Hey, look! Unique low-latency plug-ins from Apogee Digital, the same folks that have brought us such stellar hardware interfaces over the years. Though it may strike some as a late entry into a crowded market, Apogee clearly have given these plug-ins the same time and attention to detail that has earned their hardware such a solid reputation industry-wide, while at the same time developing a flexible platform to build upon.

Available for Mac OS X 10.12.6 or higher in AUv2, VST, or AAX format, these plug-ins run natively within your Mac DAW – no additional hardware or external DSP required. That said, if you DO own Apogee hardware like an Element Series or Ensemble Thunderbolt audio interface, you can take advantage of the external DSP processing available through those boxes to help reduce overall CPU load and latency. Note that Apogee hardware users get many additional benefits, like channel-linking and DualPath Monitoring; Apogee's solution for recording and direct monitoring through the plug-in path.

Supported DAWs include Logic Pro X, Pro Tools 12 (or PT "Ultimate"), Ableton Live 10, and Cubase 9.5 (VST 1 & 2). Logic users get a few extra integration points/bells/whistles, but I used native plug-ins within Pro Tools and Ableton Live for my testing.

The modeled plug-ins available include emulations of the Universal LA-3A Leveling Amplifier, and "officially licensed and endorsed" emulations of the Pultec EQP-1A and MEQ-5 Midrange equalizers. Additionally, you get Apogee's ModEQ 6-band EQ plug-in, and a nicely designed workhorse compressor called ModComp.

All these plug-ins can be instantiated individually, or loaded into the Apogee FX Rack (itself essentially a wrapper loaded as a separate instance) – users get both plug-in versions at the time of purchase. Loading plug-ins into the Apogee FX Rack has the convenient benefit of instant chain recall and external DSP allocation if you own compatible Apogee hardware (I wish more plug-in developers would consider a similar architecture). The FX Rack also allows for A/B comparison workflows and includes a DSP load meter.

The included selection of presets is useful in getting to a quick starting line, as well as illustrating some of the more extreme potential of the software. Apogee has done a fine job designing simple and clear UX for all these plug-ins, and for the most part, they won't require a hefty amount of PDF manual-diving. Most importantly, they sound freakin' great! I'm very pleasantly surprised by the character and ease of use of the ModComp compressor, which has a beautiful and musical response to mix bus and parallel compression applications. Also, the additional touches like high-frequency response contour and sidechain support help bring the modeled plugs like the Opto-3A into more modern workflows. I'm looking forward to whatever Apogee has in mind next for this platform.

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

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