Thursday, December 2, 2010

Review of Minimal System Plugins

So I was searching around on the net for some new plugins. I had been debating just caving in and buying the UAD cards so that I could make use of awesome plugins and not sacrifice any CPU power. I said to myself, well, what am I really wanting here? I think the answer was that I just wanted some great sounding plugs that didn't cost a whole lot. Though they sound fantastic, the UAD cards are not cheap. Anyway, I was looking around and I stumbled upon a company called Minimal System. Mac users beware--all their plugs are PC only, but that doesn't mean they will be PC only forever.

Plugins from Minimal System

This is a screenshot taken from their website. Their three flagship plugins are the SSi Pro Compressor, the SSi Pro Analogue Noise Gate, and the SSi Pro Expander. Obviously, these are SSL-type emulations. I own the Waves SSL bundle, and I like the SSi compressor from Minimal System better than the Waves SSL compressor. The only thing I like the Waves SSL Compressor on MORE is the master bus, which is sort of what it is intended to be for.Their plugs are all very cheap...the most expensive one they sell is I think something like 20 GBP or about $35 USD....what what what???? That's it? Great plugins for cheap? What a concept!

They also have an array of "studio series" plugins that are cheaper...but that certainly doesn't diminish their quality. These include a synth, a 3-band EQ, two reverbs, two compressors, a Moog emulation, and a mastering channel strip. These plugins vary in price from 20 GBP ($35 USD) to as low as 1.49 GBP ($2.31 USD). They also have four free plugins available for download with a donation box set up with Paypal. As you may have realized by now, this is a British company, so you have to probably have paypal to even think about buying their products. I doubt there is any other way, actually.

Other than the SSi Compressor, my favorite plugin by far is the "PUNCH" compressor.

"PUNCH" From Minimal System

If you don't feel like spending the money to get an 1176...or even the Waves 1176...or the UAD 1176 plug...why don't you open up your wallet to this plugin. It costs a whopping 5GBP, or about $8.00. Yeah, that's right. An $8.00 plugin. This thing sounds FANTASTIC. It works great, looks great, works just like the 1176. I compared a track I recorded with a real hardware 1176 next to this, and they sounded VERY similar. The main difference was that the old 1176 was a bit warmer (less highs), but understandable seeing as they were designed way back when and the circuitry was not meant for digital audio's high bandwidth. 

Punch can sound like an 1176, making drums punchy and fat, with lots of attack. You can crush the living daylights out of a room mic, or smooth out a dynamic vocal performance. It's actually unbelievable how good this plugin sounds for the money. I mean, come on, it's $8. If you don't but this, you are pathetic. It's too good to pass up. 

I like the EQ, but I am not a huge fan of how it works. It sounds great honestly, but just the design of the interaction between the different bands is a little bit confusing and frankly bothersome. It's one of those "everything affects everything" plugins, where the high knob also affects the midrange, and the low knob affects the's that sort of interaction that I personally DISLIKE in an EQ, but that's just me! I think that plugin costs about five bucks though, so how can I complain any further.
The expander/gate plugin costs about $25, and I was pretty pleased. As a general gate plugin, it's very cool. It's got controls for essentially an expander running into a gate, so you can really control the sound pretty well. It doesn't have a sidechain, which I would LOVE to have, especially for drums. If this plugin DID have sidechaining filters, I'd use this for everything.

The plugins are all very low cpu and also very low (if not zero) latency. All work so smoothly with Nuendo it's like I've been using them for years. I could do a whole mix with these things!

One thing I also like about these plugins is that they don't have a numbered meter. That is typical of the British style of production where the meters are disregarded, only the sound is judged. If it sounds good, it is good. I love that mindset because too many times we get caught up in "mixing with our eyes," and we say "okay I usually do about 4-6dB of compression on the snare drum..." when logic asks, why get in such a habit? Shouldn't you do what sounds good? Isn't every single track recorded differently? Isn't every single TAKE different? Of course.

These plugs are easy on your computer, great looking, greater sounding, and overall a joy to work with. They were downloaded instantly after payment from Paypal, and I was using them in minutes. I am going to continue to use these plugins on all kinds of sessions, and keep checking with MS to see when they release new plugins. 

As always, email for questions or comments!


No comments:

Post a Comment