FX Collection from Arturia – Audio Effects You’ll Actually Use
Arturia introduced the FX Collection early this year and oddly there have been no Gearslutz reviews yet, although it has been discussed in the forums. As my year has been slammed with projects, I’m just getting around to checking out this excellent collection, although I’ve already reviewed three of the included plug-ins, the “3 Compressors You’ll Really Use”, so I won’t repeat what I said about these compressor models – they are each excellent in their own way and the added features by Arturia make them unique.
This is a long review and may take some time to read, but not nearly as long as it took to evaluate all the "gear" and write up my observations. I hope it proves useful.
What is It?
The FX Collection is a bundle of 15 plug-ins, all of which are truly excellent sounding and hugely flexible as I expect from Arturia. In addition to the three compressors there are three delays, three filters, three preamps with EQ, and three reverbs. Too many plug-ins to review all in detail, so I’ll hit the highlights for most of them.
To Eternity and Beyond
The first delay is aptly named Eternity and certainly has some unique features. It is an Arturia original design rather than a “tribute” design of a classical piece of gear. There are two stereo delay lines, each with the same controls, that can be “wired” in series or parallel, with separate left/right (or mid-sides) control of delay times, and five delay modes including ping-pong and a fun “pan mode” that starts the echoes in the center and pans them out to the sides. There is also a bit crusher that includes both reduced resolution (less bits) and reduced sample rates, a flexible filter section that affects only the processed sound, a time mode selection that is most effective when you automate delay controls (you can introduce a tape machine type of pitch shift as delay times are changed), and the usual tempo sync, stereo width and wet/dry mix controls. And that is just the main panel.
There is, of course, an Advanced Control Panel which is an Arturia feature I’ve come to expect. The advanced controls include an input EQ which affects the signal entering the delay circuits, which results in different effects than the post-EQ of the main control panel. There is also a less common function, an envelope follower, that can use the input signal level envelope to control any two of the main controls such as EQ and the Bit Crusher. This enables some incredible variations in the resulting delay structure. And there are two LFOs available, each can be applied to one or two controls, they can be linked or unlinked, tempo-synced, and each has six modulation waveforms available. All excellent stuff! Among other things I had loads of fun just playing with polyrhythmic beats derived from a drum mix input that were totally different than the input sound – the creative possibilities are endless.
Enter the Brigade
The Delay Memory-Brigade is based on a famous pedal (the EHX Memory Man) first introduced in 1976 and improved in 1980 with a deluxe model using a Panasonic BBD MN3005 chip, which was state-of-the-art forty years ago. The Arturia delay includes two deluxe models in terms of the effective bucket-brigade chip modeled with delays between 40-400ms as in the original and from 100-1000ms as in a later design.
Bucket-brigade delays were simple by today’s standards and Arturia have, as always, added features. There is a tempo sync control, a chorus/vibrato feature and selection of the delay signal mode (separate left/right stereo processing, ping pong, and mid-sides with separate control of the mid and sides delays). And there is the Advanced panel which has similar controls to the Eternity, an input EQ , an envelope follower that can use the input signal level envelope to control any one of the main controls, and there is an LFO available to modulate one of the delay controls. A bit simpler than Eternity, but can create some fine effects with the sound of classic BBD circuitry.
And Now for a Bit of Tape Delay
No delay collection would be complete without tape delay, a method which used a loop of magnetic tape passing over a record head and then one or more playback heads which could feed some of their signals back to the record head, which would add the delayed signal to the next portion of the tape. The delay was controlled by the tape speed (slower made longer delays) and the spacing of the record to playback heads. Probably the most famous of these is the Roland Space Echo released in 1974 in two models, the RE-101, a delay-only model, and the RE-201, a delay with a spring reverb.
The Delay Tape-201 is a tribute to the RE-201, complete with the twelve position dial that sets which playback heads are used and if the spring reverb is included in the effect. Of course Arturia have added features like left/right, ping pong and mid-sides echoes, separate left and right/mid-sides “tape speeds”, and of course the Advanced Control panel which in this case is different than with the previous delays.
The Advanced panel has an input EQ and LFO similar to what was described for the Memory Brigade, but the envelope follower is replaced with some tape style controls: flutter, noise, and motor inertia. Motor inertia is an effect that is heard only when changing the “tape speeds” (Repeat Rate control). Basically the change of delay times using the Repeat Rate control can be instant, or can be gradual depending on this setting. In all a fine tribute and expansion on the Roland Space Echo, which is refreshing compared to many other Space Echo emulations available today.
Three Filters You Will Really Like
This FX collection comes in threes as you will have noticed, and the filters are each based on classic gear: the Moog Mini filter, the Oberheim Matrix-12 filter, and the Oberheim SEM filter, a unique state variable filter.
A Little Filtering
The Filter MINI is of course the classic 24dB/octave Moog ‘ladder’ resonant low-pass filter along with its modifiers such as a multiple waveform LFO that can modulate filter cut-off and emphasis, an envelope follower and a tempo synced step sequencer that can modulate filter cut-off Frequency, filter emphasis (Q) and LFO Rate.
All very cool and pretty much what Bob Moog devised almost 50 years ago. BTW, you can turn self-oscillation on and off using the Limit Resonance control in the lower toolbar, so you can “play” the filters without using an input signal if you want, as well as having the filters “play” with source signals.
In the Matrix
Filter M12 is the Oberheim Matrix-12 filter of of the 1980’s along with some Arturia additions – like there are two identical Matrix-12 filters, each which can self-oscillate, and they can be used in series or parallel modes.
There are fifteen resonant filter types per filter and three envelope generators, which can be used as LFOs, envelopes, or step sequencers using the 5 x 8 Modulation Matrix. The Modulator sections includes a random source and an oscillator that can go from 0.01Hz to 10kHz! The various modulation sections can each control several parameters using the matrix. Note that each filter can handle mono or stereo signals and you can send the output of each filter to a different output of your DAW. Very flexible and I’ve only hit the high points, but need to move on.
A Variable of States
Filter SEM is another Oberheim invention using Tom Oberheim's state variable filter design, an amazingly flexible filter which is even more versatile using the Modulation Matrix. As the user manual states, “The filter can be modulated by the LFO and/or the Envelope, which can also modulate the Wet amount. On the other hand, both the Envelope and the LFO can also be modulated by the Gate Sequencer and can as well be modulated by themselves or by each other, via the Modulation Matrix Grid in the bottom”.
Note the Mode dial, third in the top row, that continuously varies the filter type from low pass to notch to high pass, or can be set to band pass mode. This can be varied while processing sounds which can create unique sounds, especially with a high Resonance setting. There is also a noise generator that can be used to enhance effects, from producing wind noise to creating percussive sounds. even though it will not self-oscillate, I found the SEM to be additive and “lost” an hour or two playing with it.
I could spend another fifty pages describing these three filters, but you can take a look at the Arturia site, and even download any of the user manuals for a detailed look at what’s available. In short, these are all great filters with very different characteristics.
In the Beginning . . . there was Neve
The first preamp, the 1973, owes its existence to Rupert Neve, and if you haven’t heard of him, I really wonder why you are reading Gearslutz! His designs revolutionized audio signal processing starting in the early 60’s and he is still designing gear today at 94 years of age – the PRE 1973 user manual has an excellent short biography of him. His Neve 1073 preamp is familiar both as the original hardware, as a number of current hardware clones, and as dozens of software emulations. It’s EQ section is legendary for its musical effect.
While the original 1073 had fixed frequencies in its EQ section, the PRE1973 has sweepable frequencies for the low shelf filter, the low-midrange shelf, and the high-midrange bell filter, while keeping the fixed frequency of the original only on the High Shelf filter. PRE1973 also has two transformer models (software transformers, of course). It also provides two versions, Single Channel and Dual Channel and the dual version can work as a stereo plug-in, a mid-sides processor and as a dual-mono unit where each channel can have different settings. While a software emulation of a preamp can’t actually “be” a preamp (you can’t plug a mic into it and get the same mic-preamp interaction you get using a hardware preamp) the PRE1973 can provide some fine tonality to your tracks.
The next EQ/preamp is PRE TRIDA based on the Trident® A Range mix consoles which “achieved a near-mythic status, despite only 13 consoles ever built”! Some of these are still in use in a few famous studios, but you may not have a chance to use a real one – with the TRIDA EQ/preamp Arturia let you approach the sound that was on many hit records of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
A slightly different layout than most EQ/preamp devices it includes separate left/right-- mid/sides control of stereo signals and like the Pre 1973 has two versions, Single Channel and Dual Channel which can work as a stereo plug-in, a mid-sides processor and as a dual-mono unit where each channel can have different settings. A fun link to the past of British recording history.
And from the Continent
The third preamp is perhaps the oddest, the Pre V76, a tribute to the famous German Telefunken V76 vacuum tube preamp, still a sought-after piece of equipment today with 60-plus year old units selling for US$1,000 and up. The original was “just” a mono preamp designed in the 1950’s, but became a classic (think the Beatles recordings made at Abbey Road using the REDD 37 console). Arturia have made it a stereo unit and added an EQ from the same time period to make it a flexible mix console unit.
The Pre V76 features a vacuum tube emulation, capable of very musical saturation, and a high pass filter with three filter choices: 80Hz, 300Hz or both frequencies coupled (as was the case with the original V76). The EQ is very simple, only two bands with very broad, gentle Baxandall curves and fixed frequencies. Not as extensive as your DAW with its multiple parametric EQ bands, but this is the kind of equipment used to record many of the great albums of the 60’s through 80’s. Maybe less is sometimes more!
No studio would be complete without some reverbs, and the Arturia FX Collection includes three, an original algorithmic unit, a plate reverb and of course a spring reverb.
Now for Something Completely Different
Intensity is an Arturia original design and extremely impressive. It does not model any particular early digital reverb, but is inspired by the classical digital reverbs that dominated the eighties. And of course it includes advanced features that were not possible to implement in those early units. Digital reverbs started to appear in the late seventies and attempted to recreate the distinctive early reflections of natural spaces using delay lines. The level, spectral content and timing of these delays were controlled by mathematical algorithms to achieve the final results. These algorithms were developed to create a pleasing sound result, rather than attempting to accurately model real rooms. Each company designing such reverbs had its own approach which led to unique sounds, and some companies became noted for their particular sound signature. You know who they were.
Intensity includes the usual parameters such as size, predelay, damping, and feedback, and adds a chorus modulator, a soft clipper, and a Freeze mode. The Advanced Control adds a pre-filter and post-filter, an envelope follower (which can even use a side-chain control signal) and a function generator. Both of these last two can modulate up to four destinations simultaneously! A really flexible and excellent sounding algorithmic reverb-plus.
Not Another 140
Next is a plate reverb that Arturia say, “wasn't meant to be an exact replica of a specific plate reverb” but is obviously inspired by the famous EMT 140 plate reverb with, as always, added functions. It includes three plate models, with the first one being “punchy with a strong low-mid response”, the second modeling the Classic EMT 140 reverb, and the third one is modern with “a stronger spectral presence in the high frequency region”. The Drive control is really nice, providing tube-like saturation to both the dry source signal path and the reverb path. Note that as the saturation is increased the volume gain is compensated, so that the perceived sound level remains about the same. This control was inspired by the old Telefunken preamps that Arturia modeled in the Pre V76 covered earlier.
The Advanced Control panel adds some things no plate reverb of yore ever had, predelay, modulation and a post-EQ function. Between all these different options I found a good range of reverberation, but always with that slightly “metallic” tone of a plate.
Tanks for the Memories
Finally, no reverb collection is complete without a spring reverb, although the Tape-201 delay has a basic spring reverb included. Rev SPRING-636 is an ode to the legendary Grampian 636 spring reverb, a now very rare British reverb from the 60’s used by many studios and musicians including Pete Townshend with The Who. This device used germanium transistors and could produce some “wonderful” distortion when the Input control setting is increased. Note there are two input “circuits” available, "Mic" and "Aux 1MΩ", which will yield different tones even though they won’t really affect the input impedance of your audio interface! I found I could push the input level to where the Overload light was flashing wildly, and the distortion was still very “analog” and useful with a range of input signals. The Decay control is something no real spring reverb had, and if you want the accurate Grampian behavior you set it to maximum (the Long position). However, in use you may find a shorter decay to be better.
The Arturia Advanced Control panel is here again with some parameter control no real spring reverb ever had, a predelay, a pre-filter and post-EQ section, and most notably, eight different spring “tanks”. As the Rev SPRING-636 user manual explains, original spring reverb units used an inner aluminum "cabinet" called the tank that housed the spring reverb components (the springs – usually two or three – and the transducers). The characteristics of the tank and how the springs were mounted inside it had a strong influence on the final sound. So unlike a real spring reverb with one configuration of springs, SPRING-636 has both the original Gibbs tank and an alternate vintage Gibbs tank, and six other models: various vintage and modern Accutronics tanks, and two special tanks: the Arturia Synthi-A spring reverb tank and the Arturia Space Echo reverb tank. A truly excellent emulation of that springy sound that hit the airwaves starting over fifty years ago, and is still a viable reverberation style.
I tested these emulations using a PC Audio Labs Rok Box with Intel Core i7-4770K CPU @ 3.5 GHz, 16 GB RAM running Windows 7 64 bit. CPU usage varied from model to model, but was low for most units with the delays running from 0.25% to 0.6% (Delay Tape-201), filters running from 0.25% to 0.5% (Filter M12), the EQ/Preamps running from 0.16% to 0.35% (Pre TRIDA), and the reverbs running from 0.8% to 2.3% (Rev SPRING-636). Latency was 32 or 48 samples for all devices except the plate and spring reverbs which each needed an odd 54 samples. The three compressors previously reviewed on these pages ran a CPU load of 0.6% for the FET-76 to 0.9% for the VCA-65 and latency was low for the TUBE-STA at 32 samples, while the FET-76 and VCA-65 each hit 272 samples.
All in all, pretty low demands other than the spring reverb, but I wouldn’t expect to use more than one such reverb in a project. Available from the excellent Arturia Software Center in all the usual formats, 64-bit OS only with both VST 2.4 and VST 3, AAX and Audio Unit.
BTW, the Arturia Software Center is the best user-focused software delivery system I’ve ever used – always a pleasure to plug in my LAN line (only do so when I must put the studio online and at risk for all the usual crap on the Internet), click the ASC icon and in a few seconds, without even needing my password when using the studio system, it knows who I am, tells me what’s new relative to what is currently on my system, and will both download and install anything new or needing an update, all by itself. Compared to a recent experience from another company where I lost over two hours fighting with its web site to authorize a program I’d paid plenty for, Arturia’s site is always a pleasure to visit and sometimes I’m surprised with free offers and updates I didn’t know were available. My compliments to Arturia!
Once again Arturia have put together an excellent set of very useful audio processors covering pretty much every type of signal modification you need. Highly recommended.
A full set of studio gear, based on the sounds of classic gear that few of us could ever afford.
Excellent sound quality and comprehensive enhancements to the features of the original classic hardware.
Great value for money in this collection, even if you already own some of the included gear.
The Arturia Software Center is the best user-focused software delivery system I’ve ever used.
None that I could imagine!