Pensado Picks Plug-Ins Over Hardware

Byline: Mike Levine

Dave Pensado has had plenty of experience working with all types of processors, including many classic analog units. But surprisingly, if you gave him a choice between using the original hardware or the software equivalents, he would choose the latter in most cases. Why? “What these plug-ins do is give you the opportunity to take a classic sound and tailor it for today,” he says. “The concept is to walk a very fine line between giving listeners something that reminds them of something classic, but that also sounds new. So if you’re into retro everything, just use the originals, you’ll be fine. But if you want that plus more, the plug-ins give it to you. It’s just a more modern sound.”

One of the plug-ins that Pensado likes is the McDSP Compressor Bank CB2, a TDM plug-in that he uses to emulate the sound of a classic Fairchild compressor. Among the artists whose vocal tracks he’s used this plug-in on are Brian McKnight and Beyonce Knowles. “What I like about it over the analog Fairchild is that I have more flexibility over the controls. I can control attack and release, I can control the amount of compression [see Fig. A]. With the real Fairchild, I can’t get in the cracks enough to do what I want with Brian’s and Beyonce’s vocals. Some of the older effects are almost a one-size-fits-all type of approach. But the CB2 plug-in allows me to tailor it for each song and each vocal.”

Another example comes from Eventide. Pensado prefers the plug-in version of that company’s Harmonizer H910 (one of the components in Eventide’s Clockworks Legacy Bundle for TDM) to the original hardware unit. “The Harmonizer plug-in is better because it’s stable,” Pensado says. “A lot of the old first-generation or second-generation digital equipment had stability problems. This Harmonizer plug-in gives you that classic guitar sound, that classic instrument sound, without the stability problems. It’s just an all-around improved, but still sonically identical, version of the original.”

He says that when he’s done blind listening tests to compare the plug-ins he uses and the hardware processors they emulate, the plug-ins usually win. “When you don’t know which is which, you’ll probably pick the plug-in 70 percent of the time,” he says, “if you’re being honest with yourself.” (For more of Pensado’s observations about plug-ins, and to see more of the settings he uses, refer to “Dave Pensado’s Plug-In Secrets” at You can also contact Pensado directly by e-mail at

COPYRIGHT 2004 PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc. All rights reserved.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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