Desert is a suite consisting of four different plug-ins embodying a unique, recapped recording/mixing desk from the early 1960s, and other rare gear of the same brand that came from a recording studio located in Lagos, Nigeria, owned by a famous British record label.
Desert is the first in a new series of ‘Boutique Collection’ Acqua plugins that aims to reproduce the essence of unique gear, those elusive, extremely hard to find devices, of which very few units were ever built and/or whose traces have almost been lost in the mist of time.
The centerpiece of this project is the recreation of an iconic vintage console module assembled with the best elements that British technology offered at that time, sampled thanks to the invaluable contribution of ©Zarma Studio (www.zarmastudio.com) and music producer, composer and sound engineer Sodi Marciszewer, the owner of this priceless equipment.
The mixing/tracking console carries serial number #100 and was developed at a time when record labels maintained their own recording studios, going as far as designing and building most of their recording equipment. This fairly simple console includes eight channels, each delivering a preamp built around early Germanium transistor technology and a passive two-band shelf equalizer. The Desert preamplifier section and the Model A EQ are derived from these circuit blocks.
The harmonic content generated by this string of Germanium input and output preamplifiers can reach astonishing levels. For this reason, unlike any other Acqua plugin suites by Acustica, we decided to introduce in Desert the possibility of combining eight Input amps with eight different Output amps, plus adding a Drive control. Any engineer and sound creator will immediately be excited by the possibilities to intuitively play with these various, very simple settings, which allows you to produce inimitable germanium circuit distortions.
In Sodi’s words:
‘I was able to acquire this console from a mythical recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria. There, during a session I could notice in a dark and secluded place this monster lurking from ancient times. I was well aware of its po-tential: I knew that she was quietly waiting for someone who would take care of her! I had the opportunity to work in such studios thanks to my relationship with the Nigerian icons Fela Kuti and Femi Kuti for whom I produced, recorded and mixed many albums. By continuing my musical commitments in these unique places, I also had the deep joy of discovering other el-ements which employed the same technology… Namely I found some stereo equalizers and opto compressors from another mastering console (same brand)! After I deciphered the operation and philosophy of this console, equipped with germanium preamps and pas-sive equalizers, I had to go in search of many original components in order to achieve the original sound down to the finest detail. This long treasure hunt was very tedious, but also fun in a way! I met a few collectors that were in possession of these kind of rare items; they agreed to share some of the last existing ones with other enthusiasts like me, and at the same time they made me understand quite quickly that they didn't even really do this for the money... in the end that simply means that the equipment to be restored must be really worth it! So this is how I found myself describing my quest to experts in old electronic components whose interests are vintage air navigation communication devices and very old submarines. We were then able to undertake the restoration of this console thanks to the team of technicians and assis-tants from the Zarma studio. Over the following years, many musical projects that have taken place in my studio www.zarmastudio.com were able to benefit from the exceptional sound these machines can deliver. Isn’t it great that today’s technology can now bring these unique colors from the past to everyone? The time has come to be able to turn this inimitable sound into a plug-in suite!'
Each plug-in included in the Desert suite comes in a “Standard” version and an alternative “ZL*” version, which operates at *zero latency and is thus suitable for use when tracking, at the cost of extra processing resources. For further details consult the Indigo user's manual in the Overview section.
The Desert EQ includes two switchable passive EQs plus eight different preamplifier emulations. It represents a tribute to a prestigious and iconic British-made, high-quality audio desks and outboard processors manufacturer.
In Sodi’s words:
'These extremely fine and very rare equalizers are absolutely dazzling, thanks to their passive inductance de-sign. There are all kinds of positions where you can get some really interesting tweaks that are unique to their concept…
They display up to 32k in shelf position and even the possibility of boosting or digging in a notch at 30 Hz in the bass!The old ©Gardners input and output transformers also guarantee such a special tone color'.
- EQ Model A: A Two-band (Bass – Treble) passive equalizer that combines smoothness and efficiency derived from a 60s mixing-tracking vintage console manufactured in England. The Low-shelf filter significantly increases or de-creases (approx. +/- 8 dB) the amplitude around 50 Hz, while the High-shelf filter significantly increases or de-creases (approx. +/- 8 dB) the amplitude of the frequency range around 20 KHz.
- EQ Model B: The second Two-band (Bass – Treble) passive equalizer, derived from a 60s Mastering console manufactured in England by the same brand, features different frequency choices and is equipped with a filter section that of-fers a unique softness and great personality. NOTE: This version is dual-mono, unlike the original stereo unit.
The Desert Dual-Mono Comp is derived from an ultra-rare, total refurbished Opto compressor/limiter unit that was part of a 60s Mastering console. Its main utilization was for cutting vinyl, since one of its tasks was to ensure that the dynamics excess would not pierce the matrix.
In Sodi’s words:
'I couldn't believe my eyes when during the re-furbishing, this old meter that hadn't been used for at least 30 years immediately started to move again as soon as it received a signal! A very big difficulty with it was that we didn’t know anything about the original supply voltage, so it was necessary to carry out a lot of calibration tests with threshold and ratio values in order to stay as true as possible to the original configuration... The vari-ous operating modes allowed by the multiple settings, allows an astonishing versatility for a design of that time! You can also hear this unique sound due to the combination of the original ©Gardners transformers and germanium components!'
Acustica has kept its spirit and introduced some improvements to make it even more versatile and usable by creating 3 different emulations (Modes):
- COMP1: A faithful ‘digital’ copy of the original compressor.
- COMP2: Here is where things get fun. A 'Frankenstein’ Compressor by Acustica featuring additional attack-release times and ratios (not present in the original gear).
- LIMITER: A faithful ‘digital’ copy of the original limiter.
The Desert Pre plugin includes eight Line-IN preamps plus eight Line-OUT preamps to recreate the same sound and behavior of the original console from the early 1960s adapted to be used as a ‘Channel-strip’ addition. As with the hardware, the plugin can also be used to obtain various colors depending on the level setting be-tween the preamps and the faders, starting from a clear, powerful and colorful sound, that can evolve into a range of distortions whose musicality is unmatched. Don't forget the Drive control, specially added in the plugin version to increase the harmonic distortion of the output preamps by providing extra saturation (to be used sparingly!). You can use the distinct palette of tones in this plug-in as a 'mojo sparkler’ for your mix.
- PRE LINE IN: 8 Line-IN preamps (Ch.1 through 8) .
- PRE LINE OUT: 8 Line-OUT preamps (Ch.1 through 8)
These preamps derived from the vintage mixing vintage console. All channels exhibit a slightly different response, which you can use to recreate an authentic analog desk experience in the box.
The Desert Channel-strip is the perfect choice that packs all the features of the standalone versions, with a sensational and distinctive sound to enhance and massage your music.
HOW TO TRY A PLUGIN: TRIAL MODE
For details about the installation/authorization process, please refer to this page.