Included in the bundle is the Kramer Master Tape plug-in, simulating the coloration of a rare, well-maintained 1/4" tape machine; the HLS Channel plug-in, which simulates the gain stage, preamp coloration, EQ, and compression of a Helios console channel; and the PIE Compressor, a stunning replication of the vintage Pye compressor, heard in several multi-platinum hits of the 70s.
What makes the Waves Eddie Kramer Tape, Tubes & Transistors Bundle so unique isn't so much as the quality of the plug-ins -- which are absolutely stunning, for what it's worth this early in the review -- but more the pedigree of the recording engineer that's the namesake of the package. Eddie Kramer was the engineering genius behind may of the biggest hits of the 60s and 70s, including hits by Zeppelin, Hendrix, and Kiss. Not a bad resume!
Olympia Studios in London was the site of many of Mr. Kramer's recording successes, and the Waves Eddie Kramer Tape, Tubes & Transistors family recreate his signal chain to perfection. Even with the ultra-clean gain staging of most digital preamps, coloring tracks with the Eddie Kramer package provides a stellar experience.
Let's look inside each plug-in with a little more detail. Need more background on VST plug-ins? Check out our FAQ about VST plug-ins.
Kramer Master Tape & PYE Compressor
This is an awesome plug-in, and worth the price of the bundle alone. This plug-in simulates a vintage reel-to-reel, 1/4" tape machine. This gives you a lot of control over the overall tone of your track (or your mix). The Master Tape plug-in offers control over the speed of the tape, delay time, feedback, flux, wow, flutter, analog noise, and tape saturation -- all very important features of any analog "sound" that vintage releases showcase.
I put the Master Tape plug-in across the output bus of a track I was mastering, and it brought a very important "glue" to the overall sound -- something really hard to achieve with some of today's digital gear. Playing with the settings yielded impressive results -- especially the gain and noise settings.
The other impressive plug-in included in this package is the PIE Compressor plug. This compressor plug-in models the legendary PIE Compressor from London's Olympic Studios, and it does an incredibly good job. Pye compressors are world-famous for their usefulness in bus compression -- the glue that holds instrument subgroups and mixes together in the analog world. The PIE Compressor plug-in is extremely useful on vocals -- I found that, tastefully applied, it made female vocals pop with emotion; a musicality that's hard to achieve on most digital compressor models was really well-noted.
On the PIE plug-in, you've got all of your standard compressor controls -- threshold, make-up gain, ratio, and decay time -- along with a very interesting feature that allows you to control the voltage of the (theoretical) power supply on the unit. A 50Hz power supply provides a different sonic signature than a 60Hz power supply, so changing that setting yields a surprising, subtle difference.
The HLS Channel
The HLS Channel plug is designed to replicate the channelstrip of a vintage Helios mixing board from London's Olympic Studios. The Helios board was well-known for it's beautiful sounding EQ on the individual channels along with it's silky-smooth preamps; in the plug-in replication, you've got full control, even the ability to add some preamp coloration (or distortion) to an otherwise clean channel. I found this channel extremely useful for cleaning up (or, in some cases, dirtying up) individual drum tracks along with providing a really smooth, silky sound to male vocals. The EQ stage worked beautifully as an overall sonic booster on an output bus.