Prague-based software developer United Plugins has released quite a few useful plug-ins over the past year or so, including many that feature impressive analog modeling. The company comprises a group of different developers, including Melda Productions, FireSonic, JMG Sound and SoundDevice Digital. The latter developed Autoformer, which was released recently.
Autoformer is a mixing plug-in that combines separate preamp, compressor and automatic gain-riding sections. What makes it worthy of Product-of-the-Week honors is that it imbues any track you apply it to with delicious, analog-style saturation and compression, ranging from subtle to creamy to super-squashed. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now and have found that it works wonders on almost any source.
Housed in a resizable GUI, Autoformer offers four independently switchable sections: Preamp, Balancer, Compressor and Out (output). The Preamp section offers three subtly different console flavors: British, U.S. and German. The preamp section also features a Mojo knob, which controls the level of preamp saturation.
Next up is the intelligent gain-riding module, called Balancer. Its Leveller knob controls the intensity of the effect, and the Seer button offers a look-ahead function, which increases the accuracy of the gain riding. The manual warns against moving this knob during playback, as it changes the amount of latency and will put your track out of time.
The Compressor section offers a number of controls. Gain governs how much signal goes into the compressor. The Squash knob is described in the manual as controlling “the complex level of the processed compression.” In practice, it seems to give you more color and increases the compression separately from the Ratio knob.
Also included in the Compressor section is Time, which has two settings: Fast and Slow. The manual is a bit vague, saying only that it “determines the time constant.” It’s definitely controlling the attack time. Precisely how it’s affecting the release time is hard to tell. The other two compression controls are Ratio—turn it up full to get limiting—and Mix, which allows you to create parallel compression.
In addition to a master bypass switch, each of the sections other than the Output has its own bypass switch and status light. You also get a detailed metering section, which includes individual 13-step meters for Input level, Preamp section output, gain reduction from the Balancer section, gain reduction from the Compressor section, and output level.
Like all plug-ins of this type, you have to be careful not to overuse it in a mix. Too many instances with high settings can take the punch out of your mix.