My iLok 2 arrived today so I took the opportunity to download the Slate VCC demo. I made a copy of my Nemesis Project discussed elsewhere in this blog and put an incidence of the VCC Virtual Channel on each of the tracks in the current mix along with the Virtual Mixbuss on the master 2 bus. I muted all the groups and brought them in one at a time, drums, bass, vocals then guitar. For the sake of simplicity I left the aux sends alone figuring that I'll give them a critical listen over the weekend. First impression?....
Anyway, having a few bits and pieces of computer maintenance to do I've put on a pair of cans and looped the track. After a while of doing this I find that I stop listening and just sort of hear things! Anyway, I just used the Cuabase facility that allows me to turn-off an insert slot across all selected channels to kill all the VCC plugins at once (select your channels in the mixer and shift-alt click on the insert control - you know you wanted to know!) and my mix (that I was really rather pleased with) sounds a little thin and lumpy by comparison - so much so that I double checked the output levels to make sure I wasn't kidding myself with an unnoticed few extra dBs. I'm going to have to have a further play with the console options and the aux busses, but I'm quietly impressed right now. I'm also told that there is due to be some pretty special offers available from Slate Digital starting on Monday (27 Nov 2011).
With that said I've been playing with the different console models to get used to the differences between them and this has helped me to get my ears acclimatised quite nicely. Let's say it now; this isn't an "Acme fix-the-mix" plugin, what it does is subtle (I'd go so far as to say that it's actually extremely subtle) and sticking it on a poorly balanced mix will do nothing more than give you a slightly different sounding poorly balanced mix. What it does to is to add a weight - somehow. I've been trying to replicate what it does on, say, the drum buss and I just can't do it. It makes the kick heavier and weightier, but not bassier or louder (somehow), the snare sounds like it belongs to the kit at last and the bass seems to blend more easily with the drums (I've previously sent a small amount of the bass to a blend reverb aux along with the kit on this project which I really don't like doing).
As a quick sanity check, I've checked the output levels with and without VCC and printed a "with" and a "without" version that I imported into a new Cubase project. By setting both versions to play then putting the cursor on one track's SOLO button and ALT-CLICKing I could toggle between the versions instantaneously. By clicking multiple times without counting or looking I could approximate a blind test (yes, I know it's severely flawed but I'm easily confused so it works OK for me, YMMV). In every case where I looked and checked I chose the VCC version in preference.
The next step is to save the project and re-mix it into VCC, but as things stand today I think I'm going to have to buy it!