I’ve been using the time in lockdown – and, admittedly, the spare money not used in commuting, lunch and coffee breaks – to try out some of the different plugin subscription services out there. Some are better than others, but Kush Audio is the one I might be sticking with.
For $10 a month, or $100 a year, you get to subscribe to this range of rather esoteric dyanmics processors, saturation plugins and EQs.
Before we get into the positives, there are a few negatives to explore. Firstly, you’re only paying for a subscription here. You don’t technically own any of these. And a lot of these plugins cover very similar ground. I recommend using a month or two of your subscription to see if there is anything you would want to buy outright. Other issues are the dreaded iLok requirement, which seems like a very dated piracy solution in 2020. The biggest problem is the footprint – some of these plugins take up 750MB of your hard drive each, which is just ridiculous compared to the impression of a FabFilter plugin, for instance.
However, these are more than made up for by the positives. Essentially, how good do these sound? Well, they sound astonishingly good. Many, many plugins claim to present a “true” analogue sound. I think these are probably the best at doing that. These are all effects with character first and foremost in their thinking. This is not the place for surgical precision, these are about feel and vibe. The musical quality of these plugins is incredible, each effect seeming to magically enhance your audio input.
The most surprising of these is the REDDI – an emulation of a tube-driven DI box. Why would you want to emulate a DI box you ask? Who cares, when it sounds this good? Many plugins advertise on the basis of “turn one knob to make your audio sounds better.” This is the only one to achieve it. And if you wish to buy it separately, it’s just $49.
The Hammer DSP EQ is another plugin that just seems to make everything sound effortlessly better. A simple two channel, three band EQ, it just seems so easy to dial in a brilliant sound for your mix. It really sounds great on a master or mix bus too.
There are four Omega transistor saturation plugins that allow you to dial in everything from the subtlest of harmonic enhancement to a gloriously broken saturation.
Kush’s take on compression is rather unusual – there are the new Silika and AR-1, which offer fairly standard compressor controls. But things get more unusual with the UBK-1 and Novatron plugins. The UBK-1 mainly uses three large controls labelled Saturation, Compression and Density, with five modes of compression to choose from – Splat, Smooth, Glue, Squish and Crush. Again, the Novatron offers three large dials for Compression, Attack and Release. Both leave out the standard compression controls – ratios, knee, threshold etc. – in favour of simple controls and some fixed settings to allow you to just get in there and experiment.
The sound of every one of these plugins is rich, warm and musical, with perhaps the most analogue-sounding digital emulations I’ve ever used. The subscription service seems a reasonable deal – you’re getting access to $1,500 worth of plugins for $100 (currently £80) a year. How many of those plugins you would realistically use is another matter, but I would be very reluctant to lose the Hammer DSP EQ and REDDI plugins.