Softube Grand Channel

Mar 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Michael Cooper

Plug-in Bundle Faithfully Models Tube EQ, Compression


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The same project’s snare drum track required lavish EQ boost at 220 Hz and 5.6 kHz to give it more punch. Even boosting these frequencies close or fully to the max, the sound was very smooth. That said, I wished the EQ boost was a tad more responsive; even with 220 Hz fully cranked with the broadest possible bandwidth, I didn’t feel like I got as much upper-bass boost as I needed for this particular track. I was also disappointed that the gain knobs for each band were not marked in decibels. A readout along the GUI’s bottom strip displayed precise decimal values for each control I moused over, but those for the bands’ gain controls were based on an arbitrary scale.

The EQF-100 sounded incredible on electric bass. After boosting the bottom end and rolling off the highs, I cranked the output volume until the output meter read -1 to +1 VU on peaks. That added wonderful distortion that would give any high-end, tube-based hardware unit a run for its money. The bass was burping like a dyspeptic fast-food junkie (cool!), but the output was occasionally clipping. Patching the TLA-100A downstream, I set a slow attack and fast release and shaved 2.4 dB off the output gain. That made the bass pulse and simultaneously prevented clipping. Switching the compressor’s low-cut control into the audio path was the final touch—its continuously variable nature allowed me to more precisely dial in a rumble filter (at 39 Hz) than if I’d used the EQF-100’s stepped controls for that purpose.

Niche Performer

The TLA-100A sounded very transparent on vocals and other tracks in need of natural and smooth-sounding opto-type compression. That said, it wasn’t an effective de-esser. The attack time was too slow to catch the leading edge of fricatives. And because the gain reduction control adjusts the two parameters inversely, I also couldn’t get enough compression depth without lowering the threshold too much and throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I also found it odd that the sidechain could only accept stereo input for a mono instantiation of the plug-in.

The compressor didn’t impress me on drum room mics. Even set to “fast,” the attack and release times weren’t zippy enough to create the explosive, hyperventilating sound I was after.

Grand Channel also lacks A and B workspaces and Undo/Redo facilities. Also, the GUI’s graphics are a little too realistic for their own good: Certain gain-reduction settings become impossible to see because virtual glare on the knob blots the control’s white hash mark.

The TLA-100A is a smooth-sounding compressor but limited in the breadth of applications. The pearl in this oyster is the EQF-100A. Whether you’re after pristine equalization or lush, hyper-creamy tones, the EQF-100A delivers the goods in spades. It’s worth the $329 admission ticket alone.


Mult your lead vocal track. Instantiate the TLA-100A on the original lead vocal track. On the mult, boost 3.3 kHz heavily in the EQF-100, using a bell-curve filter and wide bandwidth. Remove the mult from the mix bus, and bus it to the TLA-100A’s external sidechain. The TLA-100A will compress more heavily when the singer hits the top of her range, automatically putting a safety lid on choruses.

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