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Channel Strip plugins offer an all-in-one solution when it comes to mixing in the box using your favourite DAW. They are designed to emulate the distinct sounds and characteristics of sought after classic & modern analog mixing consoles which would cost thousands or tens-of-thousands to own. Plugins are extremely flexible, allowing you to use as many strips as you want while taking advantage of modern software features that the original hardware cannot offer. In no particular order, here are my top picks for some of the best Channel Strip plugins.
Gut-busting drums. Crackling, searing, face-melting guitars. Meaty, punching bass. Rich, up-front vocals. Wide-open, airy, living electronics. If you will it, it is no dream with the American Class A. Based on the greatest classics of American mixing console hardware, this channel strip is fast and easy to work with, and brings a truckload of character to the party.
With a shape section featuring gate and transient designing, a stellar four-band EQ with proportional Q and range control, a fascinating compressor design which can be switched between feedback and feedforward operations, and a warm, crunchy output drive section, no modern studio is complete until this sonic option is at hand.
The American gear on which this strip is based is perhaps best known for the way it brings out the power and energy of modern rock music; acts such as Radiohead, Soundgarden, Foo Fighters, and Pearl Jam have used similar consoles. Drums leap out of the speakers, vocals grab you by the scruff of the neck, guitars spontaneously combust. But the American Class A is also capable of subtlety.
Using the range controls of the EQ to limit the gain boosting and cutting to a half or even a quarter of the starting values, it becomes a high-resolution mastering unit. And running a synth sound through these same hard-rocking controls can result in improved openness and vitality just as easily as an increased grunt. This plug-in also seamlessly integrates with Console 1 as a channel strip, so anyone using a Console 1 will have the added benefit of Console 1’s analog workflow and features.
A powerful and musical modern plug-in channel strip with the unique vintage sound of Chandler Limited®, the Zener-Bender combines the crisp and colourful character of the Curve Bender Mastering Equalizer with the big, punchy Zener Limiter to bring class, history, and most crucially of all, a phenomenal sonic impact. Component-modelled with Softube’s customary care and experience, these units together can take charge of any mix.
Tracing the heritage of the Chandler Limited® Zener-Bender is like discovering an imperial family tree. Its roots are in EMI consoles, used at Abbey Road from the 60s onwards to record some of the most seminal albums of all time, by the likes of Pink Floyd and The Beatles. And right up to the present day Curve Bender and Zener Limiter are being used in both hardware and plug-in form by top producers and engineers across records by world-leading artists such as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, The White Stripes, Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift, and more. The influence of the Chandler sound cannot be overstated. It shapes the world it rules.
Combining the smooth operating EQF-100 parametric passive equalizer with the mild but authoritative TLA-100A compressor, Summit Audio Grand Channel is a highly versatile channel strip that will cover a large part of your mixing needs.
The Grand Channel combines the warm and smooth tone sculpting Summit Audio EQF-100 Full Range Equalizer with the rich sounding and dead-easy-to-use Summit Audio TLA-100A Compressor. Having the two combined in a single plug-in makes adjustments easier, as you will often find that the compressor affects the equalizer and vice versa. By default, the sound reaches the equalizer before the compressor, but you can easily reverse the order with a single switch.
When the EQF-100 and TLA-100A were designed, Summit Audio made sure to combine the finest of what vintage tube designs had to offer with a modern sense of how these units should stand the test of time. The result was remarkable, and today you can experience the Summit Audio grandeur in digital form, just reach for the Grand Channel! As a modern addition to the classic TLA-100A, the plug-in also includes Parallel Compression, Saturation Control and Low Cut Filtering on input or detector.
From the makers of popular audio plug-ins like RX and Ozone, Neutron 3 is designed to bring your mix workflows into the 21st century. Bend and shape your audio to any instrument profile with the brand new Sculptor, create custom presets through machine learning with Track Assistant, communicate across plug-ins in your session with the smartest EQs on the planet, and automatically find and fix masking issues with the most intelligent Masking Meter for mix that sounds better than ever, faster than ever. With 8 modular mixing tools in one mothership plug-in, it’s the easiest, most intelligent way to bring unrivaled quality and speed to your mix. Neutron 3 packages the latest advances in audio and passes them on to you—so you can focus on your craft.
There are many recreations of the classic SSL 4000 E channel strip on the market however, none of them quite compare the Brainworx SSL channel strip or Solid State Logics own SSL Native Channel Strip. The Brainworx Console SSL 4000 E is an officially licensed plugin that allows you to build a 72 channel analog console of the British classic used on countless hit records, right from within your DAW. Brainworx have work closely with SSL in developing these emulations using the original schematics of the SSL console.
The plugin also includes powerful plugin-only features such as, THD, a compressor wet / dry mix blend parameter and V-gain for authentic control and the option to switch between the E & G series EQ and Dynamic modules. Not only does this recreation sound stunning (and run with a small CPU footprint) it also offers features not found on the original channel strip making it extremely flexible for the modern day mixer.
The 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip has everything you need to make your mix sound great. All the modules from the award-winning 6020 Ultimate EQ and 6030 Ultimate Compressor plug-ins are included. Additional modules include gates, expanders, signal saturators, and specialized filters.
The 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip has input and output stages, wrapped around 3 module bays in which any of the 28 modules can be inserted. Easily drag and drop any module to rearrange the signal flow of your channel strip. A module selector panel allows quick auditioning of equalizers, compressors and additional effects. Like the original 6020 and 6030 plug-ins, each new module in the 6050 draws on classic and modern designs over the last four decades. Operation is simple and intuitive, and the sound quality is what professionals worldwide have come to know in McDSP plug-ins.
The Shceps Omni Channel is one of the most affordable and extremely versatile Channel Strips available. Developed with award-winning mixer Andrew Scheps (Adele, Jay Z, Metallica). The Scheps Omni Channel is a feature packed plugin featuring 3 types of pre-saturation, 3 types of compression, a 4 band parametric equalizer, DS2 de-esser with full range bands, gate, limiter and the ability to work in Stereo, Duo or M/S for each module.
The Scheps Omni Channel allows you to re-arrange the signal chain to suit your preference by simply dragging and dropping modules around AND there's an extra empty module which allows you to load any Waves plugin into the chain. Finally, the metering section provides everything you need to monitor the Left or Right channels, Mono, Stereo, Mid or Sides. There's also a very nice VU meter with In, Out and Gain Reduction monitoring. Overall, a very well-thought-out channel strip with a low CPU footprint and a decent sound.