Our Guide to Apogee FX Plugins
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Our Guide to Apogee FX Plugins

Back in late 2018, Apogee Electronics released their Apogee FX Plugins range, harnessing their vast expertise in digital audio hardware to develop plugins of the same high calibre.

Whilst you may find other software developers have a large amount of plugins in their libraries, it's fair to say that the current range of Apogee provides focus on quality, not quantity. The current range of Apogee FX Plugins gives you a full set of VST mixing tools designed for use any Digital Audio Workstation. They also have a hidden trick up their sleeve - Dual-Path Workflow - which harnesses the onboard processing power of a select few Apogee interfaces for low latency monitoring through plugins. 

We'll explain how this works, and more in Our Guide to Apogee FX Plugins.

Modern Meets Vintage

Apogee FX Plugins take inspiration from precise modern digital mixing tools, as well as classic sonic characteristics from vintage hardware, giving you the absolute best of both worlds. They are designed to work with all standard DAWs such as Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton etc. They’re also capable full bandwidth performance, whether your project is running at 44.1kHz or 192kHz. This is a key specification that a lot of plugin developers don't always talk about.

What does Apogee mean by full bandwidth performance?

For those working at lower sample rates such as 44.1kHz, you can expect your plugins to be performing at their absolute best. But what happens when you're working with higher sample rates like 96kHz or above? You may actually find that some VSTs suffer from a dip in audio performance. However, this is not the case with Apogee FX Plugins, that are purposely designed to work flawlessly, even at the highest sample rates. 

Bob Ludwig – mastering engineer for the bands such as Led Zeppelin, Steve Reich, Nirvana - explains his experiences with plugin bandwidth limitations:

“The record companies want to monetize high-definition digital downloads: this demands most projects be recorded and mixed at 96kHz/24bit. It sounds great and it doesn’t tax the workstation too terribly. Right off the bat, some very famous emulations, unadvertised, bandwidth limit 96kHz and 192kHz sessions to only around 29kHz instead of the full 48kHz bandwidth you thought your client was paying for (It seems that half of the HD Download customers own spectrum analyzers and complain when they don’t see full bandwidth!). The Apogee is full bandwidth for all ProTools sampling frequencies.”

In a nutshell, Apogee FX Plugins do not suffer from frequency bandwidth limitations at higher sample rates, making them an excellent choice for professional engineers working 'in the box.'

Dual-Path Workflow

Apogee FX Plugins have introduced a new concept in plugin processing called Dual-Path Workflow. The majority of plugins that we use in DAWs are hosted on the computer or tablet that we are using. We would refer to this a 'native plugin' - one that is running natively by using your device's processing power. This has become the standard for most software, but despite increased performance of computers over the last decade, there are still flaws that appear. 

There is always a battle going on between audio processing power and speed in your DAW, balanced by the 'buffer size' setting. In very simple terms, the buffer in a DAW gives the computer time to think about all the processing it has to do to your audio. However, more time to think will always a time delay to the sound, known commonly as latency. You can make this buffer larger or smaller to optimise the performance of your workstation, but there is always these compromises to consider:

  • A Small Buffer Size means low latency - exactly what you want for tracking audio, but if you have a lot of plugin processing at the same time, the playback performance will deteriorate. 
  • A Large Buffer Size will improve the playback quality significantly which is great for mixing but you will introduce a lot of latency, making it very hard to record & monitor.

This is easier to balance when you're tracking OR mixing, but if you are recording overdubs into a mix populated with plugins, or you want to monitor a take through plugin in processing, it becomes more difficult to get it right. As a musician, audio latency can really mess with your timing!

Designers and engineers have tried to find ways to overcome latency for these scenarios. Software mixers for audio interfaces allow musicians to monitor using the analogue front end signal whilst recording. Apogee Control is a perfect example of this, but method does not allow you to monitor through your FX. There are also manufacturers that use build DSP chips into their interfaces to run plugins. This saves on computer processing power, but it also relies on the hardware being plugged in at all times. 

Apogee’s Dual-Path FX plugins have taken these technologies a step further. Native plugins that run in parallel with an externally processed version. This allows you to monitor and track using the externally processed plugin at less than a millisecond of latency. And when tracking is finished, the plugin still exists in your DAW, so you can tweak your sound even if the Apogee hardware isn't available. 

Pretty cool right? Apogee's Dual-Path Overview explains how this all works in much greater detail. 

To summarise - with Dual-Path Workflow enabled you can:

  • Monitor your input signal through Apogee FX plugins at next to 0 latency
  • Print audio through Apogee FX plugins
  • Control plugins both in your DAW & applied to your inputs in parallel

This FX Rack mentioned in the video is key to this workflow, creating a direct link between the Apogee FX Plugins running in your DAW, and the parallel DSP versions running on your Apogee device. Although tracking with plugins may not appear to be essential, it's a great way to help an artist get that polished sound and 'vibe' while tracking. And if you've overcooked it on the way in, no worries! So long as your monitoring (and not printing) you can adjust all the settings after the take. You could even remove the plugin completely to leave the dry signal! 

Which Apogee Interfaces can run Apogee Dual-Path FX?

As we've mentioned, Apogee FX Plugins run natively, so they can be used on any system that meets their requirements. But it's important to know, that Dual-Path Workflow that we've talked about only runs on specific Apogee interfaces. These include:

  • Apogee Element Series
  • Apogee Ensemble
  • Apogee Symphony Desktop (Coming Soon in version 1.2)

The Apogee FX Plugin Line-up

The Apogee FX Plugin range strikes a great balance between modern precision and vintage character plugins that will help you achieve a great sounding mix. Here’s a summary of plugin line-up so far:

ModComp – Modern Visual Compressor & Limiter - FX Rack Compatible

Exactly as it sounds, the ModComp is a modern-style compressor and limiter. It’s fast, accurate and extremely versatile, making it perfect for precise dynamic control of almost any audio source. There are 3 styles of compression – Punch, Easy and Level - that adapt the behaviour characteristics of ModComp to better suit the style of compression you’re aiming for. Modern features like sidechain EQ, dry/wet mix and auto makeup gain are also included. The large visualiser in the interface of ModComp gives you a very clear picture of how the compressor is working with your audio. This is great if you’re new to mixing, or you just like to see a precise picture of whats going on. The interface of ModComp can be switched between light & dark depending on your preference (light shown above).

ModEQ 6 – Modern 6-Band Visual Equaliser - FX Rack Compatible

The ModEQ 6 is a precision EQ tool, perfect for sculpting the frequency content of sounds in your mix. It features 6 bands – Lo Pass, Hi Pass, 2 x Peak/Shelf and 2 x Peak Notch. It is everything that you’d expect from a modern EQ plugin - the interface is very visual, featuring a highly accurate spectrum analyser to show the frequency content of your audio.. In addition to the visualising the bands, ModEQ 6 allows you to solo them for pinpoint accuracy when making adjustments to the EQ. Proportional & Constant Q settings determine the shape of the EQ curves, allowing you make natural or harsh changes to your sound. The interface of ModEQ 6 can be switched between light & dark depending on your preference (dark shown above).

Opto-3A – Vintage Optical Compressor / Limiter - FX Rack Compatible

Now we move onto some more ‘classic’ processing tools. No prizes for guessing which piece of hardware this compressor is based on... The Opto-3A reproduces the reactive compression characteristics that you would find in this particular type of optical compressor. It's gentle and transparent when compressing lightly, but more aggressive and thick sounding as it compresses harder. Unlike the original hardware, the Opto-3A has some extra features such as HF Contour, High Pass Sidechain and Dry/Wet mix to shape and blend the compressed sound for added flexibility in the context of a mix. The interface is available in light & dark themes.

Pultec EQP-1A & MEQ-5 - Classic Mastering EQs - FX Rack Compatible

Here are 2 classic pieces of gear that are constantly cloned as hardware and emulated as software – the EQP-1A and MEQ-5. Very few of those are officially licensed and endorsed by Pulse Techniques (Pultec) themselves - but Apogee’s Pultec plugins are! Not only do they bear the official seal of approval, but they were also developed alongside Pulse Techniques to bring you an software plugin that sounds true to the original hardware. The broad EQ curves, the interaction between bands and the non-linearities that created the “magic” of the EQP-1A are faithful replicated in the Apogee Plugin version. So too is the midrange frequency sculpting power of the MEQ-5. It’s safe to say, these 2 plugins are the closest you can get to the real thing but in software form! Both come with light and dark themes for the interface

Clearmountain’s Domain & Clearmountain’s Spaces - Native Only

Apogee have worked incredibly closely with famous mix engineer Bob Clearmountain to bring you 2 plugins that reflect on the incredible atmospheres that he would create for artists such as David Bowie, Chic, Bruce Springsteen and more. Clearmountain’s Domain incorporates the Bob’s classic signal chain into a streamlined plugin. You’ll find presets from hit tracks in there, but the advanced controls also give you full control to create your own ‘Domain’. 

Clearmountain’s Spaces is a simple but powerful reverb plugin combining 3 incredible spaces, modelled on those used by Bob Clearmountain when mixing many hit tracks. This reverb plugin also includes an EQ, De-esser and mixer to combine spaces together to provide a truly unique space for your mix. As you’d expect, you will find more presets linked to hit tracks in there to get you started. Although it's not FX Rack compatible, Clearmountain’s Spaces is included with Symphony Desktop.

Symphony ECS Channel Strip - FX Rack Compatible

The Symphony ECS Channel Strip plugin is a specialised plugin included with the Symphony Desktop interface. This channel strip as been specially been tuned by Bob Clearmountain, making use of his wealth of expertise in audio engineering. It includes EQ, Compression and Saturation controls that let you apply enhancements and character to your inputs when recording vocals or acoustic instruments. You can use the ECS Channel strip with Symphony Desktop hardware DSP for zero latency recording or as a native plugin in your DAW.

In Summary

The Apogee FX Plugins are a truly impressive selection of software mixing tools, with the added benefits of low latency monitoring and tracking thanks to Apogee Dual-Path Workflow & FX Rack. They are brilliant on their own, but an absolutely perfect accompaniment to Element, Ensemble and Symphony Desktop interfaces. We hope this guide has given you a useful insight into Apogee’s plugin range.

Apogee FX Plugins are available to buy outright or as rent-to-own. For a limited time, you can purchase a them as a bundle with Symphony Desktop at a reduced price. Visit our Apogee's product page for more details.

Thank you for taking the time to read Our Guide to the Apogee FX Plugin Range. For more information on Apogee FX plugins
please visit their website

For more information on Apogee Products,
please visit our product page

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