My 'Desert Island' Mix Plugin
So you're stranded on a desert island with nothing but a laptop and your preferred DAW (don't ask how or why this happened), suddenly you're asked to mix a track for your dream client (we're assuming there's WiFi - stick with me here).
Somehow, in the mysterious events that have lead to you being stranded on a desert island, you've also lost your entire plugin library - except one plugin.
The question is; which plugin are you going to choose to be stranded with?
For me, the answer is easy. And that is the bx_console SSL 4000 E from Brainworx. Man I love this plugin.
Nowadays it feels like almost every single plugin is trying to re-create and/or model some sort of analogue hardware to emulate that same sound and feel 'in the box'. Whilst the bx_console is undoubtably pretty good at this (particularly when paired up with my trusty SSL Nucleus), that isn't the reason that I love it.
The reason I love this plugin so much is because it's the audio engineer's equivalent to the item that anybody stranded on a desert island needs - the Swiss Army Knife.
The obvious features are it's great sounding EQ (which you can also switch to it's "brown knob" EQ circuit to give a different character to the low end), the compressor which can give you everything from punchy drum sounds to smooth sounding vocals (also switchable between "E" & "G" series for different tones), as well as it's effective gate/expander, and LP/HP filters.
Diving a little deeper, there's also a whole ton of extra features that make this plugin so useable for many different applications.
The compressor also features a mix control, meaning that you can dial in parallel compression within the plugin itself. We have an input and output trim, as well as a polarity/phase inversion switch, meaning there's no need for another 'utility' plugin within your DAW to handle this.
The 'THD' (total harmonic distortion) is subtle but effective when used across multiple instances, and the 'random' switch allows us to bring some 'analog' modelling - acting similar to other console modelling like the Waves NLS or Slate VCC.
Another neat feature is the A, B, C, D snapshots which you could use to compare different settings or, even better, save four different start points for your settings. For example: 'A' could be your default starting point for drum processing, 'B' for bass, 'C' for guitars, and 'D' for vocals - each one having different EQ & compression settings as starting points. Simply save this as your default preset then every time you load the plugin you can select any of these 'snapshots' and off you go!
One of my favourite tricks with the SSL Channel strip is to feed the EQ to the sidechain of the compressor using the 'EQ to DYN SC' switch and use it as a De-Esser to treat any overly sibilant vocals. I often find that it works better than most actual De-Essers and gives you more control than you would usually have. There's a video on my YouTube channel explaining this in more detail.
I should add, there are many different plugins which emulate an SSL channel strip, all of which could do a very similar job. I used the Waves E-Channel for many years and it's also a great plugin but the bx_console just has some extra features that I like more.
Anyway, let's hope none of us end up stranded on a desert island with a mix deadline approaching anytime soon but if I do, my plugin of choice is the bx_console SSL 4000 E.
Let me know your desert island plugin in comments!