Plugin Review: Airwindows Busscolors2
The first “BussColors” plugin by Airwindows was clever, a little dig at the long-vaporwared Slate Virtual Console (which is now out, of course, but at the time). It lacked features, it was pretty rudimentary, but it was an assertion that virtual console emulation by convolution modeling wasn’t just something for larger software developers to tackle.
At $50, too, I guess it became pretty popular, because Chris Johnson recently pushed out BussColors2, which adds a lot more power and functionality to the plugin.
The first Busscolors was basically a pass-through that ran the incoming signal through one of four convolution curves – “Rock” (SSL), “Lush” (Neve), “Punch” (API) and “Tube” (um, something tube-y). The curves weren’t exact point-by-point samplings, but were a few samplings smoothly interpolated, which is really good enough for most. Tube added nice airiness, Lush smoothed things out and gave a little more low-end beef, Punch was, in fact, punchy, and Rock had the 80’s-SSL smackiness. The thing was, they were incredibly subtle, and to get much benefit from it you had to use multiple instances.
Busscolors2 adds a number of new models – most notable “Dark”, which models an MCI console. Some of the other new models, like “Vibe”, “Steel” and “Holo” don’t model anything directly but seem to be designed to act like consoles without sounding like a specific one, instead designed to solve problems. “Vibe” is somewhat Neve-y, but without the low-end beef (which can build up across instances). “Steel” thins out the low-mids, allowing for more clarity in bass-heavy electronic compositions. And so forth.
The additional models would be a stellar upgrade (the MCI, particularly, sounds great across a drum bus). But going one better, input and output gain controls have been added, and somewhere deep in the bowels of the plugin, a saturator has been built. So not only can you drive it hard, it will eat peaks appropriately. Subtly used, it can shape a track or a bus nicely. Used more aggressively it can sound like actual gear that’s being driven hard to distortion.
Most of the time it’s to be used subtly. I find myself using the MCI console across drum busses a lot, with a very slight input gain and a very slight reduction in output. It does a nice job of smoothing the rough edges of a track without brutally muddying things up.