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URS Classic Console Strip Pro

Nov 30, 2007
URS is a company that prides it self on recreating vintage hardware emulations with a classic hardware look and feel while staying true to the original sound in their plug-in collections. Their classic console Strip Pro follows that philosophy with an ultra clean and simple interface where the GUI is divided into clear easy to see sections so that your eyes can follow the signal path at a glance instead of getting lost in a crazy mix of pretty colors and graphics that you sometimes find elsewhere in software plug-ins.
In the URS promo they state "you the engineer create your dream console choosing your favorite algorithms from the Input Stage, Compressor and EQ selections". Well for once this is actual fact rather than marketing hype promo, read on and see for yourself.
How Doth The Signal Flow
    To the left of the GUI (URS pic 1) we start with the master section where you'll find input/output knobs, a signal flow section with bypass and popup menus to choose one of more than 30 types of emulation including 15ips and 30ips tape, various input transformer options and a colorless digital mode along with a 0-200% intensity slider which allows you to adjust the input stage amount from 0% which adds no change to the signal, 100% (where the sample was taken), or you can boost it up to 200% for amplifying the overall effect.
    There are buttons to bypass the entire plug-in, the filters, compressor or EQ sections individually, plus a phase reversal switch and thoughtfully a choice for diagonal or circular style mouse control of all parameters so you can work the way you like.
    To the right of the master section you'll find the compressor section including a long popup with no less than 60 various compressor emulations. The possibilities are quite impressive to say the least, but one overlooked aspect is that when using, say, a 15" monitor running at 1042x768, the aforementioned popup's contents don't all fit on the screen and worse there is no way to get to the bottom 11-12 entries period as the popup doesn't scroll* ouch!
    Back to the compressor, it features standard controls such as compression ratio, attack, release, knee, threshold and gain make up plus a switch to change the EQ signal flow either pre or post.
    *URS informed that they optimized Strip Pro for Monitors that support 1600X1200 and 1920X1200, and even better that this issue will be addressed in the next update.
TIP
    If you do run into this problem try clicking the down arrow on the right of the Compressor drop down menu which will allow you to advance to the next preset down in the list. Also, holding Shift and then clicking the down arrow on the right of the drop down will advance to the next preset in the list. Below the compressor section live a high and low pass filter with individual on/off and pre/post switches (of the compressor) or to be used in a sidechain along with a switch for being keyed via an internal/external input. Save for the VU and peak style meters on top, the rest of the GUI on the far right is dedicated to the EQ section where you'll find four bands each with independent gain, Q, frequency and bypass controls.
    There's a HF and LF EQ, both of which you can set to either peak or shelving, plus two midrange bands that nicely allow for overlapping frequencies when needed. At first glance the EQ sections appears to be a pretty plain vanilla offering until you discover the 5 emulations (1951, 1967, 1970, 1972 & 1980) each of which can be set to a different type for each band, clearly an innovative feature rarely seen (so far) in most plug-in EQs, though I imagine this will be changing as more and more people discover what URS are up to.
The Nitty Gritty & The Sound
    I work primarily in Pro Tools HD, though on occasion I also use my old alma mater Logic or other times its BIAS Peak for a quick 2 channel edit or Audio Hijack Pro for example when I need to grab some system audio for a project.
    All of these apps support various plug-in formats such as Audio Units, RTAS, TDM or VST and all of which URS has wisely chosen to support on both the Mac and the PC platforms. They use the ever present iLok copy protection scheme that other than having to wait for your authorizations to become available online, seems to be a pretty solid method of keeping a company's intellectual property intact with minimal impact on the user, though I must tell you I do hate dongles with a passion!
    Installation was a breeze and I was up and running within minutes after receiving my authorization codes. The bulk of my tests were done on my now vintage Dual 2.0 G5 running OS X 10.4.9 with Pro Tools HD 7.3.1cs4 and 3.5 gigs of SDRAM running in 44.1/24 bit mode, but I also ran a slew of track count tests on my 17" MacBook Pro running OS X 10.4.10 with 2 gigs of memory.

    I should also mention that URS allows for full 192 kHz support for the TDM, RTAS and AudioSuite and the Audio Units and VST versions as well. With many EQ and dynamics plug-ins you only find only a few presets (if any) to get you going, but not so with the URS Strip Pro. There are 9 folders full useful starting points and also 10 basic essential presets of the various emulations.
    Plus a great selection of user presets awaits you at the URS Classic Console Strip Pro Preset Blog where respected engineers like Dave Pensado (Christina Aguilera, the Black Eyed Peas, Destiny's Child, Missy Elliott, Ice Cube, Lil' Kim); Brian Malouf (Queen, Madonna, Seal); Phil "Phizzle" Tan (Jermaine Dupri, Usher, Nelly, Snoop Dog, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson) and many others have posted their own Strip Pro creations for you to learn from, plus you can share your own once you get up and running.
    It's a simple idea that connects URS users with one another, plus it's fun and offers you a great range of highly useful presets at no extra charge. If you are wondering what kind of hit your DSP will take, my HD rig currently has one Core card and one Accel card, so running Pro Tools with a 48 voice playback engine I was able to get 48 mono Strip Pro instances along with 1 stereo instance on the Master fader and still have room for a WAVES Renaissance Reverb via TDM.

    Native wise with RTAS I was able to get 22 mono Strip Pro instances before the dreaded "out of power" alerts started popping up. However when using the supplied URS Strip which gives you a stripped down compressor and EQ section (see URS pic 2) without all the emulation choices I was able to insert 48 mono instances with lots of room to spare. When trying the same thing natively via RTAS I was also able to get 48 mono channels inserted running albeit a tad bit sluggishly with screen updates like page flips and window scrolling. Next I ran a track count test using Logic 7.2.3 on my Intel based MacBook Pro and able to get no less than 60 mono instances with room for even more.
    Yes my disk I/O and cpu usage meters were slammed but nonetheless everything was playing back just fine with no GUI sluggish at all. A big sigh here as it's looking more and more like it's time to upgrade my main studio Mac to a Quad processor Intel Mac but geez oh man I sure don't look forward to the migration penalties when that day comes.
    About now you are probably wondering, "so how this plug-in sound?" Well I'll get to my opinions about that in a moment but why not download a FREE 10 day demo version and find out for yourself.
    URS do ask you to register and you will need an available iLok dongle but other than that it won't cost you a cent to try out this plug-in in your own studio environment and see if its really for you. Back to the sound, when I first inserted the URS Strip Pro I started by using it on an entire mix via a Master fader in Pro Tools, this way I could quickly hear the differences between the various presets and see what they added or took away from a mix I already knew. Some of the presets added a warm and phat character to the mix; some added a cool effect such as Telephone which instantly added a classic telephone-like quality, very nice, boy I do love that filter section especially when using them via automation as you can create some very useful sound design FX with just a few mouse clicks.
    One thing that eluded me a bit is the tape emulations*, which even at 200% intensity produced very little change as compared with other tape emulation plug-ins I have used in the past. Maybe it's too subtle or maybe it's just not a strong point but I was hoping for something a bit more noticeable with this type of emulation.
    The compressor presets are vast and varied and can add a hyped effect full of classic pumping with ease and also shoot your levels over the top very easily so proceed with caution.
    There is a series of Room presets that really showcase some of Strip Pro's unique possibilities, such as the Mono Room and Room 1-4 settings that hype various EQ bands while subtly changing the compressor and filter settings.

    URS had this to say about the Strip Pro Tape Input Stages: "We have strived to make the URS Strip Pro Tape Input Stages and Compression as close to Analog Tape as possible. Many other Tape emulators sound more like the type of compression offered from a cassette tape recorder.
    If the $50k 2" Analog Tape recorder/reproducers and/ or $20k 1/2" 2 Track Master Mixdown Tape recorders sounded that bad no professional recording studio would have ever used them. So yes the effects are subtle. Try listening with headphones or to a mix with the Strip Pro Tape settings used on every track. The effect will then be much more apparent." I am not yet familiar with other URS plug-ins (of which there are many!) so I can't speak to how the Strip Pro compares to their other compressors and EQs, but I can say that overall it sounds like they captured the "really usable presets" of the vintage gear they were modeling as this plug-in always added a very warm and clear boost or cut wherever needed so that with a few quick knob twists one can make a dull track or a full mix sound huge yet you will also find the Strip Pro to be very subtle and always transparent.
    To my ears they have captured the really usable attributes of all the vintage gear they've worked so hard to emulate, which you'll no doubt hear as well once you start working with your own ears and not just calling up factory presets.
    So what processors are being emulated here?
    URS won't state what gear they used for various reasons, OK fine, but as someone who has been into the world of vintage emulation tech for some years now I can safely say that much of the vintage audio devices used in creating Strip Pro's algorithms are quite rare, so much so that many folks will never get to hear the originals as they are just not available. But having closely read through the specs (see the URS STRIP PRO SIDEBAR) I'd almost bet money there are the likes of an Altec 436, Crane Song STC-8, Fairchild 670, possibly a Gates Sta-Level, the old RCA BA6A, maybe a UA 175, LA2A and or an 1176, plus I am certain a classic collection of API, DBX, and Neve odds and ends are all lurking within this plug-in's code.
    Having said all of that, how does one then compare a plug-in like Strip Pro against the vintage gear its claiming to emulate?
    Not so easy is it, well try this thought on for size. If you only had one plug-in to use for your EQ and dynamics needs I can guarantee Strip Pro would do the job and then some. But alas in this day and age we have access to more plug-in tools than many of us we know what to do with, and almost every one of them does something cool, its just that some of them do something even better than being cool their a must have tool that works!
    The URS Strip Pro falls clearly within this latter category.
The Bottom Line
    A little factoid name dropping here, renown engineer Mike Shipley (Maroon 5, Green Day, Nickelback, Aerosmith, Shawn Colvin, Tom Petty etc...) was instrumental in helping with the design of Strip Pro and it shows as this plug-in offers so many innovative ideas that only a seasoned mastering engineer would know to ask for making the URS Strip Pro a great addition to any DSP toolkit. But then again this plug-in is not without its faults as I do wish there were a graphic popup or some sort of graphic editing at least for the EQ section as after all this is a software plug-in and not a piece of hardware (great emulations or not.)
    It would be nice to have bit more information about exactly what hardware is being emulated, plus the small screen issues I mentioned earlier do present a problem for those with a lower rez smaller screen monitor, but these are things that can be addressed with an update which is something I have yet to touch on.
    URS mentions in their promo that "the URS Classic Console Strip Pro's unified GUI allows room to add more Input Stages, Compressor and EQ algorithms as they are developed."
    Hmm, sounds like room to grow to my ears, yep I like that idea a lot and hope that URS will address some of the issues above but also keep adding new algorithms so this vintage plug-in processor will just get better and better. Setting the minor issues above aside, when you consider how flexible this plug-in is, that each band of EQ can be selected from any of the five included 1951-1980 classic hardware models, add to that 60 compressor presets and you have an almost limitless (creatively speaking) set of input stage, compressor and EQ combinations mixed with a an easy to use and reasonably efficient *DSP engine (*the included Classic Console Strip will help with that if you need it), plus a massive amount of presets and clearly you've got one killer channel strip.
    The bottom line when buying any new tool that is going to cost you some hard earned money is simple; you have to ask yourself, "is this what I really need?" At an MSRP of $1,499.99 for the TDM version and $749.99 for the Native version the URS Strip Pro is certainly not a cheap investment, but it is one that I doubt you will ever regret making.
URS STRIP PRO SIDEBAR

    * Two 1967 Americian Channel Comp presets
    * Five 1970 British Channel Comp presets
    * Two 1970 British Channel Limiter presets
    * Five 1980 British VCA Channel Comp presets
    * Five Fet presets
    * Four Opto presets
    * Room Mic preset
    * Four Stress presets
    * Five Tape Compression presets
    * Twelve Tube Compression presets
    * Seven American VCA presets
    * Two Very-New presets
    * Three Class A Buss Comp presets
    * Three URS Classic Console Strip presets

    Presently 6 Side chain presets are included:
    * Six Classic VCA De-esser presets
    * Two Drum VCA Ducker presets
    * British Talkback Mic Preset
    * Telephone preset

    Each EQ band presently selects from either:
    * 1951 Program EQ - Tube
    * 1967 Console EQ - American 4 Band
    * 1970 Console EQ - British 3 band Class A
    * 1972 Console EQ - British 4 band Class A/B
    * 1980 Console EQ - British 4 Band

    Platform Specific Features:
    * Pro Tools HD and LE 7.x.x and Tiger OSX 10.4.10 PPC and Intel UB compatibility
    * Pro Tools HD and LE 6.9.2 and Tiger OSX 10.3.9 PPC compatibility
    * Pro Tools HD and LE 6.x.x - 6.9 and Panther OSX 10.2.1 PPC compatibility
    * Pro Tools M-Powered LE version 7.x.x compatibility
    * Macintosh OSX TDM, RTAS, VST and Audio Units supported!
    * Windows XP TDM, RTAS and VST supported!
    * Full Pro Tools TDM support for Pro Tools|HD Accel and Pro Tools|HD
    * Full 192 kHz support for TDM, RTAS and AudioSuite versions
    * Full D Command, ProControl, Control|24, Command|8, 003 and Digi 002 support
    * Full ICON Console Control Surface support including center section Dynamics panel
    * Supports Mbox 2 Pro Mbox 2, Mbox Mini, 003, 003 Rack, Digi 002, Digi 002 Rack, Pro Tools|24 MIX, Pro Tools|HD and Pro Tools|HD Accel and M-Audio Interfaces.br>

    Mikail Graham
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