In 2010, McDSP released the 6030 Ultimate Compressor plug-in [Tape Op #105], which offered ten different compressors in one virtual rack — some original concepts as well as some inspired by classic analog units. A few years later, they did the same with the 6020 Ultimate EQ. Now, McDSP has combined both "Ultimates" into a single plug-in, with an additional eight new modules, for a total of 28 processing effects in 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip.

6050 has three module bays for creating your lunchbox-style channel strip. Modules are broken down into three categories and are selectable from the left side of the plug-in window: EQ, Comp, or More. Either drag-and-drop modules onto each bay or right-click the top of the desired bay and choose your module via a dropdown menu. Master input and output–level rotary knobs make gain-control easy, and a polarity switch at the output certainly never hurts. Lastly, each bay has its own sidechain key and key-listen switch for auditioning the master sidechain input. This means you can have any (or all) of your module bays look to the master sidechain for its key.

Most of the compressor modules, like C 671, Opto-C2 and L2, BC-22, SST ‘77, and Over EZ2, were inspired by classic analog compressors. Each compressor has a corresponding EQ based on similar circuitry — I found myself using the combo of British E into BC-22 most often, but really loved McDSP's original FRG compressor and EQ too. To go through every module would be exhausting and useless for those already familiar with 6020 and 6030, so I'll stick to what's new in 6050.

First up are two new EQ modules: MEF 1 and E404. MEF 1 (mid-emphasis filter) is a high and low–pass filter with an added emphasis circuit to boost whatever remains between the two roll-offs. It's an obvious choice for any filter effects, but even more useful for focusing a sound to fit in a mix. E404 is a throwback to the classic FilterBank E4, which was the first McDSP plug-in I used and is still a favorite of mine today. An excellent, clean EQ — I'm very happy to see it reimagined for 6050.

There are also three new saturation, overdrive, and distortion modules: S671, Moo-D, and D-100. S671 is the least extreme of the bunch and for me the most practical. It can add a lot of life and character, without drastically changing the source, so it's great for fattening up anemic recordings or "de-digitalizing" brittle vocals and cymbals. Moo-D is a tube-style overdrive with a little bit more presence and top-end bite than S671, while D-100 is a straight-up distortion unit in the same vein as the SansAmp PSA-1.

And of course, every channel strip needs a gate/expander, so 6050 gives you three: iX, FRG X, and dbx-inspired EZ G. All three feature the standard controls you'd expect, along with high and low–pass filters on the sidechains.

All these different processing options make 6050 a real Swiss Army plug-in. I loved it on individual drum inserts, mainly for the ease of having all the goods in one spot. And that's the real success of rack-style plug-ins for me — the convenience of opening one insert, and everything's there in one place. Even better, 6050 lets you audition different modules while maintaining your settings. So if you dial in an EQ or compression setting that's working, but you want to hear a different module on the job, you can swap them in and out without losing settings. My only gripe is that I found some modules sounded a little too similar — I couldn't hear much difference between a few of the compressors and EQs. This would be a much bigger issue if the modules didn't deliver, but they do! 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip certainly packs a lot into a single plug-in, all without a heavy tax on your CPU. I think you'd be hard pressed to find another multi-module plug-in with this many useable features, especially at McDSP's asking price. You can purchase the plug-in with AAX Native, AU, and VST support — or with the addition of AAX DSP support.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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