Ninety-nine bucks for a plug-in sure seems like a good deal. So, how about 99 bucks for two plug-ins? Sounds even better! At that price, they must be of cheap quality, right? But what if the deal sweetens: These plugs are from a company with a well-established lineage of supreme audio quality? You’re now considering the case of Focusrite’s new Midnight Plug-in Suite.
Based upon the Focusrite’s iconic ISA110 equalizer and ISA130 compressor, this new plug-in collection for VST, AU and RTAS uses the company’s latest code and DSP technology. It will run on Mac OS 10.5 or higher as well as Windows Pentium II 600 MHz and faster systems. Visually, the Midnight plugins look good — with the aesthetics of a blue brushed-aluminum faceplate — and feature analog style meters and large silver-metal knobs.
Download and installation is a breeze, and the software is activated through the Focusrite E-Store, which means no iLok is required. Each user gets four authorizations, so it can be installed on multiple systems. I have three rigs in use daily, so I like this method.
The Midnight EQ features an Output meter, which resides next to an Output Gain control (+/- 18 dB). The layout is delightfully simple, with both a fixed-position Low and High Filter, as well as Low and High Shelf with corresponding Frequency knobs. Between those sit the Low and High Mids with associated Gain (+/- 16 dB) Frequency sweep and fully variable Q knobs.
The large knobs and logical layout make it easy to use. The sound can range from edgy to smooth, and I made good use of both the high and low filters. I used it on guitars, vocals, drum loops and acoustic bass, and I found it to be a fine, general-purpose EQ. As a side note, it reminded me the Focusrite Red EQ was the first software plug-in I used (many moons ago) that visually represented the EQ curve, something we’ve all grown accustomed to. I like the fact that Midnight makes you listen to, and not look at, the EQ.
The Midnight compressor, which is fixed as a “soft knee” type, offers a clean, simple design. There are two large level meters: The first displays either Threshold In or Output Level (switchable) and the other displays Gain Reduction. There’s +/- 18 dB of In Gain, Threshold, Ratio, Attack (fast, slow, moderate), Release (and Auto Release button), and up to 40 dB (!) of Make-Up Gain. But what I really like is its continuously variable Blend control (from 100 percent Dry to 100 percent Wet).
In use on various instruments, I found the compressor to be fairly subtle — even when hit hard, it didn’t come across as aggressive or edgy. But it’s clean and effective.
With a drum loop, I played with turning the attack all the way up to slow, and setting the Release to max (4). By setting the threshold high enough that it squashed the audio, I was able to create a useful dynamic loop that “pulsed” with the snare. I had the Makeup Gain set to over 20 dB; it was a really cool effect/sound. I then turned the Blend control all the way to Dry and raised it until I liked what I heard. I wish more plug-ins had this useful Blend option.
Now, my gripes: when working in Avid Pro Tools, Midnight “takes over” the screen; you have to manually click off it to play your audio. Also, there are no presets. Presets are a great way to feel out a plugin; I’m disappointed they didn’t include any. However, Focusrite informed us they are aware of the Pro Tools issue, and a software fix will be available shortly. Also, presets are forthcoming. Aside from that, Midnight sounds, looks and feels very good. And for $99, it’s a supreme value.
Contact: Focusrite | 310-322-5500 | focusrite.com