CAT IN THE BAG OR MAYBE A RABBIT IN THE MAGIC HAT?

Many users of plugins produced by Acustica Audio quite firmly felt the second-half of 2016.

 

SAND, CORAL, LIME... Appeared suddenly and effectively raised the bar among all enhusiasts of the technology based on "Vectorial Voltera Kernells".

Each of the above-mentioned plugins proved to be worth the money.

LIME for example brought us the technology called "ULTRAMATCH", by which the Italians created probably the best so far software compressor... 

Despite strongly increased activity of publishing, and despite the steadily expanding and more diverse catalog of AQUA plugins, everyone impatiently waiting for one more unique product...

December came. As most of you, I was wondering what exactly will these upcoming Christmas would actually be? 

In the end, this is a special time that everybody anyway usually remember... Time of nostalgia, love. Time of hope...

Since a good few months there were some rumors about the appear of new fourth version of Nebula.

Somewhere in my heart I was hoping that maybe later this year, that perhaps in this exceptional period we finally get it.

In the end, at this time of year the impossible becomes possible, right? 

So with bated breath I watched the forum of Acustica Audio. Days passed and the atmosphere became more hot. 

Finally, this day came... December 24 and...

Among the smell of Christmas cakes appeared "She". The long-awaited fourth Nebula!

I do not know whether the date of its appearing is the work of pure chance, or intricately planned action.

Whatever, the true facts are that the end of the 2016 year by many (including myself) will be remembered as the time in which the fourth edition of Nebula finally saw the light of day.

The fourth edition of the plugin as highly regarded as controversial. Plugin, which some users want to change.

The change allowing for more while maintaining the same effective and useful solutions...

Nebula split users like no other plugin before. What is interesting it split,  not because of its undoubted quality and an extremely wide range of applications, but paradoxically because of its power which from the beginning would require some sacrifices and (for some users) far-reaching (and difficult to accept) compromises.

I met Nebula some time ago (on the occasion of my review of its third commercial version) and I must admit that, despite many often conflicting opinions, "she" very quickly appealed to me.

From the beginning I had no trouble accepting both its workflow and rules which had to be followed to bring out the maximum of its capabilities. I accepted her limitations, assimilated all the rules of "her" game. 

Few moments later, with all the power I learned about the latent potential in it. Therefore, I admit that I was afraid of what will be its fourth edition. Are the creators will not go too far?

Expectations were huge. A lot of pressure for the Acustica Audio and Nebula another carnation has become not only a matter of honor, but also a kind of to be or not to be...

IN JUST A REMINDER WHAT NEBULA EXACTLY IS

 

 

Nebula is an amazing digital to analog hybrid, closed in a VST plugin that can be multiple devices. A true chameleon, which is exactly "that" what we need in currently work on the mix.

Nebula can be a suitable paint to color our project. Spice through which our mix acquires taste. If necessary, it becomes a powerful analog console...

Nebula is the best equalizers, magnetic tapes, preamplifiers, modulating effects and even reverbs!

Is that the end of its possibilities? No! Because the new Nebula brings to us the magic of the real analog compressors!

Nebula is so many devices that will never spoil and always sound just as good as we need!

Whatever it is, in all its skins it falls out really great! No other plugin does not affect so beneficially at the final result of our work. Truly unique and interesting plugin. The only as effective bonding together the world of analogue and digital.

I must noted that, for me, even the previous version of Nebula was a very well designed plugin.

Plugin with really great potential. The idea which seemed to appeared far ahead of its time. 

The tool unusually successful, which in my opinion require fine-tuning in just a few aspects.

Nebula 4 must therefore be even better and even more powerful...

AA customers wanted a better optimization allowing for a significant reduction in latency and efficient use of the program at a slightly weaker machines. They wanted precision and faithful compression, the ability to obtain more useful distortion, but above all... The ability to simultaneously load several instances of equalizer programs. Here you are the wishlist, for the fulfillment of which everybody waited. Does this all happen? In sequence...

First of all, Nebula 4 is no update!

Acustica Audio quite clearly declared that the N4 is a brand new stand-alone product. We should treat it as a kind of rebot of the series. Nebula 3 in this case does not require uninstalling and can easily coexist with the new fourth version of the plugin. The question is whether having a new Nebula is still reasonably necessary to leave the previous (third) version on the drive in our computers?

It's hard to say, because the older library (in any event, the vast majority) has to be backward compatible which naturally means that in the latest version we can put all our beloved additional libraries.

So why two Nebula? Perhaps just in case. For example, if for some reason any of our older favorite libraries did not want to load in N4. You have to admit that this is an argument.

Naturally, all the new (both already available and intended to future release) library will not work on older Nebula.

N4 presents new technology and thus new opportunities that are not possible to obtain using previous versions of the main program.

 

HOW ACTUALLY IS THE NEW NEBULA

 

Both the download and installation process cunning smoothly. My DAW easily recognize the plug so it's time to start and... here suddenly appears rasp...

Last time we could safely install the plugin where we only had a willingness to it.

Admittedly now we also have the opportunity to choose the disk and installation directory, but it seems that in order to enjoy the proper functioning of the N4, it must be installed in the indicated default folder.

Installed on another drive despite several attempts and different configurations simply did not work.

It is certainly something that the creators of the Acustica Audio must pay attention, because as long as N4 does not take up much space, the additional libraries very quickly take up the space on our system disks. 

N4 installed by default directory launched without any hitch and problems. Gui came quickly. Authorization went smoothly. So I can start the first inspection...

The changes can be seen at first glance.

 

The interface was significantly facelifted. Modern, interesting design, which can be inspiring and at the same time still looks familiar. The GUI is also significantly larger and therefore more readable. The interface also changed its color. Instead red, now we get more neutral, muted silver gray, which fits very well with the latest trends. 

 

N4 visually perfect match for both modern DAW and operating systems based on touch screens and moving windows.

 

Fortunately, it was decided not to break the well-known and proven convention. Interface although heavily refreshed, 

still has all the elements that will instantly be recognized by the users of the previous version.

 

Yes, the interface is different but certainly not deter the enthusiasts of the past one (which I include himself).

Will the new GUI has some disadvantages?

 

Well, not really. As you know, everyone likes something different. So It is quite a subjective thing. 

 

The previous red in my opinion had a certain something. It was smaller but in some way (at least for me) it was a little more elegant. I do not know whether it is necessary to use here so large LED In and Out meter, which (even when are not active) for my tastes are a bit too colorful so the GUI looks a bit like a toy. Of course, this is only my purely subjective opinion which in any case does not affect the functionality and ease of use of the plugin.

Maybe I'm just too accustomed to the previous red interface?  

Generally GUI which is provided with N4 can be assessed as pros.

Those users who are disturbed by the previous interface will get the opportunity to "clothes him" in additional dedicated skin borrowed straight from the AQUA series plugins, which makes a big change to a specific (and for some hard to accept) original workflow of Nebula programs.

When it comes to usability, N4 runs very smoothly. It's faster. Time of charging programs is really small.

Everything works stable which is a big plus considering that this is the first (sort of pilot) version of the program.

 

In addition to load the various skins. At our disposal was given a special internal search engine, which is a very useful feature greatly improving the ergonomics and speed of work.

N4 can now not only sound and behave as various types of analog hardware, it can also be suitably changed their appearance. So, all aesthetes, who while working on the mix are also guided by the sense of sight, can now experience more pleasant and enjoyable use of Nebula which from now on may deceptively resemble other well known conventional VST plugins.

The structure of internal folders in the root directory of the main program also looks slightly different than before.

Each of well-known manufacturers of additional libraries (so-called third party developers). from the very beginning received a proper, dedicated personal folder in which we can put the selected library of the third party developer.

This solution will help to keep the perfect order in the internal structure of the files. It will also allow for faster optimization and identify the contents, and convenient removal of unused libraries.

The new Nebula works really nicely. Nothing hangs, nothing is booming. I have opened all my older libraries without any problems. Loading programs do not cause a notable clipping, or any other kind of trouble in the terms of volume jumping. Now is much more difficult to make a very unpleasant artifacts that previously felt quite strongly when crossed the acceptable level of 0 dB. Of course the corresponding gain staging still is a key parameter for the proper functioning of Nebula, but it seems that this time the engine much better cope with situations in which it is exceeded allowable signal. Our monitors are so much more secure...

Let us now turn to what we all impatiently waited, that is...

 

 

HOPES VS REALITY

 

One of the most anticipated improvements was the possibility to simultaneously load several instances of Nebula programs. So we could get a complete equalizer with a preamp section and all relevant frequencies of the eq of our chose. Is the new Nebula finally gives us such an opportunity? Not so and yes...In any event, not at this time.

What does this convoluted and vague answer mean?

To make a better explaination what I mean, let me cite some (derived from quantum physics) phenomenon called "Schrödinger's Cat" which may be defined as the kind of thought experiment, a bit like the phenomenon of paradox. 

In a straight line saying that there is something and something is not at the same time.

It is a phenomenon that in my opinion in the best way illustrate the answer to the above question, because the new Nebula indeed will give us that opportunity. When will it happen? Really soon. Acustica Audio ensures that we will get it in February!

Unfortunately. As the proverbial devil used to stuck in the details, in February ends also a special promotion, which includes a very attractive price of N4. Although it can not be ruled out its lightweight extension, but... Such a solution may grieve those who are waiting with the purchase of Nebula for the introduction of the above-mentioned functions. 

Those, who have decided to purchase N4 without waiting for developments already eagerly rubbing their hands. 

Another no less important novelty is the emergence of an effective high-quality compression, which thanks to the new engine are now clearly improved! N4 brings us to a whole new level of dynamics processors.

Yes, the real compression on board of Nebula is now possible! So it's time to direct a broad and sincere smiles towards these third party developers who seemed to make a really good compressors already in the previous Nebula. Please give us the updates!

According to the assurances by Acustica Audio, thanks to the new technological solutions in addition to a completely new perspective on the issue of compression, further improvement will also be possible to the equalizers (yet considered to be one of the strongest points of Nebula). The question that immediately comes to mind is, if it really is possible to get an even better Nebula equalizers? Well, it looks like the answer is yes! For improving the equalizers is responsible the brand new and even more advanced sampling system!

Open and still not explained question is the ability to make some useful saturation and distortion...

Is N4 will be able to generate a much saturated, useful distortion, which would be highly useful especially in the context of the sampled preamps stuff? This question I can not answer at this moment. Everything should clarify with the launch of the first library of new preamps developed and optimized for N4 which according to my information is already in the schedule of products ready for release.

The use of computer resources also has been considerable improvement and is no longer much of a problem.

Of course, the technology used by Nebula engine still requires a large amount of fuel, but comparing together the new and the previous nebula (which the rest is not a particular surprise) in terms of performance N4 looks much better. Performance has increased by about 25-30% which, taking into account the requirements of the technology used by the engine I think is a very good result. In terms of latency also it shows improvement, but still N4 is a plugin serving mainly to the mix, and post-production tasks...

It is time to discuss the content of the new Nebula...

 

WHAT EXACTLY WE GET AT THIS MOMENT

 

I'll start with perhaps the biggest surprise of N4... With the fourth Nebula we get a brand new plugin, which is both an extension of the AQUA line and the first official library created for the purpose of N4.

The plugin which according to the authors is worth the half of the current promotional price of N4.

What it is and where exactly did the mysterious rose, which at this time of year no one probably did not expect?

ROSE, because so is called the newest member of the AQUA family is a very successful compressor, and in truth even two different compressors.  The first one is a very special hardware-like dynamics processor loosely based on the mechanisms known from the cult optical type compressor. However ROSE in any case is not a clone of the classic construction, but a sampled device based on a completely new manual design of the hardware that was built with the aim of Rose! This Compressor offers us all what we can expect from racial optical compressor...

 

Warm distinctive sound, ease of use and very musical attack and release.

ROSE does not give us one hundred percent of sound reproduction typical of conventional optical dynamics processors like 2A. Of course, it has some elements characteristic for this type of construction however, remember that this is a compressor designed from the ground up which in assumption was not to be a reproduction of the classics, but totally independent design with its own distinct character and of course its own unique sound.

The second compressor available in ROSE also is a reincarnation of handmade hardware design created especially for this plugin. F mode brings us an original and very interesting version of an extremely popular type of compressor known colloquially as FET. As each unit of this type, this construction is far faster and more aggressive. 

Invaluable for fast vocal takes, very useful both in the mixing of drums and when working with a bass guitar.

 

If you are looking for a compressor, by which will you get a strong and true parallel compression, your mission is over. Seek no more and reach for ROSE.

Sonically, mode F oscillates somewhere between a classic 76 (blue stripe version) and a more modern Disto design type. Worth noting is the possibility of further intervention in the nature and shape of the sound of both ROSE compressors.

The option of turn off and turn on the preamp section in both compressors can easily affect the tonal character of the plug. By using a highly regarded and free package of Henry Olonga we are able to transform ROSE to a number of other well-known compressors of the world.

Both compressors are behaving very well. Really extreme values still can be useful.

Compression obtained with ROSE sounds much better than it did in the case of any of the older dynamics programs present in the previous third Nebula. True analog flavor difficult to achieve with other algo compressors can make a really big difference. To make a long story short...

They say that there is no rose without thorns. Well... it seems that now is at least one.

A few lines earlier I mentioned that ROSE was also optimized for the new N4. So that we are able in practice to test the capacity of the new Nebula to implement additional GUI.

After selecting one of the ROSE programs available for Nebula the lower part of the default Nebula interface turn into independent interface which looks like the plugin version of ROSE. The only difference here is the lack of ability to influence the PRE section. Of course, we can still also use the default interface of N4 and with it the traditional typical Nebula editing of the loaded program parameters. To go to the classic editing mode we just have to press edit.

With the commercial release of the previous Nebula we usually got a dedicated, special, quite extensive (more than 8GB) library of programs. It is no different in the case of N4. Those who count on a completely new library may however feel (at least for the moment) a little disappointed.  

 

True, Acustica Audio promises gradual replenishment of library programs already created for the new engine, which (like the ROSE) more fully appear to us the possibilities of the new Nebula. At present however, the contents of the package libraries attached to the commercial release of N4 (excluding the library containing the compressors) seems to be just slightly refreshed version of an earlier (available together with the previous third nebula) library package. 

Is such a move is right? I do not know. Maybe this time the AA Team decided to grade some voltage, and deciding not to publish everything at once? Perhaps this was just going to...if so, I have to admit that it would be unusual and somewhat risky marketing strategy. More likely however, is that the Acustica Audio wanted to simply give us Nebula just for Christmas. Both as a gift, as well as specific confirmation of the pre-speech...

Perhaps the release date is scheduled so that, during the Christmas break the first buyers could calmly in the comfort of own home deeply test the program. In this way Acustica Audio relatively quickly garner the necessary knowledge on the actual efficiency of the new Nebula, which undoubtedly would quickly eliminate all possible defects and bugs already during the first official update - scheduled for January? Admit that this thesis is very possible. 

So far however, we get brand new N4 main program, ROSE (optimized for N4) and massive commercial library of many great and highly useful programs which includes well-known elements and...

 

Another surprise, the existence of which cleverly revealed until just before the announcement of the new Nebula. An almost perfect surprise...

 

 

THE SECRET LIBRARY

We remain in the subject of compression. Here comes YELLOW ROYALE!

Specially crafted library, which is a truly royal blend of the most valued dynamics processors of the world.

Processors created through and thanks to "ULTRAMATCH" technology (brand new technique, developed by Acustica Audio) and I tell you right know, that this compressors are really convincing! 

YELLOW ROYALE is a complete restart. A brand new chapter of compression closed in the size of VST plugin.

No compressor that is a part of this set was previously sampled before. All programs present in the package give us the opportunity to take advantage of the new hardware designs (never before used in any other library). In truth one exception is TAN, but its current version has been greatly updated and improved.

The contents of the library looks really impressive. Here we have software versions of many classics on the heed with a true legend... Fat and very rare British N54 compressor! 

 

YELLOW ROYALE is undoubtedly true hall of fame of the most premium dynamic processors. Fast and aggressive FET 76? Classic, Beatle type "Chand'ish" limiter? amazing Vari-Mu American compressor (which is a real jewel of this unique set)? All this classics are now ready for use!

There is of course a lot more goodies in this package and certainly everyone will find something for themselves.

YELLOW ROYALE not only significantly increases the value of N4, but also in a very effective way proves that all that matters in compression (promised to us by the creators of Nebula) just become a reality! 

 

In short, compressors included in the YELLOW ROYALE library are really surprising. Great, faithful and in my opinion worth the money of the whole N4. Certainly a very good showcase of the possibility of new engine. 

So... Why the hell I wrote that this package is almost perfect (not perfect) surprise?

Well, only because YELLOW ROYALE today is a library just as successful as incomplete...    

The eye-catcher primarily incompleteness within the programs representing the ratio of individual models of compressors. What may be surprising especially in the context of the very popular FET style compressor.

While we can not have any objections to the number of available compressors, the lack of very popular ratios in some of them causes a lot of resentment. The reason for this seems to be a rush.  

The downside is undoubtedly also that the package does not have a dedicated preamps section based on the models of specific units. With the YELLOW ROYALE we get a kind of "naked compression". Is it much or little, decide for yourself...

For the YELLOW ROYALE preamps library we have to wait. Reassure skeptics, according to my information a special collection of dedicated preamps definitely will show up. Probably it will be free (of course, to all holders of the regular N4). All indications are that we can expect this preamps real soon. 

All impatient remains to once again return to Henry Olonga and his free package, where you can find his interpretations of many among the missing preamps.

Do not let fool you the fact, that Henry decided to make its library free. It was not always so. Its current status has nothing to do with its quality!

Acustica Audio will soon complete the package.  As I mentioned earlier, complete and updated package will be free to all those who have become owners of the Nebula 4. 

 

If the YELLOW ROYALE package will receive all missing ratio values, and this special dedicated preamps section will be added, it will become not only a very good, but really a great library without which every enthusiast of VST plugins will not be able to get around...

 

Oh, I did not mention the two other GUI's...

 

So, when I look at both of the interface of ROSE and YELLOW ROYALE I have impression that I see a little rush.  

What might be some kind of a confirmation of the truthfulness presented by my earlier thesis.

 

Both interfaces, of course, looks good. They are as transparent and useful, however, against the background of what in terms of the attractiveness of the GUI accustomed us Acustica Audio fall a little less impressive...

 

IN SUMMARY

 

ROSE practically does not have any glaring drawbacks. Some may hurt by the lack of so-called all-button mode, which could be a real adornment of mode F.

Opto mode despite appearances can be difficult to restrain, for some it may sometimes be imprecise.

This compressor you just have to learn. It all depends on your needs, taste and purpose utility. In the end, optical compressors are not for everything.  

In part of this little subiective things, ROSE is a truly amazing analog like compressor with great possibilities...

Another must have from Acustica Audio!

Acustica Audio clearly put on compression. This is proof that AA listens to the voice of their customers. 

Time will tell if all of the AA future plans are met. My past experience with this company allows me to far-reaching optimism, mainly because AA always tries to fulfill promises (which for every Italian is a matter of honor). So it seems that we can sleep very peacefully.

As there N4 is not an update, for the final judgment we should pause to the time where we get at least couple more new Nebula libraries. If the engine which N4 is equipped really allow us to get even better equalizers and stronger distortion in the section of preamps. we get one of the best and wisest plugins on the market. 

A plugin with many, many powerful capabilities. Plugin absolutely necessary for all working in the digital domain. Appetite for the new year is so great...

So whether N4 today is the title cat in the bag?

Even if we assume that in some degree yes. It is certainly a cat with a great pedigree. Extremely racial and noble...

POST SCRIPTUM

Some time ago (probably during the Nebula 3 pro review), I wrote that it is a plugin that despite the simple rules, requires from user some kind of preparation and knowledge. There is no other thing in its most recent fourth version.

Naturally, it is more transparent, but ignorance of some minor nuances can disrupt the plugin, thus exposing sometimes too early and more importantly not right opinion...

From simple problems such as the place and the circumstances in which the SER file is generated, to a way of directing the library folder to another external drive... 

From complicated for some, the process of permitting a change in the currently used buffer size to a number of other inconsistencies and ambiguity regarding the use of Nebula which I think quite wrongly often is considered as difficult and unfriendly. 

 

Patience is always rewarded. So it is in the case Nebula. Very often its good to just stay calm and try to find a way to solve the problem. Sometimes is just good to know your own working environment. Your own computer and your own hard drives, as well as the basics associated with the use of analog equipment. I refer to all issues related to the proper gain staging.

The Xml file which you need to edit changes in the program, hides in different places of our computer.

As this file is necessary to the successful launch of Nebula, it must always be generated. Just go look around.

If your Nebula launched it means that the xml file certainly generated. Usually it is hiding in the Vst folder, which was installed by the main Nebula.

In terms of the SER file, It always appeared. To happen it, during the first installation of any plugin from Acustica Audio, simply run the installer as administrator. Then there will be no problems. I guarantee.

Small tip for users who have their adventure with Acustica Audio start just from the N4... 

 

If you installed the program in the default installation folder, the SER file probably is generated in the folder "Nebula4temprepository", which you will find on the C system drive. 

Such peculiar mysteries (often perceived as a defect) is more. Naturally, I can not describe here all of them.

For other problems not described here please go simply to the support of Acustica Audio, they certainly help you. I promise. Personally I was never disappointed with Acustica Audio . Their products each time give me a lot of joy and always allow me to focus on what is most important, I mean of course the sound.

With Acustica Audio less is always more. With the Italians you will not have to keep countless plugins.

Naturally, there are some deficiencies. though the sake of accuracy it should be noted also that if you have these shortcomings they happen, they are usually quite quickly eliminated. Of course, customers should always get the finished and complete product. In the case of Acustica Audio sometimes there are smaller or bigger problems such as various kinds of bugs, which although as said before are usually quite quickly eliminated,  yes, that's true...They can disrupt the first day of use of a long awaited new plugin... Is it a minus which should be pointed at every occasion of each subsequent review? For some yes, for others not.

The faithful users of AA know very well what to expect. They are aware of these stress that occur only occasionally aspects and accept them. Acustica Audio usually do not forget about such an attitude and usually repays the patience and support. Finally we always get the full working, complete, unique and nuanced product.

As you probably already know the technology used by the AA requires sacrifices.

Perhaps a solution would be to simply not to hurry in the description of the new plugins. It may be better to wait a while before we take for reviewing the newly released product on the market?

Everyone, however we're in run. So now it's just that the hype is greatest when the product is new. And so every reviewer want to be first. There is nothing surprising in this. Review however, should be always fair and in the case of AA sometimes it is not easy, especially for someone who is in contact with this company for the first time and just hit the plugin, which unfortunetly requires some bug fixing.  What actually would be the final verdict if not some bugs, which will be eliminated after all? Exactly... Unfortunetly it is rarely that the reviewing magazine publish appropriate post scriptum to the earlier review. Unjust, however... it remains and affects the entire image of the company.

 

Acustica Audio in my opinion always does what it can. Their forum is regularly visited by the whole team of AA (even during the days of holidays there we can find help and support). AA work so almost around the clock.

Eliminating even the smallest bug often requires review the many gigabytes of data.

 

Time in such situations always chasing.

Somehow, we are all testers who are deciding to purchase the software (sometimes in its initial version) also to support the company and help it grow. This peculiar symbiosis, which builds relationships of all AA customers is also a value and yes, I realize that as a reviewer does not have to mention it and as a user I can not, however I can not to not make an effort to justify what the relevant justification (or at least the attempt) deserves...
 

Remember that the N4 received during very special time. At the end of December. It is a month important not only from a commercial point of view.

Nebula also received only a moment after a very juicy and very successful Lime. We received it as a gift.

A very wanted and on special request kind of gift, which is also a kind of "thank you" for the presence and support.

Acustica Audio certainly could wait until mid-January. Then for sure we would get a larger and more complete product, but then, would we have so much fun?

And once more...

 

History remembers the day when Rome was set on fire. Today Nebula sets fire to a familiar image of modern VST plugins. Defining anew the usefulness of digital skin classic analog hardware.

 

More on: www.acustica-audio.com

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