Today we’ll be checking out the newest plugin from Fuse Audio Labs, VPRE-2C, which is an emulation of a 1950s tube preamp of the same name. Fuse claims that it will “enrich your recordings with an authentic tube vibe in the most intuitive way.” Did they hit the mark? Let’s find out!
Fuse Audio Labs VPRE-2C opens to a convincing picture of a vintage tube preamplifier, complete with the silkscreened lettering, pointer knobs and heavy-duty switches. When “powered on,” the output tube on the far right glows orangeish-red. The cap covers in the image even have a vintage-looking patina. All six of the controls are available at-a-glance. Overall, an attractive and simple interface.
VPRE-2C has a simple, clean, what-you-see-is-what-you-get set of controls that will feel familiar to anyone that has ever used a preamp. Let’s take a look at the controls in detail:
Gain, Tone and Boost
The Gain control in VPRE-2C ranges from zero to twenty. Zero through about ten increases saturation and midrange warmth, while settings above ten add an increasing breakup that becomes truly dirty around the fifteen mark. By the time you hit twenty it’s a full-on distortion, heavily centered in the midrange frequencies.
(Updated 2-16-2020) In my first iteration of this review, I said that I couldn’t perceive much of a difference when employing the tone control. After publishing, I had a few conversations with users of the plugin as well as the plugin’s author and was given some pointers on how to better use the tone knob. When running VPRE-2C through a bass track, which I had not done originally, the difference was immediately apparent. Also, through some A/B testing I found the tone control to make a subtle but useful difference at higher gain settings. I stand by my original summation that the tone control is subtle, but now see that it is more useful than I found it to be in my original review.
(It should be noted that this reconsideration did not change the overall scoring of my review, as I still feel that VPRE-2C is a 5-star product. Please check out my Review Policy If you have questions about how reviews are scored and my review reconsideration guidelines.)
Boost takes the Gain control and puts it on steroids. With the Boost turned on the breakup starts much lower Gain levels, and becomes a full-on fuzz by fifteen on the Gain. I really enjoyed the contrast of setting the plugin to the same Gain on both channels and only setting the Boost on one.
Mix, Trim and Power
The last three controls are self-explanatory: Mix is a simple blend control that controls dry/wet. Trim is a master gain control that affects total output of the plugin. Power is a straight bypass control. I found adjusting the Mix and Trim to be a fun way to change the overall character of the plugin.
The best way I can describe using VPRE-2C is that it’s subtle – until it’s not. At its lower gain levels, the difference is almost imperceptible on its own, however, when added into a mix the difference becomes more apparent. I opened a track I’m working on and added VPRE-2C to the signal path to test it out, and can confirm that low-gain settings add a pleasing warmth to the midrange that helps the vocal pop through the mix.
At higher gain, especially with the Boost enabled, VPRE-2C goes from gritty to downright dirty, adding in a delicious breakup at around 15 on the dial that is simply infectious. I plugged in my studio guitar and was very pleased with the tonal variety I was able to get with VPRE-2C alone. Then, by adding VPRE-2C into my effects chain on a guitar track, I was able to bring out a midrangey warmth that was great for soloing in conjunction with other plugins.
One very cool, and perhaps unintended use that I found was stacking the plugin. I put 5 instances of VPRE-2C in each channel of a guitar riff and cranked them all up to the max, which gave me the dirty
Hear it in Action
Below are two samples of Fuse Audio Labs VPRE-2C in action, plus a third sample with the plugin turned off for reference. The first sample is of the ten instances stacked five per channel that I mentioned in the previous section, and the second is a single instance per channel set to about 16 gain with no boost:
Fuse Audio Labs VPRE-2C Review – The Bottom Line
In my day of testing I found VPRE-2C to be useful for vocals, guitar, bass, and keyboard virtual instruments. I feel that Fuse Audio Labs VPRE-C2 is a true value that I’m looking forward to using on my tracks from now on.
VPRE-2C is an attractive, fun, WYSIWYG-style plugin at a solid price point. Though I found the Tone control to be a bit subtle for my taste, subtle does not equal bad – when stacked, the Tone control helped create a very cool stereo image, and the Boost control takes this plugin to the next level with gritty warmth.
If you want to demo or purchase Fuse Audio Labs’ VPRE-2C, here’s a link: