Softube Drawmer 1973 Multi-Band Compressor by diogo_c
The Scope: Softube has joined forces with Drawmer to bring the revered 1973 Multi-Band Compressor to the software domain, an unit which has gathered quite a lot of praise since its release and has reaffirmed Ivor Drawmer’s status amongst the very best audio hardware designers of today. As the name suggests, this is a multi-band compressor with a simple and effective feature set: three compression bands defined by a set of crossover filters ranging from 50-1300 Hz and 1000-14000 Hz, attack and releases time with stepped points ranging from 0.2ms to 50.0ms and 0.08s to 1s respectively, program dependent release with slow/medium/fast timings, dry/wet control, external sidechain option and a couple of switches for “Big” which boosts the low frequencies and a “Air” filters that lifts the top end. Each compression band can also be bypassed (no compression but dry signal still passes) or entirely muted. For the software version Softube also introduced an external sidechain option and most importantly, a mid/side operation mode with independent compression for mid and side portions of the signal.
Sound quality: This is easily one of the best multi-band compressors out there, with a detailed, clean and open sound yet also showing some very interesting character due to the grabby and smacky nature of the FET topology. If pushed to higher gain-reduction territory with fast attack settings it sounds a bit like a multi-band 1176 - with all due reserves of course, but I think this is a close as we can get right now to a multi-band 1176 although I can’t hardly imagine what that would be! Emulation dilemmas aside, The 1973 MB is great both at fixing things but also at enhancing them, and I confess most of the time I was doing the latter since it was quite easy to make something better with it. As a fixer it excels in de-essing and de-rumbling, and when enhancing it manages to take a sound further while still sounding very natural. Generally people will step away from multi-band due to the problems related to crossover points, but Drawmer/Softube managed to keep things very smooth and you’ll remember about them when you decide to dial a different frequency range and while using it that felt mighty impressive. One other aspect that I really enjoyed was the program-dependent release options, which works very well on most occasions and adds a “relaxed” feeling to the compression that I really enjoyed. Last but not least, this added an option that I didn’t have in my multi-band palette: a tasty sounding multi-band compressor. The other two plugins that I have for this task (FabFilter Pro-MB and Metric Halo Precision MB) are more oriented towards being surgical and super precise (the Metric Halo even has it on its name) so there was definitely a gap in my plugin folder that the 1973 MB perfectly filled with its lovely tone.
Ease of use: Extremely easy to operate, with a layout that doesn’t get in the way and can be quickly understood, good presets (some derived from the S73 intelligent processor) and a very small resource footprint, with near zero latency and very light CPU load. There’s nothing to complain in this aspect, the 1973 is so easy and intuitive that it quickly becomes fun and very enjoyable. It’s quite easy to dial what you want and to make it sound great as the controls are quite responsive and readily accessible without any hidden menus.
Features: For a multi-band compressor the 1973 MB has the usual features one expects and also some cool twists such as the Big/Air switches and Dry/Wet control. In terms of recreating the hardware Softube has gone the extra mile and included some extra features which aren’t present on the original unit such as the mid-side operation mode, but I’d welcome some other independent mid and side level setting, MIDI control, dual-mono operation and input metering. Other than that the feature set feels very cohesive and as I’ve stated above it gives the user a processor that is easy to operate and very rewarding in terms of sound, which are certainly its best features. It's also worth noticing the bottom bar present on all Softube plugins, with buttons for the well written and concise documentation, update check, option to show or hide parameter values on this bar and in some cases there are plug-in settings - this one only has "copy stereo to side".
Bang for buck: Quality comes at a cost and even though it costs a fraction of its hardware predecessor I could understand that the asking price might be a challenge that not everyone is on a position to overcome. It’s not super expensive but it can’t really be called affordable for what it is. Nevertheless, there’s a hefty amount of bang of buck given how immensely good sounding this plugin is and how easy it is to operate.
Recommended for: Mixing and mastering engineers looking for a tasty yet natural multi-band compressor that does fixing and enhancing equally well. Producers looking for an intuitive multi-band compressor that can shape a tone with great success without much effort.
Post-scriptum: It’s nice to see an unit modeled this early. The 1973 MB was released roughly a couple of years ago and we already have a great emulation running on our screens. It’s also always good to see a plugin not doing yet another classic with decades on its back and hopefully we can get more plugins bridging the hardware-software gap earlier and faster. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind at all if Softube brought us the iconic Drawmer 1968...
Click below for a Full HD screenshot.