Albums of greatest note created with the physical console include; The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
What is a channel strip? The hallmark is that it gives the vibe of using a bad-ass console mixing board. In addition to depth, drive, and noise, it has EQ and compression built in. In other words, on a well recorded track this should be the only plugin you need, apart from FX sends. In theory. Period.
This is a love story
When dating, you explore what it is to be in a relationship. While burning through money you have some fun, make some mistakes, and most importantly you learn. This prepares you for when you meet “the one”. You will appreciate this person all the more in context, and you will have the skills to not absolutely blow it when the time comes.
This is my experience with TG12345. I already had several channel strip plugins, and then I found “the one”. TG has three outstanding features that set it a pedestal above the rest: the EQ, the compressor, and a world class stereo spreader/narrower. Let’s break it down.
The EQ bands are very broad. The bass shelf is fixed at 50 Hz. Sounds way too low. When lowering and raising by the max +/- 10 dB, you can see white noise on a spectrogram tilt up to 1 kHz. So don’t think you’re just subwoofing here. All the bass gets some love. You will not be traveling in and out of a little bell curve affecting the volume as the notes travel.
The treble is a little different. When you boost there is a wide bell centered at 5 kHz, and when you lower you get a shelf set at 10K. The bell affects things as low as 2K, the shelf affects things down to about 1K. Notice something? The bass goes up to 1K, the treble goes down to 1K. Can you say tilt filter?
Not to worry, there is also a sweepable bell that is 3-4 octaves wide. It sweeps to a center frequency of 500 Hz up to 10K. I can get the spectrograph to move barely below 100 Hz all the way to the left, to well beyond 20K swept all the way to the right. So you set your bass, set your treble, and then sweep to the perfect spot in the middle.
This EQ is full of sweet analog vibe. I have yet to find a sound that can’t greatly benefit from it. If only the EQ was available in isolation, I would be more than happy with the purchase price ($69 from Waves, “regular” price $249). At first blush I thought the three bands were way too wide and gently sloped. I was wrong, they are perfect for the first and possibly only salvo you are going to throw at a track.
Squeeze her gently
The compressor is set at 2:1, the limiter at 7:1. That’s it, toggle one or the other. Here’s what I know: the first thing I did with the TG12345 was to put it on a solo cello track. I flipped on the compressor and my jaw dropped. A very well rendered track magically completed itself. I swear the cello started glowing. Just that quick I knew I had found “the one”. I love love love this compressor. The limiter, to be honest, can be rather pumpy depending on the nature of the track.
There is no attack parameter. Reading the manual reveals that the attack is fixed at 1 ms. Instead of threshold, there is something similar called “Hold”. Hold tells the compressor at what intensity to start compressing, and if you leave it at zero it will upward compress the quietest sounds a bit (up to 1.5 volts ?!? (that’s really quiet and it doesn’t raise it much)).
There is a release parameter called “Recovery” which is tiered to 6 amounts. From settings 1-6 those times would be 100 ms, 250 ms, 500 ms, 1, 2, and 5 seconds. I’ve been leaving this on the lowest setting and it sounds wonderful on most things.
Here, I would pay the price of admission for this compressor alone. It just sounds that good.
Tip: if you get a sharp tick sound at the beginning of notes, raise the Hold parameter up from 0 toward 100 until that tick sound goes away.
How do I love thee?
There is a 3-way toggle switch for internal routing. That center sweepable EQ bell curve is called “Presence”, the bass and treble together are called the EQ. DYN refers to the compressor/limiter. Here are the three options:
EQ > DYN > Presence
DYN > EQ > Presence
EQ > Presence > DYN
On some tracks it will make a dramatic difference which order these are in. Before wrapping up setting the EQ and dynamics on a track, flip this switch around and you might be shocked at the difference. Sometimes a big change, sometimes seemingly none at all.
Spread your arms wide
The TG12345 will work in three different modes, besides the separately included mono plug. There is dual mono, stereo, and mid/side. I never truly appreciated mid/side until I messed around with it here, making a bassy mid and a higher EQ’d side. Regardless of which mode you are working in, there is a “Spread” knob that can completely center the track or it can spread it out pleasingly wide. I have never heard such a lush and clean stereo spreader, even on the max setting. Brainworx, eat your heart out (see bx_control and many of their other plugs)!
Easy as 1 2 3, four five . . .
There are two big caveats to TG12345. While it isn’t all that hard to use, you really should watch Waves’ 40 minute video AND then read the manual in order to make sure you have your head wrapped around it. The other is that it is a CPU hog, and we need to talk about that a bit.
I think TG12345 is the most CPU intensive Waves plugin. With my 4 GHz quad core i7, I can have 100 instances of TG and still run, 110 results in a friendly system overload message. That seems like a lot of instances, but it isn’t. I’ve choked out my DAW with much less than that, with virtual instruments and loading a lot of plugs on certain channels only. Here’s the thing: I’ve put TG on channels where I had in excess of 10 plugs each adding their bit of love, and using only TG instead made it sound remarkably better. I can’t stress that enough. On most channels TG12345 might end up being the only plug, and that could be a nice savings on CPU, not a drain.
How deep is your love?
Channel strips are supposed to add depth of field. Most mixes might be pleasingly wide, but they are like a flat sheet. I made a little test project with six tracks: Wurly, Pad, Drums, Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, and Bass. After tweaking each channel, of course it sounded better because TG adds wonderful analog EQ, delicious compression, and lush stereo spread or narrowing. It had to sound better or I’m a complete screw up. I’ve used things that will make the mix seem an inch deep, which is a remarkable thing. My mix, without TG is flat, with TG it is almost a foot deep when closing my eyes and trying to measure with my ears. That’s phenomenal and goes to the console emulation part.
What I left out
I did not mention the internal side chain that will prevent the low bass from affecting the compressor/limiter. I did not mention buttons to bypass the EQ on each side. I did not mention the analog-looking meter can toggle between gain reduction, input, and output. I did not mention there are two distinct console channels to choose from, nor did I mention the Drive knob for saturation or the phase buttons for the left and right sides. Tons of presets.