Cobalt (EQ, Compressor, Preamp, Channel Strip) by Acustica Audio Review

Acustica is serious about developing plugins modeled after vintage, modern and high-end boutique gear. Acustica has replicated some of many professional all-time preferred hardware, including many devices that are not available at all or very limited in the vast plugin market of emulations. They have one of the most extensive and unique collections of carefully modeled software.

This review is part of an ongoing look at the different Acustica plugin solutions. Today we are looking at Cobalt. Cobalt is a bundle of four plugins, modeled after Luca Martegani’s boutique hardware.

Derived from Luca Martegani’s (Xelius) zero-compromise fully tube-based and hand-build boutique gear, Cobalt sets a new benchmark for in the box equalisation and compression,“said Nik Georgiev, Marketing Director, Acustica Audio. “Moreover, after combining these ‘building blocks’ we created a new hybrid impossible in the analogue domain – the first ever analogue modeled Dynamic EQ entirely based on sampling.

Luca is the manufacturer of a fantastic suite of hand-built audio equipment, defined by great sound, and quality.With Cobalt, you receive four different plugins an EQ, a compressor, a preamp, and Channel Strip & Dynamic EQ. Cobalt is one of those plugins that was modeled after specific hardware that you do not find elsewhere. Acustica did send a review copy with no strings attached.

Installation

You download and install the products after purchase. Acustica provides a tool to authenticate the plugins which you have to use. Recently Acustica has also enhanced the end user experience when downloading and installing the plugins. If you did use their services before mid-Jan 2018, you would now have a much better experience.

Acustica provides now an excellent tool to install your purchased software.

The tools also authorize the plugin through.

Sound

Cobalt as a bundled solution includes an EQ, Compressor, Preamp, and Channel Strip.

Cobalt Preamp
Cobalt Preamp introduces five selected preamps to add emotion and intensity.

Cobalt Preamp

If you are looking for the coloration only this pre-amp is for you.  Available coloration options are two mono Mic preamps (perfect for vocals), a stereo Mic preamp (this combines the two mono preamps), a stereo EQ (LM 9736 EQ) preamp,  and the final preamp which is shaped after the LM 9804 compressor.

Cobalt EQ (based on the LM 9736 Vacuum Tube)
The EQ based on an LM 9736 Vacuum Tube EQ developed by Luca Martegani has the classic options (inspired by the Pultec EQP-1a EQ) to cut and boost frequencies at a few points and added frequencies to manage on the Hi/Lo boost and cuts bands.

 

The hardware unit LM 9736 is an “old-school” passive eq around a resistive divider, using Lundahl Transformers, resistors, inductors, and capacitors. The hardware is entirely handmade and manufactured in vacuum tube topology, including the high voltage power supply. All the components in the boutique hardware are carefully selected. As there is only one hardware unit of the LM 9736 that exist this plugin emulation if you just realistic chance to use this EQ.

Cobalt EQ LM 9736

The EQ works great on a large variety of instruments and has its sweet spot with vocals, drum, and bass.LM 9736 Vacuum Tube EQ originated from a Pultec design with some appended characteristic innovations. The wide range of supported frequencies is possible as this unit compared to a Pultec has more fixed frequency points that are changed by the EQ. With this EQ you are more flexible selecting the low band you cut or boost compared to a Pultec. Results sound like a non-existing smooth Pultec. The Cobalt EQ is a 5 band full parametric equalizer.

  • Low Cut: 30 Hz to 250 Hz. Gain from 0 dB to -10 dB. Shelving plus low cut filter.
  • Low Boost: 30 Hz to 200 Hz. Gain from 0 dB to +10 dB. Shelving.
  • Hi Boost: 2 kHz to 20 kHz. Gain from 0 dB to +10 dB. Shelving.
  • Presence: 680 Hz to 7500 Hz. Gain from 0 dB to +10 dB. Peak with Q variable.
  • Hi Cut: 3 kHz to 22 kHz. Gain from 0 dB to -10 dB. Shelving plus high cut filter.

The EQ includes a preamp feature that can be pulled in to Tube saturation.

Cobalt Compressor (LM 9804 )
The compressor is a stereo channel tube compressor. When I applied the compressor, I could hear the life that this compressor is adding to a song. With the SHMod you can adjustable attack response for your audio source.

The LM 9804 hardware is capable of max. 18/20 dB of gain reduction; this range is extended considerably in its plug-in software version, and the same is true for the threshold range.

Cobalt Compressor LM 9804

The compressor shines on bass, guitar, pads, strings, and vocals tracks. When used on the master stereo track you got a phenomenal mastering compressor. Cobalt Compressor can carry your tracks up in the mix and add a punchy sound with a lot of coloration characteristics emulating a true-to-life tube glow and fullness. The compressor works on natural and compacter sounding mixes with outstanding results. It is one of the best compressors that Acustica has released overall.

Cobalt Channel Strip and Dynamic EQ
The Channel Strip and Dynamic EQ have different sections first and EQ, a sidechain EQ, a compressor and dynamic EQ. It mixes and combines a Cobalt EQ and compressor.

Cobalt Channel Strip and Dynamic EQ

The compressor has different ratios to offer a very moderate compression, a medium compression, and a higher original ratio found in Luca’s hardware.

User interface & Usability

The UI is based on the unique hardware units and offers all controls that you need to manage the plugins.

Rating:  Five out of five stars

The plugins included in Cobalt are entirely about tube mojo. The Cobalt plugins offer remarkably amazing uplifting and deliciously sounding settings.The Compressor alone is worth getting the bundle and outshines many other compressors units.The EQ is a lovely EQ and sounds excellent. The Dynamic EQ is a great mastering insert to use. With the preamp, you can add the character that comes from the included units. Overall this is an excellent packaged to add to your mixing and mastering toolkit.