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Review: McDSP 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip

Review: McDSP 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip
Alan Branch

Recording

08 August 2016: By Alan Branch

Alan Branch has a play around with this impressive plug-in package from the Silicon Valley-based company.

Alan Branch has a play around with this impressive plug-in package from the Silicon Valley-based company...

The McDSP 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip has been one of the most anticipated plug-ins of 2016, coming from a highly respected lineage of sound processing wonderment. Founded by Colin McDowell, McDSP has been producing many engineers’ favourite plug-ins for years.

The 6030 Ultimate Compressor and 6020 Ultimate EQ are both lunchbox-style plug-ins that offer ten different modules, each with their own unique emulation of classic hardware. The 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip is an amalgamation of its two predecessors, including all the EQ and compressor modules alongside eight new modules incorporating signal saturation, filters, gates and expanders. These modules can be inserted into a three-slot bay placed between an I/O section to complete a quick and easy workflow.

All-in-one

Channel strip-style plug-ins have often been popular, as they provide an innovative and quick solution for DAW mixer/producers, by encompassing several functions into one plug-in. However, a traditional channel strip can be limiting if it’s not versatile or all the functions are from the same design. The channel strip design with selectable modules solves these issues and the McDSP 6050 Channel Strip has one of the largest module collections resembling the workflow and classic sound of a custom modular lunchbox/500 series rack.

But why is this condensed format popular over other plug-ins? DAWs are incredibly powerful but with a wealth of different plug-ins it can be cumbersome and time consuming to find which work well together, and a DAW channel can be less than helpful moving or swapping plug-ins around. Hence channel strips have become popular, especially in the modular lunchbox-style racks. No more battling with different-sized GUI interfaces or your eyes getting used to alternate styles of 3D rendering – the rack strip combines processors in the single module format, restricting controls into one tidy module, making them quicker to use and easier to understand. By combining dynamics, EQ and a touch of saturation the 6050 becomes a mini console, which enables you to sculpt the sound into something that fits the song quickly and easily.

In Use

The 6050 supports AU, AAX DSP/Native and VST and copy protection is done via iLok. Installation was simple but you will notice straight away some of the work that has gone into creating this behemoth of a plug collection by the size of the install for the Everything Pack – over 4GB! Bear in mind these are processors not samples or reverbs.

The 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip is divided into six modules, the first being the Module Selector. Modules are divided into collections of EQ, Comp and More. Each can be sent to a desired target module slot, while there is an Input Section,  +/-24dB input gain control, input meter, key enable for sidechain and key listen for each module, a Module Section, three modules slots with dropdown module selection menu and individual bypass controls and lastly, an Output module with +/-24dB output control, a meter and phase polarity switch.

Using the 6050 in a mix I quickly found how easy it was to use – it’s the simplicity that makes a control strip work. You can easily visualise the journey your audio is taking and how each process is improving the sound, quickly slotting in a compressor followed by an EQ, then a touch of saturation or maybe switching the EQ before the compressor by simply dragging the module, which can help deal with some troublesome LF.

ColinMcDowellMcDSP

McDSP's Colin McDowell: “Since most of us cannot afford a room full of 19in rack stuff, the lunch box solution is a great fit – literally, figurative and financially. In the 6050 (and 6030 and 6020) we’re trying to capture some of that vibe and form factor. Not everyone can afford all the plug-ins from McDSP, but golly the 6050 is a great ‘sampling’ of what we offer. We compact the UI’s into the lunchbox-style interface, and offer a simpler set of controls but there’s still the great McDSP sound, in a variety of options, at a great price.”

The 6050 comes with ten compressors and ten EQs emulating classic hardware. Of special interest is the trio of new saturation modules. The combination of classic-sounding EQ and compression is fantastic but the saturation really helps fill in some of those digital holes with harmonic goodness. The S671 has a Fairchild type of effect, providing a subtle smooth warmth to the sound, while the Moo-D comes from more of a tube angle, adding more heat, and the D-100 piles in grit and edge. McDowell informed me they have modelled over 18 pieces of classic gear but thought carefully about the three distortion modules, ensuring they complement the existing EQs and compressors.

One of my favourite features of the 6050 is the ability to keep your settings while changing modules. This means if you want to compare what it’s like to switch to an alternate EQ or compressor you simply change the module, the EQ gains and frequency selections or threshold and ratio settings are retained, allowing you to instantly hear your processing chain through different styles of emulated hardware. Yes, there might be differences between a cut and boost curve or speed of compressor but that’s generally what you want to hear.

Conclusion

The 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip offers something unique with its large library of modules. I like to think of it as the modern day DAW channel strip. It’s a workhorse plug-in; by incorporating controls into a sympathetic GUI interface, you may miss the precision of a large plug-in with more individual parameters but what you gain is speed and focus on the essential and most used controls to quickly go through sounds. When you combine this with a huge selection of classic gear it becomes an incredibly commanding workflow. The ability to hot swap an EQ or compressor because it retains its settings then add a touch of saturation while dialling in a kick drum or snare is a powerful process. I found the more I used the 6050 the more it started appearing on every channel of my mix. With ten EQ modules, ten compressors plus the new filters, saturators, gates and expanders, processing sound has never been easier or more creative. The 6050 gives you the feel of having your own custom made console at your fingertips.

Key Features

  • More than 25 compressor, gate, expander, saturator and filter modules
  • Easy drag-and-drop, on-the-fly module auditioning
  • Side chain support
  • Analogue saturation modelling
  • Ultra low latency
  • Available in AAX DSP/Native, AU and VST versions


RRP:
$229 (Native)

Alan Branch is a freelance engineer/producer. His list of credits include Jamiroquai, Beverley Knight, M People, Simply Red, Depeche Mode, Shed 7, Sinead O’ Connor and Bjork. www.alanbranch.com.