GB SoundLab TubeMU: inexpensive Vari-MU tube compressor plug-in
If your production needs a splash of vintage compression, TubeMU by GB Sound Lab is an inexpensive way to get that. The plug-in doesn’t emulate a particular Vari-MU compressor, but rather the main characteristics of a typical such unit.
GB SoundLab TubeMU
With the way Vari-MU compressors work, the more you raise the input level, the more audio goes into the internal sidechain circuit. This increases the control voltage and therefore gain reduction. Vari-MUs are known to sound big and even, in a very musical way.
You will notice the lack of a Threshold control. The Input control is like a substitute for one – it will amplify the incoming signal but also add more of it to the internal sidechain and determine the amount of gain reduction. If your audio sounds too compressed, you can try tinkering with the Ratio control to lower the ratio of the compressed audio relative to the dry audio.
The Side Freq control adjusts the cutoff frequency of the sidechain filter. The developer encourages using your ears to determine which setting sounds good, with the hint that higher frequencies tend to reduce the pumping effect. Next to this control, you will find a switchable VU meter (Gain Reduction or Level readings) and a Comp/Limit switch.
There are also separate Dry and Wet controls. This way, you can dial in exactly how much you want from the uncompressed and compressed signals at the final stage. There, an Output control lets you determine the output gain.
All in all, TubeMU looks and sounds like a well thought-out compressor plug-in. It’s also priced very fairly.
Price and availability
TubeMU costs EUR 25 and is available in VST, VST3, and AU formats for 64-bit Windows (8.1 or later) and macOS (10.11 or later) computers. A free demo version with limitations can be downloaded alongside the PDF user manual.
Quite like the look of this, I found T-Racks and Sknote’s Vari-Mu compressors quite useful for fattening on single or multi-instrument tracks. They tend to work better on stuff that’s quite analogue or warm already. Not so good, in my experience, on stuff that’s cold or digital, still works but not as much. I use tape emulators or harmonic distortion on really cold stuff beforehand. But this compressor sounds quite good, can’t speak the video language though…..