Although plug-ins have come a long way in terms of sound quality, adding a pinch of analog fairy dust still is still something that is very much desired by anyone who values that real-electric mojo. A recurrent theme in this school of thought is mixbus processing -where an analog processor can help give a song that “finishing touch” - and it gets used on both OTB and ITB productions with equal love, so we have gathered ten of the best mix bus processors to help you out in getting those mixes polished up to a pro standard. In alphabetical order:

Anamod ATS-1

One of the sweetest treats one can offer to a mixbus is the analog tape sound - and one of the bitterest tricks is analog tape machine maintenance. The latter is not a problem with the ATS-1 - highly regarded by members, it features fundamental tape settings such as bias, variable speed (7.5/15/30 ips) and hiss amount, but perhaps its greatest feats are the four different machine models and four tape 'formulations' offered, which can be expanded on with user-installable add-on cards. Arguably this is the best way to achieve that coveted magnetic reel sound, and without all the hassles & expense usually associated with the format.

Black Box Analog Design HG-2

Black Box Analog Design crafted quite an imposing piece with the HG-2. This “mixbus enhancing device” is all about pure analog goodness, with transformers on the input stage and two parallel tube paths to add the richest saturation while at the same time raising perceived loudness. It also comes with an “air” switch for a gentle lift on the high end, different blending configurations for the 6U8A/12AX7 valves and flexible metering (VU/peak) to keep everything in check.

elysia Karacter

Karacter presents Elysia’s take on saturation, a slick processor with an interesting “color filtering” feature, which allows the user to dial the tone of the saturation itself instead of simply using EQ to tilt the signal towards the highs or lows. Besides the stereo mode for the most common mixbus setup, Karacter can also operate in dual-mono and mid-side configurations, allowing for each part to be processed separately, making it a highly flexible unit that only takes a single rack space and doesn’t burn a hole in your wallet.

KERWAX Replica

Replica takes a slice from a custom tube-based mixing console made exclusively for the KERWAX recording studio (located in Brittany/France) and puts it in a 3U 19” rack with two tubes and a premium analog signal path. Essentially this is a hand-made line preamp, but with a few extra goodies: besides the tasteful saturation Replica offers variable drive, preamp bias, treble/bass adjustments, elegant VU meters and it’s a dual-mono unit, so besides doing wonders on a mixbus it can be used on channels to enhance individual tracks.

Louder Than Liftoff Silver Bullet

Made in partnership with industry veteran and fellow member drBill, the Silver Bullet’s bold proposition is exactly what its name hints at: a one-stop solution to take a mix to the next level. This unit couples saturation from classic American and British consoles with a handful of tone shaping options, including a 2-band Baxandall EQ with options for 'bass or sub' and 'presence or air' enhancements, which should be excellent for treating individual channels, groups and whole mixes. Since it also comes with a couple of mic preamps it can be used for tracking, so it’s definitely an enticing option for the modern day “do it all” studio.

Overstayer Modular Channel Stereo Model 8755DS

Overstayer makes a bold statement with the Model 8755D: an all-analog processing behemoth that puts together a complete channel strip for the mixbus - or any studio work - providing three saturation options, a 2-band shelving equalizer, resonant HP/LP filters, a VCA compressor and two mic preamps. This channel strip also offers plenty of flexibility with options for the signal order and a mixer matrix that allows for serial or parallel routing, allowing for a number of different combinations. Certainly a great option for an all-rounder that can take care of a good mix (or basically anything you can throw at it!)

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Solid State Logic Fusion

SSL needs no introduction, but they’re breaking new ground with Fusion, a processor that presents features that are unprecedented for the company while keeping their proud analog heritage very much alive. Fusion brings a unique set of tools, starting with a custom switchable transformer (on an SSL?!!) for added mojo, followed by drive control, 2-band shelving EQ, a high-frequency compressor and lastly a stereo image section with a mid-side matrix. This is a very new product at the time of writing but it's got our members' tongues wagging - a few decades ago SSL set what many consider to be the standard blueprint for individual channel strips, have they done it again on the mixbus? We're about to find out!

Tegeler Audio Manufaktur Crème

The Tegeler Crème offers a compression and equalization recipe that will never get old or stop being useful on virtually any mixing task. This eye-catching unit brings a passive 2-band EQ inspired by the legendary Pultec EQP1A and a bus compressor that takes a few notes from a well-known classic mixing console, wrapping up with a gain reduction meter and a processing order (EQ-Comp/Comp-EQ) switch. Crème also comes with a price tag that looks rather friendly, which helps to sweeten the whole deal and hopefully your mixes even further.

Thermionic Culture The Culture Vulture Mastering Plus

Thermionik’s Culture Vulture is a classic when it comes to valve saturation, and when used mindfully it can do wonders on a mixbus (although it can also be used to wreck things entirely when desired!) A “mastering” version (featured) of the Culture Vulture is also available, adding a new distortion option on top of the three original modes and it features closely matched controls to favour stereo operations, which makes it perfect for mixbus duties.

Closing thoughts:

Although we aimed to list units that can make a notable sonic difference on their own, many of them can be combined for superb results. Feel free to comment and elaborate on your dream combos!

For discussions on analog processors, visit our So Much Gear, So Little Time sub forum.