Flux Evo Channel by Diogo C
The scope: Evo Channel is the fruit of the collaboration between the veteran DSP wizards at Flux:: and renowned recording engineer Yves Jaget. This is a channel strip plug-in that is build upon the legacy of the concept with the usual EQ-Dynamics “bread and butter” combo, but it also takes the game further by incorporating novel features to offer users the quintessential processing tools for modern music production and mixing.
Core features at a glance:
- Equalizer and Filters: Four fully-sweepable parametric bands, HP/LP filters with four slopes choices (6-24 dB/octave), high/low shelves, output gain control. This EQ is a purely digital and doesn’t emulate any analog EQ. Sound-wise it sounds very similar to the great Flux:: Epure, but with filters that are more flexible since Epure’s HPF/LPF have a fixed slope of 12 dB/octave.
- Frequency Analyzer and Meters: Evo Channel comes with a nice set of input/output meters and a real-time frequency analyzer that looks great, with very good resolution and without any lag. Besides the on/off switch it also offers a smoothing slider for fine-tuning the display to taste. Activity meters for the Compressor and Touch sections are also nicely displayed with horizontal bar graphs on their respective place, so all information can be seen instantly.
- Compressor: A flexible compressor with nine “modes” that are intuitively named after their suggested application, such as Drum Bus, Vocals, Kick/Snare and so forth. Most importantly, these modes allows for a range of different compression styles, from vintage to modern, making for a very flexible compressor. Despite sounding very distinct from each other all modes offer attack, release, ratio controls with optional adaptive release.
- Touch: A transient processor that also brings de-essing and expansion for a total of seven operating modes that similarly to the compressor allows for a number of related operations. “Touch” can be set to act only within a certain frequency range, so you’re only processing what you really want, which makes is quite powerful. All modes offers amount and release controls, and there's also a “listen” function that isolates the operating frequency range.
- Drive: Soft saturation stage, placed before the EQ/Comp/Touch block. Tube-esque sounding to the ears of this review, it can be useful depending on the material when used mindfully.
- Phase: Shifts the phase of the signal up to +/-180 degrees. This modules offers a group function that links instances within that group so phase shifts are uniform across the inserts. According to Flux this control is the result of “proprietary research, (and) allows linear phase correction with zero latency”, and it’s aimed at dealing with recordings that were made with multiple mics on a source.
- Signal Flow button: The processing blocks of the chain can be freely arranged with this function i.e. Filters, Equalizer, Compressor and Touch can be reordered at will. Check out the attachments for the diagram.
- Settings menu: Inner settings of the plug-in, such as display quality settings, enable OSC support, report latency to host (on/off) and reference levels, which is -18 dBFS by default. There’s also has a handy button to the useful user manual, which covers in sufficient detail all the functions within the plug-in with concise and clear language.
- Night/Day switch: Dark or Light interface color scheme. Dark is easier to me eyes, but mileage may vary. See attachments for both versions.
Sound quality: Evo Channel is a very good sounding plug-in, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not a tool that lays instant “embellishments” on a track and ultimately it relies on the user to dial in the adequate settings. Having said that, the equalizer section is very transparent, and it definitely reminds me of the great Flux Epure, this time with improved lowpass/highpass filters. The “Touch” section also hints to another Flux plug-in (BitterSweet Pro) with a very capable transient manipulator, useful expander mode and an effective and much welcome de-esser mode. If the EQ and Touch sections are reminiscent of their past works, the compression section feels and sounds entirely fresh and brings new elements that were not present for example on the Pure series of plug-ins. Evo Channel’s compressor is immensely flexible, it can do classic compression styles while being capable of offering ultra-precise modern control, going from tasty smacking to smoothly invisible depending on the chosen mode and subsequent settings. The “Drive” saturation injector is also pretty new to the Flux line, and it’s a pretty straightforward implementation that adds even harmonics and also raises the pre-modules level. Sound-wise Drive is similar to a tube circuitry and mostly welcome when something needs to sound less biting. Lastly, the “Phase” slider can be a lifesaver when dealing with multi-mic recordings and it’s great to have it on a channel strip.
Ease of use: Perhaps the Achilles Heel on Evo Channel, as the choice for a rather small interface size presents an obstacle to a better user experience. It’s not deal-breaking small, but it’s definitely not big enough for a plug-in with a scope as the one of a channel strip. A resize option is something that needs to be addressed on a future update as it would greatly improve the quality of life for users. Having scaling options from 125 to 200% would be perfect to the eyes of this reviewer - honestly a full screen option would be sweet with that great looking analyzer! On the other hand, the way organization is handled is quite elegant, with a collapse/expand system that allows the user to set the focus on each section of the Evo Channel. Handling a channel strip concept and development is always a tricky business, and deciding what to show or hide and attributing the right size aspects for each component is key to success (or failure), but Flux struck a nice compromise on this one, even though I must say that it is my preference when all parameters are on screen, something not possible with Evo Channel. However, it does shows most of the core parameters at all times, for example the controls for the compressor’s threshold or the Touch dry/wet balance can be accessed by tiny knobs that are displayed when such sections are collapsed, but once again we’re dealing with very small controls that are not exactly ideal to deal with. Moving past the interface subject, Evo Channel is relatively easy to deal with, the terminology used for the parameter is clear and common-ground for the most part, so it should not take long until it is fully mastered.
Features: Besides the lack of interface resizing options there’s hardly anything else to complain here. Evo Channel is quite packed, covering not only the “vanilla” features one expects from a channel strip but also moving forward with the with Touch section and Phase slider, which introduces aspects that are not usually seen on this category of plug-ins. Not to mention it runs with zero added latency and has a rather friendly on CPU load for a plug-in with this feature set, easily allowing the user to run as many instances as needed before hitting the system limits. Overall it’s a very flexible plug-in in as well, equipped to deal with a number of situations and that will perform accordingly. However, I think it could greatly benefit from a peak limiter, a simple one-knob “ceiling” type of control to catch that occasional wild burst that passes through the compressor. This would wrap it up nicely, and I know that Flux has a very nice Elixir that would do this perfectly...
Bang for buck: Reasonably priced at $149, Evo Channel is somewhat in line or just slightly above the average price tag these days for plug-ins of the caliber. Just to name two recent examples as a measure of comparison, it’s more affordable than iZotope Neutron and costs the same as Waves Scheps Omni Channel considering only the suggested retail prices, so it’s safe to say that Flux was sensible on this particular choice. Price evaluations aside, Evo Channels fulfills its promise and does so quite elegantly, presenting an interesting take on an old concept that comes to fruition on a very well-rounded channel strip that can take on any job and shine on any mix. A strong contender that has to be taken very seriously when shopping for channel strip plug-ins.
The verdict: “Jack of many trades, master of none” is a recurrent thought that I have when working with channel strips, as there’s always a compromise to be made with such things, be it on features, ergonomics and often both. Evo Channel is a jack of many trades but it’s actually masterful on some, most notably EQ and Touch.
Recommended for mixing engineers and producers not entirely happy with their current channel strip solutions or anyone looking for a single tool to deal with the core elements of a mix. Evo Channel is also a must-try for anyone doing mixing a lot of material coming from multi-mic recordings as the phase slider makes it a very practical tool to tackle such situations.
*All-around great sounding and packed with features.
*Versatile enough to handle both basic and complex mixing tasks with ease.
*Interesting Touch section with transient manipulation, expansion and de-essing.
*The Phase module is a godsend when dealing with multi-mic recordings.
*Small interface with no resizing/scaling options.
*The inclusion simple peak limiter would be welcome.