Plugin Alliance Brainworx bx_console N by joe_04_04
- Plugin: bx_console
- Developer: Plugin Alliance/Brainworx
- Formats: AAX Native, VST2, VST3, AU and RTAS for Mac/Win.
- Price: 299 USD
- DRM: Online/Offline Activation
- Websites: Plugin Alliance
The Scope: The crew at Brainworx/Plugin Alliance have developed a very flexible and unique sounding console plugin. Based on a console Dirk Ulrich (CEO of Brainworx) purchased from Tobias Lindell, bx_console offers low and high pass filters, a gate, a four band equalizer, a compressor and limiter, multiple modeled channels of the original, and other awesome goodies.
Sound Quality - 5/5:
The first aspect I would like to address is the four band EQ (located in the middle of the strip). The EQ section of this plugin is phenomenally transparent. The signal can take large amounts of boost or cut before they start to sound overly-processed, which is fantastic if you are looking for boomy low-end or silky high-end. The top end of the EQ is “shimmer” to my ears, boosting 10k in shelf mode can brighten a vocal or open up a drum kit without sounding harsh at all. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an EQ quite sound like this in the digital domain, it sounds very unique. The filters are also very smooth and sound excellent.Ease of Use - 5/5: When it comes to ease of use, i will state that this isn’t going to be something a beginner will be able to pick up and understand how to use right away, but because this is in the category of “channel strip,” it is automatically to be assumed that there will be more controls on the screen and more to tweak, so it is expected to be a bit more difficult to use than a simple EQ or compressor alone. In terms of it being a channel strip, it is very easy to use the main functions and features. All of the controls “feel” very smooth when dialing them in too. There is no zipper-noise in the parameters that I can tell, which is hugely important to me, especially when dialing in EQ, as it can become distracting when the knobs produce a ton of noise. As with most Brainworx coded Plugin Alliance plugins, you get the classic strip at the top that contains the undo and redo buttons that I absolutely love. These are entirely too useful and have grown on me so much that I often get a tad bit paranoid in other plugins adjusting something and knowing I can’t simply “undo” it. Overall, it is super easy to use in the context of a channel strip plugin.
The compressor is a bit of an oddity, but a good one none-the-less. The main reason for this claim is that the attack remains rather fast in both of its settings (0.1 ms or 1 ms), so you are never truly able to set a very slow attack, but outside of this tiny limitation, the compression sounds great. You can easy get drums to pump aggressively or pull up the decay tail and shell resonance with a shorter release to really make them sound massive.
The gate section works very well and sounds excellent. My favorite aspect is the inclusion of the ever-useful Hysteresis control, which is extremely useful and is often left out on other gate plugins. The Hysteresis control really adds a ton of flexibility to the gate. Just as a reminder, the Hysteresis control effectively creates a second threshold below the original that the signal has to cross over when descending in order to close. This will effectively keep the gate from quickly opening and closing in the instances where the signal is hovering around the original threshold. Additionally, the gate can be used to clean up drums that might have too much sustain and even overemphasize the attack of transients, which helps to make up up for the compressor not having slower attack times.
TMT (Tolerance Modeling Technology) is arguably the biggest selling factor behind the bx_console. TMT is said to model the amount of tolerance that exists in the hardware components of the consol. This is most audibly heard in the difference between the separate channel on the unit, as each channel exhibits its own “character” and “vibe” due to its tolerance. Some channels may exhibit some slight phasing issues that create a wider sound, or a small shift in the stereo field causing the center to drift slightly. What this does is allow you is use different channels on multiple sources to keep your audio from sounding like it is all getting the exact same treatment - making bx_console extraordinary in this aspect when compared to other channel strips.
Note: One suggestion I have is for users to actually read the manual, as there are some parameters with names, outside of the obvious ones, that don’t entirely reveal themselves and what they do, such as the big red arrow pointing right in the dynamics section, which links/unlinks the compression (stereo compression to multi-mono compression), or the V-Gain knob in the upper right hand side of the gain-staging section, which controls the volume of the noise the plugin induces. Reading the manual will definitely be of use for this plugin and it even has some very cool information on the background of the console itself.Features - 5/5: This strip is very feature packed. Though I won’t get into extreme detail, I’ll try to outline the majority of the functions though.
- Two very musical filters. Low Pass (range can be modified with a “/3” button to reach further down into the spectrum), High Pass (range can be modified with a “x3” button to reach higher into the spectrum)
- A very responsive gate with hysteresis control, additional “inverse” mode to audition what’s being removed and a key button for changing from internal to external sidechain
- a compressor and limiter section, with two attack settings (0.1 ms and 1.0 ms), two stages of variable release, an additional high pass filter to reduce compression in the low end, and an additional mix parameter to blend some dry signal back into the wet - neither of the last two features exist in the original. The option to link or unlink the compression channels exists in the form of a red arrow above the gain knob in this section.
- A four band EQ that can be placed pre/post dynamics section, or in the sidechain of the compression section. Two bands of parametric EQ and a shelf bands that can convert to bell bands.
- In Gain to adjust input volume
- V Gain to adjust volume of noise induced by plugin
- 72 different and unique channels to run your mono or stereo tracks through, each one sounding slightly less like the last and varying subtly.
- Multiple meter modes (in out) with multiple meter choices (VU/dBU)
- Meters for the gain reduction and gate reduction
- Phase invert button
- Mute button
- Stereo mode selection (Analog/Digital) - Analog allows channels in stereo instances to vary and drift while digital keeps both channels identical and clean.
- Volume fader for output
As I stated in the beginning of this section, not going into a ton of detail. The manual has an excellent breakdown of each function, so I didn’t want to “reinvent the wheel” in this section and do everything it does.Bang for Buck - 4/5: This is the only category I marked down in bx_console, as 299 is a bit steep in the economy of plugins these days. With that said, I did honestly expect bx_console to be a bit on the pricier side - with it being an emulation of a console strip that isn’t in the audio world currently. Since its unique and not omnipresent, the price makes sense, but it still feels a tad bit high even considering this. Luckily, it is not the most expensive strip on the block, not by a long shot, so it is still manageable if you are really digging the sound.
Verdict: bx_console is a very ‘analog’ sounding strip. Everything about it screams “I’m not digital, I swear” and it does so very convincingly. The EQ is the most notable aspect of this plugin, in my opinion, as it is extremely smooth. I almost wish Brainworx/Plugin Alliance would pull this EQ out into its own separate plugin so I could use it just on its own without the other sections, luckily, we can disable the other sections if we are not using them. Also, there are tons of options in sounds with the 72 modelled channels to explore and play around with, comparing them back to back to find out which ones you might like the most - so there’s definitely a ton of exploring to do in this plugin if you want to fully grasp each and every aspect of it. Overall, there are a handful of great channel strip plugins out in the market currently, but bx_console really sticks out to me in the tonal department. I’m really glad to see Brainworx/Plugin Alliance put out a console/channel strip as their system is very stable and the support is excellent. Their beta team and beta process must be extremely top-notch because a large majority of their plugins feel super stable right off the bat and out of the box - such as bx_console. I hope to see more a few more consoles with this kind of quality in the future from these guys.