL, which I had worked on for over 20 years by that point (so naturally I’m biased…).
I do like the idea of a dependable, familiar set of fundamental mixing tools, even if it seems oddly limiting in this era of ultimate plugin flexibility. After upgrading to R12 I've been going back through many of my old songs and had forgotten how much I actually used the SSL mixer. Those mixes easily hold up the best as well, so that kind of tells me I probably lack the ear and skill to mix and match individual plugins properly. i guess there's something to be said for the time tested "sweet spot" range of controls in these well known channel strips.

EdGrip
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Post 11 Sep 2021

I too am baffled by the sheer unending quantity of channel strip plugins. Clearly, people fetishise them.

I do like to use Slick EQ to try and make myself listen rather than look.

And yes, professional people in any field are often just as susceptible to names and hype as the rest of us.

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Loque
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Post 11 Sep 2021

EdGrip wrote:
11 Sep 2021
I too am baffled by the sheer unending quantity of channel strip plugins. Clearly, people fetishise them.
...
Its the same with Tape Machines. I always hated it when my cassette recorder played back a broken tape which sounded like a wobbling clown and all that noise after the 3rd copy... but today everyone wants this sound :-D
:reason: 11, Win10 64Bit.

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tronam
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Post 11 Sep 2021

Loque wrote:
11 Sep 2021
EdGrip wrote:
11 Sep 2021
I too am baffled by the sheer unending quantity of channel strip plugins. Clearly, people fetishise them.
...
Its the same with Tape Machines. I always hated it when my cassette recorder played back a broken tape which sounded like a wobbling clown and all that noise after the 3rd copy... but today everyone wants this sound :-D
Yeah, we're definitely awash with tape simulations. For a while they were all focused on modeling high end studio tape machines, but now the crappier the better.

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Loque
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Post 11 Sep 2021

tronam wrote:
11 Sep 2021
..., but now the crappier the better.
lol :clap: :lol:
:reason: 11, Win10 64Bit.

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moalla
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Post 11 Sep 2021

So when unread this discussion, if I own some really well emulations as Rack Extension or by PluginaAlliancr do I need at the end a 31band EQ like REQ131 or is it more then enough to use Reapers ReaEQ as free alternative ?
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Benedict
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Post 13 Sep 2021

I see that Channel Strip fashion/plague as several things:

1. People have fallen into this fantasy that if they have something that looks like an 1176 or a Neve, it immediately makes them better at mixing - like the gear does the work - ha! Unless we are talking Fab Filter Pro somethongorother (and don't get me started on the misuse of the word Pro) people only seem interested in clones (or purported clones) of a few bits of vintage gear even if there are better (and free) options. Manufacturers keep dredging them up to sell more plugins. Soon there will be a Fostex X-26 Tape plugin that is unable to stay anywhere near speed and sounds really, really shite - and people will rave about it.

2. Most DAWs were so quick to abandon the traditional Mixer that suddenly people started to realize that having to insert a basic EQ on every darned channel was just stupid. Rather than fix the fundamental problem (by buying Reason obviously) they got lured by the above and started buying 345 Channel Strips, each claiming to out-emulate the other. Interesting that Harrison and now PreSonus are now pushing how forward-looking they are with their mixers and mix strips when Reason has had it all there for 6+ versions/years and Sonar for longer (if you accept ProChannel as elegant as Reason's SSL).

This is one that free device should be very popular but because it doesn't claim to be an 1176, or something someone found holding a toilet door open in Abbey Rd, it is ignored by the masses.

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guitfnky
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Post 13 Sep 2021

I'm pretty sure Harrison Mixbus has been doing it nearly as long or longer than Reason. I have the lower end version of Mixbus 5 and it's okay, but they really lean into it being a mixing platform, more than a recording, sequencing or creative tool (though you can do that). it's incredibly CPU intensive though and I think they even go so far as to suggest that you keep third party plugin use to a minimum.

so while they have a good sounding console emulation, it just doesn't compare to really any other DAW. I'd rather have to add a channel strip to every track (or just include one on my default track, or just use Reason) and have the flexibility of a fully featured DAW than use Mixbus just for it's good integrated channel strip.
I write bad music for good people

latest release—The Lake Door:
bit.ly/TheLakeDoor-Soundcloud
https://slowrobot.bandcamp.com/track/the-lake-door

danc
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Post 13 Sep 2021

For me... I use a virtual channel strip on all my channels because I have intentionally tied myself into the SSL UC1 way of doing things.

The one-to-one hands-on SSL hardware device is just a dream to use. Super slick... you don't pause to do anything with it. I find that I mix better because I can stop looking at my screens and glide from track to track, getting the EQ/comp/LP+HP filters/gate etc bang on using the UC1. As it is seamless, I find I achieve exactly what I need/want and the overall number of plugins I have to drop on each channel has drastically reduced.

I still drop FF Pro-q when I need surgical EQing. Or a character compressor when I need some flavour. But... for getting a sound ready for the next stages of processing - the UC1 way is great.

The SSL "sound" is there... and it really is nice to have (especially the bus compressor). BUT - even if the strip didn't have the SSL sound and was literally 100% clean... it's the hardware that makes it great.

So to answer the question... what's "The mysterious obsession with virtual channel strips?"... I would say... it depends which one you use and how it helps you in your workflow, as well as what "sound" it provides.

https://www.solidstatelogic.com/products/uc1
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