You’ve probably heard of such a concept as “Glue” from professional mixing engineers. Typically, this refers to the type of processing used on the master bus or on subgroups that helps individual instruments sound as if they are inside a mix. Half a century ago, most of the music was created by a properly set and edited group of talented musicians, and then choosing microphones and preamps, the sound was summarized using a large format console or analog tape. Since studio time and tape were so expensive (and the time the engineers worked), the musicians took their work seriously and showed great readiness for recording. Today – computers, software, hard disk space and production technology – have made the creative process affordable and relatively cheap. We have witnessed the democratization of the music industry. This is not a criticism of the style of production, but only an admission that the process of creation is much different from what it was decades ago. Even if a group decides to take a more limited approach, in the digital world there are countless layering, the use of playlists, compilation, capturing an almost unlimited number of tracks, drum compaction with samples, virtual instruments, sophisticated automation and transparent sound.
Digital reproductions of equipment offer engineers of the old school who switched to the DAW workflow, a sense of nostalgia and some analogue character. Consider the most useful plugins for gluing together an entire mix or groups of instruments.
1. UAD Studer A800 + Ampex ATR-102
In our opinion, Universal Audio products are unparalleled in recreating software versions of legendary hardware modules. Appearance, functionality and most importantly – sound. Adding one of these classic tape machines will fill the track with harmonics and a more “expensive” shade. Think of them as great sources of saturation, contraction, and all-in-one alignment. The way they affect the stereo field, the connection between the elements and the overall tonality of the mixture, makes them ideal “glue” plugins. The ATR-102 is a bit wider and the A800 is warmer and richer.
Each of these plugins has a large number of controls found on the original devices, but with an increased number of additional functions. The ability to switch between several different types of tapes with one click is an amazing technological feat. Pay attention to IPS (inches per second). The higher the IPS, the higher frequency you get. 30 – great for extra bright, polished sound, and 15 – works on most materials. Use 7.5 if you want a lo-fi vibe shade and 3.75 (on ATR-102 only) as a special effect.
2. Cytomic “The Glue” + any SSL console emulation plugin
Master Bus Compressor, found in various large format SSL consoles, has long been known as one of the best devices for mixing mixes and gluing them. Not surprisingly, various companies have developed software emulations. Cytomic even named its product as “The Glue”, and it is on the list of favorite plugins of many world engineers. UAD, Waves, Oxford and others also make excellent digital reviews of this widely used dynamic processor.
Many of the EQP-1A and MEQ-5 emulations are great “finish” equalizers and are perfect for subtle or dramatic tone changes in your mixes. The UAD version of the EQP-1A has the most noticeable effect on the stereo field, which is why we often use this device for additional sound rallying. Automate certain parameters (perhaps a 12-fold increase) to make the effect more pronounced.
4. UAD Neve 33609
We use this compressor plugin for a variety of tasks: processing vocals, guitars or subgroups. However, it does shine on the main bus, adding tone and interconnection between the instruments. The bass sits inside the mix and the unwanted sharpness is smoothed out. 33609 does something very special with the mix space, helping its individual elements sound more clearly and clearly. Like the SSL Buss compressor, it is recommended to use a slow attack and medium / fast release to avoid pumping, but try using 33609 on a parallel bus with more extreme settings and then mix to taste.
5. API 2500
Another legendary hardware compressor that has been emulated by numerous companies. 2500 is similar to the aforementioned SSL and Neve blocks, but with a few additional features that provide great sound flexibility. The tones section contains knee and detector (traction) controls that are great for processing the sound of any program material that you decide to skip through it.
If you find that your DAW-based products sound a little cold, lifeless, and boring, consider using any of the above plug-ins to mimic the adhesion of mixes made decades before. There are many benefits to working in the digital world, and we are very lucky to be in this era. If you cannot afford consoles, outboards and drawbars, do not worry, because we have many options that offer us a large percentage of sound quality, at a fraction of the price.