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In these challenging economic times it is important to maximize your dollar by making high value purchases for your studio. One great way to do this is by purchasing plug-in bundles rather than going the a la carte route, which can save you a ton of money when purchasing even just a few plug-ins from a single vendor.
One deal we think should make your short list is Nomad Factory's Blue Tube Bundle V3 — a collection of dynamics, EQ, and miscellaneous effects that are all designed to sound like vintage tube-based studio gear.We put this collection through over 100 hours of real world use and became big fans of their warmth and clarity, while also appreciating the classic analog gear interface. If you need some bang for your buck from some studio workhorse plug-ins, this is your bundle!
The Nomad Factory Blue Tubes Bundle V3 contains a wide array of helpful studio tools including the Dynamics Pack, Equalizers Pack, Effects Pack, and Analog Trackbox.
The Dynamics Pack and Equalizers Pack contain exactly what you’d hope for including three compressors (one brick wall), a de-esser, an expander/gate, a limiter, and six individual EQs.
EQs in the bundle include a three-band British style model, a two-band Baxandall model, a twelve-band graphic equalizer with variable Q, a ‘60s style passive EQ, and a pair of highly-flexible parametric models.
The Effects Pack helps cater to your more creative side featuring a chorus, a phaser, an echo, a stereo imager, an analog delay, and a valve driver. The analog delay can be set to tempo-match your session, giving it an obvious useful edge over classic analog hardware, and the chorus provides Leslie and auto-pan effects. The phaser offers a selection of 4-, 6-, 8-, or 12-stage filters in order to create vintage or modern phasing effects. The classic echo has a unique “color selector” based on time periods — select 1964, 1977, 1989, or 1995 to suit your vibe.
In addition to the Dynamic and Equalizer Packs, Nomad Factory includes the Analog Trackbox in the Blue Tubes Bundle. This clever channel strip plug-in offers a flexible combination of parametric EQ, dynamics, gate/expander, and compressor using one shared interface to control all aspects (and subsequently will be found in both your EQ and dynamics plug-in menus when selecting your channel inserts).
Nomad Factory plug-ins support the usual popular formats: RTAS, AU, and VST. Licensing can be done either with an iLok (not included) or PACE Challenge/Response.
As with most of the Nomad Factory plug-ins we have tested, the Blue Tubes Bundle is fairly easy to use — a breeze if you’re a pro engineer, and varied if you’re just a regular musician with a home studio and no formal training with studio hardware.
iLok authorization worked fine. We did have to download each of the plug-in packages individually, though. It would be cool if the entire bundle was configured with a single, shared installer, but that’s certainly not a huge deal.
Some aspects of the interfaces are geared towards more experienced engineers — most of the inserts have a classic, analog look containing all the usable knobs you'd like while limiting the modern graphics that allow you to visualize exactly what you're doing to your source audio. With most of these plug-ins, however, you will find a very useful selection of presets that act as a great starting point and help level the playing field for less experienced engineers trying to achieve a pro sound.
In addition, one plug-in in particular, the BT Equalizer GEQ12, makes for very simple operation by using a familiar graphical EQ interface that everyone is familiar with.
The Effects Pack and Analog Trackbox are each a little more intricate than what you'd expect from such an “affordable” bundle. Features within the chorus and delay effects, for example, provide a lot of flexibility and customization. Don’t be misled into thinking low price means simple, no-frills software!Each of the plug-ins also contains great presets that are easily adjusted. Novice engineers can learn the effects very easily simply by spinning the knobs and doing a little experimentation — they are set up much like familiar analog guitar pedals. More advanced engineers will enjoy the familiar feel and ease of execution.
Where the Blue Tubes Bundle makes you work a little harder due to its classic look it more than pays off in the sound quality — this is great sounding stuff! As working music professionals it is common for our reviewers to take products out of the MusicPlayers.com testing studios to see how they hold up in real world applications. Knowing the success we've had with previous Nomad Factory studio tools we felt comfortable trying this package out on some commercial mixes.
Emily Eddey's album Rush (Emmerik Records) was mixed predominantly in the box using many of the inserts from this bundle. The Blue Tubes Bundle lived up to its name with warm analog sounds coming through the speakers lending itself perfectly to the feel of the album being mixed.
One of the shining stars in the effects package was the Oilcan Echo, which had a fairly advanced interface but created a very warm tone and great echo that was difficult to recreate when testing it against other plug-ins. This plug-in worked great when paired with vocal tracks.
We used the Analog Compressor CP2S, one of the many items included in the Dynamics Pack, on acoustic upright bass for the song “Day One.” When coupled with the Retrology Series EQ (also available from Nomad Factory — see that review here), this easy to use, five-knobbed compressor worked beautifully to help bring out the natural warmth and classic feel of our bass without adding any unwanted digital sound.
The Valve Driver is a very unique sounding overdrive with many usable applications, capable of creating sounds ranging from heavy distortion to overheated tubes. Holding true to the Blue Tubes name, this plug-in allowed us to virtually throw a towel over the amp without having to wait for our tubes to heat up.
The Analog Trackbox was also extremely useful in growing the sound of the project being mixed. This useful studio tool managed to find its way onto a wide array of source sounds during our testing (and production mixing). We found it especially useful and applicable to the mix project when used on kick and snare drum tracks, as well as on acoustic and electric guitars. With all of those knobs and options, it certainly appears a little intimidating at first, but it was actually very familiar and a fairly easy tool to master. Because this channel strip plug-in contains compression, EQ, gate, and tube coloration in one place, it allowed us to adjust many aspects of our source audio simultaneously, zeroing in on exactly what we wanted to adjust without jumping around too much. The results were clean and warm tones throughout.
Documentation and Product Support
Nomad Factory makes the Blue Tubes Bundle available immediately via download direct from their website. Everything we downloaded and tested worked as planned so we did not have any need to contact the manufacturers for specific support during our testing.Documentation is provided with each download in a PDF document. The documentation did a great job explaining the use of each plug-in, and also offered some nice tips that less-experienced engineers will appreciate.
We found the $499 price tag for the Blue Tubes Bundle V3 to be a fantastic price. The package contains nineteen useful and high quality plug-ins that will help expand your mixing options, which comes out to just over $26 per plug-in, and that's a bargain by any standard.
Each of the three packs in this collection is available individually for $289, and the Analog Trackbox is available separately for $189. You’ll save over $550 when you purchase the full bundle.Of course, if you want to completely outfit your studio, this bundle is also available as part of the Integral Studio Pack for $1,499 which includes every plug-in that Nomad Factory makes— 47 in total so far (and the 48th, ALL-TEC, is forthcoming).
Josh Gannet is the chief engineer at Skunk Hollow Recordings, as well as a professional freelance recording engineer throughout the NY metropolitan area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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