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Review: Waves Eddie Kramer Tape, Tubes & Transistors Bundle

Analog Warmth In An All-Digital World

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Review: Waves Eddie Kramer Tape, Tubes & Transistors Bundle

Waves Eddie Kramer Tape, Tubes, & Transistors Bundle

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Ever since the first digital audio recording was released, there's been at least one guy in the crowd standing up and saying "But analog just sounds so much better!". In many cases, he's right! Analog does impart a unique, musical characteristic to recordings that's very hard to achieve in the digital realm, especially with cheaper-quality home recording equipment. You'll remember from our 5 Studio Tips to Live By that keeping things simple is the best way to get a professional sound at home; using plug-in packages like this allowed you the versatility of many pieces of expensive gear without the complication of connecting outboard gear to your rig. There's also the convenience and budget factor: analog is more expensive to buy and maintain, and old analog gear tends to need a lot of TLC to work properly. Not exactly practical for the home recording engineer who's just trying to milk the best quality recording out of a home studio. Now, thanks to the magic of plug-ins, it's getting easier to get that sound of analog quality -- and the Waves Eddie Kramer Tape, Tubes & Transistors Bundle offers a superior experience to many other plug=in packages on the market. I was blown away.

What's Included

Inside the Waves Eddie Kramer Tape, Tubes & Transistors Bundle, you'll find three very high-quality plug-ins, all with their own story and unique sonic signature.

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

First, the Kramer Master Tape plug-in.

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

Any audio engineer will tell you: even with the impressive digital consoles most of us use these days, there's a lot to be said for the overall feel, workflow, and -- let's just be honest -- the killer sound quality of an analog channelstrip. Even when paging through my multiple pages of plug-ins on my favorite DiGiCo or Avid consoles, I'm still finding myself occasionally missing how smooth the pots on a well-maintained Midas board feel when turning, not to mention the high end extension, low end glue, and overall sonic clarity of analog. With the HLS Channel, you can get pretty close.

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.

Overall Impressions

Overall, for the price -- $200 on Waves.com, with an MSRP of $400 -- this is a stellar collection of plug-ins. This, paired with either Pro Tools or Logic, provides an opportunity for a small home studio to develop it's own signature sound, backed with the sonic integrity of one of the biggest names in classic recording engineers. The Eddie Kramer Tape, Tubes, and Transistors plug-in bundle is available for both TDM and Native, and requires an iLok.
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