New Toys: Apogee Symphony ECS Channel Strip

The Symphony ECS Channel Strip is a native audio plugin that was previously only available in Apogee’s Symphony Desktop on-board hardware DSP. Now this complete channel strip runs in just about any DAW with equalization, compression and saturation processing all “dialed-in” by mixing engineer Bob Clearmountain.

ECS is a smooth and clean channel I use as a kind of polish or “touch up” on any individual track in my Pro Tools mixes. Based on vintage 1970’s hardware EQs, there is a musical-sounding three-band equalizer with a high-pass filter section that can be routed into the side-chain of the compressor section. It is a thoughtful design that keeps this filter in play even though the EQ section is bypassed.

The EQ section continues with a variable 35Hz to 300Hz low frequency shelf, a 250Hz to 8kHz semi-parametric mid-range section with narrow or broad Q choices, and a 4kHz to 16kHz high frequency shelf. All three bands have variable +/- 15dB of boost/cut.

I thought the compressor section was good and somewhat pre-set in that the attack and release controls are fixed, but were well selected and contribute to its smooth operation. Ratio choices are 3:1, 5:1, and 10:1 and there is a calibrated Threshold control but I could have used a larger, calibrated Gain Reduction meter. The plugin finishes with a Wet/Dry control, Output final level, and Drive. Drive applies saturation in small doses all the way up to distortion.

I used the ECS on a bass guitar track with great results. Wet/Dry allows parallel processing without worry of phase issues. On a softly sung lead vocal that had difficult competing with a busy track, ECS shined with easy going compression and a smooth EQ curve. A small amount of Drive (1.7) lifted the vocal track up in just the right way! Awesome!

The Symphony ECS Channel Strip, now also a Native plugin, sells for $99 MSRP as a download.