Monday, July 9, 2018

CompPlus™ - Compression with Articulation

View on the CompPlus™ Website

In each mixing project we need to address two concerns; one, achieving overall dynamic balance, two, getting all parts heard.  It would be nice to have a tool that does both.  That is where CompPlus™ comes in. CompPlus™ provides compression as well as Articulation control, which actually rides the gain up to compensate as musical words and phrases trail off.  Yes, it can do the gian-riding for you!  And CompPlus™ is a unique compressor even without its additional capability of Articulation control. As compressors go, it provides very transparent dynamics control without the music sounding squashed or overly processed.  And since the dynamics stage can be automated, you can record the compression to an automation lane and then edit as required for just the results you are looking for.

To use the plugin, you place CompPlus™ on your track and adjust the threshold as needed.  The Ratio control gives you smooth amounts of depth to the compression without sounding processed.  The compression displays as a downward moving green bar, which changes to yellow, then red, for deeper compression.  You have both input gain, and output gain controls for maintaining your gain staging.

The Articulation control allows you to dial-in the amount you will like to have the plugin ride-up the gain to keep a part sitting just right in the mix.  The amount of Articulation applied is displayed on the meter as a rising blue bar, which changes to purple at greater amounts of gain.  So, you always have a good indication of what the plugin is doing with a quick glance to the meter.

And since Articulation is part of the dynamics stage, it is also recorded as part of the same automation lane as the compression.  So, in one lane, you can have compression and gain riding recorded, and available to edit if needed.  For vocal tracks and instruments, this will save you hours of manual editing of the gain.  This feature alone will pay for the plugin the very first time you use it.  But you will continue to use it because of its transparent dynamics control, making CompPlus™ a great value!

CompPlus™ gives you a compressor that also brings up levels to be heard in the mix!  A simple and easy to use dynamics tool. The plugin is available in VST, VST3, AU, AAX, for 64bit Mac and PC.
  • Full Disclosure: Direct Approach is my company, and I am the creator of the CompPlus plugin.

Monday, July 2, 2018

BoostX™ A Mixer's Secret Weapon

View on the BoostX™ Website

Wouldn't it be great if you had a way to keep the level consistent on a track without having to reach for a compressor, or do manual gain riding?  Enter BoostX™. The BoostX™ plugin, from Direct Approach, gives you a secret weapon in the battle to control the dynamics of your tracks. The plugin does its job by following the quieter parts of the track and boosting the level as musical words and phrases trail off in volume.  This neat trick is accomplished very transparently giving you a gentle, even subtle, increase in the level of quieter parts. BoostX™ is perfect for vocal tracks, but also any track where you need the track to be heard within the surrounding mix.  Thus allowing words, and those little musical nuances, to be heard, and not fade away.  BoostX™ is a great tool for getting a track to sit in the mix.

The difference with BoostX™ compared with a compressor, is that a compressor works by reacting to the louder levels and pushing them down in level, while BoostX™ only watches the quiet parts, and raises their level as necessary.  And a compressor can sometimes make the track sound "squashed" because of sudden volume reduction, while BoostX™ is much more transparent and subtle.  Since the louder parts are not boosted, you do not have to worry that you will exceed the desired levels for the mix.  And no need to worry about make-up gain, since, in most cases, the overall level will remain the same.

You use BoostX™ by placing it on a track and adjusting the threshold to the desired level of boost shown on the boost meter.  BoostX™ will then raise the gain as required to achieve the level you want.  If the track needs help with de-essing, you can adjust the Low Pass filter until BoostX™ is not boosting the higher frequencies.  This can reduce the need for a regular de-esser, or, in some cases, eliminate it altogether! 

And, as with all Direct Approach dynamics plugins, you get the unique ability to automate the dynamics stage.  So, using automation, you can fine tune the response of the plugin to give you the exact sound you want from every track!  This is a powerful feature and can save hours of manually editing gain-riding.  Simply let BoostX™ draw the automation, and then fine-tune, if necessary, for the exact needs of the track.

BoostX™ gives you a tool that allows you to gently boost the soft parts of your track, and have it sit in the mix, and even do some de-essing!  What's not to like?  The plugin is available in VST, VST3, AU, AAX, for 64bit Mac and PC.
  • Full Disclosure: Direct Approach is my company, and I am the creator of the BoostX plugin.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Mixing with SpecTrend™
Pink-Noise Weighted Metering

You may have read or seen something in the past year or so about using pink-noise as a reference for mixing.  The way it works is--- you listen to pink-noise while you solo each instrument or voice in your mix.  You then adjust the level of the part until it is just barely heard above the pink noise.  Once you have done this for each track, the mix should have an overall balance consistent with pink-noise.

The technique works because, as it happens, well balanced music follows the same frequency distribution as pink-noise.
  • Pink-Noise is random noise with level decreasing at -3db per octave as the frequency increases (also called 1/f noise).
In other words, well balanced music also decreases at -3db per octave as the frequency increases.  If you view the spectrum of high quality recordings you will see that they follow this -3db per octave pattern.

The problem with the pink-noise matching technique is that it is very tedious, requiring you to do each track, one-at-a-time.  It also requires a good source of pink-noise, which is surprisingly hard to find.  And, you must have good ears and/or a good listening environment to be able to hear it well---tedious and time consuming! So, it is easy to see why it is not a universally used technique, despite the fact that, theoretically, you should be able to achieve a balanced mix.

This is where SpecTrend™ comes in. What is new with SpecTrend™ is that the spectrum display is mathematically weighted to match a perfect pink-noise spectrum.  This means that the SpecTrend™ metering shows all 1/3 octave bars at the same level when the mix is balanced across all frequencies.

So, when using SpecTrend™, you just look to see that all the level bars are more-or-less equal, and you know the mix is balanced!  All the bars approximate a rectangle when the levels match, so it is visually easy to see that you have achieved your balanced mix.

And, of course, you are able to view the whole mix at once, without having to go through and solo each track.  And you never have to listen to pink-noise!  The metering is all done mathematically.

In addition, the 1/3 octave bars are color coded according to level, with green being the target range.  So achieving a frequency balanced mix becomes a matter of constructing a "green rectangle"!  How easy is that!

Frequency balancing the mix then, becomes just a matter of adjusting each track's level and/or EQ, until all the 1/3 octave bars are equal.  Done.

It is even a great tool for production and arranging.  Since the display allows to see each 1/3 octave band individually, it is easy to see when a particular frequency band is "overloaded", or maybe "empty".  So, you modify the arrangement, perhaps, raising a part an octave, to better balance the mix.  Or add another part in the "empty" frequency range to fill out the bands equally.

And, it should be mentioned that, although SpecTrend™ achieves its display mathematically, without introducing any noise, it does include a noise generator for testing and reference purposes.  The noise generator can produce pink-noise or white-noise.  There is an included level control.  And the output routing either sends the noise only to the meter, or to the output (speakers), or a mix of input and output.

It should be noted that in "Output" mode, the noise goes only to the output to be played, for example, over your speakers.  The input to the track is displayed on the meter.  You can then set up a microphone to feed the track and allow you to see the frequency response of your room and speakers.  So, in addition to mixing and arranging duties, SpecTrend™ can also be used to set up your mixing environment!

So, SpecTrend™ gives you a tool that allows you to do the pink-noise spectrum matching in an easy to use plugin (VST, VST3, AU, AAX, for Mac and PC).  It is no longer necessary to be born with "golden ears" to achieve that great mix. Check it out and see what it can do for your mixes!
  • Full Disclosure: Direct Approach is my company, and I am the creator of the SpecTrend plugin.