Metalcore producer Joey Sturgis has developed JST, an interesting line of super-affordable plug-ins seemingly aimed at heavy music creators, though they promise utility far beyond genre-based boundaries. I recently downloaded Gain Reduction Deluxe, essentially a colorful compressor with a unique range of controls.
Visually, a single large VU lights up when the unit is engaged, indicating up to -20 of gain reduction. Curiously, this On (bypass) control is post Input level (-96 to +24 dB), which allows for easier in/out comparisons. There is no Threshold control, so Input works in accordance with Slay (ratio) to achieve gain reduction. Slay also seems to add distortion on its own, as ratios are increased. This distortion is further controlled by some interesting options; the output Gain control (from 0 to +36 dB) begins to saturate at +27 dB (with no worries as it’s marked on the legend and numerical control values can be manually typed in, an option I highly value). Its distortion/saturation isn’t the bright/irritating type; it’s more thick and wooly so that Body control is welcome, with its ability to roll off up to -10 dB of bottom end. All this sonic color screams for parallel processing and the Mix control provides such blending. If that's not enough, there is a Lo-Fi switch that engages that classic “big mid peak cradled by two bandpasses” for easy walkie-talkie and AM radio effects.
For heavy rock and metal vocals, Gain Reduction Deluxe is a one-stop-shop. Start out with a thick, dark dynamic mic (like a Shure SM7B or E-V RE320); hit a clean, fast preamp (or maybe a Neve-type 1073) to capture all the rounded-off detail; insert GRD on the track and quickly control EQ, dynamics and the amount of grit—all in one plug-in. Here's a client's poorly recorded heavy-metal vocal, processed with only GRD: http://www.soundcloud.com/pro-audio-review-magazine/jst-gain-reduction-deluxe-webclip.
Clean bass DI turns into a growly behemoth using the same configuration as above, albeit without much of the body rolled-off. Already distorted guitars can be further dirtied (without top-end nastiness or bloated mud) by using a little Slay or Gain saturation, a touch of Body filtering and approximately a 90/10 dry/wet blend at Mix. Whole mixes (or subgroups) can be saturated or overdriven in a similar way, although such sensitive work can get out of hand easily and patience is required.
Like all of JST’s plug-ins, the prices are all lower than you’d expect; at $59, Gain Reduction Deluxe is either a fun diversion, a versatile tool you'll use daily, or a secret weapon (if you're into metal, hardcore and punk).
Joey Sturgis Tones