Preamp emulations are a bit of an Acustica Audio specialty, playing an important role in its plug-in offerings. It was perhaps only a matter of time before the manufacturer caved in to its obsession and dedicated a whole plug-in suite to the matter. Black is exactly that. It has a bunch of emulated rare, expensive preamps bundled in two paid-for packages. In the meantime, Acustica Audio is giving away a free version with a single preamp model to get you a feel for it.
Acustica Audio Black
This suite focuses on gain staging, with tools to control the amount of signal going between your tracks. If you use Ableton Live, think of the Utility tool. Many producers prefer doing volume automations from the Utility tool and leaving the faders for mix balance. The Black plug-in is something like this, but with preamp emulations and options for saturation and filtering.
As the gain increases, Black introduces harmonic distortion – it’s most of what gives analog that warm, imperfect sound which our ears associate with recorded music. The filters help tame the bass and treble aspects of the saturation. As for the preamp emulations, simply select your preferred audio character. The more tracks you cook up like this, the more pronounced coloration you get. You likely won’t hear any, if much difference from a single instance.
Black Standard and Guru
The Black suite exists in two versions: standard and Black Guru, the latter geared towards advanced applications. The basic version is free and offers a single emulation. It can be expanded with the two paid extensions – Volume A and Volume B. They have 5 additional preamp emulations each. Acustica notes that none of these preamps have been emulated in software before. So if you want to reach beyond classic console preamp coloration, Black is one thing to try.
Price and availability
Acustica Audio Black is available for free in its basic version with one preamp model (Navy Geranium). The extensions “Volume A” and “Volume B” normally cost EUR 99 each but, until August 26 2021, you will pay EUR 69 for each.
The plug-in works under macOS 10.14 or later and Windows 10 in VST, AU and AAX formats. A demo version and a PDF user manual can be downloaded from the product page. The manufacturer’s Aquarius software handles installation and licensing.