Channel Strip Plug-Ins

Sep 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By George Petersen



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In the saga of audio processing, there is one common character that continues to play a consistent role: the channel strip. It was — and still is — the fundamental building block of the signal path.

In the past, analog designs gave the user a defined set of processing tools to work with, which could be bolstered by inserting outboard gear if needed. Then digital desks came into the picture, offering a fixed range of onboard, DSP-based audio tools, which could be upgraded over time or added to with new software. When DAWs evolved to take center stage, the roof was blown off, as they gave the user the independence to put together separate EQ and dynamics plug-ins from many manufacturers in any order.

In a true case of going back to the future, all-in-one channel strips have come back to play a role again, this time in the form of third-party plug-ins. Users see value in buying a strip that can be instantiated one time per channel and satisfy a range of needs at bundle prices. And in terms of versatility and, in some designs, the ability to move the order of processors to suit personal preferences and needs, channel strip plug-ins go well beyond their analog and digital console predecessors.

To see what's new in this regard, we looked at what's available in plug-in offerings from third-party suppliers and uncovered quite a selection. It should also be noted that many of these products are available as time-limited, downloadable, try-before-you-buy demo versions to check out on your own.


Part of the Anthology II Bundle, Eventide's ( E-Channel is a set of 15 plug-ins for use with TDM Pro Tools systems — PC or Mac, Version 6.x or 7.x. Included is a gate, compressor/limiter with sidechain control, five bands of 48-bit double-precision parametric equalization, transformer emulation, extensive I/O metering and a user-configurable signal path that's optimized for multiple instances. The entire 15-plug-in set lists for $1,195.


Retailing at $599, the Focusrite ( Forté Suite channel strip is a Pro Tools TDM/RTAS plug-in based on the company's legendary $1.5 million Forté recording console from the mid-'80s. The scalable Forté Suite can perform both as a combined channel strip plug-in or as individual ISA 110 EQ or ISA 130 dynamics (including compressor, de-esser and noise gate). The 192kHz-compatible suite features graphical representations of EQ, compression and related module curves; sidechain input; and frequency filters for the dynamics processors. Additionally, the ISA 130 compressor supports all Pro Tools surround formats.

McDSP Channel



EM Review of McDSP Channel G

Designed to deliver the big analog board sound, McDSP's ( Channel G (offered in TDM, AudioSuite and RTAS versions for Windows and Mac OS X) has three components: a G Dynamics plug with expander/gate, compressor/limiter and a filter section; the G Equalizer, a 5-band console-style EQ and filter section; and G Console, which combines the G Dynamics (settable as pre/post-EQ) and G Equalizer configurations. Analog Saturation Modeling is also included. Channel G HD (TDM/RTAS/AudioSuite) lists at $995; the RTAS/AudioSuite-only Channel G Native version is $495.

Providing similar sonic performance in a smaller DSP footprint with 4-band equalization, McDSP's Channel G Compact HD is offered in TDM/RTAS/AudioSuite versions at $495, or Channel G Compact Native (RTAS/AudioSuite) at $295. All Channel G configurations (standard or compact) seamlessly integrate with Digidesign's D-Control and D-Command control surfaces, and feature calibration modes for music and post-production work.

Metric Halo

A pioneer in DAW plug-ins, Metric Halo ( originally introduced the concept of large-console channel strip-style processing to the Pro Tools TDM platform. The new Version 2.2 of the company's ChannelStrip (TDM, $699; RTAS, $345) is Universal Binary and builds on the advantages of Pro Tools 7.3 while supporting earlier versions including Mix, HD and Accel PCI/PCIe. ChannelStrip features delay, expander/gate, compressor and 48-bit precision, 6-band parametric EQ. Users on a budget will appreciate the new GarageBand version of ChannelStrip, which brings Metric Halo-quality processing to that platform at an affordable $89.

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