Slate Virtual Recording System (VRS) – Q & A

My post on the Slate Virtual Recording System (VRS) prompted a lot of questions via email. I still can’t find out what’s going on with comments, but one got through; how many others didn’t I have no idea, so the best route is still email to my address drdavejjg on gmail.

COST

Several questions revolved around my rough figure of about $5,000 (US) for a full Slate setup. This is for a single VRS module, which has 8 physical inputs (digital trickery aside). How many inputs YOU need depends on the group or individual you are recording. Some engineers would use more than those 8 just for a drum set, so for most bands with a full drum set you would need a second VRS joined to the first one via Thunderbolt, UNLESS you wanted to record the drums separately, and then add the band. If I were in that situation I’d prefer to use 7 inputs for the drums and keep (at least) one for the bass and record those two instruments at the same time. Of course that depends on several things, such as how many toms and other percussion instruments need to be miked. Remember that the one bass input can be duplicated on another track in your recording software and treated differently to get a fuller or other type of enriched sound.

Of course, with another VRS you will need more mics, cables, etc. You may even need these with a single VRS if you don’t use and DI instruments.

WHICH COMPUTER?

The other most common question was which computer to use and its specs. This is a HUGE question, and several books have been written about it, most if not all of which are now obsolete because the field moves so quickly, but I’ll tell you what I can for today. I prefer a Mac but that’s my own choice. I can’t comment on the Thunderbolt card for PC’s except for the obvious: an additional component in the signal chain and another potential point of failure. Laptops area great choice for portability, but beware since the trend is to solder the RAM on these, so you can’t upgrade later without a skilled technician re-soldering new RAM onto the motherboard, IF that is possible (i.e. the system will support it) and, if it matters to you, whether it will void the warranty. So choose as much RAM as you can at the outset to put off becoming obsolete for as long as you can (the computer that is; time will take care of your own obsolescence). Go for the most memory and powerful processor your budget can afford. I like the Powerbook Pro, which (maxed out) should be able to handle most bands thanks to the work offloaded to the VRS’s. If you have a dedicated studio and don’t do location work you may be able to get by with a desktop or tower. (If you make enough from your dedicated studio you should be able to afford a laptop if you need it, and the extra work should pay for it once you have it.)

LEARNING

As for learning about recording, especially using the Slate plug-ins remember that the Everything Bundle (included for a year with the VRS)  includes the Tutorials created by pros who use the plug-ins in their work as well as Slate engineers. You can view several of these on YouTube just searching for things like “Slate Digital” “tutorials” “Everything Bundle.”  Some people have done their own tutorials, some of which are very good, but be careful about ‘knowledge’ that might be mistaken or the long way around a simpler method. In general, I’d stick to tutorials from Slate Digital or well-known recording pros (e.g. Mixerman). If you sign up to their newsletter you will be notified when they make some of these available for free, as they did over the holiday season. But like anything, if you want to do good work, you need knowledge of your tools, how they work individually and how they work with each other and the full system.

As for recording in general, Mixerman’s books and e-b00ks are invaluable resources.

NEAR FUTURE

I do read all of your emails, as well as every comment that gets through (they all go to the Spam folder). I can’t provide tech support for your particular system, nor can I compare big systems that I don’t use. A lot of questions asked for comparisons of ProTools  and Logic or another program. I don’t have ProTools and the comments from engineers seem to agree with Steven Slate’s own, so I’d suggest you look those up or contact Slate pre-sales support who I am told are quite approachable.

I have to go in for minor surgery so I’ll be offline for a little while, but I’ll get back to reading your emails as soon as I can, although I might just be checking News once a day for a few days.

I hope to return soon.

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Slate Digital Completes Its Virtual Recording Studio

If you have been following Steven Slate realize his dream, you have been expecting this day. After revolutionizing software plug-ins to rival classic effect and pre-amp models, it was only a matter of time before he moved into the hardware side of recording. The Raven replaced the physical desk with a virtual one via touch screen, and provides a great interface for using the plug-ins. The Virtual Microphone System brought the same kind of software modeling of classic hardware to the microphone realm. Now the Virtual Recording Studio picks up the rest.

video-thumb-virtual-recording-studioYou can find out all of the details of the Virtual Recording Studio and how it fits into the entire Slate ideology by clicking on the link or image above. It looks and sounds great to me but I am NOT a hardware engineer, so I can’t comment on how it compares to the high-end gear that Steven discusses, nor on their custom components. I also can’t A/B the mics as he does in the demo video, so I suggest that you check out the engineering forums to see what the recording  pros really think.

The deal itself seems incredibly great, which is why I think it is worth your while to check it out. For about $5,000 (USD) you can set up a state-of-the-art studio with the mics, inputs, plug-ins, and extras that you need (stands, booms, cables, etc.). (Oh, except for the high-end computer that’s going to be running this thing. A modern Mac Pro or PC tower should do, and if you are into recording it’s quite likely that you have one now or are planning to upgrade soon.) That’s pretty amazing — if you have a space that can make the most of such precise equipment.

So now you have 8 inputs for your sound, which you can make seem like more by doing things like adding second mic emulations on a different track but using the same physical mic, as Steven does in the latter part of the video. You can get more physical inputs by joining several VRS’s via Thunderbolt too. You now have a choice of large- or small-diaphragm mics that can emulate different vintage mics (or in some cases, the same ones, at least close enough). Because most studios outside of bedrooms need more than one mic, the VRS can be purchased with 5-packs of either type of Slate mic, and it comes with permanent licenses for the mic emulations, as well as a 1-year subscription to the Everything Bundle. But remember that it won’t be long before you want a Raven to control those plug-ins.

Slate has always provided great value for the money, and the Virtual Recording Studio looks to be the epitome of their line-up. If you do any recording, you must look into this one seriously.

Slate Takes On the Entire Recording Process

For those new to Slate Digital I’ll give a short history,  then the new software and hardware. If you are already familiar with Slate, scroll down to NEW SOFTWARE.

SLATE HISTORY

When I first wrote about Slate Digital they had begun marketing plug-ins that emulated analog recording gear well enough to fool the ears of some of the best engineers and producers in the business. In fact, it was Mixerman who gave me the heads-up on Slate, and since he had been so adamantly against using plug-ins I had to hear them for myself. I was amazed.

As they continued to produce more and more software, they also moved into hardware with their MTX/MTi touch screen controllers for the plug-ins so that their emulations were even easier to use than the original hardware. (In his book #Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent, Mixerman’s MTi console is virtually one of the characters, showing up at several key moments and always there in the background of his studio.)

Hardware continued to develop with the Virtual Microphone System, where a single mic and pre-amp is programmed to emulate some of the finest (and most expensive) mic & pre-amp combos in history, many no longer available commercially. Another dream-come-true for any studio owner.

As the plug-in list grew, Slate re-wrote the rules of selling plug-ins by selling subscriptions to EVERY plug-in that Slate makes, PLUS some of the finest plug-ins from other partners (their EVERYTHING Bundle).As of this writing, the price point has held at $14.99 per month for an annual licence; and $24.99 per month ONLY for months that you use the software; if you don’t use it some months, you don’t pay for it for those months.

NEW SOFTWARE

Ever improving, this month Slate announced the VerbSuite Classics Digital Reverbs. By partnering wisely Slate is able to include “eight of the most popular professional digital reverbs from the past forty years” — some of which have never before been emulated — in a single plug-in. VerbSuite Classics uses LiquidSonics proprietary Fusion IR processing, which captures the actual tone of the modeled reverb and so “is able to reproduce the evolving character of modulating digital reverbs for the first time.”And since the EVERYTHING Bundle includes all updates and new plug-ins, bundle users have access to this suite of reverbs automatically and immediately. A similar set of Repeater Analog Modeled Delays is coming soon and will be available the same way.

verbsuite-classics2

NEW HARDWARE

The Slate Control is an analog monitoring device built as the “official monitor section of the new RAVEN MTX mk2, and the RAVEN MTi2.” It can be used as a standalone monitor control or be retrofitted into existing setups.

slate-control-top

SUMMARY

Slate has given the greatest gift to studio owners of all sizes by providing state-of-the-art processing and hardware at incredibly low prices.Their continual additions to the EVERYTHING Bundle makes it one of the greatest deals in all of music history!

Steven Slate Virtual Microphone System

I was planning to blog about some great new books that have just come out, but I ran across a new article on the web site of Mix magazine that gives a rave review to the Virtual Microphone System (VMS) from Slate Digital. As I noted in my column in Just Jazz Guitar, Slate Digital has managed to emulate a number of classic, incredibly expensive microphones and mic pre-amps for the price of a single modern mid-level mic. As these classic mics get rarer and rarer, and so become pricier and pricier, the Slate VMS becomes a better deal every day.

Slate-VMS-1

I won’t ask you believe me, or even Mix: you can check out the real-world A-B comparison of the Slate VMS with some of the finest examples of the vintage mics at the famous NRG Recording Studios by clicking here.

I planned this blog to bring great deals to the attention of working musicians and recording folks, and in the world of microphones it doesn’t get better than this! When a product arrives that can be up to 100 times cheaper than the alternative, doesn’t it just make sense to check it out?

Get Slate Digital’s MONSTER — For FREE

Slate MONSTER

With The Monster Extreme Dynamic Processor, Slate Digital has done it again: they have created a Dynamic Processor that you have to hear to believe! At heart, it is a state-of-the-art compressor that lets you blend the “wet” and “dry” sounds. Wet / dry is more accurate than “compressed and non-compressed” because you have much more control than that. The Monster has High Frequency Detection that makes it react more “dramatically” to high frequencies, smoothing out the high end. Complementing this is a Variable High-Pass Filter that gives you control over the low end for more “punch” in your sound. And being a Slate Digital product, it even has a “Punch” button to get this sound more quickly and easily! Check it out on the Slate Digital web site and hear it demonstrated on the video here.

This great plug-in has an even greater price: it’s FREE!

One caveat: like all Slate Digital products, the Monster requires an iLok2 dongle for copy protection. These are inexpensive, and allow you to try out ALL of the Slate Digital demos. They also let you use Revival, another FREE Slate plug-in that provides wonderful air and space in high frequencies and body, warmth, and fullness in the low end, on either individual tracks or an entire mix. These two great plug-ins make the cost of the iLok2 insignificant if you don’t already have one. But there’s even a way to get the iLok2 free as well.

The best deal is to go for the Slate Digital EVERYTHING BUNDLE, and get all of the Slate plug-ins, some of the very best plug-ins from their partners, 5 great guitar amp simulators, and a FREE iLok2! Click here to see Everything included in the bundle, as well as a few upcoming ones that make it an even greater buy.

As I keep saying, Slate’s bundles are the best deals in the recording world. Why not test that for yourself? Try out The Monster, and Revival, and then some of the free demos. I’m confident that your music will never have sounded as good.

Steven Slate Drum Sale

If you have read my review of Steven Slate Drums in Just Jazz Guitar you know that I consider them the best-sounding drums I’ve heard. The great news is that they are on sale at 50% of their regular price until Thursday, June 16, 2016 at midnight, including expansion packs for both SSD4 and Trigger.

SSDrums4Pl-e-large

Expansion packs add new kits, new instruments, and new presets for Steven Slate Drums and for Trigger. If you are not familiar with Trigger, it is an amazing program that can extract drums from your recordings and replace them with any of the Slate kits you like. The difference can be almost beyond belief.

Take a look at the sale on the Steven Slate Drums site and if you are not familiar with them check out their video tutorials to see why so many producers as well as home recordists rave about them.

If Trigger is new to you there are several good short videos that show how to use it to improve the drums on a recording such as this one and more in-depth reviews like this.

If you use a drum kit in your recording, be sure to check out Steven Slate Drums 4 and Trigger today, and take advantage of the sale. (Even if you miss the sale, the Drums are still a great price for such great sounding instruments.)

Slate Digital Recording Revolution

FG-116 Blue

Slate Digital has revolutionized recording in 3 ways. Their new FG-116 Blue Compressors demonstrate all 3 perfectly. I have shown each of these, as I realized what they were doing, in my column in Just Jazz Guitar. Here I update each one and gather the 3 together to show how Steven Slate has engineered a new paradigm in digital recording while realizing the dreams of millions of recording artists of all types and at all levels.

  1. CREATE PERFECT EMULATIONS OF THE BEST VINTAGE GEAR. The FG-116 Blue Vintage plug-in module sounds good enough to fool some of the best ears in the business, placing one of the all-time best compressors into your studio, even if it’s in your bedroom or closet!
  2. IMPROVE ON THE BEST. The FG-116 Blue Modern plug-in extends the capabilities of the original to give you even more flexibility. Any gear is bound to have some part that can be improved, and who better to find these spots than the team that reproduces them so perfectly? By placing these improvements in a separate module, you have the choice of using the original or “hotrodded” version.
  3. MAKE THEM AFFORDABLE FOR MUSICIANS. Most musicians aren’t rolling in cash, and it tends not to arrive at reliable intervals, so Slate has pioneered renting plug-ins. This allows you to pay a low monthly fee for ALL of the Slate plug-ins PLUS several excellent ones that they have chosen from other companies. Best of all, you only pay for the months that you are actually using them. So if you spend half of the year writing your masterpiece, and only four months recording it, you only pay for the four months. Best of all, if you were signed up for the EVERYTHING BUNDLE already, you would have received an email from Steven Slate telling you that FOUR new plug-ins were now available to you (at NO extra charge) with instructions on downloading!

I don’t know of a single company that can compete with Slate on ANY of their three breakthrough revolutions.

But as it should be, hearing is believing, so watch and hear Steven Slate demonstrate the new FG-116 Blue Compressors here.

Slate Digital Virtual Mix Rack

I think it is fitting that my first post in this new blog should be about the most amazing advance in recording that is actually available to every musician: Slate Digital‘s plug-ins. Slate Digital has created a wide range of amazing plug-in processors for recording and mixing that are revolutionizing sound recording at all levels of expertise. If you are a musician, you need to know about them.

I reached a watershed moment in reviewing Music Software when I discovered (with help from my friend Mixerman) Slate Digital‘s amazing plug-ins. Steven Slate and company have created digital emulations of some of the most sought-after classic analog gear that many of the industry’s top professionals find indistinguishable from the originals. This signals a revolution in sound recording, where home studios now have access to gear that has long been in the sole territory of major (expensive) studios. In some cases, gear that could cost $40,000 or more is now available for a few hundred dollars, with no sacrifice in quality.

I have filled dozens of pages of Just Jazz Guitar with rave reviews of Slate software, so it will take some time to get through their innovations on this blog. I have decided to start with the backbone of the recording system, Slate Digital’s Virtual Mix Rack (VMR).

VMR

The original VMR came with two great EQ’s and two equally amazing compressors. The FG-N is a faithful reproduction of a famous British equalizer, while the FG-S models the equalizer in a famous mixing desk used for countless hit records. The FG-401 compressor offers the best features of several of today’s most popular VCA channel compressors, while the FG-116 nails the sound and function of a classic American FET compressor. Before Slate Digital you would not have found this sound capability in any home studio that didn’t have a Rolls-Royce in the driveway.

Let me emphasize that this is the beginning of the Slate Digital odyssey. I’ll fill in the story in later posts, but today the most important Slate Digital news is their EVERYTHING Bundle. For a low monthly fee, you get access to every Slate Digital plugin PLUS several of the finest plugins they have sourced from third-party companies. I realize that this may sound too good to be true, but in fact it is too good to miss. Don’t take my word for it. See what’s included in the bundle here: http://www.slatedigital.com/everything-in-the-bundle/