Earlier this week I got my Creme unit from Tegeler after a little over a month wait (they were sold out). I’ve wanted a few different pieces of outboard gear in my mastering efforts for a hybrid setup. To me it’s not necessarily a matter of hardware vs. software – I really like both. I think plugins are fantastic (more on that later). I had decided to get the Creme after much research and mental debate. It seemed like a great value combining a high quality VCA compressor (very similar to an SSL G comp) and a 2 band Pultec style passive EQ in one unit.
If you’re not familiar: https://www.tegeler-audio-manufaktur.de/Creme_bus_kompressor_mastering_equalizer
About me, I’ve been engineering audio for a long time, but never had any dedicated analog outboard compressors or eq’s. I always spent my money on synths and samplers in hardware aside from my console. Compression and EQ was always done in digital form either in my Yamaha 02r mixer or plugins in the DAW for those years. Fast forward 12 years and I’m wanting a few key pieces of outboard in hardware.
Here are some initial thoughts, but I plan on adding more to the post/thread later on and hopefully doing some audio samples over the weekend. I just want to think about how to do that… my initial idea got way too involved rather quickly and would take a long time (for me anyway).
I don’t think they state that it’s an SSL clone, but it’s pretty obvious what device they’re heavily borrowing from. It’s very easy to dial up something that sounds good. In fact, even when pushing to extreme settings the Creme doesn’t sound “bad”. Obviously, you probably aren’t using those settings, but it’s not falling apart sonically.
For my purposes, most things are going to be in the 1-4db of gain reduction, usually 2:1 ratio though sometimes 4:1, 10-30ms attack, 0.1-0.3 release and adjusting the output gain to compensate. At those settings it sounds fantastic… all the typical platitudes of “glue”, “gel”, blah, blah. It does what you’d think!
Here’s where it’s a little interesting though. I’ve spent several hours the past few nights comparing it to my favorite plugins and demos a couple new ones. I wanted to see (hear) what differences there were. I knew plugins were good, but I was definitely a little surprised at just how good they are.
I compared (these were the closest I had quick access to):
UAD SSL G comp
Waves SSL G comp
PA Vertigo VSC-2
Cytomic “The Glue”
At “mastering” settings all of them were good. To my ears, the UAD SSL emu was the best… shockingly close. I could get it nearly indistinguishable at 2:1 settings with 10ms attack and 0.1 release. The Creme was (subjectively) 1-5% “better” being more present and round (best I can describe it) at some settings while maybe 5-10% better at others. As the ratios and threshold got higher the Creme continued to sound better, but again, we’re not talking night and day differences at least to my ears until you got to extremes. If you can hear a bat fart from 10 yards away, god bless, you’d probably hear a lot more difference than I can and might have a completely different opinion.
Overall, 2nd best plugin in terms of straight 1:1 comparison was the Waves emu, but I prefered the UAD. Sounding different overall, but a still a favorite of mine is the VSC-2. I love that plugin! The Cytomic plugin was my least favorite, but didn’t sound “bad” – it just wasn’t as close as the others.
To me this really highlights how far plugins have come and where we’re at. They were pretty terrible in the mid to late 90’s in most cases (IMO until UAD-1), but these days it’s not an issue. It’s to the point of minor sonic differences (you want to chase that last 5% in some cases), workflow and personal preferences as to what you want to use.
This to me was more of a substantive difference to many of the plugins I use regularly. On the Creme, it’s just effortless and beautiful! So much so, you want to slather loads of it on until you realize you’re overdoing it, but it still somehow sounds good. You just want more of it! The EQ is additive only, so it’s a finishing and polishing tool – not a corrective one.
For plugin comparisons, the UAD Pultec stuff and Softube are good to my ears, but I didn’t do the same comparisons and not sure that I will. The Creme just sounds better. Probably the closest (yet different) I’ve heard are the recent Acustica Audio Ruby and Azure. Those are beautiful as well and a steal for what you’re paying (though CPU monsters). I plan to get Azure at some point for far more flexibility. I’m not sure what if anything I’ll do for dedicated EQ in hardware.
Hope this helps! I’ll update more in the coming days. If you’d like to know what I’m doing or want to hear some of your own audio through it, check out this thread: Free Mastering