Hot on the heels of their affordable “You’ll Actually Use” plug-in bundle series featuring 3 Filters and 3 Preamps [Tape Op #125], here is Arturia’s latest batch of software effects: models of the venerable UREI 1176, Gates STA-LEVEL, and dbx 165A compressors.
Installation was easy enough, although I found it faster to download and install the software directly from Arturia’s website and then use Arturia’s Software Center (ASC) app to authorize the plug-ins. The plug-ins (AAX, AU, VST 2, and VST 3) are 64-bit and CPU-friendly, with skeuomorphic hi-res designs that mirror the hardware which they are modeled on but inflate certain interface elements in service of better ergonomics. I liked the click-through tutorial content that appeared after the first instantiation of each of the plug-ins – in just a few simple steps I felt like I had unlocked a deeper understanding of how the plug-ins worked without even cracking the manual. Why doesn’t every developer feature this?
These three plug-ins appear to be calibrated differently than some similar emulations when under direct comparison. Notably, the FET-76 differs in my testing from the UAD version of the UREI 1176, primarily in the input gain stage. Similar sonic results are easy enough to achieve, but applying the same settings via the GUI of each plug-in yields different results. I’m not sure why this is, but here again, I’m not looking (to either manufacturer) for a dead-accurate recreation, as much as I’m looking for some degree of usability and unique character. The Arturia plug-ins deliver tone and style in abundance.
Although there are other similar modeled plug-ins available for these classic compressors, these Arturia versions are worthy of your consideration for many reasons. One, they sound phenomenal – straightforward, yet meticulous – and each has undeniably authentic “vintage” character. Two, the designs are purposeful and smart, with easily-accessible modern features like multi-mode detection sidechaining options, and adjustable compression range settings. I dig simple, time-saving tweaks like the ability to link input and output ratios. A colossal differentiator here is the Time Warp parameter (available on the FET-76 and VCA-65 compressors) that allows you to manipulate the compression envelope, allowing for greater control over transients. I found that a slight nudge of this knob towards Snap or Loose made a massive difference in the character of more extreme compression settings. It’s those simple controls leading to new sonic discoveries that keep these plug-ins in the, “Hmm, let’s try THIS” shortlist. Yes, we will actually use these; a lot. A crazy bargain at this price!