Acustica Audio offers Black, a collection of two freeware gain-staging tools for macOS and Windows.
The concept behind Black is to emulate mimic preamp behavior to provide an authentic analog flavor in the digital realm. Acustica Audio is no stranger to emulating iconic preamps, and they have a proprietary way of doing so.
What Black does, is bring together a collection of emulations that Acustica Audio hasn’t covered in any other plugins.
There are two free players, which are Black, and Black Guru. We should note that these players come with a single emulation bank, Navy Geranium. All other emulation banks are available via purchase of Black Volume A and Volume B. Each has a regular price of €99 but is currently available at the intro price of €69 (at time of writing).
The standard Black player is a slightly trimmed version of the more professional Black Guru. The Black Guru player has meters and some extra controls that aren’t included in the standard version.
You can get the free players via the Aquarius product manager after making an account on the Acustica Audio website.
Gain staging is vital and often overlooked by music-makers until they have a hundred tracks in their DAW and start working backward. But, the main interest in plugins like Black, or FrontDAW, which we mentioned recently, isn’t so much based on getting the correct dBFS levels. It’s more about getting the color that comes from a real analog channel strip.
Increasing the gain on Black will affect the harmonic distortion as a real mixer would. With Autogain engaged, increasing the gain triggers much more of that non-linear behavior associated with real analog. Without Autogain, increasing the gain will deliver more volume than color.
You can be both subtle or aggressive with Black. Once you start to push beyond 0-6 dB, you’ll hear a far more obvious impact. Keep pushing towards 12 dB and can begin to alter the phase of the left and right.
You can also change the Mic or Line channels, and doing so will offer a slight variation on your current settings.
To add to that, you also get a pair of High Pass and Low Pass filters to remove any unwanted content.
In terms of realistically emulating analog preamp behavior, I think Acustica Audio clearly knows what they are doing. I think Black, even in its free form, could serve many users well.
If I had to highlight any issue, it would be that Acustica Audio takes an overly convoluted approach to explain products and processes.
As a writer, I’m certain that I’ve been guilty of over-complicating or even over-simplifying things at times. The hope is that, on average, I deliver a conversational text that’s easy to understand at most levels while providing the most vital information.
I worry that text, rather than sound, may put off some potential users before they even get started, which would be a shame!
IMPORTANT: Black FREE players are available for installation via the Aquarius download manager!