Ever since we released the British Class A exclusively for Console 1, a channel strip plug-in like this has been one of the most requested products. British Class A is the top-selling channel strip for Console 1, and its sound can be heard on countless of major albums today.
Its origins are noble and every single unit that combined becomes the British Class A are both expensive and rare. But they are classics for a reason, no other mixing consoles have this much character. Whatever you do, however you dial it in, it will still impart its sound on your track, a sound that’s unmistakably … good.
Some gear becomes classics because they are durable and easy to use, others because they’re flexible and reliable. This one is all about tone.
The interface consists of six sections, from left to right, top to bottom:
1. Input and routing: set the input gain and signal flow. There are two VU meters showing the input and output audio levels on top.
2. Gate: Gate the audio to remove unwanted bleed from for example a snare track.
3. Compressor/Limiter: A combined unit with both level limiting (white knobs) and compression (gray knobs).
4. Filter: Probably the most classic component of this strip, the slightly resonant filters have a unique character that combined with a bit of Drive gives your track just the right edge.
5. Equaliser: The famous 3-band equaliser with two shelving filters and a peaking mid band.
6. Output and Drive: Console 1 owners will feel at home here, the distortion from the console has been combined with Console 1’s “Drive Character” control, which tonally shapes the sound of the drive to fit your mix.
Input and Routing
VU Meters: Shows the audio levels of the input and output audio, calibrated to 0 VU = -21 dBFS.
Input Gain: Sets the input gain to the unit.
Phase: Inverts the phase of the input audio.
HP/LP To Comp: Routes the filters (High Cut/Low Cut) to the compressor’s sidechain instead of using them in the audio path.
EQ Position: Sets the position of the equaliser:
First: EQ, Gate, Compressor/Limiter
Mid: Gate, EQ, Compressor/Limiter
Last: Gate, Compressor/Limiter, EQ
Ext. Sidechain: Sets the destination for the external sidechain (where applicable):
Off: External sidechain is not used
Gate: External sidechain is routed to the Gate
Comp: External sidechain is routed to the Compressor
Use the gate to automatically reduce the volume of audio below a set threshold. This is useful to get rid of unwanted bleed in for example a snare drum track. It can also be used creatively to soften the sound of a kick drum.
Threshold: The threshold for which the Gate will open or close.
Release: The release time of the Gate, ie. how fast it will reduce the volume when the gate closes. Increase the Release to get a smoother and more natural sound.
Depth: Sets the maximum amount of gain reduction. If you want a natural sounding gate on a individual drums, use 8-14 dB of depth with a slow release time.
The original Compressor/Limiter used a single VCA (gain controlling component) to control the combined audio level from both the limiter and compressor, which could make it difficult to use the character from both the limiter and compressor at the same time. In the British Class A we chose to implement them separately, just as if you had two units placed after each other. The compressor comes first, then the limiter. Both are very unique sounding, and very rewarding to use.
Meter: Set to show the gain reduction of the limiter (Lim), both compressor and limiter (All) or just the compressor (Comp.).
Comp Attack: Sets the attack time of the compressor. The original unit had a 3 ms fixed attack time, but a very common modification at that time was to add more attack times. This plug-in is modeled after that modification.
Comp Release: Sets the release time of the compressor. The “Auto” release setting will automatically adjust both the Attack and Release times, depending on the audio material. A typical modification of this unit was to add two more release times (100 and 200 ms) to the original’s 400, 800, 1500ms and AUTO modes.
Mix: Sets the amount of parallel compression for the compressor (not the limiter!). This is a new feature not included in the original hardware.
Comp Ratio: Sets the ratio of the compression.
Comp Threshold: Sets the threshold of the compression, increase to get more compression.
Limit Level: Sets the level to where the limiter should start to compress the audio. In the original unit, the Limit Level (and Comp. Threshold) was reversed, but in British Class A we have chosen to keep with the Console 1 paradigm of “more is more”, so if you want more compression, turn up the knob.
Limit Release: Sets the release time of the limiter.
The filters are magic. Or, maybe not, they’re just filters after all. But they do sound magic. A classic trick with a console like this is to add some Drive and use the filters to shape the sound.
High Cut: Sets the cut-off of the high cut filter.
Low Cut: Sets the cut-off of the low cut filter.
When HP/LP To Comp is engaged, the filters will be routed directly to the compressor’s sidechain and won’t be directly audible.
This equaliser has stepped frequency controls, and an “OFF” position per band. By setting the equaliser bands to “OFF” you will get a less colored sound, as compared to just setting the gain controls to 0 dB. But you are not using this channel strip to get a less colored sound, so just keep those controls off of “OFF”, ok?
Low Shelf: Sets the center frequency of the low shelving band. Boosting the 35 Hz while cutting the lows at 45 Hz is instant gratification on a drum bus.
Low Gain: Sets the gain of the low shelving band.
Mid: Sets the center frequency of the peaking band.
Mid Gain: Sets the gain of the peaking band.
Hi Q: Engage to get a slightly sharper bandwidth of the peaking band.
High Shelf: Sets the center frequency of the high shelving band.
High Gain: Sets the gain of the high shelving band.
Output and Drive
Those familiar with Console 1 will feel at home here. The Drive and Drive Character controls adjusts the output saturation of the console.
Drive: Sets the amount of distortion. A setting at 12 o’clock corresponds to the “nominal” amount of distortion.
Character: Colors the distortion. At 12 o’clock it’s neutral, and gets brighter and more open if turned clockwise. Going counter-clockwise will give you a darker sound, with less distortion in the low mids.
Output Volume: A completely transparent volume control.
Output Meter: Peak meters (left and right).
Four of the sections (Compressor, Filter, Equaliser and Drive) are also available in Amp Room and Modular.
British Class A Compressor for Modular
The compressor has an extra input jack (“Ext. S/C”) in Modular. To be able to use the compressor in a normal operating mode, the input signal must be patched to both the inputs and the external sidechain at the same time.
In order to expand the sonic options of Console 1, Softube offers other console emulations to be purchased separately, in addition to the included SL 4000 E model. The British Class A, as well as Solid State Logic XL 9000 K can be purchased in Softube’s web store or at any authorized Softube dealer.
ADD BODY AND CHARACTER TO YOUR TRACKS with a Console 1 strip inspired by classic British units from the 60s and early 70s. Let your tracks soak in the fat transformer crunch of the input stage, get great tone with the honey-sweet equalizer, control dynamics with the beautifully musical compressor, smash them into oblivion with the limiter, and keep things tight and tidy with the super-responsive gate.
British Class A For Console 1 collects the most coveted and distinctive sounding units of the pro audio world in a single channel, with a completely different character than the two SSL channels available. Read on for a walkthrough of the channel’s sections.
In the early 70s, it quickly became apparent to recording engineers that pushing the transformer coupled input stage of these consoles harder than it was really designed for added a rich sound to the recordings which made them large and alive sounding. The first and most coveted generation of the input channels incorporated Marinair transformers, and these are the ones we have emulated to get exactly the sound that has helped generations of sound engineers to achieve great mixes. Just turn up the Drive knob a bit on all your tracks. The Character knob does a similar thing as in the SSL SL 4000 E channel, turning it counterclockwise gives the distortion character less midrange emphasis (good for adding subtle density and warmth to tracks), turning it clockwise makes it more aggressive (good for making sounds stand out in the mix). In the 12 o’clock position, you get exactly the original sound of the original console input stage from the early 70s.
To ensure the model’s accuracy, the British Class A Equalizer has been based on several different original vintage hardware pieces.. While staying true to the originals’ character, curve shapes and even their odd little quirks, we have added dual mid bands for further flexibility—the originals only had a single one. So you can for example use one for the lower mids and one for the higher, something that was not possible on the analog originals unless you combined two individual channels. The four EQ bands all have an OFF position, which you’ll find by turning the Frequency knob fully counterclockwise for the Low, Low Mid and High Mid bands, and fully clockwise for the High band. You will note that with all the EQ bands set to OFF, the EQ curve displayed in the Console 1 On-Screen Display is not entirely flat. This reflects precisely how the original equalizers behave—they add a little something even when the bands are supposedly in bypass! Using the Equalizer button in the top left corner of Console 1’s EQ section of course still takes the EQ entirely out of the signal chain.
The British Class A Compressor adds a full-bodied and syrupy tone to the sound source, in addition to its highly musical gain reduction. The model is based on the classic British diode bridge compressor/limiter, which first came out in 1968. As with the equalizer, we’ve added extra flexibility, incorporating a modification used by many top-level studios to improve control of attack times and add more release time options. We have also extended the Threshold range to make it useful for a wider variety of incoming signal levels.
The original compressor offered no control over attack times, it was fixed to circa 3 ms. The modification, and the British Class A Compressor model, adds 6, 12, 20 and 30 ms attack settings. Furthermore, the modification adds 100 and 200 ms to the release time (or Recovery as it’s labeled on the original), in addition to the four options of the original: 400, 800, 1500 ms and Auto. Auto automatically adjusts the release time to fit the musical content, and you may find it particularly useful on complex and eventful material such as across the entire stereo mix or on a drum buss.
So to stick to the original hardware sound, keep Attack on 3 ms, and leave out 100 and 200 ms Release. You can save any setting as the default setting.
The original compressor also incorporated a limiter section which we have modeled separately and added as a single plug-in for maximum usability. The British Class A Limiter is great for subtle level control—or for beating your sounds into submission. By default, the British Class A Compressor is loaded into the channel, so you load the limiter by holding Shift + Track Selector 4 (LOAD COMP). Use the Volume/Select knob to scroll to British Class A Limiter, and press Solo/OK to confirm. To shift back to the British Class A Compressor, go through the same process but this time select British Class A Compressor. No modifications have been made to the limiter’s release times, these are just the same as on the analog hardware original.
One of the lesser-known classic British units from this era, the original analog gate shared the same form factor as the equalizer and compressor units we’ve modelled. The gate does a terrific job of keeping tracks tighter and cleaner, and using the sidechain input makes it very useful for ultra-musical keying purposes. Compared to the included SSL SL 4000 E gate, you will note that the British Class A Gate has a slower and more sluggish behavior when it opens and closes. This means that transients of the sound will be rounded off and made softer.
Some slight changes have been made to the operation of the British Class A Gate compared to the SSL SL 4000 E gate. The Gate knob on the Console 1 hardware controls the British Class A Gate’s threshold setting, Gate Release is called Recovery in the software and we have omitted the Punch and Sustain functionality and instead let the Punch knob control the British Class A Gate’s Depth parameter.
Björn Rödseth – modeling
Kim Larsson – modeling
Arvid Rosén – modeling
Niklas Odelholm – modeling, product design, user manual
Anton Eriksson – DSP framework programming
Filip Thunström – framework programming
Erik Sight – UI programming for Modular
Pelle Serander – UI programming for Amp Room
Johan Bremin – Quality assurance, presets
Andreas Mood – presets
Ulf Ekelöf – 3D design