Alright...so I picked up this baby yesterday and I must say, Whoa.
This plugin is NUTS. The idea behind it is to model the EQ / "coloration" characteristics of all these different types of input stages, compressors, and EQs, and put them all into one plugin that is a channel strip of all three. Enter URS Console Strip Pro. Though it doesn't look all that fancy, it's a great sounding plugin that does a LOT for only $300.
Jeez. Where to start.
I heard about this plugin from two main producers. One was Charles Dye, who is the first engineer to have a number one record that was completely mixed in the box. He's sort of a plugin legend.
Alright so let's talk about the plugin. According to the URS website, this is what all the plugin plugin models in the input stages:
- Three Class A American input transformers
- Class A British input transformer
- Class A German input transformer
- Two Class A tube input stages
- 15ips 2" tape electronics/head bump
- 30ips 2" tape electronics/head bump
- 30ips 1/2" tape electronics/head bump
- Fifteen input transformer & tape combos
- Five Console Input/Summing Buss stages
The EQ is laid out with 5 different models of EQ across 4 bands. The models are:
1951 - Pultec Style
1967 - API Style
1970 - Neve 1073 Style
1972 - Neve 1081 Style
1980 - SSL Style
The characteristics of these EQ curves really are noticeable when boosting or cutting a lot. If you set a boost in the lows or low mids to 4 or 6 dB and then switch through the different presets, you can hear the difference. It's subtle, but it's definitely there. The Pultec has a nice big bottom and smooth top, the Neves have a really tight low end and upper midrange boost, and the SSL has the classic edgy top. API doesn't really sound like the API to me, but it's still a good EQ.
You can arrange the EQ and compressor in a few ways. EQ first, Compressor first, Filters first, or all different combinations of those three. You can also bypass parts completely, or individual EQ bands only. You can link all the EQ "types" together using the Link button on the HF band. In addition to the EQ section you have the filters section for HPF and LPF, which I usually put pre compressor, and I love using them to tighten up the sound and remove any extraneous sounds I don't want to compress.
The compressor side is really what makes this thing cool. It has SIXTY presets for compression. Yes, SIXTY. This includes things like LA2, 1176, Distressor, API 525, Fairchild, VariMu, etc. I personally think that is too much, but it does allow you to get quick sounds. Apparently these are not only modeled after the EQ curves of the piece of gear, but when you open a preset it adjusts the ratio / attack / release / release type (manual or 7 different auto modes) to fit the sound of the compressor. In addition to these, you can adjust for the "faster attack" switch, adjust the knee, and the gain makeup. The one thing I dislike is that it is totally dependent on the types of models, and there is no ratio control, so you sort of have to know what you're wanting in order to get a sound without tweaking many knobs. However, some would argue this makes you use your ear more. I can see that.
Probably my favorite part about the compressor section is that in V2 of this plugin (which I have) there is a Wet/Dry mix control for the compressor. This allows you to do parallel compression in real time with no phase issues from DAWs that don't have automatic delay compensation.
Some side notes - I LOVE that this plugin has input and output meters separately, as well as a gain reduction meter. I hate having to select what I want to see on the meter, I want to see all three! MAN that makes it easy for gain staging. The plugin operates very smoothly with your mouse and keyboard. Holding control will give you large knob turns as you scroll your mouse wheel. Releasing it will give you normal precision, and holding shift will give you fine precision.
The saving grace of this plugin to me was the presets. Once I got it I was like "oh man, I have no idea where to even start." The first five presets in the plugin are modeled by year, which select all the EQs to the same year, and then select a compressor / input stage that would match that year. Then they also have tape and tube compression presets. This is a nice place to start. I don't ever get into the presets about specific sources (e.g., "Rock Kick" or "Drum Bus" presets) because they NEVER work for me. Every source is different so I just use my ear.
Overall, this plugin is a REALLY great deal for $300. It comes with a lot of amazing tools in it. I think it beats out the Waves SSL channel for me, particularly because of all its features. The compression takes a little bit to get used to, but after you find a couple of models you like, you will find it really addicting. I just wish it wasn't ugly as hell.