If you’ve had the pleasure — or rather, the displeasure — of trying to mix acoustic guitar, you know that it’s often a challenging proposition. Instant Audio, a new brand under the United Plugins line, has released a solution to the problem of mixing acoustic in their first plugin called Quick AG. Today we’re looking at Quick AG through the lens of the home studio enthusiast to see if it lives up to the promise of a quick and easy solution for mixing acoustic instruments.
Quick AG has a unique interface with a contoured look similar to the body of a cutaway acoustic. There are four main control sections: Comp, EQ, Reverb, and Xtra. There is a circular selector control with a large colorful picture representing the current instrument, either Baritone, steel-string Guitar, nylon-string Spanish, Ukulele, and Mandolin. Along the bottom are Input and Output knobs with VU meters, plus a Power switch. On the strap is a preset loader with A/B, undo, and redo. Quick AG has the clean, WYSIWYG interface I’ve come to expect from United Plugins.
United Plugins has packed a lot of control into Quick AG. Let’s take a look at each section:
EQ, Compressor, Reverb, and Xtra
The bulk of the control in Quick AG is in these four sections, each with its own power toggle and red/green indicator. The black EQ section has a variable Low Cut between 0 and 400Hz, and three frequency controls labeled Body, De-Harsh, and Spark that vary based on the intstrument selected. Body and Spark are boosts, while De-Harsh is a cut.
The creme-colored Compressor section has three modes: FET, Vari-Mu, and Clean, and can be blended inbetween. The Amount controls the wet/dry ratio, and the Release is a standard compressor release control. (If you’re not familiar with the standard controls of a compressor, check out my article How To Use a Compressor Plugin for more details.)
The seafoam-green Reverb section has a similarly blend-able three reverb modes: Plate, Hall, and Room. Length controls the reverb time, and Dry/Wet provides a blend up to 40%. The blue Xtra controls include a Transient knob, Doubler, and Width for mono operation or stereo widening.
Quick AG has 27 presets: 10 steel-string acoustic, 6 baritone, 3 mandolin, 4 nylon-string, and 4 ukelele. The preset loader has new, replace, and delete functions, an A/B with Copy, and 30 levels of Undo/Redo. The five instrument modes modify the inner workings of all of the effects sections, especially the EQ center frequencies.
Input, Output, and Meters
The Input and Output controls offer up to 24dB boost and cut. Each section has an independent VU meter. The VU meters are quick and responsive, and I found them to be a nice touch when gain staging as I didn’t have to open a separate metering tool.
To test out Quick AG, I recorded an original guitar track with a short solo. I used this sample to test out all the different features of Quick AG and was extremely impressed with its relative ease of use. First and foremost, Quick AG made EQing my acoustic guitar tracks an absolute breeze. Using the instrument selector to set the center frequencies for Body, De-Harsh, and Spark allowed me to take the guesswork out of the EQ phase and really make the dynamics of the performance pop in short order. The compressor was nice as well and added some needed punch without being overpowering. I enjoyed all three compressor modes and particularly loved the ability to blend them to grab the perfect amount of color.
The reverb was an added bonus, and using different reverb modes added flavor to the solo. For the right applications, the Xtra features are great; that said, I did turn them off for the sample below as I recorded four mono tracks to add doubling and stereo width, and I found that the compressor did a good enough job of shaping transients without the Xtra transient control. Overall, I found Quick AG to be easy to use with tons of great presets to use as starting points.
Hear it in Action
Today’s samples are a steel-string acoustic recorded in stereo with a small diaphragm condenser at the 12th fret and a large diaphragm on the soundboard below the bridge. Both mics were plugged directly in to my interface with no external preamp or compression insert to avoid coloration and better showcase Quick AG‘s mixing ability. The rhythm guitar was panned 85% right and left to create a wider stereo field, and the short solo overdub was panned to 50% with the phase flipped to retain the stereo feel but help the solo pop a bit more. A noise floor used on all tracks to pull out background noise, and a limiter was applied to the master buss to bring the audio to -0.5dB peak.
The first sample has Quick AG on all four tracks (rhythm R/L and solo R/L). I started with the ‘D-nought Miracle’ preset, then tweaked from there on each channel individually. I added a medium length room reverb to the rhythm tracks and a blended hall/room reverb on the solo.
The second sample is the exact same tracks with Quick AG disabled for reference:
United Plugins Quick AG Review – The Bottom Line
Compared to other acoustic guitar multi-effect plugins, Quick AG is comparably priced and has similar features. Where it stands out to me the most is in the ability to quickly and easily dial in the right EQ settings for different acoustic instruments without the hassle of searching for the right frequencies, with the added bonus of a musical compressor, a usable reverb, and solid stereo features for single-mic recording. If you’re rocking thousands of dollars of outboard compressors, EQs and multiple microphones, then Quick AG may be superfluous to you; however, if you’re like most home studio hobbyists and are working mostly in the box with limited gear, Quick AG is definitely a solid value.
Overall, Quick AG lives up to its name, and makes dialing in great acoustic guitar tones in the box extremely quick and low-effort. You will not be disappointed with the musicality of the compressor and EQ, and the reverb and extras add a nice touch. In conclusion, I give Quick AG a solid 5 stars, and my full recommendation for anyone who is recording and mixing acoustic guitars in the box.