Neold, a new plug-in manufacturer, is serving its first product with cream. Its V76U73, distributed by Plugin Alliance, emulates two lush vintage Telefunken rarities wired in series: the 1950s-era V76 pentode tube mic preamp and the U73b variable mu tube compressor/ limiter from the 1960s.
Complementing Neold’s digital re-creations of these two modules is a digital reproduction of the Telefunken U70a, essentially a VU meter in the original hardware, but accessorized here with controls for Mix (wet/dry-balance, for effecting parallel compression), Makeup (post-compressor gain) and Trim (final output-level adjustment).
START WITH THE PREAMP
The preamp section includes an adjustable gain control and low- and high-cut filters for limiting its output’s bandwidth. The compressor/limiter section lets you select either a fixed 0.5ms (Fast) or program-dependent (Auto) attack time, and any of six release times from 0.3 second to 10 seconds; the three longest release times are program-dependent. Switches that separately activate a 100Hz low-cut sidechain filter and stereo mode (channel linking) add to the original features.
Don’t worry about cranking the mic pre’s Gain control too much and overloading the plug-in; automatic gain compensation keeps signal level before the compressor section at essentially unity gain no matter how hard you push it. Rather, think of the Gain knob as a saturation control; boost it to add the desired amount of pleasing harmonic distortion. Then tweak the preamp’s crucial Send control to adjust how much gain goes to the compressor for the amount of gain reduction you desire. (Tip: Bypass the compressor to use the mic pre as a subtle, standalone saturator.)
ADD SOME COMPRESSION
Variable mu compressors are treasured for the perceived density their tube gain control element imparts to tracks, and the V76U73 nails this sound. In limit mode and with the 100Hz sidechain filter engaged, the V76U73 fattens bass guitar tracks and enhances their sustain beautifully, making it one of my favorite plug-ins for that instrument.
The V76U73 has also become my favorite plug-in on lead vocals—by a mile. The preamp section produces a warm, authentic tube luster; unlike most plug-ins that produce “tube” harmonics, the V76U73 never sounds artificially fizzy or dirty. And the dynamics control the compressor lends is super-smooth, sitting the track beautifully in the mix. Vocal tracks sound bigger, creamier and more even.
The plug-in’s compressor also sounds downright awesome on double-tracked rock guitars playing overdriven power chords: winnowing out bass frequencies with the preamp’s 80Hz filter, activating the compressor’s Auto attack setting, dialing in a 2.5-second release time and setting the Mix control to roughly 50% wet/dry balance produces a really stable and dense wall of sound, while retaining the detail needed to sound natural.
DRUMS AND GUITARS
The V76U73 can also be used to accentuate a kick drum’s beater click. Select Limit mode, the Fast setting for the attack time and 0.3 sec on the Release control to squash the shell’s sustain, leaving mostly the attack. Then add back much of the dry sound—about 39% on the Mix control does nicely—to blend it with the pointy attack. The resulting kick will pop more and sound a bit tighter.
But rockin’ drum sounds are really just a bonus and not this plugin’s forte. Where the V76U73 really distinguishes itself is in its exquisite emulations of pentode-tube preamp and variable mu-style compression effects for bass, lead vocals and electric guitars. For gorgeously creamy, dense, supersized tracks, the V76U73 is the plug-in every in-the-box mix engineer must have. Must have!