Tips & Tricks — The Fairchild Tube Limiter Plug-In Collection
When Rein Narma built the first Fairchild Tube Limiter over 50 years ago, there is no way he could have foreseen the impact his humble, albeit tube-laden, creation would have on the recording industry. Not long after the solder cooled, Narma’s Fairchild 660 and 670 tube limiters were sitting in Abbey Road and Motown, imparting their smooth warmth and unmistakable tube character on records that would change the world.
The Fairchild Tube Limiter Plug-In Collection for UAD-2 and Apollo delivers the legendary 660 and 670 Fairchild tube limiters to your DAW with dead-on emulations — right down to the original hardware’s tube-driven gain control, compression curves, and tube amp and transformer sections.
The Fairchild Tube Limiter Plug-In Collection provides you with two workhorse limiters that can gently massage a single track and put the final polish on a mix, or push a drum bus or bass track into a frothy lather, full of overdriven harmonic goodness.
To get an idea of what the Fairchild plug-in can do for your tracks, let’s start with the mix bus. I wanted to smooth out the top end a bit while allowing the low end to pump without being sucked in by the compression.
Here are the settings on the mix bus for the Fairchild 670. I Increased the Headroom and setup a Sidechain filter at ten o’ clock. The Mix control is at about 75 percent and the Time Constant at five.
Here is the track, with all dynamic plug-ins inactive:
Here is the track, with all dynamic plug-ins inactive.And here is the mix with the Fairchild used on individual tracks, as well as the mix bus:
And here is the mix with the FairchildThere is more aggression and yet cohesion to the entire mix, and the whole thing is glued together.
Slamming the Drums
This example really highlights the Sidechain and Headroom features of the 670. I wanted the drum kit’s low-end to stay impactful and punchy, while making the top-end way more aggressive. The Sidechain allowed me to do this by keeping the bass frequencies from triggering the threshold of the compressor. The decreased Headroom setting let me push the 670 hard for some saturation and a Time Constant setting of one played a huge roll in giving the drums some smack while also lengthening the audible decay of each drum.
Adding Bass Character
The bass felt really nice as it was being recorded, but there were some characteristics — specifically in the upper midrange — that I wanted to bring out at mix time. Like the drums, I used the Sidechain filter to keep the bottom from triggering any gain reduction and I decreased the Headroom to push the 660 a little harder.
Here is the bass track dry:
Here is the bass track dryHere is the bass track with the Fairchild 660 engaged:
Here is the bass track with the Fairchild 660 engaged:
The high-mids of the distortion become more prevalent, while at the same time allowing the decay of each note to be more sustained.
Finishing Touches on Background Vocals
The background vocals needed just a little love, mostly by using moderate compression to keep them at a consistent volume. I decreased Headroom for a hint of grit, and set the Time Constant at one, and used about -5 dB of gain reduction. This example also uses the Pultec EPQ- 1A and HLF-3c from the Pultec Passive EQ Plug-In Collection to create that vintage tone.
First, the background vocals dry:
First, the background vocals dryAnd then the background vocals with the Fairchild 670:
And then the background vocals with the Fairchild 670The 670 did a great job of leveling out all the differing harmonies to help blend them all together.
Accentuate the Guitar Echo
The guitar sound is a mix of close mics and a room mic placed in a bathroom for a nice, natural slapback effect. But I wanted to exaggerate that echo even more, while also smoothing the overall tone out. To that end, I used the UAD Roland RE-210 Space Echo to add a touch more reverb, and then the Fairchild 660 — and then slammed the signal by increasing the Headroom.
Here is the room guitar without the Fairchild 660:
Here is the room guitar without the Fairchild 660:And here it is with the Fairchild 660:
And here it is with the Fairchild 660:
Spacing Out the Farfisa
Like the electric guitar room mics, I placed the UAD Roland RE-201 Space Echo before the Fairchild 660. Using this method and a Time Constant setting of one, I was able to keep the direct sound in the forefront while the Farfisa was being played. But as soon as the player released the keys, the ambience from the RE-201 would come surging in like a rising tide to take the place of the direct sound.
Punching-Up the Piano
Cranking the Threshold and having the Time Constant set to one on the Fairchild 660 produced a very tough, in your face sound on the piano, allowing all the intricacies of the performance to cut through the mix. I used heavy gain reduction — averaging -10 dB, decreased the Headroom , and set the D.C. Threshold control all the way to the left.
Here is the dry piano track:
Here is the dry piano track: Then, the piano running through the Fairchild 660 plug-in:
Then, the piano running through the Fairchild 660 plug-in:
Bringing Out the Vocal
The vocal was recorded through an AEA A440 microphone and run into an old Akai M-8 tape machine preamp to create the distortion effect as well as compress the vocal. So, using the Fairchild 670 was less about controlling the dynamics of the singer and more about bringing out certain characteristics of the vocal sound.
The vocal track dry:
The vocal track dryAnd then with the Fairchild 670 engaged
And then with the Fairchild 670 engagedBy lightly touching the vocal with the 670, I was able to increase the depth of the low frequencies, as well as bring out some of the high-end of the distortion creating a bit more clarity, even though the signal is still heavily distorting.
Crafting Synth Magic
The way a track begins is extremely important, and the Yamaha CS-80 synth was such an interesting and mysterious sound to kick the tune off, I wanted to make sure every single note was not just heard, but defined. The Time Constant setting of one and the Sidechain at 10 o’clock delivered the detail I was looking for.
First, the CS-80 without the Fairchild 670
First, the CS-80 without the Fairchild 670 And then the CS-80 with the Fairchild engaged
And then the CS-80 with the Fairchild engaged. Lowering the 670’s Headroom also gave the CS-80 a little more graininess, yielding a sexy, growling mood from the very first note.
— Konrad Snyder