NOMAD FACTORY "BLUE TUBES" BUNDLE VST-PC version 2.02
Installation and Authorization
This really is painless. Simply download the installer from the Nomad Factory website and run it. Then - unless you are certain that you already have the latest PACE drivers, install these and then reboot. Launch the Authorizer, untick the iLOK option (Nomad Factory have started to use the Challenge/Response method of Copy Protection now) and generate the challenge string. Point your web browser at the Nomad Factory website, and the response string is generated instantly. This gets copied into the Authorizer and you’re done. The whole process takes just a couple of minutes. It’s almost as easy if your DAW is not internet enabled. Simply save the string, use another system to go and generate the response string, and simply save to a disk and transfer to the main DAW. A safety copy of the response is also automatically emailed to you. I have to admit that this reviewer approached this with some initial trepidation due to a previous bad experience with this system, but this went very smoothly.
The Plugins - What Do I Get?
Anyone upgrading from version 1.x will notice 6 new plugins, and a subtly redesigned GUI. You’ll also spot much better CPU optimization with between 50 and 75% less CPU used. Much better. There is also an LFO option on some of the plugs, with selectable waveforms (up to 6 of them), beat values and tempos for Autopanning. The plugins themselves run in Double Precision floating point at all sample rates up to 192KHz supported, with full automation of all parameters in VST, RTAS and HTDM hosts and a wide selection of factory presets to get you up & running with minimal delay and manual reading - which is naturally installed to your system as a PDF document in case you need it. So without any further ado, let’s get down to what is included.
Brickwall Limiter BW-2S
WYSIWYG limiter with no controls, parameters or adjustments to be made. It really does not get any simpler, and if you really need something to look at then the trademark valves glow away a nice blue colour in the background.
For all your classic modulation effects - chorus, flange, Autopan etc with 26 factory presets to get started. The Modulation section is very comprehensive, with 5 different waveform options and beat values from ¼ to 64 and a freely adjustable LFO which can be dialed in or entered directly. These controls are independent for both LFO and Pan use with the ability to set Pan speed & depth, flanger delay, feedback and last but not least a low & high shelf EQ option.
Several vintage models all combined into one unit here, 3 types of compression on offer - Peak, RMS or High Peak - for full dynamic control over anything. There is also the threshold, Compression ratio, attack and Release (called here - Time Constant- as in the Fairchild units). Very good All rounder.
Obviously based around the legendary FairChild 770 unit, with the exact same controls being found here too - Input Gain, Threshold, Time Constant. There’s also a very handy Output Gain control which is like a trademark stamp on the whole bundle. It’s a nice touch that is often omitted by the - purist - emulations, and I totally approve of its inclusion here.
Another deceptively simple looking tool. Adjustable Threshold & frequency with 2 listen modes - post process and removed sound.
Another one of the more complex plugins, with 10 factory presets ranging from soft drive suitable for a lead vocal line up to a seriously overdriven guitar to give an idea of what this can do. Controls on offer are Low & High-pass filters, the overdrive and a very usable gate with 3 states for each of attack & release with an adjustable threshold, plus the usual volume control.
Equalizers PEQ-2A, PEQ-2B, PEQ-2C
Three separate EQ units all based on Pultec designs so anyone with a Universal Audio UAD-1 DSP card will know what to expect. The only extra option here is the trademark master gain control at the output stage. For those who do not know about Pultec, the 2A here has 3 filters - High & Low shelving with a peak type mid using selectable frequencies and a cut/boost of +/- 20dB. The 2B is an EQP-1A with Low shelf boost and attenuation, controlled from the same frequency dial and gives a very special curve if you both cut & boost at the same frequency - they do not cancel out as might be expected but instead use different slopes and complement each other nicely. The 2B also has HF attenuation from 5, 10 or 20 KHz and HF boost with variable bandwidth and selectable frequency control. The 2C is the MEQ-5 emulation, which gives LM boost, mid attenuation and HM boost.
Gate Limiter GL-201
Another item that will be immediately familiar to some as it appears very close to the Drawmer 201 in operation and character. Very smooth gate that is not prone to chatter with an independent limiter option to boot.
Oilcan Echo TLE-2S
Vintage Echo unit that for once is not tape based, but emulates the old - bucket - delays we all know and love. All the usual parameters and some unusual ones too - "colour" for example will set the "style" of echo to ’64, ’77, ’89 or 2000, and there is a "Variation" control that adjusts the pitch of the echoes. As it’s a vintage "analogue" delay, timing is not in milliseconds, but ranges from "fast" to "slow" and the feedback option is called - sustain - here. The unit can be set globally to echo mode or delay mode.
This one does the modulation stuff the Chorus unit doesn’t handle. Again, LFO controlled with a rotary control over both speed & depth with a resonance control for handling the feedback duties. There’s a handy little stereo width option as well as a control for setting the number of stages used to create the effect ranging from 4 to 12 stages. Oh, there’s also a master output - although by now we should be used to this touch. This one really has to be experienced, and is capable of a wide range of phaser type effects ranging from the subtly sublime to the outright ridiculous.
Tempo Delay 3D
Perfect for when "near enough" is not, and those delays need to be bang on the beat. There are 3 channels here, Left, Centre & Right - each one independently adjustable with 5 note values from whole notes to sixteenths, with the addition of triplets and dotted notes too all adding up to an enormous number of possibilities. Setup is simple - Enter the BPM, select the note value, decide if you need straight, triplets or dotted and the delay time gets set automatically. Each of the 3 channels has its own gain pots, plus global feedback & width control and finally a dry gain setting too. As usual, there’s a wide range of presets to get you going from simple delays and 2D slaps up to a mad 3D ping pong. It gets particularly interesting when you discover that the feedback control can be either in or out of phase too. Lots of fun here.
Long Delay LE
Another 3 channel delay – this time with either rotary control or direct entry of the delay time for each channel, plus global feedback, stereo width and dry gain. Feedback loop is from once to infinite, in both directions, giving you pretty much a manual version of the 3D Tempo Delay.
Usage and Sound Quality
So. Now you know (roughly) what you get, you’ll be after finding out how they all sound and perform then. The simple answer is – very, very nice and friendly thank you. Lovers of Vintage emulations will find plenty to be happy about here with both old familiar faces and new friends, and those who are getting this bundle as their first step into vintage emulations will be able to start finding out what all the fuss is about. And it does not require a fire breathing CPU to run these either - all 16 plugins in the bundle loaded up on the test rig (a dual Xeon 3.06 system) used around 4 to 5% of available CPU cycles so you really can stack them up - with no worrying whether or not the system can handle the load. The sound quality on offer is very, very good. These plugs would be at home in any studio from a small project studio right up to a high end commercial facility and should be a welcome addition to anyone’s sonic arsenal. I mentioned earlier that UAD-1 owners will recognise some of the plugs here, and want to say right now that this suite is no "second best" to Universal Audio’s emulations but sit up there alongside it in a most complimentary manner. In fact, when using a mix of UAD and BT on a troublesome bass line (URS N Series / UAD 1176LN / BT Limiter LM-2S) where the UAD 1176 is working as a line amplifier and the BT Limiter is handling the dynamic control, the result is a beautiful fat bass that neither package can do on its own. You can do similar things with just about anything and the 2 packages work together very nicely - indeed in at least one aspect the BT bundle has a definite edge over UA with the (almost) standard inclusion of a master gain in just about every processor. Purists will doubtless disagree with me here, but that master gain control really is a boon and it’s usefulness cannot be overstated. The sound from the entire BT bundle is definitely reminiscent of the days before computers became a standard fixture in studios and imparts a colouration to the sound that can only be described as Vintage analogue but with the ease, predictability and control of digital systems. No waiting for the tubes to warm up in the fairchild, for example. No worrying about whether or not to replace the tubes today or try & squeeze another session out of them. And being emulation of course, there is no difference between 2 or more versions of the same tool. One of the often overlooked troubles with tube equipment and especially with tube compressors or EQ units, is that although every individual tube is carefully matched at the factory, they do not stay that way for very long at all which can often result in the same settings across 2 units producing entirely different sounds. This is just fine when experimenting but no use at all when you need predictable behaviour. In this area the digital emulation has the original beat hands down every time.All in all, a very attractive package at a very attractive price too. At only $499 you really cannot go wrong with this package, and it bodes very well for Nomad Factory’s future products too. If they can make vintage emulations sound as good as this natively, without using a DSP card, then it will be interesting indeed to see what their non vintage tools are capable of. And if all this is not enough to convince you to drag out the long suffering credit card already, then you can always go to www.nomadfactory.com and grab yourself a demo version for 14 days. Trouble with doing this is that you won’t want to let the bundle time out on you so you may as well just buy them in the first place. Highly recommended.