This article will discuss the best analog summing plugins in 2024.
The debate between analog and digital summing has been long and hot in the audio world! Many artists and producers prefer their final tracks to run through an analog machine to produce the final mix sum-down.
In analog recording, audio signals from individual tracks are routed and combined through a hardware summing mixer before reaching the final stereo mix. This process often introduces subtle coloration, harmonic distortion, and a certain “glue” that many producers and engineers find appealing.
When you mix within a DAW, the audio tracks are summed internally using the software’s built-in digital summing algorithm. Each track’s digital audio data is processed mathematically and combined to create the final stereo mix.
Digital summing is precise and offers accurate mathematical calculations, maintaining signal integrity without introducing the harmonic distortions or colorations typically associated with analog summing.
Analog summing, on the other hand, involves sending each track’s audio signal out of the DAW via separate outputs, usually in the form of analog audio signals and then routing into a dedicated analog summing mixer.
This mixer combines the signals into a stereo mix before sending it back into the DAW for further processing or recording. Analog summing can introduce subtle harmonic distortion, coloration, and a sense of cohesion or warmth due to the characteristics of the analog circuitry in the mixer.
Many plugin developers/manufacturers and companies have emulated analog summing consoles in a digital format to be used in a DAW. Analog summing plugins attempt to replicate these analog characteristics of warmth and depth.
They can be used at the final stage of mixing to emulate the sound of routing tracks through a physical analog summing mixer, even when the entire production process is done in the digital domain. Now, let’s take a look at these plugins.
6 Best Analog Summing Plugins 2024
1. UAD Neve Summing
The UAD Neve Summing plugin is part of Universal Audio’s lineup of plugins that aim to emulate the characteristics and sound of legendary hardware.
Neve consoles are renowned for their rich, musical sound and the unique coloration they impart to audio signals. It offers different summing algorithms and non linearity of the Neve 80, allowing you to choose the flavor of sound that suits your preferences.
With great Neve 80 Summing Replication, the audio in Neve 80 hardware desks travels through the transformers and specifically designed operational amplifiers (op-amps) found in the revered Neve 80 series console, especially the highly sought-after 1272 line amplifiers, unpredictable analog irregularities blend together, creating a delightful harmony of harmonics.
The plugin tries to emulate that summing!
The Headroom setting adjusts the available space above the signal level, influencing saturation and distortion. Turning it up can introduce these characteristics. You can adjust it manually or select values from a drop-down menu. Headroom changes are compensated, minimizing volume shifts. This control allows adjustment of the internal reference level, preventing excessive signal processing. It’s useful for precise level matching or creatively expanding the sonic possibilities of the processor.
The Trim control compensates for gain changes from headroom and impedance adjustments and regulates the summing bus’s overall level. It’s a continuous knob allowing ±6 dB adjustment, managing the output level from the 1272 line amplifier.
The plugin has an Impedance switch (Hi/Lo) that alters the bus or Main channel’s impedance characteristics between low and high settings. The default is high impedance. Generally, Low impedance produces louder output than the unprocessed audio.
It provides tonal variations by switching the line amplifier’s input impedance between 300 Ohm (LO) and 1200 Ohm (HI).
Like all UAD plugins, Neve Summing works within Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) that saupport VST, AU, or AAX plugin formats and is compatible with macOS 10.13 High Sierra or later and Windows 10 (64-bit edition) version 1909 or later operating systems.
2. Analog Obsession NCAR
NCAR is a free and CPU-friendly analog mixer plugin by Analog Obsession with eight stereo input channels.
Each channel has an Output knob, a VU meter, an Input knob, a high shelf, a low shelf, and a bandpass filter. It also has a master VU meter and Output knob. For each channel, you can turn the Input switch on or off to enable its signal routing and keep it off when not required to load the CPU less.
NCAR has three Analog-style Equalizers with bands fixed at the following frequencies: 110 Hz, 1.6 kHz, and 10 kHz, covering almost the entire frequency spectrum. You can change its gain by using the gain knob, but the slope remains fixed.
The plugin has good channel management with Renaming, VU Meter for monitoring levels, and MUTE buttons for individual channels to empower precise track control and organization.
NCAR possesses great Routing Flexibility, such that the SUM button streamlines routing for 8 Stereo Inputs to 1 Stereo Out, while IND mode enables independent outputs to new or existing tracks. Hence, SUM mode gives you 8 stereo/16 mono inputs and 1 stereo/2 mono output, and IND mode has 8 stereo/16 mono inputs and 8 stereo/16 mono outputs.
Analog Obsession NCAR is available as a VST plugin for MacOS and Windows 64-bit systems.
3. Waves NLS
NLS stands for Non-Linear Summing, which is what the Waves NLS plugin is all about.
Waves have created three Analog rack emulations in a single plugin. You can switch between all three (Mike, Spike, and Nevo) modes by using simple buttons. In addition, the plugin has eight VCA channels/groups with VCA sliders and can be used in stereo or multi-mono channels. You can hide/unhide the group console window by using a “VCA tab” button.
The workflow is simply divided into two main windows: channels and buses, channels replicating channel preamps, and buses emulating bus amplifiers. The fusion of these components is the key to achieving NLS’s lifelike sound, tactile response, and remarkable adaptability.
Next, for each of the eight channels, you get independent volume sliders and VCA Group routings, from NONE to eight VCA groups. That makes the routing of channels very flexible, as you can route different channels into the same VCA groups and create buses accordingly.
With Three Consoles built in a single plugin, Waves has based these consoles on Spike Stent, Mike Hedges, and Yoad Nevo. All three have a drive knob, an output slider, a VCA Group knob, and switches for Noise, Mic, and Bypass. DRIVE adjusts harmonic distortion, elevating input signals while reducing internal headroom.
MIC alters headroom akin to mic input levels. BYPASS disables analog harmonics, noise, and frequency response effects. NOISE activates modeled analog noise. VCA TAB toggles the visibility of the VCA Groups Console section.
A lot of R&D has gone to produce accurate analog summing. According to their website, Waves analyzed and replicated 32 distinct channels per console, investing considerable time to capture the nuanced variations crucial for achieving historically precise analog summing characteristics.
NLS by Waves is available for macOS Catalina 10.15, Big Sur 11, Monterey 12, Ventura 13, Sonoma 14, Windows 10, and Windows 11 operating systems in VST, AAX, and AU plugin formats.
4. Hornet Analog Stage MK2
HoRNet AnalogStage MK2 is a plugin replicating analog gear traits like saturation, hiss, and frequency response for an authentic console sound.
It offers three emulation types: operational amplifiers, transistors, and tubes, each with distinct saturation and transformer emulations. You can link instances globally or within groups, use an “age” slider for aging effects, benefit from auto-gain, and access high-pass/low-pass filters. The plugin supports oversampling for high-quality processing at 192kHz.
The analog summer has an “Age” slider that simulates analog aging, while a “mic mode” offers a +20dB boost for heavy distortion creation.
You also get a Stereo VU meter for gain monitoring, adjustable automatic gain, separate controls for saturation and hiss, 6 dB/octave high-pass/low-pass filters, phase reversal, and component tolerance emulation.
The plugin features a phase inversion knob and a “mic” knob providing a +20dB boost for driving preamps and generating distortion.
AnalogStage enables streamlined group workflow, facilitating linked parameter changes within specified groups and enhancing efficiency in managing multiple instances.
HoRNet AnalogStage MK2 is available in VST, VST3, and AAX formats in macOS (10.11 and later) and Windows (Vista and later) operating systems, with Apple Silicon native support (except for AAX).
5. Analog Obsession Konsol
KONSOL, a mixing console plugin, offers three modeled console options with a transformer, bus, and a 2-band shelf EQ.
Track Mode follows Line In Amp -> EQ -> Line Out Amp, while Bus Mode follows Summing Amp -> EQ -> Line Out Amp sequence with transformer options. It has the interface in three modes: Blue, Black, and Gray, which can be changed by using its MODEL switch. The plugin also lets you enable its OVERSAMPLING.
With Detailed Controls, the plugin has an input with preamp gain (0 to 24dB) and Output (control -24 to 24dB) for precise level adjustments. In addition, it has British EQ Shaping, with Low and high-shelf EQs, emulating British-style frequencies at 100Hz and 10kHz, respectively, with +/-6dB control.
KONSOL has three Model Options: Tube, Transistor, and Opamp, each with distinct sonic characteristics. Additionally, you also get a Transformer on/off option for tonal versatility. There are User Interface Enhancements, like the Bypass button and clickable Analog Obsession label for engaging oversampling (4x).
KONSOL by Analog Obsession is available in VST/VST3/AU formats for Mac 10.9 – 12.x and VST/VST3 for Windows 7/8 /10/11.
6. Slate Digital Virtual Console Collection
The Virtual Console Collection emulates six renowned analog mixing consoles within your DAW, encompassing iconic models from the US and Britain.
You can select the console by using a single knob that can be toggled to Brit 4k G, Brit 4k E, US A, Brit N, RC-Tube, and one other model. In addition, there are eight VCA groups, a noise reduction button, a Drive knob for controlling the analog saturation, a VU meter for monitoring the audio, and a Group Bypass button.
Slate Digital faithfully replicates four classic mixers (Neve 8048, SSL ‘E’ series with ‘G’ upgrades, an old API, and a Trident 80B) without convolution or high CPU demands. The collection also mimics non-linear distortion and noise inherent in analog components, enhancing spatial cohesion.
You can create up to eight control groups within your mixing session, simplifying manipulation across multiple channels associated with the same module. This feature allows effortless auditioning of different console emulations across tracks and facilitates easy A/B comparisons.
The plugin has a streamlined workflow with its simple interface with console selection and Drive knob adjustments, avoiding drastic effects and ensuring versatile and subtle coloration. It effortlessly calibrates input levels and saturation to match varying recording levels without compromising output gain.
The VCC offers versatile oversampling choices, encompassing 2x, 4x, and 8x options across all active instances. Slate Digital emphasizes excellent default settings, ensuring minimal aliasing and high-quality sound output.
The Virtual Console Collection is compatible with macOS 11 or later, although it can run on macOS 10.15 or higher. It seamlessly operates on Intel or Apple Silicon (M1) processors, ensuring flexibility across various systems. Supporting AU, VST2, VST3, or AAX 64-bit hosts, it offers versatility and integration within different digital audio workstations.
Now that we have seen all six plugins for analog summing, let’s do a quick roundup. Firstly, Analog Obsessions’s Konsol and NCAR are two plugins mentioned in the list that are free!
These provide a great analog tone without costing you anything and are also good in quality! A little digression, but I also recommend their KolinMB, for analog multi-band processing on your individual sounds and buses!
However, while these Analog Obsession plugins have a competitive tone and interface, they lack the flexibility that you may need in a mixer. NLS by Waves is definitely the most superior-sounding and flexible plugin in the list, which also has great functionality and ease of operation.
Hornet Analog Stage MK2 has interesting controls that you could use to customize the amount and style of analog texture and characteristics you want in your audio.
Slate Digital’s VCC also has really well-modeled consoles, which also give you a good variety and choice of different colors and flavors. Actually, it is the best in that aspect!
Lastly, UAD Neve Summing plugin is also a decent and straightforward Neve emulation, which you can use for the classic Neve sound! UAD has definitely done the most authentic work with the digital version of the Neve 80 processor sound.
I hope this article was of help! Thank you for reading.
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.