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The Oven — Mix Real-World Review

The Mix review team puts The Oven, “a Vibe/ Coloration/Mojo" plug-in, to the test in this Real-World Review.

The Oven
MIX VERDICT: The Oven Plug-In
THE TAKEAWAY: “Whether you’ve set it to simmer or with its burners cranked, The Oven helps you cook up some tasty tracks.”
COMPANY: Brainworx/Plugin Alliance •
PRICE: $349
• Creative accidents by turning knobs.
• Thematic labeling isn’t always that clear.

You often hear about music that’s “hot” or musicians who “cook,” so it’s not all that surprising that mastering engineer Maor Applebaum and Chris Henderson of Hendyamps designed a boutique hardware processor with controls named after those of an oven. And now, they’ve created a plug-in version in conjunction with Brainworx and distributed by Plugin Alliance.

The plug-in’s manual describes the original hardware as “a Vibe/ Coloration/Mojo box with tonal shaping options.” It’s essentially a multiband saturator with lots of control choices.

The Low Burn, Mid Burn and High Burn knobs govern the saturation in each frequency range. You can modify the character of the saturation in several ways. For example, the Temp knob lets you drive the saturation circuit harder. The Cook knob thickens the sound from the emulated pentode tube stage. The Bake/Broil switch modifies it more. If you choose Broil, you get added compression and thus more squashing of transients.

The Elec/Gas switch also affects the intensity of the pentode tube stage. The Bunsen switch adds range to the Top Burn control (and extends the metaphor beyond the kitchen and into the laboratory). The Flow knob maximizes the saturation when set at its full value and lowers the overall output as it is turned down.

Two critical controls that eschew the kitchen theme are the Headroom and Calibration knobs. The former allows you to dial more or less headroom. The lower it goes, the harder the signal drives the input, creating more saturation. You can also modify the operating level of the unit with the Calibration switch, which lets you choose from three different levels. The lower you set it, the easier it is to overdrive the circuit.

Brainworx added some useful “digital only” features to The Oven, including TMT modeling, the company’s proprietary technology. TMT gives each channel of a mixer—or in this case, a processor—slight differences in behavior, like what occurs in analog hardware due to the tolerances of the components.

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There’s also a Mono Maker control, which lets you set a frequency level below which the audio is folded into mono, which can help improve phase correlation and mono-compatibility. Another digital-only feature is a Stereo Width control.

The Parallel Mix knob is a wet/dry control for creating parallel compression effects. It’s also handy when the distortion gets too extreme and you want to back things off a little.

The Oven also features input and output meters, an Input Gain control, and M/S monitoring on stereo instances (but not M/S processing).

The Oven is the type of processor where you can start turning knobs without knowing what they do and get excellent results just by using your ears. That said, if you want to control it with precision, you have to take the time to learn what the oven-function names mean in audio terms, which isn’t always so obvious.

Sometimes I wished for more literal naming, particularly for the many switches and knobs that modify the burners, so I didn’t have to keep looking them up in the manual to see what they did.

That minor annoyance aside, The Oven sounds fantastic and is extremely useful when mixing. To continue the kitchen metaphor, you can use it to baste any source with analog warmth. Whether you’ve set it to simmer or with its burners cranked, The Oven helps you cook up some tasty tracks.

Although The Oven’s list price is high, Plugin Alliance often puts its plug-ins on sale. The Oven is also included in several of the company’s Mega subscription bundles.