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My favourite gear, tools and software (2020)

Here’s a quick list of my favourite gear, tools and software that I use on a weekly basis and couldn’t live without.

Hardware

ART Pro MPA II

ART Pro MPA II – Two Channel Class A Tube Preamp

I’ve long been a fan of ART gear, in fact my first tube guitar combo amp was an ART DST-830 Rulesbreaker which I truly regret selling.

You can’t beat the quality for the price point of this unit and in many cases to get a tube preamp this good for this price, you would only get one channel.

I wouldn’t dream of recording a lead vocal or bass track without this in my signal chain. It has a beautifully warm and smooth sound and is a feature-rich unit with large VU meters, a Low Cut filter, variable plate voltage, phase inversion and variable impedance (great for ribbon mics) to name just a few.

I’ve been so impressed with the Pro MPA II that I’ve ordered a second one so that I don’t have to swap leads in and out during live recording sessions.

Software

Amp Designer (Logic Pro X)

Logic Pro X Amp Designer – British Combo (Vox AC30)

For the past few years I’ve been using Scuffham Amps S-Gear as a virtual amplifier solution. It didn’t work for me right out of the box and I spent a great deal of time dialing in a Vox AC-30-ish sound that I was happy enough to use on a finished record.

When the plugin was pulled from the Slate Everything bundle, I took the opportunity to reassess my plugins, workflow and even my DAW. I decided to revisit Logic Pro X and when I loaded up Amp Designer and dropped the British Combo amp (Vox AC-30) onto a guitar track I was blown away by the quality and authenticity of the emulation.

I was so taken by amp designer that I threw myself headfirst into a Logic Pro X essentials training course. I expect that I’ll continue to use Reaper for tracking because it’s so much easier to load up a session a start recording but as far as mixing goes, I’m making the switch to Logic.

Plug-ins

Sound Toys 5

Soundtoys 5 – Beautifully crafted analogue sounding plugins

I first discovered Soundtoys plugins in 2017 when they introduced their newest plugin: Little Plate.

Little Plate is a vintage plate reverb modelled off of plate reverbs from around the world, including five original EMT 140s, which are still considered the finest example of the plate reverb sound.

Little Plate was offered for free for a short time and I swiftly snapped up a copy. It is without doubt my absolute favourite reverb. You could drop the Abbey Road 2 preset on almost any track and it would sound georgous.

I soon added a couple more of their plugins to my collection Little MicroShift and Tremolator – both excellent sounding and beautifully made plugins. Then during the 2019 Black Friday sales I logged in to my Soundtoys account and found I could upgrade to the Soundtoys 5 bundle for 50% off. I simply couldn’t say no.

I like to record digital and as clean as possible but I love vintage sounds. In that sense, the Soundtoys plugins are a perfect fit. Not only are the incredibly well crafted but they are easy to use and have an incredibly analog-like quality. EchoBoy would have to be the best sounding delay money could buy and Decapitator is easily one of the best saturation plugins on the market.

TSE BOD v3

TSE BOD V3 – Free Bass Driver Emulator

Despite having a number of bass emulators up my sleeve, I always find myself coming back to TSE BOD – an emulation of the DI Bass Driver that needs no introduction – The Tech 21 SansAmp.

I’ve long wished I had the hardware equivalent but in all honesty, for the songs I’m working on TSE BOD is a perfect fit.

It is truly versatile and super effective as a pre-amp, fed into another amp emulator or IR cabinet but it can sound equally good just on its own.

Version 3 of the plugin has given it an impressive visual uplift and smoother control of the interface while (most importantly) retaining the sound quality.

I highly recommend you grab yourself a copy of this outstanding, versatile and free plugin.

Download TSE BOD from the TSE Audio website.

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