What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name Apogee? Hardware, right? That was certainly my mindset when I walked into the Apogee booth at AES last week and asked, “What’s new?” Much to my surprise, the company’s most notable product introduction wasn’t hardware-based; it was a suite of plug-ins called Apogee FX Rack.
At Winter NAMM 2018, Apogee announced that it was working on what it called "DualPath" plug-ins for Ensemble and Element. Although they were originally supposed to be product-specific to the Apogee hardware platform, the FX Rack plug-ins that emerged support both DualPath and native formats. As a result, you'll be able to run these on any hardware, although they will have significant additional functionality when used with an Apogee Ensemble or Element interface.
When you open an FX Rack plug-in in a system with one of those interfaces, a parallel version of the plug-in will open automatically in the Apogee Control software hosted in the interface, using the DSP built into the hardware. Any changes made in the DAW plug-in or the parallel instance will be immediately reflected in the other.
But more importantly, you'll be able to apply the FX Rack plug-ins directly on the hardware input and monitor with low latency, making it practical to record through them. Otherwise, the functionality of the plug-ins will be the same on DualPath or native systems.
The FX Rack plug-in that will probably get the most notice is the Pultec EQP-1A, which Apogee says "precisely recreates" the sound of the original hardware. In fact, it's officially licensed and endorsed by Pulse Technologies, the current manufacturer of Pultec hardware. There are many EQP-1A plug-ins on the market, but according to Apogee, it's is the only one that's approved and fully licensed by Pulse.
Also available is the Opto-3A, a vintage-style compressor/limiter. Apogee says it "reproduces the compression characteristics of modeled hardware," which in this case was obviously an LA-3A. From looking at its GUI, you can see that it has some extra functionality that wasn't on the hardware unit, including an HF Contour control, High Pass filter, Side Chain Listen switch and a Dry/FX (mix) control.
The ModEQ plug-in is a "Modern 6-Band Visual Equalizer" that features graphical control, a spectrum analyzer, Proportional or Constant Q options, lowpass and highpass filtering, and even a band-solo option.
ModComp is a compressor/limiter whose controls, like on the ModEQ, are designed to provide extra visual feedback. It offers several different compression algorithms, including Punch, Easy and Level. You also get a mix control, 2-band sidechain EQ and more.
The FX Rack plug-ins are in limited release right now, available only for purchasers or current registered owners of Element or Ensemble interfaces, who can get the plug-ins free through December 30, 2018. When the native plug-ins are available in November, they'll be priced at $199 for EQP-1A, $149 each for ModComp and ModEQ 6, and $99 for Opto 3A. They'll also be offered as a bundle for $449, which saves you $147 over buying the individual plug-ins.