COMPANY: Slate Digital PRODUCT: Repeater WEBSITE: slatedigital.com
PRICE: $149 permanent license; included in Everything Bundle ($14.99/ month rental)
PROS: Sounds fantastic. Offers a wide variety of delay models. Excellent interface.
CONS: No Undo or Redo. Slightly buggy.
Slate Repeater emulates dozens of delay devices, including many vintage analog and digital models. The models have obscure names to avoid trademark issues, but experienced users will recognize their pedigrees with handles like Coopy Cube, Digital 42, DM-2, Plexy Echo and Space Delay. Also included are models of delays created using various tape machines (including an early ’80s Japanese cassette deck), radios and telephones.
The plug-in, jointly developed with D16 Group Audio Software, is available in AU, VST and AAX formats. I tested v1.0.0 of the AU plug-in in DP 9.01 running OS X 10.9.5. Close to press time Slate released v1.1.0 which may address some of the bugs noted in the review.
The plug-in can be instantiated on stereo tracks, auxes and buses, or as a mono-to stereo plug-in on a mono track. It can output mono effects and features a dual-mono control set (that is, independent controls for left and right channels; see Figure 1). When you select an item from the Delay Model menu, all the other control settings remain the same. What changes are the delay line’s basic sonic characteristics: signal degradation, saturation, possible detuning, highpass and lowpass filter calibrations, and how the frequency response of the feedback loop deteriorates.
This construct lets you set the delay times, feedback amounts, filter settings, panning and other controls and then browse the various delay models without fear of those control settings changing. It’s like having 23 different delay units—each exhibiting different sonic characteristics—set to the same delay setup and switching between them with the click of a mouse. Very cool! Just be aware that recalling a preset changes both the controls’ settings and the delay model, and there are no Undo and Redo functions.
Each channel has the same type of controls and processing blocks, which I’ll describe in the order they occur in the signal path. First comes the Clipper, which is driven to saturation by the strength of your input signal and the level of the Input control (which adjusts gain ±12 dB). You can adjust the tone of the Clipper using the Color control. In the Status Bar at the bottom of the GUI (or, alternatively, in a separate Op- tions panel), the Clipper’s sound quality can be further modified by selecting one of four modes (Draft, Normal, High or Ultra) independently for real-time and offline modes of operation.
Next in the signal path comes a delay line with a Feedback control. Delay times for the two channels can be synched to your DAW, entered using tap tempo or manually adjusted from 0.1 to 1000 ms. A display gives a numeric readout of the current delay time for each channel. Dragging up or down with your mouse on any digit in the readout will increase or decrease its value, allowing you to set delay times to the tenth of a second. When synched to your DAW, delay times can be set to any of 21 note values ranging from a 64th-note to a whole note and including dotted-note and triplet variations (with a maximum delay time of 10 seconds).
A three-way Spread control creates a small or large phase off- set—or no offset—between the left and right channels’ delay lines; the offsets create a wider stereo image. Activating the Analog button sends the feedback signal through an analog-style circuit, adding more artifacts with each repeat. Ping-pong delays are produced when you activate the Ping-Pong button. The phase of each delay line can also be inverted by activating its Phase Invert button. Highpass (HPF) and lowpass (LPF) filters follow the phase inverters. The HPF’s cutoff frequency can be adjusted between 40 and 1,000 Hz, and the LPF’s be- tween 1 and 22 kHz.
After the delay line is a stereo mixer, providing controls for panning and adjusting its wet/dry mix. You can adjust Repeater’s output gain from minus infinity (no sound) to +12 dB. Multicolored left and right me- ters—virtual LED ladders with VU ballistics—show output levels for their respective channel. You can independently link controls for delay times, feedback levels, color (tone), pan, wet/dry mix, and HPF and LPF cut-offs between channels. Right-click a plug-in control to access a MIDI Learn function and link the control to a MIDI CC controller. Complete preset-management facilities—recall, reload, name, save, delete, import and export functions—are provided. Clicking on the Browse button opens the Preset Browser in a panel below the main GUI. Presets listed in the browser may be filtered using categories and tags to find the most relevant preset for your current application. Version 1.0.0 included 30 presets in the Decaying Echo category, 14 in Room Slap and one in Wave Shaper (the latter preset is a highly saturated, 0.1ms mono delay named 40s Tape).
In mixdown sessions, Repeater dished out slapback, flutter and chorus-y echoes; long echo trails; ping-pong delays; and automatic double tracking (ADT) with ease. Using the A and B Spread settings with extremely short delay times and moderate feedback produced wide and dense ADT effects on vocals; they sounded virtually compatible with mono summing at my mixer. To my ear, activating the Analog button rounded transients, rolled off high frequencies and added pleasing harmonic distortion to the wet signal.
With Repeater’s LPF and HPF set to pass full bandwidth, Analog mode turned off, the Clipper’s Color control set to 0 dB (and its quality in real-time mode set to Normal), and both channels set up for quarter-note repeating echoes, I auditioned all the delay models in turn on a female lead vocal track to see how their wet signals differed in sonic quality (both channels’ Mix controls set to 100%). Memory Guy, Mirky Delay and especially the DM-2 model sounded saturated and rolled off high frequencies a lot. Mellow Delay yielded very understated midrange reproduction but readily passed sibilance; TelRay sounded even muddier (in a good way), producing a mild upper-bass/lower-midrange bump and passing virtually no highs. New Radio sounded smoothly present and lightly saturated, while Old Radio offered an equally present midrange band but sounded more saturated and passed little top end. PlexyEcho sounded a little more present than New Radio and slightly more saturated in the high frequencies.
The three Pitchy models all produced warbly echoes; Pitchy 3 sounded darker than Pitchy 1 and 2 and modulated the wet signal’s pitch more audi- bly. Coopy Cube and Digital 42 each produced a noticeable lower-midrange bump and were only subtly different in tone; Digital Delay and Digital 42 x2 were comparatively smoother in the midrange band, but the latter model sounded noticeably saturated and dramatically rolled off high frequencies.
Of the four Tape Delay models (Ancient, Classic, Modern and Vintage), Ancient sounded by far the most saturated and the least extended in the highs, while Modern sounded the cleanest and clearest.
As you would expect, Telephone 1 had a bandpass filter on the midrange band and sounded a bit saturated; Telephone 2 sounded muddier (again, in a good way), with its spectral balance skewed more to the lower midrange band. Cassette Tape sounded moderately saturated and produced a gentle bass roll-off. The takeaway: Repeater’s delay models offer so many variations on tone and saturation level, you’re bound to find a great-sounding effect.
Repeater was slightly buggy, but not enough to discourage you from buying. Repeater is a fantastic plug-in that’s smartly designed to let you audition many great-sounding virtual delay devices in turn without altering your parameter settings. It’s a winner!