Plugin Alliance Lindell Audio 80 Series by Illusionaire
I love the Neve sound and have several 1073 emulations. At the current time this is my go to channel strip.
It consists of 5 sections:
-Preamp: Very pleasing response, a great adaptation of the 1073 pre. There is an option for soft or hard clipping. Both sound good. Personally I use hard clipping, which the developer accurately states that sounds closer to the original. With oversampling of 4X or more, it sounds very sweet and makes the source bigger.
There is also a THD knob which adds soft clipping and of course more harmonics. With the "unity" knob pressed, the gain is compensated at the output so we can push the input without getting louder. There is also a 20dB pad. Above there are meters for In/Out/Comp GR/Gate GR. Remember these are in dBu values where -18dBFS=0VU=+4dBu. So they always show 4dB more than a typical VU meter. There is also an option to change the calibration from -18dBFS to several other values.
-Equalizer & Filter: They can be engaged individually by dedicated switches on the bottom. The frequency values are of course fixed like the hardware and the curves are very well designed and sound really musical. There are two options here: the classic 1073 with the 12kHz high self and the 1084 with an option for three frequencies on the highs, the addition of a LPF and slightly different values on the HPF.
-Compressor: It is the 254e by Lindell which exists as a standalone plugin too. Very good adaptation of the original 2254 with some extra options: Sidechain HPF, mix knob, slower attack, faster release. They all make sense on a channel strip that has to adapt to various sources. Very musical compressor with a strong character. It is a vintage unit of course, not intended for super fast transient shaping and extreme sounds, but of course why would anyone expect that from a vintage Neve. It is an impressive transparent leveler at low ratios as it can take 10dB or more of GR and sound good. There is also a "Nuke" switch that really smashes the source, ideal for drum room mics. And a "Niveau" filter, similar to the API 2500 "thrust". I think it is a tilt eq curve on the sidechain, that relaxes the lows and pushes the highs. It certainly reduces pumping and controls harshness better.
-Gate: I don't think it emulates a specific gate, but I could be wrong. In any case it is very smooth and works really well. Somehow it manages to detect the signal and isolate the bleed much better than any other gates I've tried. Again it is not for critically accurate control, but rather for musical results. Its detector and timing seem to be fine tuned really well. The expander mode is my favourite and it can lower the drum bleed in a very transparent fashion.
The only thing I don't understand is why it was positioned in the end of the chain. I can't think of a scenario where I'd use a gate after a compressor, while the opposite may be useful. I wish there was an option to change the order of these two.
-Fader: Final output stage, mute and phase. Typical and it does the job.
The plugin provides several options of oversampling, from none up to 16X. I usually find 4X enough, or sometimes 8X for more critical applications. Without oversampling there is of course some aliasing, but not too much. With the benefit of zero latency, it is ideal for tracking through, pushing the preamp a bit and doing some basic eq and compression as a starting point.
There is a menu on the top right corner with all the useful options. VU calibration, soft/hard clip, Oversampling, noise, gui zoom, external sidechain. And a very good idea was to give the option to apply the same settings to all instances at once. For example oversampling 4X for all with one click. Really useful when starting to mix and I want to engage all oversampling at once. Or enable/disable the noise to see if I want it.
Finally, this plugin includes PA's TMT patent where each channel is slightly different and there are 32 of them in total. I didn't think it would make much of a difference but it actually does as the mix gets wider and sounds are layered in a more natural fashion.
The Buss is a great addition and I appreciate developers who take the time to design a summing plugin. This one is simpler, emulating the 1272 line amp with a trim instead of gain, the THD screw and finally the buss fader. TMT provides 24 mono busses, or 12 pairs. I use them on the master, groups and auxes.
Overall this is a very well designed emulation with lots of features and it seems the developer took a lot of time to think how to make the user's work easy and enjoyable. I really appreciate that. And it sounds the closest I've heard to the real thing.