Review: Plugin Alliance The Big 4 Bundle – Brainworx bx_XL, Elysia Alpha, SPL Passeq & Vertigo VSC-2

Plugin Alliance - The Big 4 BundleMusic is a hobby of mine, I mainly create electronic music. When I was asked to review The Big 4 Bundle by Plugin Alliance, my first thought was: “These effects are quite pricey, are they so good?” Yes, these are all excellent effects. And they all have something special to offer.

At the end of last year, the website of Plugin Alliance was launched to accommodate several plug-ins from different brands which were made and maintained by the German software company Brainworx. Brainworx is specialized in modeling hardware effects. In the future more brands are expected to be housed at the Plugin Alliance website.

The Big 4 Bundle consists of the Brainworx bx_XL limiter, Elysia Alpha (master) compressor, the SPL Passeq equalizer and the Vertigo VSC-2 compressor. Only the limiter is not modeled on hardware. Because of the fact that I do not have the hardware versions available here, I can not give an opinion if these plugins do accurately reflect the hardware. But of course I can tell whether they sound good to me and if they add something to the mix.

Vertigo VCS-2

Vertigo VSC-2 compressorThe VCS-2 compressor by Brainworx is inspired by the hardware compressor of Vertigo. This compressor is very versatile and a real workhorse, it does not take much cpu power. The latter is not unimportant because you want to use it on almost every track of a song!

On drums, the Vertigo VCS-2 sounds very well. You can use it in several ways. For instance individually to make the kick drum extra powerful, or on the total drum mix by using parallel compression. On other instruments like piano or synths it sounds very well too.

You can also add a little extra “color” without compression to certain parts of your mix if they sound too sterile. This can be done by dialling in the Make-Up button, while holding the Threshold to HI. Furthermore, the VCS-2 has a Brick mode, where it acts as a limiter.

This compressor can be used as master compressor with the build in sidechain filters. By using these filters, the compressor is not responding to low frequencies (the kick drum or bass) in order to avoid an undesirable pumping effect.

The Vertigo VCS-2 is an excellent compressor that you always want to use everywhere on your tracks.

SPL Passeq

SPL Passeq equaliser
The SPL Passeq is a special equalizer, not only because of the design but also the sound. There is also a hardware version of the SPL Passeq. In the beginning, the Passeq is quite difficult to oversee because of the placement of the buttons in the GUI. But if you look closely, you see the cuts on the left of the interface and the boosts on the right.

The Passeq sounds very good. By using the presets you can quickly bring sounds like the bass, piano or acoustic guitar up to the front or make them sound nicely. You can also quickly give a kick more weight.

All this beauty does take some of the cpu. The Passeq requires 5 percent per instance on a (four years old) 2 gigahertz dual core laptop.

The Passeq is primarily an equalizer for the icing on the cake. If you want to cut out certain frequencies precisely from a track to give the other tracks more air during mixing, it is easier to use a more graphic equalizer like Ableton Live’s EQ Eight.

If you are looking for an equalizer that offers something extra, or something special, then the SPL Passeq is certainly worth checking.

Elisia Alpha Compressor

Elysia alpha compressor
It will not surprise you that the Elisia Alpha Compressor is also modeled on a hardware compressor. This compressor is very flexible and offers many possibilities.

The Alpha Compressor is to serve as a master compressor or for the individual tracks of a song. Especially while using it for master compression it sounds very good, and it gives some extra shine to the mix. The twenty presets help you well on your way to the correct settings and to find an optimal mix.

You can also apply compression separately in the M / S mode to the mid and sides of the stereo signal. So you may want to apply compression to the middle section and leave the left and right sides of the stereo field alone.

This all sounds like abracadabra? Fortunately you can find more information on the subject in the user manual, as well as many tips and tricks for individual cases. For example it was a surprise to learn that this compressor can also be used for classical music, where heavy compression is a bad idea. This allows you to make soft parts of a classical music track louder, while the very loud parts stay unaffected.

For individual tracks, this compressor is a nice alternative to the Vertigo VCS-2. And if you’re a New York-style (parrallel) compression fan for your drums or your entire mix, then you can immediately apply it by playing with the mix knob. Separate routing to a send / return channel is not necessary!

bx_XL mastering limiter

Brainworx bx_XL limiter
Unlike the other three effects the bx_XL limiter is not modeled after a hardware limiter. If you’ve always wondered how that one radio hit can sound so loud, you should definitely try this limiter.

The bx_XL is a very good mid / side limiter that lets you make your mix extremely loud. This plug-in is very flexible because you can adjust the impact of the effect on different areas of the stereo field.

The limiter converts the final mix to three areas of the stereo field: Mid Lo, Hi Mid and Side. So you can adjust the volume in each area separately and add some extra “warmth” by dialing in the XL knob. By hitting the solo buttons you can independently listen to each area, so you can hear what your adjustments do with the sound in that particular area.

The Mid-Lo frequency can be adjusted with the Crossover Frequency slider. This allows you to set apart the bass drum in the Mid Lo for example. Then the bass drum can be treated separately with the limiter and you can easily make it a bit harder or softer than the rest of the mix.

You can’t use the bx_XL limiter everywhere on each track of the song, because the CPU usage (about 30 percent on an old laptop) is too high. So it is especially suitable for the master channel.

The manual contains many tips about how to create the master version of your song.

Conclusion
I am very excited about this plug-in bundle. Each effect has something special to offer and is well made. If you are hunting for the best plug-ins, and sufficient budget is available, then you need to checkout these effects.

Score: 9/10

+ Pros:
All plug-ins offer high quality and something special
Excellent documentation

- Cons:
Pricey

Specifications
Product:
The Big 4 Bundle

Platform:
PC and Mac

Price:
$ 888 (currently an opening price of $ 777)

Website:
www.plugin-alliance.com

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