Gather round for the top 7 channel strip plugins of 2023! You’ll explore faithful emulations and innovative technologies, as well as free plugins and a bonus surprise.
Channel Strip plugins help in-the-box mix engineers give a cohesive sound to recordings that may come from several sources. And while some recreate the sound and experience of tweaking the knobs of famous consoles, others peek into the future of recording and mixing.
In a nutshell, here are the best channel strip plugins in 2023:
Why do I Need Channel Strip Plugins? Are They Worth It?
You need Channel Strip plugins to simulate how you would process audio on an analog desk while recording. They’re worth it because they offer several processors such as gate/expander, compressor, EQ, de-esser, etc., reducing the need for more plugins later. In short, they help you give a cohesive, pre-mixed feel to your track.
After you achieve a great sound with a channel strip plugin, you can print your multitracks and start the mixing process. Channel Strips can also be used in bus tracks or even for mastering. Some plugins have a distinct sound that can add incredible flavor to your productions.
Now that we know the importance of a good Channel Strip plugin to your in-the-box workflow, let’s dig in!
Top 7 Channel Strip Plugins 2023
1. Waves SSL EV2 Channel
Wave’s Solid State Logic EV2 Channel Strip plug-in is an updated digital rendition of the classic SSL 4000E and 4000G console channel strip. Channel strips that played a fundamental role in capturing music history.
The SSL consoles have been used to record and mix an impressive catalog of hits since the early 80s. For example, it’s partly because of an SSL console that we have that hard-hitting and heart-stopping drum fill by Phil Collins in In The Air Tonight.
And Wave’s have recreated that analog magic offered by the 4000 series channel strips with their EV2 channel strip plug-in. It offers everything you’d expect from a channel strip plug-in and a few extra features that made the 4000 series so desirable.
- Optional Input & Output THD
The input section of the plug-in includes a Line and Mic level gain control with up to 20 dB and 50 dB gain, respectively. However, the harmonic distortion increases as the line level’s gain increases. You have an optional analog button that dictates whether harmonic distortion will be added to the signal to emulate the sound of the original analog mixing console.
- Dynamics Controls
The channel strip includes dynamic processors. You’ll have access to a compressor/limiter and an expander/gate. The compressor’s make-up gain is automatically applied based on the ratio and threshold settings, so you won’t be able to adjust it manually. In addition, the attack control doesn’t have a dedicated control; you will be able to use a fast attack button for an attack time of 1 ms or automatic sensing.
- Four-Band Equalizer
The SSL 4000 E channel strip possessed two EQ types: a brown and a black knob EQ. The brown knob EQ was the original EQ/filter and offered an expansive and edgier tone making it great for drums and bass. The black knob EQ, introduced in the 80s, provided a precise and transparent sound, making it great for vocals and acoustic instruments. You can switch between the two types depending on your desired response.
The plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.15 or higher. It comes in VST, VST 3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you want to add a piece of music history to your collection, then Wave’s SSL EV2 plug-in is for you. It offers that unique analog character while still retaining the ability to provide the clinical precision digital is known for.
2. UAD API Vision Channel Strip
The essential recording and mixing features of API’s renowned compression, gating, and filter modules are included in the revised API Vision Channel Strip Collection, switchable EQ modules, and an intelligently modeled output section.
The API Vision Channel Strip Collection features two of API’s most lauded EQ types: a 4-band parametric EQ (the 550L) and a 10-band graphic EQ (the 560L series). With the new 560L EQ emulation, you can quickly sweeten and shape guitars, push vocals forward with an analog punch, add aggression to drums, low-end transparency, and ultra-tight imaging thanks to the accurate recreation of the original hardware’s complex band interactions and musical filter amp distortions.
- Hard/Soft Knee Switch
This comprehensive collection of 7 analog-modeled plug-ins gives you an impressive array of tools and features to help perfect your sound. One of the most interesting features is the Shape section, complete with a hard/soft knee switch. With this switch, users can easily customize their dynamic response and ensure that their audio sounds as good as it can be.
- Bypass Switch
The Shape section boasts the ultimate sound shaping capabilities with a bypass switch that allows you to adjust gain and frequency curves quickly and easily. Experience unique sound environments with variable harmonics, gate functions, and compressor settings.
- Threshold, Attack, And Release Controls
The Vision Channel Strip Collection includes essential tools such as threshold, attack, and release controls, which, when used together, can completely transform a track or mix. Professional audio engineers are familiar with these parameters and skillfully adjust them based on their experience.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.13 and higher and Windows 10 in 64-bit VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
With Apollo interfaces, API’s Vision Channel Strip Collection sounds even better, thanks to Unison mic preamps. As a result of bidirectional control and communication between the software and your Apollo’s mic preamps, Unison provides you with all the essential impedance, gain stage “sweet spots,” and circuit behaviors of API’s legendary 212L preamp. You also get a Mic/Line switch, a dedicated cut filter, and a 6 dB line pad, just like on API’s top-tier Vision Console.
3. Brainworx bx_console AMEK 9099
The AMEK 9099 is a fantastic mixer based on the highly versatile Amek 9098i. With a limiter, equalizer, noise gate, and exciting GUI, the Channel Strip by Brainworx will create many vintage vibes for any production.
Achieve complete control of the mixing process with an incredibly versatile console emulator; bx_console AMEK 9099 will deliver all the controls needed for any production at your fingertips. AMEK 9099, apart from offering handy and intuitive knobs, also shines any signal with musicality. With massive lows, you can push the mixing plugin for pleasant, smooth changes in the signal.
The plugin has six controls regarding its filters. HPF On and LPF On work intuitively on enabling the low and high-pass filters. HPF x 3 is a modern feature in the plugin that shifts the high-pass filter’s band by a factor of three. An LPF / 3 feature will turn the low-pass filter’s band by a factor of 1 / 3. The HPF works on the 20 Hz – 900 Hz range and an 18 dB slope value. The LPF will present the same dB slope value of the HPF but operate in the 1.5 kHz – 30 kHz range.
AMEK 9099 has a gate, limiter, and a compression section. The most exciting feature in the gate segment is the gate invert, which will enable you to hear the signal parts that the gate would attenuate. Apart from the standard gate controls, the plugin also has a Gate HPF and LPF interaction, activating additional filters on the gate and controlling the cutoff frequency. The Ambiance is an exciting feature in the compression segment that will output the difference between the compressed and input signals.
The plugin features four bands to fill the HF, HMF, LMF, and LF ranges. An HF Sheen function is fascinating for broadening the curve from the steep and widening the HF shelf. Both LMF and HMF can switch from Peak to Notch filtering. An exciting LF control is the LF Glow, which works the same way as the HF Sheen, but focuses on the lower range.
In a mastering segment of the plugin, you will have access to many exciting parameters. V gain is a virtual gain function that adds noise to the signal. A phase control will invert the signal’s polarity. You can also select between seventy-two different channels in the Console Channel Numbers. An exciting fact is that each channel has a unique character. You can also modify the spatial texture with the featured controls in Stereo Mode.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Brainworx bx_console AMEK 9099 is a complete console emulator that will provide any mix with full dynamics, EQ, and mastering controls. It has parameters for noise gates, compressors, limiters, and many EQ functions.
With an outstanding mastering performance, the plugin also has a role in stereo width and texture by allowing you to operate specific controls related to spatial functionality accurately.
4. Softube Bus Processor NEW*
Softube Bus Processor is a plugin designed to add warmth, saturation, and other sonic characteristics to your mix bus or individual tracks.
It includes three separate modules: a saturation module, an EQ module, and a compressor module. Its various compression modes allow for a wide range of control over the sound and can be used to add punch, glue, or control dynamics.
One of the unique features of the compressor module is its Mix knob, which allows you to blend the compressed and uncompressed signals. That can help achieve more subtle compression or blend in some of the original dynamics of the track. Now, let’s understand more of its features.
- Saturation Module
Its saturation module includes four different types, each with a unique flavor: Tape, Tube, Solid State, and Transformer. This module can add analog-style warmth and color to your tracks.
- EQ Module
The EQ module is a 4-band EQ with high and low-pass filters. It includes various filter types, including Baxandall, Pultec, and API. This module provides a wide range of tonal shaping options, allowing you to fine-tune the sound of your mix.
- Compressor Module
The plugin includes various compressor modules: Peak, RMS, Opto, Punch, and Crush. It also controls attack, release, ratio, and makeup gain.
- Individual Module Control
Each module can be used individually or in combination with the others. This provides a flexible approach to processing your tracks and allows you to customize the sound to your needs.
Professional mixing engineers designed a good range of presets, making it easy for you to get started with the plugin and explore different sonic possibilities.
- Intuitive User Interface & Low CPU Usage
It has a user interface that is easy to use and intuitive, with clear labeling and visual feedback for each control. Further, the plugin suits large mixes with multiple tracks and plugins and is optimized for low CPU usage.
Compatible with Mac and Windows operating systems and available in various plugin formats, including VST, VST3, Audio Units, and AAX Native, the plugin is easy to integrate into your existing workflow, regardless of which DAW you use.
The Softube Bus Processor is also compatible with Softube’s Console 1 system, which allows you to control the plugin from a dedicated hardware controller. This can be especially useful for those who prefer a more hands-on approach to mixing.
Overall, the Softube Bus Processor is a powerful tool for adding character and warmth to your mix. Its modular design allows you to use each module individually or together, providing a flexible and customizable approach to processing your tracks.
5. iZotope Neutron 4
iZotope Neutron 4 is a comprehensive mixing tool suite offering various improvements and additions to previous versions.
The plugin features an Assistant View that provides an easy-to-use and intuitive interface for beginners to change a channel’s sound. Additionally, it includes an Unmask module that allows for easy separation of different sounds and an Exciter module that features new distortion signal mashers.
- Reference with Target Library
This allows you to match the sonic characteristics of your mix to a reference track. It comes with a selection of professionally mixed tracks you can choose from or upload your reference tracks. Once a reference track has been selected, the plugin analyzes its spectral balance, dynamics, and other characteristics and suggests adjusting the mix to match the reference more closely.
- Clear muddy mixes
The Unmask module in iZotope Neutron 4 is a powerful tool for separating overlapping sounds in a mix, allowing you to identify and adjust frequencies clashing with each other easily. This feature works by analyzing the audio of all tracks in your mix and then creating a “masking” profile of each track. From there, you can use the Unmask module to adjust the levels of each track, making sure that each sound is heard clearly and without interference from other sounds.
- Clever Harmonic Processing
You can add warmth, grit, and harmonic distortion to your audio by using Trash Mode. It has four different modes, which allow you to customize the type and intensity of distortion applied to your audio. These modes include “Classic,” “Tape,” “Tube,” and “Warm,” each with its distinct character. You can also adjust the amount of distortion using the Drive and Mix controls.
- Punch Mode
You get a Punch Mode in the plugin’s Compressor module, a transient shaping tool that adds impact and clarity to individual tracks and mixes. It works by emphasizing the initial transient of a sound while reducing the sustain or tail.
That can be useful for punching drums, guitars, and other instruments that need to cut through a mix. It has adjustable Attack and Release controls, allowing for fine-tuning of the transient shaping effect. It can also be used with the Compressor’s other settings for more precise control over a track’s dynamics.
- Comprehensive presets
Neutron 4 has various presets to help you start your audio projects. These preset are designed to provide a range of settings for different types of audio sources, such as vocals, drums, guitars, and more. They can save you time and effort by providing a starting point that you can tweak and customize.
While iZotope Neutron 4’s Compressor module has powerful features like Punch Mode and adjustable Attack and Release controls, it also has some cons. Firstly, the plugin can be expensive, making it inaccessible to some of you. Additionally, the interface can be overwhelming for beginners, with many options and controls that may be difficult to understand.
The presets can be a useful starting point, but they may not always provide the desired effect and require further customization. Finally, the plugin can be CPU-intensive, which can be problematic for those with slower computers or limited resources.
6. Heavyocity PUNISH
Heavyocity PUNISH is a creative audio processing plugin that delivers many sonic characters and control in music production and sound design.
It combines compression, saturation, transient shaping, and equalization in a single plugin to provide versatile sound-shaping possibilities with an easy-to-use, intuitive interface with attractive design and colors. With all these interesting effects, PUNISH is one of the best channel strip plugins to add multi-effects to your sound(s).
PUNISH includes a compressor with several parameters to control the dynamics processing precisely. These include the Threshold, which sets the level at which compression begins; Ratio, determining how much compression is applied once the threshold is exceeded; Attack, controlling how quickly the compressor responds to transient peaks; Release, setting the time it takes for the compressor to return to the non-compressed level; and Makeup Gain, which allows you to compensate for any gain reduction due to the compression.
- Saturator section
In the saturator section, the Drive control determines the amount of saturation applied, while the Mix knob allows the blending of the processed and unprocessed signals.
- Transient control and tone-shaping
The transient shaper provides Attack and Sustain knobs, adjusting the amplitude of the transient and the tail of the sound, respectively. Next, the equalizer features multiple bands with adjustable gain and frequency controls, including Low Shelf, Mid, and High Shelf filters.
That enables users to boost or cut specific frequency ranges for the desired tonal balance.
- High-quality processing algorithms
PUNISH utilizes advanced algorithms to deliver professional-sounding results, emulating the character and warmth of analog hardware without sacrificing the flexibility and precision of digital processing.
A wide range of controls and parameters allows users to achieve various sonic textures, from subtle warmth and enhancement to aggressive distortion and saturation. This makes PUNISH suitable for many applications, including mixing, mastering, and sound design.
PUNISH comes with a collection of expertly crafted presets that provide a starting point for you and can be customized to fit the needs of specific projects. These presets to demonstrate the plugin’s capabilities and showcase various ways it can enhance audio material.
Heavyocity PUNISH is designed to be compatible with most major digital audio workstations (DAWs) by supporting common plugin formats, including VST (used in Cubase, Ableton Live, FL Studio, etc.), AU (used in macOS-based DAWs like Logic Pro and GarageBand), and AAX (used in Avid’s Pro Tools). This wide compatibility allows seamless integration into various workflows, enabling users to access PUNISH’s powerful sound-shaping capabilities within their preferred production environment.
Heavyocity PUNISH is a versatile audio processing with dynamic, frequency, transients, and harmonic processing capabilities. Designed for music production and sound design, it delivers professional results, emulating analog warmth while maintaining digital precision. With a range of controls and presets, PUNISH offers a comprehensive solution for sculpting audio material.
7. PSP Audioware InfiniStrip
PSP Audioware’s InifiniStrip offers endless combinations from its 22 processors.
The plugin allows you to add up to seven simultaneous processors and a total of two inserts. Rack up the preamps, expanders, filters, EQs, compressors, limiters, etc., in an order that will benefit your production. Furthermore, you can choose between the various types of processors and change them without changing your settings.
That helps when you’re just looking for a different tone rather than different settings.
- Five Preamps
The plugin offers five types of preamps, each with distinct coloration. Gain solely raises the volume. Pre60s makes instruments sound more organic, while Pre70s enlarges drums and bass without losing transients. Pre80s adds exaggerated transients and ADC 90s applies subtle clipping.
- Three Filters
Here, you can choose between three types of filters: a basic one with HP and LP options. A more complex option with HP, LP, and parametric Mid control. And finally, a Side-Chain filter.
- Dynamic modules
Choose if you need a Gate, Expander, or Ducker for your track.
- Three Compressors
The plugin offers Opto, great for vocals, FET, perfect for drums and guitars, and VCA, which is used chiefly for bus compression.
- Three EQs
You get these options: a flexible four-band EQ called ChannelQ; a redesign of the PSP PreQursor with three types of bell shapes; and the PSP RetroQ, which is based on old-school EQs.
- Limiter Modules
The plugin offers three types of limiters, Opto, VCA, BrickWall, and a Saturator module. Additionally, you get a Master unit with basic stereo field controls.
- Special Modules
There are three special units here: De-esser, De-hummer, and ReactivEQ. While the first two are self-explanatory, the last is a dynamic equalizer.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 and newer and macOS 10.8 and higher in VST and AU formats.
The InifiniStrip is a reasonably new plugin that might need a UI tweak, but which sounds excellent nevertheless. The never-ending sonic combinations are enhanced by comparing the types of processors while keeping the same settings. Overall, the plugin offers tremendous workflow gains and is an excellent addition to any producer’s collection.
The 3 Best Channel Strip Plugins 2023
1. Analog Obsession CHANNEV
CHANNEV can add many pleasant textures with its Mic Preamp, De-Esser, Line-Amp, Four-Band Equalizer, Compressor, Tape-Saturation, and Limiter. In addition to that, the plugin is entirely free.
Featuring all the controls needed to shape any mix with precise values and solid results, CHANNEV delivers high-quality performances in many areas of the frequency spectrum.
Besides having exciting opportunities in dynamics, EQ, and other modulation processes, CHANNEV offers light oversampling, standing at a friendly level towards the CPU power.
CHANNEV offers complete control with its standard channel strip modulations. The plugin will give you control over the Mic Preamp, Virtual Gain, PAD, Phaser, and Pre-EQ. CHANNEV also allows the higher frequency control by offering a de-esser with two options, Bell and Soft. The EQ features four bands that are modestly customizable and go through a post and pre-filter. A limiter, compressor, and a saturator are also exciting segments in the main panel.
Apart from having a brilliant design and a vintage analog style, the plugin also behaves modestly towards the device’s processing power. As a sound designer, I had a massive blast using CHANNEV, since I could apply it to a signal and didn’t need any more plugins on the FX chain. Its EQ is so potent that it quickly added rich color to the boosted frequencies, allowing me to create a particularly strong low-end and distort it. For assisting the CPU, the plugin also applies a 2x light oversample.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.
The recently released CHANNEV, by famous Analog Obsession, is another excellent addition to the manufacturer’s high-quality series of free plugins. This perfect channel strip offers all controls needed for a brilliant modulation in any audio without compromising CPU power.
Its interactive main panel is straightforward and optimal to a fast and organized mix. My experience with CHANNEV is highly positive; the plugin allows for powerful sound sculpting without any additional plugin, which is extremely attractive for many sound designers.
2. Analog Obsession LOADED
Analog Obsession’s LOADED is not a very versatile plugin, but it delivers great sound nevertheless.
Some of the parameters can be a little limiting if you’re looking for absolute control over the processing. With that said, much of the charm of analog is compromising to your unit’s limitations. In that case, the plugin does a great job at delivering a faithful analog experience.
This module is extensive, giving you a polarity switch, several level compensators, and a high pass filter.
You get a high shelf to apply soft or hard de-essing. Although the crossover points are not specified, you can change the range of the band to attend to different input signals.
Although it has no ratio control, you can use the gate as an expander by adjusting the Mix knob.
Like most consoles, you get low and high shelves at 100 and 10.000 Hz, respectively. Additionally, you get two mid-range controls with sweepable frequencies and up to 15dB of cut and boost.
This simple compressor is actually very versatile. With the Fast Attack option and the Auto Release function, it becomes useful for most musical genres.
The plugin is available in VST and AU formats for 64-bit computers running Windows and macOS.
Sonically-wise, the plugin doesn’t add much of a significant tone to the sound. Even so, unlike most plugins on this list, with LOADED, you’re always EQing into the compression. Not only does that create a smoother effect, but it’s also a great mastering technique. Analog Obsession makes loads of great free plugins, and this one is also worth your time.
3. 1208 Audio Plugins 1208 SCS
The 1208 SCS, by 1208 Audio Plugins, is a straightforward plugin that offers a modular signal path.
With its versatile compressor and detailed parametric EQ, you can easily use this plugin on individual tracks and the master chain. Additionally, the saturation button brings in some extra flavor that makes it wonderful for vocals and synths.
- The Patch Bay
You can easily configure your signal flow by changing inputs and outputs on the patch bay. The plugin makes it simple to bypass the filters or make different sequences for the left and right channels, for example.
- Shelf or Bell
You can choose low and high shelves or bells for different effects.
This feature allows you to roll off the lower frequencies, so they don’t engage the compressor. It will not cut the bottom of your track, only bypass it from the compressor.
This plugin is available for Windows as a VST.
Unfortunately, you need to pay to enable the oversample and filter features, but still, this is a plugin worthy of a download. Go crazy trying out different patch bay configurations; perhaps you’ll find a unique sound that only this plugin can produce.
Other Great Channel Strips:
Lindell Audio 50 Series
The Lindell Audio 50 Series emulates classic API consoles, delivering a powerful, punchy tone.
If you’re familiar with API equipment, you know they sound as tight as it gets. This plugin is no different, delivering the utmost transient and frequency precision.
The plugin’s sound shines through when you place it on the track, but it’s the variety of options within it that make it so unique.
This technology developed by Brainworx provides an accurate representation of 32 different console channels. That means you can have up to 16 stereo instances of this plugin in your session, and they will all sound slightly different.
Use this to control the amount of harmonic distortion from the circuits. The middle position represents the emulation’s natural behavior.
- Two Compressors
The plugin offers an enhanced version of the classic VCA compressor API 2500. Additionally, the developers added a FET compressor based on the API 525.
- Three EQs
Here’s another list of sought-after EQs. You’ll get the semi-parametric 3-band 50A EQ, four-band 50B EQ, and the graphic 60 EQ.
- Lindell 80 Buss
This condensed version gives you a preamp and the master fader with TMT technology. It’s helpful if you’re looking for the plugin’s tone rather than processing.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 and newer and macOS 10.9 and higher in AAX, AU, and VST formats.
The 50 Series is one of the best channel strip emulations on the market right now. If you’re bonkers about analog consoles, you’ll end up adding the Lindell Audio 50 Series to your collection at some point. This robust emulation makes any instrument sound more organic by delivering the warmth and punch of the original API gear.
Waves Omni Channel
The Scheps Omni Channel offers analog-modeled processing and coloration in a straightforward workflow.
Instead of emulating a single desk or hardware, the Omni Channel gathers the best from different sounding equipment. The blending of flavors is cohesive, even though there are circuit emulations from several famous hardware processors built into this plugin. Furthermore, the experience is enhanced by adding the insert slot, which nods to the analog desk days.
Great for finding offending or root frequencies, this plugin’s hidden shortcut lets you solo the bandwidth knobs to help you focus on the sound you’re looking for. Whether in the EQ or de-esser, when you control-click the bandwidth knob, you’ll hear only the frequencies it’s affecting.
The preamp section gives you three saturation types: Odd, Even, and Heavy. The first two are source-dependent. The third option is a bit crusher that adds a hard drive to the sound.
This subtle effect adds a gentle bump to the low-end. You can choose between adding 2 or 4 dB of gain. Even at four dB, the result is not very prominent initially, but it becomes more apparent as you use the other modules.
This module contains two de-essers that span the entire frequency range. Both let you choose from 4 different EQ curves.
You can load any Waves plugin into the module and affect the signal with the others. Alternatively, you can also double any of the existent modules in the plugin.
This plugin works on macOS 10.13 and up and Windows 10 in VST3, AAX, and AU formats.
From Pultec EQ curves to Fairchild and LA-2A limiting styles, the Scheps Omni Channel is a fantastic Frankenstein. The workflow is effortless, and you can hear the plugin’s characteristic tone with every knob movement. It is incredible for producers looking for a distinctive analog feel.
SSL Native Vocalstrip 2
Vocalstrip 2 is a plugin dedicated to vocal recordings, helping you add power and clarity effortlessly.
Once you’re done recording vocals, the next step is to mix them so that they sound as balanced and nuanced as your music production. Unfortunately, that often involves a lot of processing, from adding EQs, compressors, de-essers, saturation, etc. These work together to turn your raw vocals into balanced tracks, ready for further processing.
And that’s why Vocalstrip 2 exists. It provides everything you’d need to transform your vocal recordings. Go from flawed dynamics, mic plosives, and muddy character to the pristine, professional-quality sound that reacts perfectly and expectedly to other effects. Let’s check out the key features this plugin has to offer:
As the name suggests, the Compander section features both a compressor and an expander. You can adjust the threshold of each using the dedicated parameters: Threshold and EXP Threshold. Turn either of them to 0 dB to disable it. Furthermore, the two effects share attack and release controls. Similarly, it features a ratio control and a Drive button that enables harmonic distortion paired to the makeup gain parameter. Also, you can switch to a soft knee mode.
The display above this module shows the compressor’s behavior. And the graph on the right shows the difference between the input and output signal. Furthermore, a gain reduction meter shows both the compressor (red) and the expander (green) gain reduction.
- Clean Up
Vocal recordings often have unwanted noise from the vocalist: sibilance and mic pop. Vocalstrip 2 features a de-esser and a de-plosive module that help you rectify the issues effectively. First, De-esser features a threshold knob and a frequency knob. You can also click on the Listen button to verify the frequency you want to process.
Similarly, the De-ploser module provides a threshold, frequency knob, and a Listen button. The difference is this module focuses on low frequencies, where plosives occur. You can also automate its threshold to avoid processing where you don’t want it.
The plugin employs a nifty three-band EQ with one high-pass, one notch, and one peak filter. The high-pass is has a slight boost around its cutoff frequency, giving the vocals a thicker sound—next, the notch filter functions between 200 Hz and 10 kHz with up to 12 dB boost. And finally, the high-band peak filter operates between 1 kHz to 20 kHz and lets you make up to 12 dB of boost/cut.
SSL Native Vocalstrip 2 is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.12 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Vocalstrip 2 helps you make the vocal mixing process fast and effective. Furthermore, SSL’s distinct saturation and processing characters help make your vocals stand out. The plugin features four effect modules, each with a graph at the top.
Moreover, you can change the order of these modules at the base of the user interface. And a collection of presets helps you get started without spending time learning the plugin, although you will have to customize the presets to fit your vocals.
TBProAudio’s CS-5501 is a featured-packed plugin with a smooth sound.
The plugin offers two 7-band equalizers, two expanders/noise gates, two compressors, two de-essers, two limiters, and a saturation engine. This doubles collection can be set independently and routed to the user’s liking on the right-hand side menu.
That ensures thorough processing that can be useful for anything from single instruments to the master channel, with up to 4 times of oversampling.
This is a very soft-sounding EQ with fully parametric controls.
The plugin offers VCA, FET, and Opto compression, all with side-chain functions and a blend knob to create a parallel compression effect.
The expander/gate and de-esser are perfect for vocal processing. The double de-esser also helps with acoustic guitars and drums.
This module emulates several types of tubes, and you can add both odd and even harmonics to the sound simultaneously.
Here, you can click the empty slots and choose which processing you want to place and their order. Additionally, you can mute or solo single processors.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 and newer and macOS 10.11 and newer in VST, AAX, and AU formats.
TBProAudio’s CS-5501 never sounds aggressive, for as much as you crank it. The plugin’s sound is beautifully balanced, which makes it useful for all kinds of music. Moreover, the workflow is superb, and the ability to route all the processors in whatever order you choose makes it a flexible tool. You don’t have to think twice about adding this one to your collection.
UAD Century Tube Channel Strip
UA’s Century Tube Channel Strip is an amazing-sounding all-in-one preamp, EQ, and compressor.
The plugin’s warmth comes from the tube emulation in the circuitry. The preamp will saturate without clipping, while the optical compressor will gently tame the peaks. Moreover, this plugin takes advantage of Unison, UAD’s software-hardware integration technology. That means that when using a Universal Audio interface to record, the software will modify the interface’s circuitry.
You can choose between two input levels, Low and High, to define how loud the signal reaches the preamp. At higher levels, the preamp will add incredible tube saturation to the sound.
The broad sweepable mid-range lets you focus on any frequency you might want to cut or boost, while the low and high shelves allow you to add body and sizzle to the track.
- Opto Compressor
This plugin’s great Opto compressor is a one-knob solution to tame peaks and lift the details. The tube-inspired sound is smooth and soft, so the compression never sounds squashed.
If you’re recording with a UA interface and using this plugin via Unison integration, you can lower the microphone’s input gain before it hits the preamp. By using the Pad switch, you’ll reduce the input volume by about 20dB.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 and macOS 10.13 and higher, but you need a UAD DSP Accelerator or UA Audio Interface to run it in your DAW.
Overall, this is a fantastic plugin to use when recording, especially vocals and guitars. It spices up the sound in a very colorful way, enhancing the source’s emotional character. Additionally, you can use it during the mixing stage to add personality to otherwise dull digital sounds.
If you’re into the Universal Audio ecosystem, you’ll love the Century Tube Channel Strip.
The SSL Guitarstrip plugin is a software effect developed by Solid State Logic (SSL) that emulates the sound of a guitar amplifier and effects pedal setup.
It includes a preamp section, as well as a variety of effects such as distortion, overdrive, and delay. The plugin is designed to be used with electric guitar, bass, and recording software. It is popular among guitarists and producers for its ability to add warmth, character, and vintage tone to guitar tracks.
- Distortion and overdrive
The plugin includes a variety of distortion and overdrive effects that can add warmth, edge, and grit to the guitar sound. In addition, you can adjust the gain, tone, and character of the input signal in the preamp section.
The plugin includes modulation effects such as chorus, flanger, and phaser, which can add movement and depth to the guitar sound. In addition, it includes a delay effect that can be used to add space and dimension to the guitar sound. Lastly, there’s also a parametric EQ that can be used to fine-tune the frequency balance of the guitar sound.
- Easy to use
The plugin’s user interface is designed to be intuitive and easy to use, allowing you to quickly and easily adjust the various parameters of the plugin.
The SSL Guitarstrip plugin is available in different models, each with its features and capabilities. For example, the SSL G Series is known for its warmth, clarity, and punch and includes a preamp, EQ, and compressor, as well as a variety of effects such as distortion, overdrive, and delay.
Secondly, the SSL E Series Channel Strip is known for its aggressive and punchy sound. Similarly, the SSL 4000 E Series Channel Strip has its own unique characteristics.
- Dynamic processing
The plugin includes a compressor section that allows you to control the dynamic range of the input signal. This is useful for shaping the guitar’s sound and making it sit well in the mix. The compressor section allows you to adjust parameters such as threshold, ratio, attack, release, and gain.
The plugin has the following system requirements: it runs on Windows and Mac operating systems, requires a 64-bit host DAW, and supports VST, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin formats. It requires a minimum of 4GB of RAM and 4GB of free hard drive space.
The SSL Guitarstrip plugin is a powerful tool for shaping the sound of electric guitar and bass. It includes a preamp section, a variety of effects such as distortion, overdrive, and delay, and a compressor section. It is available in different models, each based on the classic SSL consoles, and it’s considered a must-have among guitarists and producers for its ability to add a versatile range of tones, characteristics, and textures to guitar tracks.
Acustica Audio Magenta 5
The Magenta 5 Channel Strip is a great mastering plugin since it’s an emulation of the Manley Massive Passive.
But since it’s a channel strip plugin, you also get a preamp section and a compressor. The GUI is confusing at first, but once you understand it, it gets simpler. Magenta 5 offers great tonal accuracy, perfect for the digital domain, but without losing its analog roots.
- Seven Preamps
Between mono and stereo emulations, you also get different-sounding versions from multiple hardware sources. A is from a tube EQ, B is from an all-tube circuit, while C is from a limiter. Finally, D, DMIC, and DFLT come from mic preamp designs.
- Four Compressors
The plugin offers four kinds of compressors between Vari-Mu and Opto designs, each with its distinctive flavor.
- Zero Latency Version
Perfect for real-time processing and recording, the Magenta 5 Channel Strip offers a ZL version, but it’s very CPU-heavy.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.12 and higher and Windows 7 and newer as a VST, AU, and AAX plugin.
Overall the plugin sounds very subtle but accurate. Magenta 5 does a great job of recreating the imperfections of analog hardware, adding as much color to your mix as you may need. For its sonic detail alone, it’s a great addition to your collection.
Brainworx bx_console Focusrite SC
The bx_console Focusrite SC, by Brainworx, is a complete recreation of the rare Focusrite console designed by Rupert Neve.
Only ten units of this console were made until Focusrite shut down the production. Now, thanks to TMT technology, you can have 72 channels, which means an entire console, in your studio. You get faithful recreations of the original gate, compressor, de-esser, EQ, and filters, with the addition of a THD control.
- Neve-Designed EQ
The console gives you a parametric four-band EQ designed by the master himself. You get bell controls for the mid frequencies and shelves for the highs and lows. You can bypass any band by pressing the Band In button.
- Two Filter Sections
Just like the original console, this plugin lets you add filters to both the EQ and dynamic sections. The first will roll off frequencies from the top and bottom of the spectrum. The second will focus the compressor on the range you determine.
- Multiplier Controls
You can change the frequency range of both filter sections and the mid-range EQs by engaging the x10, x3, and/or /3 buttons.
This is an added feature. By increasing the value, you’ll add more simulated analog noise.
- Stereo Mode
This affects the TMT engine. By selecting Analog, you’ll use two different channel emulations, one for each side of the stereo field. However, if you choose Digital, you’ll use one emulation for both sides.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 and higher and macOS 10.9 and newer in AAX, AU, and VST formats.
One of the most transparent consoles ever designed has finally received the faithful emulation it deserved. The price is a little hefty – but worth it when you think of the quality it can add to your mixes. No doubt, the bx_console Focusrite SC will become your go-to channel strip plugin once you add it to your collection.
Today’s list was full of amazing all-in-one solutions for mixing and mastering, but the greatest strength of any channel strip plugin comes during recording. Sometimes it’s just impracticable, but try it out next time you’re about to make a recording. The best analog emulations on our list deliver the closest thing to the emotion of tracking through the real consoles.
When you record with real-time processing, not only does it sound better from the get-go. The artist also gets better feedback from their own execution and puts more effort into making a better performance.
And speaking of the best, you should consider getting the Waves Omni Channel and the Lindell Audio 50 Series for your toolbox. Both are amazing-sounding plugins with incredible recreations of their analog counterparts.
The Waves plugin is looser with its references, which generates an innovative plugin. On the other hand, the Lindell is as true to the original classic as possible, being the best API plugin on the market.
Pedro Nascente is an artist, record producer, and mix engineer, currently operating his own studio and working with his band, Yellow Boulevard. Believing that music should convey experiences and feelings, Pedro is known for applying design thinking to his workflow to achieve different sounds and deliver the right messages.