Softube Volume 1 Bundle by Diogo C
*Product: Volume 1
*Formats: AAX Native/AU/VST2/VST3 32/64-bit for Mac/Windows
*Price: $499 USD - perpetual license MSRP, upgrade discounts available for eligible owners. Also available on monthly ($19.99/mo) and annual ($199/yr) subscriptions plans.
*Demo: Fully-functional for 20 days
The Scope: Softube packs no less than fifteen of their finest plug-ins with Volume 1, a bundle of fourteen sound processors, two virtual instruments and a 90-minute music production tutorial from PureMix. There are many familiar faces here as some of these plug-ins have been floating around since the early 2010s and many of you surely know them, but in case you’re not totally acquainted with Softube here goes a quick breakdown and some insights into all this content:
Bass Amp Room: A “hacked” guitar amp head from the 70s two gain modes (one of them being capable of pulling off some sick distortion) that turns out to work great on bass guitars, along with three cabinet options of different sizes and a neat click-n-drag microphone positioning system for easily achieving the desired tone - that’s Bass Amp Room in a nutshell. Besides the awesome amp section it also features a “direct inject” panel that enables dry signal blending, low cut filtering and general tone of the dry signal. Also features a handy limiter at the last spot of the chain, so it’s a great one-stop solution for any bass tone needs.Sound Quality: Superb sound quality all the way around. One might argue that there might be better equalizers, reverbs or whatever plug-ins out there but there’s simply no way to deny that Softube makes great sounding plug-ins and we have yet to see otherwise when it comes to this company. My personal favourite here were the Summits, TSAR-1, both Amp Rooms, the Drawmer S73 (which was surprisingly good), Fix Doubler and of course the Modular, which is a whole universe on its own. These are the stars of the show in my opinion, but all plug-ins included are also great and will serve well under many circumstances.
Drawmer S73 Intelligent Master Processor: An intriguing plug-in derived from Drawmer’s excellent 1973 multiband compressor, the S73 is a set of “intelligent” presets meant to be used on the mix bus or when mastering. The S73 responds dynamically to the source material according to the chosen preset - all intuitively named with labels like “clarity”, “punch”, “wide mix” and so on. The S73 is meant to be extremely easy and fast to use, all you have to do is pick present, dial the desired compression through the “amount” knob and that’s it. Definitely worth a try, also serves as a good teaser for the Softube/Drawmer 1973 plug-in (which I’ve reviewed here).
FET Compressor: The Softube take on the ominous 1176 compressor feels more like a “spin off” than a direct emulation, it adds some extended functionality including parallel (dry signal) inject, look ahead, side chain filters in the detector path and extended ratio selection, which are all welcome in my book. To my ears this plug-in seems a bit less “wild” and grabby than other plug-ins emulations, but weirdly enough is one of the few plug-ins doing the 76-thing that I can say that I enjoy, so I’m glad to see it here.
Fix Flanger and Doubler: A couple of interesting time-based modulation plug-ins that beautifully sums up the widely used double-take and flanging studio effects, but also finds room for some interesting innovations. Read our users review of the Fix Flanger/Doubler.
Heartbeat: A eight-piece drum machine with a retro-esque sound style, interesting sound modeling options, great onboard effects and a handy auto-layering tool for quick fills and phrases. Heartbeat is not about extensive control and uber-tweakability, instead it relies on character and tone - the common thread in Volume 1. Sound-wise it resembles old machines but also bringing some new elements that enables it to do both vintage and current sounds in excellent manner. Heartbeat will obviously be more useful for those doing electronic-based styles, but having such a cool drum machine around can’t never be a bad thing even if you’re mostly doing recording and mixing.
Modular: A set of Doepfer modules and utility devices that allows you to build many synthesizer patches for all sorts of sounds and gives you access to the Softube Modular “platform” as you can purchase more modules further down the road. Modular is really good sounding when you manage to nail the right patches, immensely flexible and also capable of acting as a regular sound processor i.e. run your audio through it on a mix, which is cool since the modules can do many weird things. Definitely very promising as a platform for future developments, which I’m sure will come. Read my full review here.
Saturation Knob: The useful saturation freebie also makes an appearance here. This simple plug-in brings some analog-like quality to the sound and can go from subtle to hard, bringing even and odd order harmonics as you can the distortion further. It also offers a switch to tame the distortion at low or high frequencies. A handy plug-in which should serve many purposes.
Summit Audio EQF-100 Full Range Equalizer: An emulation of a coveted passive tube equalizer, featuring two bell/shelf bands, two parametric bands, with all bands having fixed bandwidth and can be set to boost or cut. Also includes input/output VU meters and an output control. The EQF-100 covers the entire spectrum as its name suggests, but each band has its own specific range with seven center frequency options, so they’re not entirely sweepable like most digital equalizers, another reminder that this isn’t a regular digital EQ as Softube modeled not only the EQ bands, but also the harmonic distortion from the hardware, even though this is a rather clean unit and the magic really comes from making generous EQ moves, which is precisely where it shines!
Summit Audio TLA-100A Compressor: Summit’s exquisite tube compressor also makes it to the box. In terms of action this is a mellow and smooth sound compressor with a tone of its own. It’s a rather simple compression as only have to dial the compression amount, set the attack/release timings to slow or fast and that’s it. It also features a dry/wet control, switchable gain reduction/output option for the VU meter, and a dedicated saturation control that allows you to drive it with more distortion if that’s desired.
Summit Grand Channel: Take the two plug-ins above and put them together under the same interface for a rich sounding channel strip that can work extremely well on many sound sources and will definitely add some good character to any mixing session. Also features pre/post EQ option for the compressor and individual bypass for each unit.
TSAR-1 Reverb: TSAR-1 is Softube’s own creation and it doesn’t emulate any particular piece of real word gear, instead it offers a polymorphic true-stereo algorithm that can do many classic effect sounds but also create unique reverbs as well. This is a flexible reverb but it doesn’t overwhelm the user with loads of parameters, offering just enough to make it very versatile. I personally find it great for longer and “vibey” reverbs, it’s particularly good on making things larger and spacious.
TSAR-1R Reverb: Stripped-down version of the TSAR-1 reverb, offering less controls over the reverb sound and character. Definitely a cool sounding plug-in and can pull tricks of its bigger brother even though it’s obviously not as flexible or versatile, but regardless of that it can deliver some good reverb sounds on its own and it’s really simple to use.
Trident A-Range EQ: A “large” sounding four-band equalizer that’s very useful on rebalancing or reviving tracks. Each band can be set to four center frequencies and just like the Summit EQ there’s no bandwidth control, so it’s not particularly great when cutting with precision - but you probably already have a fine EQ plug-in for such tasks! Besides the broad curves this plug-in also features 3-position HP/LP filters and a saturation control to drive things further. Definitely a nice choice when you’re looking for something other than that vanilla digital parametric EQ.
Tube Delay: A gritty and lo-fi delay with a distinctively raw sound. There are only a handful of parameters to play with and its operation is very simple. Set the delay time, feedback amount, drive the input or the signal path (or both!) and fine-tune the results with the treble and low frequency controls. Sound-wise it may not work all the time with all its grit, but can certainly do well with the right material.
Vintage Amp Room: Three guitar “combo” (head plus cabinet) amplifiers mostly geared towards rock, blues or jazz, all three in the low-mid gain territory and good as “all-arounders” for any situation other than high-gain metal (covered in Softube Metal Amp Room). As with Bass Amp Room, it also features the click-n-drag movable microphone for intuitive positioning and the option to bypass the amp or cabinet, which enables it to be used along other plug-ins or hardware gear including amp heads and modelers. Vintage Amp is extremely easy to use so getting great tones should be a rather quick process.
Pure Mix Training Tutorials: 90-minutes of quality video tutorial, with good insights on both mixing and production. Definitely more useful for those who are new to our crafts, but might also teach old dogs a few new tricks - and yes we can still learn new tricks!
Ease of use: Mostly plug-ins are easy to use, providing straightforward and intuitive operation that shouldn’t present any big challenges towards achieving the desired sonic results. The only exception to that would be Modular, but ultimately that’s due to the nature of the beast - it’s bound to be complex and will probably present a steep learning curve to many users out there, but it should be said that Softube has done a good job to make it as easy as possible. The delivery aspect of this bundle had its share of controversy due to the newly introduced license management system and new download method. Although I’m not totally crazy with the Gobbler account requirement I’m also not totally upset either as it doesn’t force the user to use the Gobbler management app, but taking away the single installer download option wasn’t the wisest move in my opinion - manually downloading and installing sixteen plug-ins is definitely a tedious task. Or we can take the plunge and use the Gobbler app and deal with its own share of issues. I’ll give Softube a pass this time given their reputation and excellent track record when it comes to customer service, but it would be nice to iron out the above issues.
Features: Nothing to complain here, this is definitely one of the most well-featured bundles out there. Given their characteristic these plug-ins will go great in tandem with your DAW’s stock plug-ins, as they’re more geared towards tone and colour rather than on pristine digital precision. Here you have two classic styles of compression, two colourful equalizers, bass and guitar amplifies, a rather unique reverb and two excellent sound-making tools. On their own the plug-ins are also nicely featured, many times they’re emulating real-world equipment but always adding a few twists made possible by digital/software tech. It’s also worth saying that these plug-ins aren’t really demanding in terms of system resources, mostly have zero latency and they’re all stable, so it shouldn’t be a problem running many instances of them.
Bang for buck: The admission price is not cheap, but it’s also far from prohibitive. Although Volume1 delivers very good bang for buck in general terms, it will be specially great for those who are starting to build their plug-in collections. Most of you probable have a fair share of plug-ins at this point, so examine that plug-in folder and decide whether Volume 1 offers what you’re after. Nevertheless, Volume 1 offers a well-diversified set of tools that can easily cover many aspects of mixing and take on production tasks with two fine virtual instruments, which can certain be appealing to many audiences.
Recommended for: Mixing engineers and producers building their collections or looking to expand on their current options. Electronic musicians can find some extra value here with Heartbeat and Modular.
*Comprehensive variety of tools with plenty of colors to choose from
*Great virtual instruments
*Well developed, efficient and stable plug-ins
*May overlap with other plug-ins, to varying extents