Sonimus Satson Channel Strip by Sound-Guy
Sonimus Satson Channel Strip
Sonimus have announced a new modular channel strip that provides a virtual rack allowing you to use up to eight Satson Series modules in a single plug-in. This is based on their Satson console emulation, but expands greatly on that module, adding more flexible gain staging, a compressor module, and a four band EQ (with additional LP and HP filters). And the individual modules may be re-ordered, removed, or duplicated with up to eight Satson Series modules in one channel strip.
Basic Satson Channel Strip configuration
This first release includes three modules, as seen in the view of the default configuration. These are normally ordered starting with gain staging (which includes high and low cut filters, saturation and “fat” modes), followed by a compressor with a side-chain HP filter and mix control for parallel compression, and ending with a version of their StonEQ 4k inspired by the SSL 4000 EQ.
While the earlier Satson console emulation has both a channel module and bus module, Satson Channel Strip is a single module intended for processing audio of individual tracks, sub-groups, or on a master bus. However, if you have the Satson console emulation already (or the Britson) you can use one of those channel modules on individual tracks along with Satson Channel Strip on a bus or master for more variation of audio tonality.
How Does it Do?
In my DAW environments (REAPER and Studio One, 32 and 64 bit VST) Satson Channel Strip sounds great and uses only modest cpu resources if oversampling is not carried to extremes. At 2x oversampling a single instance with three modules required 0.4% cpu resource; at 4x this rose to 0.7%; 8x was 1.3%; 16x was 2.5%. My tests found oversampling is needed only when saturation is being used - if saturation is off in the gain staging module and there is no compression being used, there are no aliased frequencies and oversampling is totally unnecessary. With oversampling off I found cpu use at 0.2%.
With saturation or compression engaged and oversampling off, aliasing can be observed in a spectrum plot, although it is very subtle until high levels of distortion are created. With very high saturation levels the aliased signals can actually be stronger than the fundamental if no oversampling is used! While this might yield a sound you like (like really crunching a guitar or drums), I found aliasing can be reduced to insignificance with oversampling set to 4x. The 8 x and 16x levels are probably overkill, but are available if you feel the need! As with all Sonimus products, the sound is “truly” analog - close enough for professional use and certainly for any project studio.
Looking at the gain staging section first, it includes variable frequency High Cut and Low Cut filters that provide 6 dB/octave filtering. These have corner frequencies from 22 kHz down to 100 Hz for the High Cut and 10 Hz up to 2 kHz for the Low Cut. There is an overall gain adjustment, of course (from -24 dB to +24 dB), a switch to add basic saturation and another to “fatten” it, and a constant gain control labeled GC. If this button is pressed, the output level equals the input signal level and the gain control only increases saturation components. I found that without saturation, the gain stage of Satson Channel Strip is ultra clean and distortion is essentially nonexistent. However, using combinations of saturation/fat and drive level using the gain control, I could go from mild sweetening to very crunchy. The results observed with a spectrum analyzer confirmed what I was hearing: distortion characteristics change with settings so that some settings drive more even harmonics and others push up the odd ones. And measuring harmonic distortion using Room EQ Wizard showed I could push total harmonic distortion above five percent across the audio band. There are also two crosstalk settings (three if you include off) - Vintage and Modern. Vintage produces a higher level of crosstalk than Modern, and of course if you select no crosstalk, there will be none. Note that crosstalk is linked to saturation, and only occurs if saturation is switched on (SAT IN)., even though the crosstalk label indicates one of the modes is being used.
Next is the compressor, and this one is significantly different than the wonderful TuCo compressor I use on about every project. TuCo is is based on a variable-mu tube circuit and has somewhat “qualitative” controls, with several unique modes for its detection circuit (OK, it’s software, not a circuit, but don’t tell my clients . . .). The new Satson compressor has calibrated gain, attack and release controls, as well as three fixed ratio settings of 2:1, 4:1 and 10:1. It has a side-chain HP filter that goes up to 3 kHz, so you can even filter out a vocal, and apply compression only when high frequencies such as cymbals are present. It has an In/Out control, but does not automatically compensate levels when you switch it in or out. I found the compressor adds harmonics as the gain reduction is increased, starting with mostly even harmonics with a small amount of gain reduction, and increasing the relative level of odd harmonics as gain reduction is increased. So it is a “colorful” compressor, acting much like analog gear. Like TuCo, it does not have an external side-chain input, but for its intended use in a channel strip, it performs well and sounds excellent.
The final module is a variation on Sonimus’ StonEQ 4k which is a very fine emulation of an SSL-like EQ, very analog in effect. While not modeled specifically on a particular SSL, it has the tonal qualities of those fabulous EQs. It lacks the Drive control of the Sonimus standalone version, but adds an In/Out switch. Of course the gain stage module has all the drive you’ll ever need for saturation and the compressor also adds saturation, so it would be overkill to have more in the EQ! There are four bands (+/- 15 dB bell curves with variable Q), and the lowest and highest bands are switchable between a shelf curve (+/- 10 to 15 dB depending on settings) and a bell. There are also LP and HP filters, but unlike those on the gain staging module, these have 12 dB/octave slopes. The low pass filter can operate down to 2 kHz, the high pass up to 1 kHz. So between the gain staging module and EQ module there are a lot of EQ possibilities. It is a sweet sounding EQ as I’ve come to expect of Sonimus.
You can move any module forward or back in the rack just by dragging at the top, and you can add or delete modules, though at present there are only the three types. This raises the possibility that Sonimus may add more Satson Channel Strip modules in the future, or even make a Britson Channel Strip plug-in with Britson modules! And maybe you could mix and match them (like I often do with the Britson and Satson console models). At any rate, what we have now is excellent for any style of music I tried.
Flexible virtual rack of modules most often found in a channel strip with the ability to move or add modules as you wish.
Excellent emulation of analog sound, including distortion when pushing signals hard.
Like any good plug-in, settings in projects are remembered, and automation can control any setting.
Very reasonable price for the excellent quality.
No external side-chain in the compressor if you need to apply ducking, but not really intended for such duties.
Compressor requires manual gain adjustment to do A/B comparisons without loudness bias, but so does a real analog compressor!
Sonimus: Satson CS Channel Strip plugin