September 22, 2005


by Chris Randall

My feelings on tubes have been posted here and other forums enough to where you have probably got a good idea of my maxim: if there's a window so you can see the tube, the tube's inclusion in the product is as a gimmick or marketing ploy, not because it will impart any magic powers on the gear. There are (rare) exceptions to this rule, but for the most part it is a safe rule of thumb: if you can see the tubes from the front, it doesn't matter if they're in there or not, because it's still a shitty piece of kit.

Which brings me to what is pictured above. The only thing dumber than tubes added to a product just so you can say there are tubes in it (and sorry, Korg, but I'm talkin' bout you...) is putting a picture of an imaginary tube on your plug-in UI. I, of all people, know that the user interface of a plug-in does in fact do a lot of the talking about that plug-in. But I draw the line, you know?

Now, I don't have anything bad to say about TL Labs otherwise. I mean, they're one of those snobby sorts of companies that only make TDM and RTAS shit, and charge an arm and a nut for their plugs, and use (gasp, choke) iLok for their CP (an utterly pointless exercise if ever there was one) but I'm sure they're very nice people. But a fucking tube? Come on.

Well, never mind all that, yeah, go ahead and check it if you're a PT user and have half a banger to drop on a compressor plug-in with a real live tube in it.

As a rather amusing aside, I was thinking of Antares' The Tube plug-in the other day, and mentioned to Adam that it would be funny if Audio Damage released a plug-in called "The Op-Amp" and it had perfect models of all the shitty dimestore op-amps that are found in low-end Chinese-made gear. We would release it in TDM only, and charge $799 for it with iLok CP. It would probably sell like hotcakes.




Sep.22.2005 @ 7:45 AM
Just a note about visible tubes--the Vox Tonelab (and its spinoff products presumably) does indeed have the visible-tube-with-a-lamp-behind-it gimmick. But it employs the tube in an actually useful way, as a miniaturized power stage in the amp simulator, rather than in adding superficial "warmth" in the preamp. The result is not as pristine as, say, a POD or something, but it really does sound and feel like an amp, to me.

I do agree that that GUI looks really dumb.


Sep.22.2005 @ 9:08 AM
While I completely agree that adding tubes to a product as a gimmick is unspeakably stupid. And adding them to an frickin' plugin is retarded.

But on a slightly off-topic, (real) tubes generate a considerable amount of heat - hence the usual grill for airflow so it doesn't melt the solder into a gooy mess. So I kinda understand if they're going to add a tube, they may as well make it look not-shitty.

On the other hand, if it sounds like ass, don't bother putting it there in the first place.


Sep.22.2005 @ 4:09 PM
Just make sure your Op-Amp plugin has a little window so we can see the virtual op amp inside. It adds immeasurably to the authenticity.

Of course the Little Tube Window phenomenon is a martketing tool, aimed at Electronic Musician subscribers who've bought into the "tube=warm" (whatever that means) thing and don't actually know any better. But I'm surprised by some of the places it's been showing up lately. Having it in the UI of a plugin is insulting. Just like the Blue Tubes plugs. Silly.

And what exactly IS the deal with the fuckin Ilok? I recently had to make my first foray into the Ilok world for those URS Neve- and API-style EQ plugs. It was, by an order of magnitude, a more unnecessarily convoluted authorization process than I have ever endured, for anything, ever. Getting a home loan is a simpler process. The EQs are damn fine, but holy crap. It must have been a twenty-step process. Not to mention having to spring $40 for the piece of plastic, which now lives in what was my last remaining USB port.



Sep.23.2005 @ 4:14 AM
Suit & Tie Guy
i know that you didn't mean this example when you wrote that, but is my Hammond shitty if i leave the back off?

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ha. j/k. we know what you meant. tubes are visible in kick-ass guitar amps only if you look at them from the back. i can't think of an actual classic tube application where the appearance of the tube is fetishised in some sort of tube gloryhole at the front of the device.

also, why are you expending energy _joking_ about the The Op-Amp plug with the iLok for only TDM/RTAS when you should be _doing_ it? that would be a great publicity stunt if you pulled it off, probably benefit you more than you would like to admit.


Sep.24.2005 @ 9:33 PM
Chris Randall
Actually, I'm only half joking about that. If we did a "The Op-Amp" plug, it would actually contain models of the API 2520, Hardy 990, and other class A discrete designs. It would have a window, of course. Perhaps I would even have a little ninja in the window, switching out the op-amps.

The controls would be simple: you could select 24V or 15V power, and there would be an up-down selector for the op-amp. The only knobs would be input (drive over 0db) and output.

The problem with this sort of product is twofold. First, it would be incredibly time-consuming and expensive to get and model all the various op-amps (a vintage API 2520 alone would set us back $300 and change), and second, only a certain type of customer would appreciate the plugin. This certain type of customer is not common. Everyone knows what a delay does, but not many people (relatively speaking) know what a discrete op-amp does, or why it is good.

So, this product will probably remain one of my many pipe dreams.



Sep.26.2005 @ 4:53 PM
Suit & Tie Guy
> First, it would be incredibly time-consuming and expensive to get
> and model all the various op-amps (a vintage API 2520 alone
> would set us back $300 and change),

why would you have to do that? does anyone actually pay attention to the originals when they do this crap?

for example: do you honestly think that anyone at Arturia has ever _seen_ a Moog modular synth, let alone played one!?! that plugin is definitely the most insulting to my intelligence i've ever seen.

i mean, i know that you guys like having the original around of whatever it is you're modelling but i get the impression that half these jokers who do plug ins have never used the shit they copy the image of for their RTAS plugs.

audiodamage and wayoutware are exempt from this opinion. so is korg but they don't count.




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