Slate Digital VMR (Virtual Mix Rack) – The Gear Gods Review

Slate Digital has been around for a while now. They are known for making plugins that are faithful to the analog gear they are emulating, and recently released a new plugin emulating some more of that sweet analog goodness. It’s called “VMR” which stands for Virtual Mix Rack. Anyone familiar with the 500 series lunchbox will find that VMR looks strikingly similar. The plugin comes with 5 modules, 3 of which are based off well-known pieces of gear.


The FG-N is based off a Neve 1073 EQ, FG-S is based off a SSL 4000 console EQ, and the FG-116 is an FET compressor based off the Universal Audio 1176. The 4th module is the FG-401, which is not based off any one particular piece of gear – it’s more like a Frankenstein plugin compressor with different parts of it modeled off different pieces of gear.

The 5th module, called Revival, is a little different from the rest. Simply put, it is a sonic enhancer. I think Slate explains it best: “Revival borrows aspects of tubes, tape, transformers, and world class analog filters to create two processes. Shimmer adds depth, clarity, space, width, and air like you’ve never heard. Thickness adds warmth, punch, body, and fatness.” Oh, and I should mention it’s FREE. And you should totally go get it right now.

vmr-windows-FG-S vmr-windows-FG-N vmr-windows-FG-401 vmr-windows-FG-116

I am pretty familiar with the hardware the first 3 modules are emulating, and even more familiar with the dozen or so plugins out there that are trying to emulate them. Let me say right off the bat, when it comes to the sound and feel of those pieces of analog gear, VMR is king. I plan to get more scientific about it but that’s for another time.

If there is one thing that I have noticed with this plugin over any other plugin I have ever used, is that this is the first time I have ever heard a plugin add “depth” to the mix. Like, I mean, REALLY add depth. And it adds it in a way that I have only heard analog gear do thus far.

Having trouble getting your drums to punch through? Some parallel compression with the FG-116 will remedy that. Guitars need some EQing? Both EQ’s are great and the hardware they are based are well known for sounding great on guitars, both acoustic and electric, clean or distorted.

By the end of my testing, pretty much every single track had VMR as my main channel strip. It simply does the job better than other plugins, and sounds better while doing it. My drums were punchier and cut through better. My guitars were wide, heavy yet defined. The vocals were nice and up front. And I even added Revival on my master buss which gave the mix a whole a lot of depth and when it comes to Metal, it does a great job of getting things sounding heavy without overdoing it. I highly recommend giving it a shot!

When it came to performance. I ran about 20 or so different instances of VMR and my CPU was almost unfazed by it. They seem to have done a really good job of optimizing it. So even if you are running on a old computer, you should be able to use VMR with no problems.

Now is VMR perfect? No. For example the FG-116 cant have all ratio buttons pressed in for that “over-saturation” effect the original 1176 is known for having. They told me it would be coming in a future update though. Not a deal breaker but I know some people really like that effect. A few other things I found I was missing were a Trim Knob, Input level control, and Output level control. Without any of these, I did have to spend a little bit of time working on gain staging to make sure the signal was not entering VMR too hot or leaving it too hot. Only the 2 compressors had output level control (for obvious reasons). The 2 EQ’s and Revival have no Trim or level control whatsoever. I found this especially necessary for Revival, as the signal in general was entering it way too hot. Once again when I asked Slate about this, they told me that it was on their list of things to add in upcoming updates. A De-sser is also apparently in the works, which would round things off really nicely.

They have also said that they will be releasing new modules to be added to VMR as time goes by. Is there any piece of gear you would like to see get the Slate modeling treatment? Let us know in the comments below and maybe we can pass it along to them. Me personally, I’m dying for good Distressor plugin. And if anyone can do the Distressor justice in software, it would seem to be Mr. Fabrice Gabriel, Steven Slate and the rest of the Slate Digital team. Anyone that is even remotely serious about production needs to have this plugin in their arsenal. Especially if you are only going to be mixing in the box. At the very least, go download Revival. It’s one of the best free plugins available and even it alone will make a difference in your production.

VMR is just $149 direct download from

Written by

Alex Nasla is a keyboardist, producer and mixing engineer. He keeps busy making audio plugins for Rosen Digital, is audio director at multimedia company Toxic Creativity and is involved in 3 different musical endeavors. 

Latest comments
  • Thank you for posting the exact models of the gear that is being emulated.

  • Good review and good to know more plugins are coming, i bought vmr and vcc and i can say it improved my mixes effortlessly, it adds depth to the mixes that no plugins can do… It’s funny cause its very hard to explain it’s very subtle but yet creates a huge difference :)

    • Thanks! And I totally agree. Its kind of hard to explain some aspects of it. For example while the FG-N makes very obvious changes. Revival does’t unless you use some extreme settings but thats not something you will probably want to do with it.

  • Definitely agree with the suggestion of a distressor plugin. That plus a la2a and a pulteq eq would be rad!

  • Distressor! you just can’t get a great snare without one! in my most humble of opinions

    • I would say you can but its just not the same without the distressor. Its great on bass guitar too.

  • YUMMY! This thing has really creamy sound! mhhh want more!
    What about a Emulation of the Joemeek SC 2 Optical Compressor or a Emulation of the Classic Studer 900 Console-Channel/EQ or an emulation of the CraneSong STC8? There is a lots to do Mr. Slate!

  • i agree with jim :) Distressor , la-2a and pulteq eq

  • Hey man,
    You say that these do a job better than other company’s plugins. How about compared to Universal Audio? Slate’s FG-116 vs UA’s 1176 (current not legacy), FG-N vs UA’s 1073, FG-S vs UA’s SSL E Series? I am just curious if you have used all of these Slates & UA) and what your opinion is?


  • I think Slate recently added a Trimmer module in the VMR.

    As for what I’d like to see, have to agree with Distressor.

  • These are good plugs, but I set up a rack of VCC (neve) > FG-116 > FG-N > trimmer and got a nice sound going on on lead vox. Then I went to my usual plugs (Softube Grand Channel and NI/Softube VC76 + S1’s console shaper) and not only did I match it (at first) I then surpassed the results, namely the summit EQ was smoother and the VC76 was nicer. the 1176s were set to add weight/character to the vocal not so much to level it (It was pre levelled downstream). F116 sounded pokey vs VC76 which sounded smooth AND a bit weightier.

    So, I’m not buying that these are the most hardware sounding algo plugs out there, they are probably as good/nearly as good as the best but they are not above the other best ones. I’d rate it softube > slate/Uad > various others > waves (waves can sometimes impart an awful character if you build it up over a full mix). So yes, slate is decent sound, the rack has some positives but mostly it’s negatives and I think if these plugs were normal, standalone, they would be vastly more useful for everyone (but I also think they may show their shortcomings in A/B tests more easily too while the rack system puts most people off trying to compare and locks them in).

    So, decent plugs but they do not beat the softube plugs: TLA-100, EQF-100, Tube Tech eqs and CL1B comp from softube yet (for me). Anyone who thinks they do should demo the softube or try again without ‘slate bias’. One thing I will say is for some reason slate’s presets tend to get you into a ballpark area fast, and often a few tweaks and you are there, this may give the impression they are better, but if you fire up slate first – get it as good as possible, I’ve never found trouble cloning/improving that sound with my other plugs!

    I do really like the slate VTM though, it’s my goto and stays on my mix bus. It may or may not sound like tape, but I like how it works, simple and does the job. I have tried waves J37, satin, reelbus.. they are all decent but different. VTM is just easy. mix into it.

  • funny enough, a distressor is coming this year

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