Earlier this year, veteran plug-in manufacturer, McDSP released an important upgrade to its flagship bundle, the Emerald Pack. This robust collection of “bread-and-butter” effects combines a whopping twelve plug-ins, including muti-band compressors, channel strips, analog tape emulations, brick-wall limiters, de-essers and much more. Version 5 brings functional and cosmetic changes to all and also includes a brand new bundle: Retro Pack.
The Retro Pack’s three useful plug-ins — the 4020 Retro EQ, 4030 Retro Compressor and 4040 Retro Limiter — are unique in that they are not of specific analog devices. “Retro” means that their design is one that colors the sounds somewhat with a distinct sonic character.
These three plug-ins merely tip their hats to the likes of Pultec, Teletronix, Fairchild, and Urei, while imparting a color of their own. While sometimes designers take this concept too far, in practice I did not find them overly colored.
They are not transparent, surgical, precision tools and wouldn’t be my first choice for detailed post work. But they can be run clean enough that I would have no qualms about using them in certain mastering applications.
The Retro Pack features a newly designed “anti-clip” output stage which boasts low/no distortion even at extreme settings. In practice, this is a ridiculously useful feature. It allows you to crank the output stage, using it almost like a limiter or a tube saturation effect.
Both the dynamics processors are refreshingly simple to operate. In fact, the RetroLimiter has only two knobs: gain and ceiling. The RetroCompressor five: threshold, attack, release, ratio, output and mix. “Mix” allows you to combine the dry and effected signals and it opens up a lot of possibilities, most obvious being “New York-style” compression. I wish this feature were standard to all compressors. The compressor also has buttons to engage and monitor a side-chain.