PurestDriveDemo is unusual, even startling. What’s the deal with suddenly putting out the simplest imaginable softclip/saturation… not even a safety clipper, ADClip does that… for $50?

It’s about the tone—and it’s about the R&D. PurestDrive is a sort of science project, and it’s using some Airwindows techniques at a level I’ve never before attempted, to produce a plugin that I can legitimately say is a mastering-grade softclip. No matter who you are or what you’re monitoring on, PurestDrive ought to deliver totally ‘analog tone’ with absolutely no thinning of bass, no leaching of depth, none of what even the most sophisticated digital plugins tend to do.

Part of the experiment is about just such sophistication. Consider a mixing board full of parts and op-amps and things. Now, consider a boutique pre, which might have a special gain stage with just one or two carefully chosen transistors or tubes, and which delivers a far more transparent tone than the full mixing board. Well, modern digital is the mixing board. All the things we do to fight aliasing, to model every little detail of a circuit, involve thousands or tens of thousands of math operations on the signal. In every single one, something is lost: word length is always limited.

Since we’re talking about digital word lengths inside the plugins that are floating point and 32 bits or more in depth, we might very well assume it’s okay and you can do all of that with no sonic cost. It’s easy to jump to that conclusion if you’ve literally never heard anything else, and since raw digital is still kind of spikey and too clean to feel ‘analog’. We trade off a little tonal purity for ‘analog color’ in today’s world, and consider it a win, unthinkingly.

Try the PurestDrive demo, and compare anything you’ve got to what PurestDrive can do. It runs on an internal 80-bit floating point buss, it does its math at that insanely high resolution, it touches the signal as lightly as possible to produce its sound, and it noise-shapes back to the DAW’s floating point buss when it’s done. It’s a proof-of-concept for a new sonic approach to digital that is largely subtractive, dependent on great A/D conversion, and dedicated to retaining depth of tone throughout the process. And it sounds different from other software saturations (even my previous ones) by sounding like nothing at all: totally transparent, with no tonal cues other than the saturation itself. There’s tricks to help resist aliasing but mostly it does that through subtlety alone—it’s not adding enough grit to include aliasing hash.

It’s not just a technology demo, though. If you use it on channels (where you basically can’t hear it) and then you also use it on the mix buss, you suddenly get a degree of clean headroom that sounds like French House: incredibly fat and punchy. This plugin alone, plus maybe a safety clipper, can give you a particular ‘loudness/fullness tone’ over the whole mix. Because of the raw simplicity of the code it’s highly CPU-efficient, so you can run it on huge mixes, and make them be astonishingly big with one plugin alone, without losing any richness of tone at all. And that’s just about unique for this type of plugin, which usually trades off a little depth for artificial color. Not anymore!

PurestDrive is $50.