Excite Audio Lifeline Console Review
Excite Audio releases Lifeline Console, a new channel strip plugin for macOS and Windows. The plugin is available at an introductory price of $49 (a 28% OFF discount) until June 30th, 2022.
Lifeline Console is the latest release from Excite Audio, a developer we recently covered when looking at their Lifeline Expanse LITE plugin.
As Lifeline Console ($69 value) is brand new, Plugin Boutique offers a special introductory price of £49. Don’t forget, any purchase at Plugin Boutique right now will get you a free copy of DUO and two months of access to Auto-Tune Unlimited.
It’s also worth mentioning the streamlined Lifeline Console Lite edition, which is currently available for $29 (a 40% OFF discount).
The appeal of using a channel strip plugin is that it’s a straightforward and organized way to arrange your mixing workflow.
Many developers have released channel strip plugins, which commonly emulate vintage consoles. Lifeline Console isn’t an emulation as such; it instead takes a more macro approach to recreate the function of a channel strip. It brings some core signal processing tools from a control room to a single plugin.
What is Lifeline Console?
Lifeline Console is a channel strip plugin consisting of five effects modules that offer a user-defined signal path. In other words, you can drag and drop each module anywhere you like in the chain, much like the workflow of Lifeline Expanse LITE.
There are fifteen unique algorithms between the five modules, creating 243 different combinations.
This plugin should have a broader appeal than some channel strip emulations on the market because it covers vintage to modern sounds without focusing on one particular tone. It comes with over 300 factory presets, and given the intuitive nature of the plugin, it shouldn’t be difficult to create a series of user presets for various genres/styles.
The factory presets include optimal settings for bass, guitar, keys, drums, vocals, master, and more.
The flexible interface has a few handy functions that help keep things organized. Each module has a Main page and an Advanced page. The Advanced page has many more controls, and hiding them in this way makes for a cleaner GUI and more intuitive workflow. Each module has independent volume control and a reset function that returns all module parameters to default when double-clicked.
Another interesting feature of Lifeline Console is that each module has L/R and M/S processing. In L/R, the channels are linked by default, but unlinking them allows you to adjust the left and right channels individually. The same function applies to M/S processing.
The five modules are Pre, Comp, EQ, Mod, and Wear.
The preamp features Warm, Dark, and Bright algorithms, and it’s the perfect way to add some initial color to your tone. You’ll see a saturation curve in the display highlighting where saturation is being added and not acting as any form of EQ.
Much of the preamp’s ability to color the sound centers around the Push and Pull controls. The Push knob increases the overall gain of the saturation curve, while the Pull knob reduces the wet signal gain along the frequencies of the saturation curve.
You can also adjust the Push/Pull settings by clicking and dragging up or down on the saturation curve display. The cool thing about this approach is that you can add harmonics and then pull back the gain without losing any of that new harmonic content.
Other controls include Bias, Q, Shape, Low End, and Drive.
The three EQ algorithms are Gain, Vintage, and Dirty.
Gain is a simple four-band parametric EQ, but Vintage and Dirty are a little more interesting. The Vintage algorithm is still a four-band EQ, but it adds saturation to the feedback loop. The more you boost, the more saturation is added, and the more colored your tone becomes.
Dirty is similar to Vintage, but as the name suggests, it’s dirtier. It goes beyond subtle saturation to full-on distortion.
The compression algorithms are Analogue, Transparant, and Variable.
Although not a specific emulation, the Analogue algorithm has the character of vintage hardware compressors.
Transparent won’t influence your tone much, offering a clean, modern compression. The Variable algorithm provides a great option for buses and masters when you need some cohesion to bring everything together.
On the Main page, the compressor shows controls for Threshold, Makeup, and Mix. Opening the Advanced page will uncover more of the expected compression parameters, like Ratio, Attack, Release, and Knee.
The modulation section lets you play with pitch modulation as a subtle effect or get into some cool lofi sounds.
The available algorithms are Tape, Vinyl, and Cassette, which are progressively more evident in pitch-shifting from first to last. This module allows you to control the Speed of the Wow and Flutter effects, as well as the Depth.
The Wear module adds Noise and other imperfections to your sound. It shares the same algorithm names with the Mod section, and they too get more aggressive in effect from first to last.
The Advanced page of the Wear module is split into two tabs, Noise, and Age. This module delivers the nostalgia of vintage and often unpredictable machines.
Generally, I like plugins that don’t have strict boundaries, so I like the modular approach that Excite Audio takes with their products. I also like that it’s not a direct emulation because some excellent emulations are available already, and sometimes it’s nice to start with a blank canvas.
Excite Audio pays attention to small details that make using the plugin more enjoyable, whether it’s the default parameter function or the little triangle tone-blend tool. I can’t say I’ve heard too much yet, as it’s brand new, but it sounds promising, as do Excite Audio plugins on the whole.
If you aren’t ready to commit yet, there are a few free channel strips, like Eminence from Acustica Audio and Loaded by Analog Obsession.
Lifeline Console is available in AU, VST, VST3, and AAX formats for macOS (10.9 upwards) and Windows (7 upwards).
More info: Lifeline Console / Lifeline Console Lite
Lifeline Console Review
Lifeline Console has a broader appeal than some other channel strip emulations on the market because it covers vintage to modern sounds without focusing on one particular tone. Its flexible user interface and a variety of included emulation algorithms make Lifeline Console a great option if you’re in the market for a versatile channel strip plugin.