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It’s update time! Demonstrating their commitment to continuously improve and add to the Synergy Core Native Library, Antelope Audio has released three plugins modelling a clutch of classic tube compressors, plus a pair of recreations of sophisticated hardware EQs.

Classic compressors

Modeled after a 1950s legend, ALT-436C is a variable-mu tube compressor with fixed attack controls, originally designed by James B. Lansing. Loved by producers in the Beatles era, Abbey Road studio owned several modified versions of the hardware. As the threshold control is advanced to lower the onset of compression, it also increases the compression ratio, from 2:1 to 4:1. According to Ken Scott (David Bowie/Elton John/Supertramp), the meter was sometimes “pegged all the way” at maximum compression; in a recording era when processing was limited, these simple-to-operated compressors had the ability to suck-up ambience and present an ‘in your face’ sound that would cut-through on radio speakers.

The Lansing circuitry inspired several hardware imitations and refinements, with one of the best being Grove Hill Audio’s ‘Liverpool.’ Bringing the flavor of the older designs that inspired it to a new generation of music-makers with different demands, the Liverpool added a stepped attack knob offering six settings, covering a wide range from 1 (Fast, 3ms) to 6 (Very Slow, 138ms). Between each attack setting there’s a position labeled C which switches off the gain reduction, having the bonus effect of turning the Liverpool into a characterful line amp. The Liverpool delivers the rich mid-range smoothing compression of an Altec with a faster transient-taming attack, and the unique Hold recovery of the Beatles/EMI modifications, all in one unit.

European engineers visiting US studios in the 1980s were often surprised to see a military-green colored tube behemoth with a huge illuminated meter occupying the bottom half of equipment racks. The BA-6A Limiting Amplifier had originally been designed to provide high-quality operation in the speech input channels of FM and AM broadcast and TV sound transmitters. It serves as an automatic means of limiting the audio signal peaks to a certain level, thereby preventing over modulation or overloading with distortion and adjacent channel interference. The limiting characteristics of the BA-6A readily adapted the big box for recording, with the 9-tube monster being something of a secret weapon for boosting bass guitar. The special character and thickening effect of the BA-6A also became a quick shortcut for beefing up snare and kick drums.

Specialist Equalizers

Leif Mases had a storied career in the control room working with the likes of Black Sabbath, ABBA, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck and more. Mases was in-house technician at ABBA’s Polar Studios, and when he needed a surgical EQ he designed his own, and later formed a company to sell the specialist hardware. The spirit of this mastering room staple has been recreated by Antelope in the VEQ-432C, with precision frequency, Q, and boost/cut controls. The EQ sounds subtle, with an emphasis on precision and fidelity rather than coloration. The frequency selection is click-selected to frequencies roughly equivalent to whole-note intervals, with +/- 12dB of boost or cut and 5-15dB per octave Q shaping. If you have a clear idea of how to shape your audio, this is the tool of choice. Even the frequency choices usually avoided by engineers for boosting tend to sound good with the VEQ-432C.

How high does your hearing go? In the 1990s there was an obscure rack-mount EQ known as the Nightpro, which featured a ‘6th band’ for boosting frequencies higher than high. The designer of this EQ later went on to produce his own range of hardware, and the MG4+ is Antelope Audio’s software emulation of a Series 500 EQ module – known for adding natural, musical presence to vocals, acoustic guitars, and overheads with an extra ‘Sky band’ boost up to 40kHz. The hardware was notable for linear phase operation, a very difficult-to-design analog circuit, which gives the MG4+ the capability to preserve audio being equalized without any phase-shifting artifacts. Purity and clarity is the byword for this EQ, which has the ability to add hit record-sounding gloss and sheen to your sound.

The complete Synergy Core Native library is provided in AAX, VST3, and AU formats and is available via a €14.95 monthly membership plan, or as an annual €149 plan with two months free. Owners of Antelope Audio interfaces and Synergy Core hardware effects will benefit from tailor-made, substantially discounted Native plugin library offers, available via their user accounts. Licensing is by iLok Cloud or iLok USB (2nd gen or higher), and a 14-day free trial is available.

– Nigel Jopson

Explore the Synergy Core Native collection HERE

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