True to their rather clever names, these two plug-in bundles feature easy-to-use and accurate emulations of 3 sought-after preamps and 3 classic synth filter sections, each with some creative modulation and modern signal processing options that not only are dead simple to apply, but sound stellar – and have a low CPU footprint to boot! All of these plug-ins are 64-bit, Windows and/or Mac compatible, with VST 2 & 3, AU, and AAX installers available.

Filters first: The 3 Filters You'll Actually Use bundle includes the Mini-Filter (a 24 dB per octave low-pass ladder filter emulation based on the Moog Minimoog Model D), SEM-Filter (12 dB per octave multi-mode filter from the amazing Oberheim SEM), and M12-Filter (dual multi-mode filter with 15 different filter modes, modeled after the Oberheim Matrix-12). Each is essentially the filter section from the corresponding Arturia soft-synth models, each with extra features not found in the standalone synth emulations. For instance, the Mini-Filter has a new sequencer, while the M12-Filter has a crazy deep modulation matrix. Even though I own the latest iterations of each of the Arturia soft synths, these filter plug-ins are definitely their own monsters with creative feature sets (and sound design possibilities) not available with the standalone synths. After using them in a few sessions and across different mixes, it's clear that these filters are NOT redundant cousins to their related synths – Arturia didn't just rip the filter sections out of the V Collection synths, slap a price tag on them and call it a day – they made some very shrewd and musical enhancements to each, with the goal of accessibility and usability at the fore.

The Mini-Filter is an inspired permutation of the classic Minimoog filter section, with an added Drive circuit in front of the low-pass filter, and an 8-step sequencer that can control the cutoff frequency, the resonance and/or the rate of the LFO for some really cool tempo-sync'd effects. Paired with the envelope follower, things can get crazy quickly (in a good way). Used on stale drum loops or even rhythm guitars, I found this filter to be a quick (and often dirty) way to inject new life into mixes or ideas that I had previously given up on – for me, discretely added to a touchstone element of a mix like a bass or drum part, the Mini-Filter was a great tool for quickly finding a unique and expressive "3rd verse" variant within a composition. Also, a bonus featured here (and on the M12-Filter) is the ability to limit the resonance, which restricts the filter from self-oscillation – handy if you get a little loony with the Emphasis knob.

The SEM-Filter has that smooth (some would say "thin," but I'd disagree) Oberheim sound, and all of the original modes including low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, and band-reject. Like the original, the SEM-Filter is a "state variable" circuit, meaning the filter type is effectively sweepable from low-pass through notch and high-pass, which gives you very specific control over your source sounds. The filter type, amazingly, can be modulated, varying from low- to high-pass, for instance. The notch filter in particular is stellar, particularly when applied to harmonically complex sounds. I'm all about the notch filter (applying the Soft Clip circuit and a fair amount of resonance, with subtle modulation) over lead keyboard or guitar parts. Although the SEM-Filter doesn't venture near self-oscillation, it still gets downright nasty, especially when driving the input gain and noise circuit. The 16-step gate sequencer is also a cool addition, triggering the modulation envelopes or even the LFO – when used in tandem with the 2x8 modulation grid, you can quickly build some fascinating rhythmic chaos into your drum parts.

All three filters in the bundle are spectacular, but if I had to pick a favorite of the trio, it would be the M12-Filter. The filter section of the Oberheim Matrix-12 is legendary – well, at least among synth nerds like myself, and this spot-on circuit modeled emulation does not disappoint. The M12-Filter effectively doubles the Matrix-12 filter with two independent, pan-able filter channels (each with the original 15 Oberheim filter modes available), routable to a master filter cutoff section in parallel or in series (or independent of each other). All of that can be fed to the modulation section… Which. Is. Insane. Three assignable mod envelopes, which can be looped or threshold-triggered, tempo locked, or free, each with their own tempo multipliers – you can draw your own envelopes freely or to a grid, with up to 16 breakpoints and adjustable slopes/curves. Initially, I thought that it was difficult to fit a high number of points into the smallish Envelope Generator window, but nope – Arturia thought of that as well; you may either re-size the entire window or zoom the generator section alone by clicking and dragging (I love Arturia's UI for re-sizing plug-in windows from 60% to 200% – other developers should be following Arturia's lead in UI/UX design). Need some quick inspiration, or a good baseline for your modulation? The envelopes themselves have a quick preset selector – independent of the primary preset section! And you can save your envelope creations there as presets. I know I'm getting off into the weeds here a bit, but let me just say that the envelopes, as implemented in the M12-Filter by Arturia, aren't really traditional envelopes – they are incredibly powerful, more like a mixture of an LFO, step sequencer, and, yes, an envelope. So, you have three of these suckers, plus a random source module and separate modulation oscillator (like a traditional LFO), all of which can drive any synth parameter using the 5x8 modulation matrix. Again, the UI here has some brilliant touches – in the modulation matrix grid, the routings are made by simply dragging up or down vertically at each patch point, and each routing is represented by a numeric value. Fairly standard stuff, but Arturia added subtle color intensities that track with the numeric values, so it's easy to scan the mod matrix and determine the strengths of your various routings (the brighter the color is on a particular mod patch, the more that parameter will be modulated by its source). It's a pretty, and also very ergonomic design. The M12-Filter modulation section is amazing for everything from subtle timed sweeps to full-on Animal Collective-style triggered freakouts – easily my favorite new creative filter plug-in.

The 3 Preamps You'll Actually Use collection of plug-ins include the 1973-Pre and the TridA-Pre (both modeling classic British solid state preamps), as well as the V76-Pre (modeling a well-known German tube preamp). All three feature mid-side modes, low latency, and were surprisingly CPU-friendly in my testing. Each preamp model has its own character and vibe, and all are relatively conservative, meaning don't expect these to be extreme sound manglers – they are meant to be inserted generously across mixes to impart that "vintage" character (often with plenty of harmonic distortion and midrange punch).

I loved the 1973-Pre on a drum bus, and had no compunction about added it to an entire mix bus. Interestingly, Arturia added a transformer switch which is selectable between two types: the first keeps the sound of the original Neve amplifier circuit, and the second is described in the manual as "a novelty introduced by Arturia to give the users some sound variation, based on another famous piece of vintage equipment." So, that's a mystery, apparently? Hard to say what the second transformer is emulating, but it does offer some additional (if subtle) flexibility to this emulation.

The EQ of the TridA-Pre is (like the original) full of expressive possibilities, with a gritty and aggressive midrange that I can't help but want to boost to extremes, especially on electric guitars. You've got 15 dB of boost or cut available, independently on the left and right channels, or stereo-linked. Of the three, I found the TridA-Pre EQ section to be the most compelling, with the original push-button style hi- and low-pass filters (you can even do the "all-buttons-in" trick, or combinations of buttons for steeper slopes).

The V76-Pre features nicely modern updates like continuous gain controls and of course, the addition of a mid-side mode, but still retains that vacuum-tube vibe. The EQ section is charmingly primitive, with only two shelf bands at fixed high and low frequencies. The high shelf is somewhere around 5 kHz and the low is around 100 Hz, and the curves are, ahem, generously broad – I love how the combination of the amplifier and EQ softens harsh transients, or adds a little warmth, but don't think think of the EQ as surgical. That just isn't the point here – the V76 is all about that soft, saturated, germanium transistor-ish sound.

Kudos to Arturia for the inclusion of a mid-side mode on all three preamps – it's a great utility to have at the ready for broadening a stereo source, and Arturia's implementation of M/S (plus the inclusion of phase inversion on each model) makes you want to experiment with – and yes, actually USE – these plug-ins. And I guess that's why the naming convention is so spot on for these two bundles – the focus on high ergonomics and function paired with low fuss and CPU impact makes for happy music makers. I will use the hell out of these.

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

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