The Plugins System
If you use DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software or are familiar with the modern studio setting you are probably aware of the range of signal processing plugins that are available to the recording industry. In addition to signal processing there are virtual instruments that are used in some studios. Many of the major hardware signal processing manufacturers have plugins available that work within the recording software and make much of their renowned processing available without the actual hardware units. Some that are familiar with the studio plugins want to have them available in the live audio sphere.
I did a bit of iResearch into the subject of using these plugins with today's hardware live audio mixing desks. There are some consoles now available that offer some onboard plugins. On the upper end of the scale are desks by Avid that come equipped with some Waves plugins but you need a Waves iLok to use them. The Behringer X32 now comes with around 50 plugins onboard. Most current hardware has provision for an add-on card that allows for plug-ins to be used via an external plugin host. There are also VST hosts that can be loaded on a computer and used via a professional sound card much as an external hardware signal processor would be used.
SAC was designed with VST plugin support as a feature of the software package. Many plug-ins, if they do not report added latency, can be used directly within the Software Audio Console. There are multiple patch points through out the software including pre and post insert points on the channel strip and output strips as well as the on the effects busses. Multiple plugins can be stacked on any of the available insert points. Many VST and VSTi plugins can be used. There are many that are offered as freeware as well as the paid options.
SAC comes with a sweet delay plugin and a seven band paragraphic EQ plugin that can be patched on the channel strip or the effects buss. The developer also offers a spectrum analyzer plugin and an advanced compressor plugin that are network aware and realtime adjustments can be made. There is also a studio reverb unit in the line. If a plugin is not network aware there is a provision where many plugins can be controlled from a remote unit, although not in real time. If there is a blue RML triangle visible on the plug-in GUI changes can be made and when the blue triangle is clicked the changes will be transmitted to the SAC host computer.
Another possible option with SAC is to set up plugins to provide system control within the software. This can eliminate the need for an external crossover/system controller for a multi-way speaker system. An added benefit to using plugin signal processing is that you can easily control the signals that are fed to the subs via the channel strip assign switches.
The plugin system can allow the engineer a great deal of creative control onboard within the software. The plugin system built into SAC opens a new horizon in live sound production.