Solid State Logic (SSL) analog consoles popularized the "channel strip" concept in the 1980s by including fully featured EQ and dynamics sections on every input channel and since then, channel strips have become an essential part of modern music production by instantly providing the essential "building blocks" of a mix right above the fader. Nowadays there are many excellent plug-ins out there that are not only paying homage to the 'classic' strip designs but also taking them further by introducing exciting new features, so let's dive in and take a look at the ten most popular channel strip plug-ins being discussed right now on Gearslutz:


*All plug-ins on our list are cross-platform (Mac/PC) and compatible with all major AU and VST plug-in hosts.

 Neutron 3 Advanced

iZotope Neutron 3 Advanced


What is it? A 'next-level' channel strip with cutting edge tech including smart frequency analysis and 'artificial intelligence' to aid the mixing process.

Packs: Gate/expander, 8-band fully parametric EQ with HP/LP filters, dynamic EQ option, two compressors with sidechain, exciter, transient shaper, limiter, frequency analyzer with inter-channel masking, automatic setup and much more.

Lacks: Coffee-making capabilities.





 Brainworx bx_console N

Plugin Alliance Brainworx bx_console N


What is it? Emulation of a surprisingly clean-sounding Neve VXS Series console owned by Brainworx founder Dirk Ulrich.

Packs: Gate/expander, 4-band parametric EQ, HP/LP filters, compressor with internal sidechain filter option, noise floor adjustment. 72 individual channels of the desk are available for ultimate realism.

Lacks: Some might say it could use a little more grit and saturation as is expected of most Neve-a-likes.



 ChannelStrip 3

Metric Halo ChannelStrip 3


What is it? The expert audio interface manufactures bring us a precise and flexible channel strip.

Packs: Six fully parametric EQ bands, frequency analyzer (powered by SpectraFoo), a limiter, gate/expander and a compressor with flexible side-chain options.

Lacks: Hardly anything, but an update with better cosmetics wouldn't hurt.



 API Vision Channel Strip Plug-In

Universal Audio API Vision Channel Strip Plug-In


What is it? Some of the best of hardware from API emulated and brought together in a single plug-in.

Packs: The classic 550 equalizer, 225L comp/limiter, gate/expander, LP/HP filters along with an input stage that replicates the acclaimed 212L preamp in all its glory.

Lacks: We wish this had a lighter DSP footprint - you’re going to need lots of those SHARC chips for a larger instance count. With great quality comes great DSP hunger!



 Nectar 2

iZotope Nectar 2


What is it? A one-stop solution for vocal processing.

Packs: 8-band fully parametric EQ, gate, compressor, saturation, pitch correction and multiple effects including reverb.

Lacks: Nothing - hopefully it won’t get abandoned now that Neutron is around.



 Brainworx bx_console E

Plugin Alliance Brainworx bx_console E


What is it? The same Brainworx modelling technology used on the Console N now takes on a legendary SSL analog console.

Packs: Quite literally a 1:1 recreation of the classic E-series channel strip, with the same extras seen on Console N.

Lacks: As with its BX Console siblings the parameter labels are a bit obscure and hard to read depending on your screen size.



 Solid State Logic XL 9000 K-Series for Console 1

Softube Solid State Logic XL 9000 K-Series for Console 1


What is it? Yes, it’s another emulation of the famous SSL channel strip, but this time it comes with a hardware controller!

Packs: The SSL footprint down to the letter, with all the features from the analog consoles, and adding variable harmonic distortion so it can be pushed further.

Lacks: Nothing, and with the recent inclusion of Cubase support Console 1 now works with pretty much every major DAW out there.



 Scheps Omni Channel

Waves Scheps Omni Channel


What is it? A channel strip developed under the guidance of its namesake Grammy®-winning engineer.

Packs: Variable saturation, four fully parametric EQ bands, HP/LP filters, de-esser, compressor with three styles, gate, sidechain, limiter and VU meters.

Lacks: Andrew Scheps' mixing skills are not included. You’ll have to bring your own.



 Cstrip

Airwindows Cstrip


What is it? A nifty plug-in from one of the community’s favourite one-man companies that shows an interesting take on the channel strip concept.

Packs: Three-band equalizer, compressor, gate and micro-delay, all done with Airwindows' unique touch and extremely efficient DSP optimization.

Lacks: No AAX version for Pro Tools.


That's the list! Honourable mentions go to the UAD Neve 88RS, IK Multimedia British Channel and last but not least to SSL's own Duende Channel Strip.

What’s your take on channel strips? Do you like these all-in-one solutions or do you prefer "building your own" out of separate plugins? Are you still enjoying classic designs or would you rather go with feature-rich designs enabled by digital tech? Is the "channel strip of your dreams" still a dream or is it a reality by now? Please share your comments and insights below!