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Analog Studio Rack

Reviewed By mansardian [all]
January 24th, 2021
Version reviewed: 1.04 on Windows

This is a review that comes a little late (it was released in 2016, I think) which means I'm going to be even more honest as Nomad Factory's "Analog Studio Rack" has to compete against the newest emulations out there.

This plugin is inspired by the SSL's famous channelstrip anatomy which, is quite obvious, however I wouldn't go as far as to call it a clone. It isn't, not only because it has its own character (even though it clearly has an SSL tone to it) but also because there are modules included that just don't resemble any SSL hardware.

I have to admit that after upgrading my computers I forgot about that particular one plugin (purchased 4 years ago). In the meantime I got Plugin Alliance's SSL clones and thought I'm as close to the real deal as I could get.

Then I watched a Youtube video that shocked me. A guy compared tracks printed through a real SSL 4KE with PA's SSL-plugin and while the EQ was quite accurate the dynamics were so different that one could barely recognize that brainworx intention was to model the actual SSL channel compressor. The real SSL had a saturated punch to it that got completely lost with the plugin.

This was the moment when I remembered Nomad Factory's ASR. I re-installed it, tried the compressor on a drum group and there it was: a saturated smack that made me grin like an idiot. Encouraged by the sound of the compressor I tried all the other modules and was stunned...how was it possible that I forgot that gem?

Gain staging is essential with this plugin; If you do you get rewarded with a wonderful "analog" sound. I even discovered something that I didn't realize back then when I had bought the plugin: Each module of the rack has a input and output gain knob. This is not just a digital volume knob. I inserted the pultec style EQ in my masterbus, cranked the input knob and brought the output down by the same amount. I noticed that the sound was a bit different but I wasn't sure if I was fooled by my expectations. So I printed two versions, one with the input and output set to unity, one with the cranked and compensated setting.Then I did a null test...And the difference was huge! The cranked version sounded much rounder and warmer, slightly compressed and credibly analog.

I also compared the brainworx SSL EQ with Nomad Factory's "state EQ" and again, it did hold up quite well. Sure, there were some subtle differences but to my ears they were subtle enough that I considered them neglectable. It was more like "ah, a module of another year of production" than "oh, that sounds like a completely different EQ"

The preamp module sounds fantastic on its own and is a great preparation stage for the signal before it runs through the rack modules. Also the VU meters are working smooth and are very useable.

Actually, this plugin is an absolute no-brainer, especially when it is on sale.

If Nomad Factory ever wants to update its GUI to a more modern looking one (foto-realistic? A public design contest would be cool) I'm sure it'll get the attention it deserves. Sound-wise it is second to none.

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