Analog Obsession has released Loaded, a freeware (with optional donations on Patreon) custom 500 series channel strip effect in VST, VST3, and AU plugin formats for digital audio workstation software on PC and Mac.
Loaded is inspired by modular racks, namely the API 500 series. The free plugin developed by Analog Obsession models a six-component channel strip, including a preamp, a de-esser, a noise gate, an equalizer, a compressor, and the main controller module. Each module can be switched on and off, but it isn’t possible to rearrange to signal chain.See also: Free 1208 SCS Channel Strip VST Plugin Released By 1208 Audio
As with all Analog Obsession plugins, Loaded isn’t meant to be a precise emulation of a particular piece of gear. Instead, the developer captures the general vibe and feel of the modeled hardware, with a special focus on workflow and analog-style saturation.
Let’s take a closer look at the Loaded channel strip plugin and its modules.
The first step in the signal chain is the preamp module with adjustable gain and a high-pass filter. The user can also flip the phase, apply a -20dB pad, or boost the low end by +3 dB for some extra bass. That’s quite a bit of extra functionality that could come in handy when mixing a more complex project that requires proper gain staging.
The de-esser and noise gate modules are pretty standard. They both feature a gain reduction meter, a mix knob, a threshold control, and a release knob for fine-tuning the gain response. Wheres, the noise gate module performs its job rather well, I would prefer substituting the included de-esser with a more advanced third-party plugin.
The equalizer is a 4-band module with LF, LMF, HMF, and HF knobs. The LMF and HMF bands have adjustable peak frequency. All in all, it’s a very decent semi-parametric equalizer that’s handy for making broader tonal adjustments before opting for a more surgical EQ in the later stages of mixing.
The compressor module is where Loaded truly shines as a channel strip. The comp is easy to use and it does sound quite musical. You can try to push it for a more aggressive sound, but I particularly liked how it sounded with more subtle settings, shaving off just a few dBs of volume for a slightly rounded tone. The compressor also features a fast attack switch and an auto-release mode which can be helpful if you’re compressing a more complex type of signal.
The last module is the main controller, which is where you’ll adjust the input and output gain. It is also where you’ll find the bypass switch, which can be handy for AB testing.
If you’re a fan of analog gear and modular racks, chances are you’ll enjoy using Loaded. It’s a great little channel strip that captures the joy of mixing with a custom modular rack. It also doesn’t take up any space and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Speaking of which, Loaded is free to download and use, but you can support the developer through their Patreon page. Analog Obsession offers all of its software for free without any functional restrictions, so it’s fair to give something back if you’re putting it to good use.
Loaded is available as a VST, VST3, and AU plugin on Windows and macOS. Do note that only 64-bit plugin hosts are supported. The plugin is still under development, but the latest 1.0 is a stable release.
More info: Loaded (19.7 MB download size, ZIP archive, 64-bit VST/VST3/AU plugin format for Windows & macOS)