Reviewing a Bunch of Multiband Dynamics Plugins

It’s Time
I’ve decided that it’s time to write a post going over all the multiband dynamics processors in my audio plugins library. For me, this includes both multiband compressors/expanders as well as dynamic EQs, because i tend to use them for the same general purposes.

Mass Variety
What’s fascinating is how much variety there is among these plugins, each with its own distinct personality… which justifies for me the habit of gradually collecting plugins by various different manufacturers rather than sticking solely with “brand loyalty”.

Intentional Results
When it comes to adjusting the parameters of multiband dynamics processors, i’ve found that nonchalantly twisting knobs is usually only going to get you in trouble. It’s better to analyze a given passage carefully, think and plan beforehand, “what is it that i want to do to the audio?” and then tweak the settings carefully to implement that result, and listen to see how it sounds. As they say, “with great power comes great embarrassment.” No, wait—what was it? Well, anyways… multiband dynamics processors are powerful, and you must wield that power with wisdom. Can’t fool me thrice.

The Lowdown
I’ll provide my personal take on each plugin below, as well as proffer some basic tech specs, like how many bands each has and what dynamic processes it can apply. I’ll also let you know on which channel strip of my continually-evolving Elemental Mixing Templates each currently resides, which you could use as a suggestion for what sort of instruments to try them out on. Latency in samples is included so you can know whether real-time usage is practical. CPU values are included, which are averages with all bands engaged— of course being system-dependent so may not be the same for you, but are useful to compare to each other.

Links to developers will be provided, and i encourage you to check out many of these yourself. I find personally that the greatest value from testing out plugins on audio is a steady advancement of our own audio engineering knowledge and skill in what will become an intuitive manner, as we experience the feedback between our actions on the parameters and the audible results firsthand.

Watch Out
A word of warning. When applying upward compression or (especially) upward expansion, you might want to make sure you’ve got a limiter engaged afterwards, because sudden peak jumping can occur at high ratios.

No Aux for You
It’s good to keep in mind that multiband processing usually isn’t good for parallel (aux) processing since it tends to cause gnarly phase issues if blended with the original signal (due to the inevitable phase offsets caused by crossovers, which you normally won’t hear). An exception to this is ReaFIR, which is linear phase in FFT mode and can be used in parallel without worries.


On to the reviews!

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TriComp by Max for Cats

TriComp is interesting because i really haven’t seen that many compressor plugins made with Max for Live. Based on listening as well as analysis with CompScope, to me it has a nice VCA sort of character, for a direct and reliable ability to acquire anticipated results from the shown parameter values.

# of Bands: 3.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression w/ Split Sidechain.
Latency: 0
CPU: 3.5%

I was quite impressed that a compressor made for Max for Live could not only stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its VST kinsfolk, but also offer a handful of unique features that make it stand out as a useful tool to have available in one’s kit. TriComp‘s construction is streamlined, with visualization for each band’s spectrum and gain, as well as automatically updating range indicators. It has a clean, professional sound.

The main distinctive attribute of this plugin is that each band can be set to react to the external sidechain source— or not (which can be set to tap any point in any signal chain in the current Live Set). Want to try having just the mid band react to a partially-processed signal from another track, while the lows and highs react to themselves…? Sure, go for it!

I noticed that the slopes between selected frequency zones are quite steep (while still summing perfectly at neutral). As a result, you can create very distinct “plateau” areas of frequency—which can be helpful for ultra-precise surgical adjustment, or for bold sound design purposes, giving you “flat top” EQ bands as desired. On the other hand, it doesn’t lend itself ideally to smooth sloping between bands whose output levels aren’t evenly matched, so if you want the most natural-sounding results make sure to carefully restore bands that have been pushed down.

You can helpfully set the knee for each band individually, which can be visualized as the threshold “digging even deeper” to react to quieter-level audio. Lowering a threshold vs increasing a knee will both push the total amount of compression further, but in different ways.

One benefit to using this plugin instead of a VST in Ableton Live is that any macro-mapped parameters will show the actual values, not just a 0-127 generic value. Another is that you can open up the device in MaxForLive and check out how it works internally, to learn about how it functions or to edit its guts for your own nefarious purposes.

I’ve got TriComp currently placed in my Spline Surgery Elemental Mixing channel strip.

~`~

Multiband Dynamics by Ableton

Well you know i had to include this one. I think Ableton’s MBD wins the prize for having the most functionality packed into the smallest screen space.

# of Bands: 3.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression, Upward Compression, Downward Expansion, Upward Expansion.
Latency: 0
CPU: 1%

It took me years to really fully warm up to this device, but it’s now one of my favorites. It’s simply very versatile and can do some things none of the other stock effects, nor most third party plugins, can do.

Some examples of how i might use it:
•Downward Compression: to limit only a certain frequency range that is poking up too much at certain times. For this purpose i’d probably have it set to Hard Knee and Peak modes.

•Upward Compression: to “push up” quieter audio parts in a certain frequency range and make them more perceptible. This can be a great source of “secret sauce” to add density and character in a way that doesn’t squash peaks directly, making things sound more full and dimensional, but it can also add unwanted noise swells if over-applied.

•Downward Expansion: multiband gating to reduce noise. By tweaking the settings carefully, it can work phenomenally well at reducing hum and hiss. The PerforModule Nose Cleaner rack demonstrates this workflow.

•Upward Expansion: to boost the transients of a particular frequency range. Say for example to get a sub bass or snare drum to punch through more aggressively. I think of this type of enhancement more like “bite” rather than its opposite, “density”.

Each of the 3 frequency bands can have one High-Level (Downward Compression or Upward Expansion) and also one Low-Level (Upward Compression or Downward Expansion) effect, so you can get a lot going on with just one plugin instance.

Tip: When using Upward Compression and you like the character it bestows but it’s adding a bit too much noise on the upswell, try placing an extra instance of MBD prior to it, and use that one to apply some low-level gating (Downward Expansion). The idea is to boost stuff below the threshold, but not stuff wayyy below the threshold, which gets trimmed before it has a chance to be boosted.
Likewise, when using Upward Expansion but finding the results a bit erratic due to uneven source peak levels, you could use some Downward Compression first to even out those peaks, then expand them with a next instance to stretch the dynamic range back out in a more macro-consistent manner.

Ableton’s Multiband Dynamics certainly could use an update by now (how about being able to frequency-sculpt the sidechain like Ableton’s other compressors can, for instance?), but it’s hella useful as-is, once you grok its full essence.

~`~

bx_dynEQ V2 by Brainworx

# of Bands: 1 (2 when in M-S mode).
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression, Upward Expansion, Upward Compression, Downward Expansion.
Latency: 0
CPU:
1%

bx_dynEQ is deceptively versatile, allowing pretty much any implementation of dynamic reactivity you can imagine (if you can figure out the somewhat awkward GUI, that is). It’s main limitation is that it’s only one band (two if you’re in M-S mode)… however, nothing is stopping you from using multiple instances of the plugin for as many bands as you need. It’ll also come in handy when using a different processor and you need “just one more” band of dynamic EQ.

The bx_dynEQ V2 has a range of filter types to select between, including Brainworx’s custom presence shift and bass shift. My favorite aspect of this plugin is probably that you can independently set different filter types for the detection as well as for the result, so the content that is being acted upon can be completely different than that which is triggering it— which can be useful for all sorts of special purposes. Want to boost 12k on the snare every time 80Hz from the kick track hits a certain level? Go for it.

You set the mode using a combination of the Cut vs Boost and the Invert Mode switches, which is a bit of an odd workflow, but it does give you access to all 4 possible dynamics processes. Invert means that the action occurs when the audio falls below the ratio, rather than exceeds it (like Flip mode on Ableton’s Gate). For example, to use upward compression, you’d want to have both Invert and Boost switched on.

In addition to your typical Threshold and Ratio (here called Factor) parameters, there is also a Max Gain. Using it, no matter how hard the threshold is dug into, the gain reduction or expansion won’t exceed that amount (kinda like Glue Compressor‘s control Range ). Beware that with the Max Gain parameter itself maxed out to infinity, the limit is removed and extreme boosts can go crazy in volume level all of a sudden.

But why have M-S as an option but no L-R mode? I don’t get it.

This plugin is found parked in my Vocal Cleanup & Tuning Elemental Mixing Template.

~`~

DSM V3 by ProAudioDSP

I loved DSM V2 (analyzed previously here) but the curve saving and loading didn’t work on windows OS, which was most annoying, since i could only use fresh scans in projects. However, they’ve now fixed that with DSM V3 as well as added Expansion capability. Nifty! Even though the V3 upgrade felt like half bugfix, i did have to pay for the update— but i got both versions on sweet deals, so… no harm, no foul, i suppose.

# of Bands: FFT Spectral Curve (high-frequency focus) in Linked or Unlinked Stereo, plus 3 Emphasis Shaping Bands.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression or Upward Expansion towards a Target Curve.
Latency: 49 samples.
CPU: 2%

DSM is one of those plugins which i feel people haven’t fully caught up to (myself included). It’s futuristic stuff. You can modify dynamics based on a nuanced spectral threshold scanned from any audio source, making one piece of audio “conform” towards another.

It has great resolution in the higher frequency bands, so is ideal for precisely sculpting the tonal dynamics of the upper end, and so can be used as a sort of hyper-intelligent “de-esser / soothenator”. Good for helping to keep things euphonious while maintaining a sense of crispness.

I haven’t experimented with the new Expansion mode much yet, will have to try it out more. Sadly no upward compression or downwards expansion is to be had. Next update perhaps?

I’ve got Dynamic Spectrum Mapper placed in the Mimical Morphery Elemental Mixing Template.

~`~

DynamicTiltEQ by HOFA

DynamicTiltEQ is a unique plugin that i haven’t heard enough people talking about. First of all, it’s a very capable tilt filter, with the ability to independently control the tilting of the low and high portions, which allows for great fine-tuning of the contour. But beyond that, the frickin’ thing is dynamic. Dynamic Tilt EQ. What a cool concept.

# of Bands: 2 + Low & High Cuts.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression, Upward Expansion.
Latency: 0
CPU: 2%

The ratio for each band can range from 10:1 compression to 1:10 expansion. You also have optional adjustable low and high cut filters. Nice.

You can do cool stuff like boost and compress the low end for an added sense of dense thickness, while expanding the highs to add clarity with minimal background noise increase.

While still altering phase, tilt filters do so in the smoothest way possible, so this plugin can be useful for when desiring a very natural sound.

Note that while a basic free edition exists, you’ll need the PRO version to access the dynamic reactivity functions.

DynamicTiltEQ is in my Sound Design Buss Elemental Mixing Template.

~`~

Quadracom by Sonic Anomaly

Sadly, Sonic Anomaly’s plugins do not seem to be available online anymore, but i’m sure glad i grabbed them back when their site was active. After doing the Compression Tests, their HBC2 became, and still is, my favorite go-to compressor for a clean & tight sound, and i also adore their limiter Unlimited. The quality behind multiband beast Quadracom is of a similar exalted stature.

# of Bands: 4 (non-adjustable frequencies).
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression, Downward & Upward Transient Shaping.
Latency: 0
CPU: 4%

It consists of four bands, their frequencies non-adjustable. What you can adjust for each band is compression amount, transient shaping, and EQ. It can run in L-R or M-S mode, always being stereo unlinked.

The compression is simple to adjust; you just move a band until you see compression happening. There is automatic makeup gain built-in which is some of the best i’ve encountered, so you usually don’t have to worry about adjusting the gain afterwards by much, allowing you to continually focus on the all-important sound as you adjust parameters by ear.

The transient shaping can be upward or downward for each band. It’s quite unobtrusive, and i like using it to fine-tune the relation between measured peak and rms levels of each frequency region. For example, if the high-mids are a bit squished dense on a track, with a lower peak level than usual (relative to the rms average), i might transient-boost them a bit.

You adjust the overall sound with the Inertia (timing), Balance (tone), and Punch (timing) controls. These are best adjusted by ear after roughly dialing in the thresholds to be doing some gain reduction, after which you can fine-tune the thresholds again.

The “EQ” section can be thought of as makeup trim/gain fader for each band. Say you love the sound of heavy compression on the low-mids, but you need to restore the level back up by a couple of dB afterwards. The EQ steps in to do this.

A problem with this and other of Sonic Anomaly’s plugins is the inability to map the parameters to Ableton Live macros. Darn it.

What am i using Quadracom for in my templates? Mastering Preparation.

Nova/NovaGE by TDR

The TDR / VoS team has crafted some of the most cutting-edge plugins now available, so it was exciting to see their update to VoS’s Nova67P come to be. It features astute technical quality, even sporting an “insane” processing mode.

# of Bands: 4 (free version) or 6 (GE version) + Wideband + Low & High Cuts.
Dynamic Capabilities, Both versions: Downward Compression, Upward Expansion. The GE version can also do the inverses: Upward Compression and Downward Expansion.
Latency [free version]: 184 samples.
Latency [GE version]: 201 samples.
CPU [free version]: 4% (eco), 7% (precise), 8% (precise+).
CPU [GE version]: 6.5% (eco), 13% (precise), 24% (insane).

Both editions of TDR’s Nova are supremely versatile, with top-quality sound. Bands have individual attack and release times and can react to their own slice or a chosen target frequency. You can set each band to be a bell, low shelf, or high shelf. The detection for each band can be set to a different frequency and Q than its process (though the filter type must be the same, so in this regard it’s not quite as versatile as bx_dynEQ).

Unlike most other dynamics processors, Nova allows for simultaneous wide-band and split-band processing. You can also de-link specific bands from the full band so that their frequencies are not affected by it (alt-click on a threshold to change it to “sticky”). By intentionally setting the parameters, you can achieve a vast range of possible results, especially with the GE version. The CPU usage can be insane, too.

The EQ ranges and filter slopes are quite generous, ranging from 10Hz to 40kHz and with slopes up to 72dB/oct (120dB/oct for GE), allowing for extreme precision on high-resolution projects. Lookahead and a nice auto-release can be switched on or off per band.

Combining all these processes together, the capabilities of Nova are pretty wild. At the same time as being highly technical, it has a very musical, natural feel. TDR is one of those companies that pays close attention to “quality of life” details, such as including a mode which prevents automation of the lookahead parameter from causing a timing shift during playback. Brilliant. And i haven’t even jumped into the rabbit hole that is SmartOps...

NovaGE is on the coveted MixBuss of my Elemental Mixing Templates. It’s that good! The regular version of Nova is slapped on my Strat Sum Buss.

~`~

Nova67P by Variety of Sound

Nova-67P is the original version of what was to later become TDR’s more refined Nova & NovaGE. Dig the astronomical reference.

# of Bands: 5 + Low & High Cuts.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression.
Latency: 85 samples.
CPU: 4.5%

It was certainly innovative when it came out for the KVR Developer Challenge; a very interesting blending of the Dynamic EQ and Multiband Compressor paradigms. However, compared to the updated Nova, the GUI is confusing, it’s much harder to tell what’s going on, and there’s definitely a steeper learning curve when it comes to using the thing. However, since it does have its own quirky character, i felt it worth inclusion here.

You have only one set of attack and release controls which affect all bands, but the ratios and behavior for each bands are customizable, with SIX different dynamic modes to choose between (see what i mean about learning curve?). You’re gonna want to read the manual as you funk around with this one.

Using the different modes, you can have an individual frequency band be like a typical dynamic EQ band, reactive to the full signal, unaffected by it, only pre-emphasizing the signal, or with split reaction between itself and the full signal. I dig the Splitband 50% option; it’s like people who are polite and aware of others around them while also retaining focus on their own personal purpose.

Nova-67-P is included in the Stem Mastering Elemental Mixing Template.

~`~

GMulti by GVST

Graham Yeadon’s GVST‘s plugins are hidden gems in my opinion. I rarely hear them mentioned, but they have a reliably quality sound, with sensible features and stable performance. I tend to have good experiences using them.

# of Bands: 3 + Low Cut.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression.
Latency: 0
CPU: 0.5%

GMulti is a fairly straightforward multiband compressor. It has an efficient GUI that makes it easy to dial in settings. While its frequency division selection is somewhat limited, even at very fast attack and release settings it provides a clean, highly transparent touch, so i consider it relatively safe to use without as much trepidation about “overdoing it” as i might have with some other multiband dynamics plugins.

A unique feature it includes is stereo width per channel. It makes sense, since adjusting the dynamics of a frequency band can sometimes alter its width (for example if it’s squishing more during punchy center moments and less during ambient wide moments). Just be careful because it’s easy to go overboard with width adjustments.

GMulti has a home on the Toms Group channel of my Elemental Mixing Template.

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OTT by Xfer Records

OTT, yeah, you know me. I’ve heard people say this free plugin created by Xfer Records is “just a preset of Ableton’s Multiband Dynamics”, and while indeed inspired by said preset, it definitely has its own distinct sound.

# of Bands: 3.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression, Upward Compression.
Latency: 2 samples.
CPU: 1%

Both the beauty and shortcoming of OTT is in its limited controls. The high/low thresholds for each band are fused and move together, so they kind of act like “upwards vs downward” balancers, and usually means they’re always doing something. This makes it quick to dial in enhancement, but reduces your ability to adjust the specific reactivity of each band. You can fine-tune the overall sound with macro knobs that modify equally for all zones the upward, downward, depth, and time parameters.

If you need precise, surgical control of how and where dynamics shaping is occurring, this should not be your choice. Use it instead when you want to adjust for taste, by feel.

OTT exists on the Kicks Group channel of my Elemental Mixing Template.

~`~

F6 by Waves

I bought F6 on one of those super-cheap Waves sales where i afterwards felt a little bit dirty and guilty… “do i really need this?”. But now, i’m definitely glad i did as it’s more than proved its worth many times.

# of Bands: 6 + Low & High Cuts.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression, Upward Expansion.
Latency: 0
CPU: 1%

I’ll usually not use every single band when i drop F6 in, just usually one or two, for very specific purposes. Notice one pokey 6k frequency that pops out just once or twice during an acoustic guitar recording? Pop that sucker on, carefully dial in the settings and boom, there you go. Or— speaking of boom— how about we need more boom from the kick drum? Dial it in to expand right on the fundamental whenever it hits. Pop. Problems fixed.

Like bx_DynEQ, instead of a ratio there are ranges, which can be nice for when you want to be technical about things (i.e. “i never want the 120Hz dynamic boost to ever exceed +3dB”).

You can set each band to react to itself, the whole signal, or the external sidechain source, and it can apply to either the full stereo field, the center, or the sides. So in some ways it’s more versatile than the bx_DynEQ & Nova GE; but in other ways not as much.

It’s worth noting that F6 uses unusually low CPU for what it’s doing (testing 1% with all bands engaged is pretty nuts), so if you need lots of dynamic bands on lots of different tracks in a project, it might be a good choice.

Unfortunately you cannot invert the threshold for Downward Expansion or Upward Compression. Shucks. It sure would be nice if you could.

One last thing that sets the F6 apart is the inclusion of Waves’ ARC automatic release as an option, although unfortunately it’s a global setting, not per-band. I don’t usually like most auto-release algorithms, but ARC tends to sound pretty smooth.

F6 is positioned on the Elemental Mixing Template channel called Audio Repair.

~`~

Broadcast by Toneboosters

TB Broadcast is not mentioned publicly on their site, but it’s tucked away in the Toneboosters download package as a freebie nonetheless. Upon playing around with it, i like it; it’s quirky and a has a few tricks up its sleeves.

# of Bands: 3 + Output Limiter & Width Limiter.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression, Fullband Limiting, Multiband Width Limiting, Ambience Boosting.
Latency: 1536 samples.
CPU: 0.5%

I tracked down a manual for an old version of the plugin (back when it was JB instead of TB) and it revealed some interesting insights about the processes going on. Apparently it uses psycho-acoustic relevance contouring for the listen signal and “advanced attack and release stages that model peripheral adaptation of the human auditory nerve”. It also uses a sort of hysteresis memory that increases release when lots of overs happen. I think this is probably why the latency is so high.

While being very smooth and tasty-sounding, Broadcast also feels extra source-responsive, like it is hypersensitive to material once thresholds are passed. This makes it a bit tricky to dial in to a sweet spot, but more than worth it once you nail it, due to its nuanced behavior. I would recommend thinking of this one as a groovy character piece more than trying to use it for technical surgery.

Like GMulti, you can use Broadcast as a multiband width control.

The Ambience parameter “synthetically enhances” the sides signal. It can pull hidden things out of the audio that you didn’t know were there, pulling them out from the shadows into perceptual reality. Results vary based on the source, but it can oft bring a little magic to the table.

On the output, you’ve got a limiter (based on Barricade) as well as a density control and a width limiter. Also AGC (which i wasn’t really feeling).

Apparently density reduces the hysteresis memory, acting like a more typical aggressive compressor at higher values. Its effect seemed pretty subtle to me.

The width limiter is a multiband “negative phase protector”, preventing any of the three frequency bands from going too wide. Nifty concept; i’ll have to test it out on a bunch of stuff since i haven’t used this plugin much yet.

At this time Broadcast hails from the Nylon Guitars Buss Elemental Mixing template.

~`~

ReaXcomp by Reaper

ReaXcomp, like the other plugins in the free ReaPlugs suite, is deceptively powerful. ReaPlugs to me feel like they were programmed by programmers for programmers. A bit on the nerdy side.

The standout feature of ReaXComp is the fact that you can freely add any number of bands. It has a lot of per-band parameters to tweak. Want to set up a custom seventeen-band multiband compressor, each band with different threshold, ratio, knee, attack, release, and rms sizes as well as auto-release, feedback detection, and log-scale options? Well, here ya go.

# of Bands: As few or as many as you want (hundreds, even).
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression, Upward Expansion.
Latency: 0
CPU: 1.5% (w/ 10 bands).

If when working with your favorite multiband processor you always wished you had “just one more band”, well fuck it… go ahead and manifest one out of thin air whenever you need one. Not an issue.

I tested adding bands continually and it freaked out upon adding the 242nd band. Don’t try that at home— stick with 200 bands or less (like you’ll ever need that many).

Interestingly, this plugin doesn’t rotate phase at neutral for every crossover the way most multiband compressors do. It acts on the phase more like a dynamic EQ, only shifting it when frequency levels change.

People don’t tend to talk about using multiband expanders much, but this plugins is a great way to accomplish that. Say you want to just tickle up a certain frequency area… set band crossovers to flank the region you want to affect, set expansion so it reactively bumps up now and again, and leave the adjacent bands doing nothing.

My main gripe with ReaPlugs is the buggy way text input is handled… it doesn’t overwrite existing entries when you click a field and start typing, instead appending what you type to what’s already there, and seems to update values sent to the DSP as you type each character, which can lead to weird parameter jumping. It would be so, so nice if they fix that wonkiness at some point. The sliders also kinda suck.

ReaXcomp is currently placed on the Hats & Cymbals Group channel of my Elemental Mixing Template.

~`~

ReaFIR by Reaper

ReaFIR (pronounced gän-jə) is an interesting plugin for sure. Using FFT, it applies processes based on a spectral threshold you can draw freeform or define using points.

# of Bands: As few or as many as you want (up to 32 points).
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression, Upward Expansion, Downward Expansion, Convolving, Subtraction.
Latency: 4096 samples.
CPU: 0.5% (w/ 7 points).

This plugin isn’t advertised as such, but in its normal mode it is linear phase and so can be used in parallel. Nice!

Since the FFT smearing at extremes can cause very obvious amounts of that warbly “digital water” artifacting, i prefer to use ReaFir for sound design purposes rather than for mixing, etc. It’s not at all “pristine” sounding, but is wickedly vigorous. In general, subtle amounts tends to sound best, but for mangling purposes, going radical can be fun.

ReaFIR has four modes…
EQ Mode can be used for spline-style surgical EQing of only exactly which frequencies you want to.
Gate Mode can be used as a multiband gate. I don’t use it very often due to the artifacts, but occasionally it’s been useful.
Compressor Mode can be used as a multiband fast-response compressor or expander, depending on how you set the threshold.
Convolve L/R Mode is weird, filtering the left and right channels against each other, to highlight similarities between them. I’m not really sure what about this makes it more useful than a standard mono check.
Subtract Mode is meant for noise reduction, with the ability to build a noise profile. It doesn’t work as well as more cutting-edge NR tools in my experience, but it’s free, so stop complaining.

To alter the attack/release of the compression or gating (as well as the size of individual band slices), change the FFT size. You can also switch to FIR mode to reduce artifacts at the cost of less extreme filtering capabilities, although this also makes the phase response non-linear.

The GUI at first feels a bit clumsy, but once you realize that you can right-click a point to be able to type in its value, it becomes easy to create custom curvature to your specifications.

What if more DAWs opened up their native plugins to be used in other DAWs, the way that Reaper has? That would certainly be cool.

ReaFIR is residing on my Sound Design – Spectralogical Elemental Mixing channel strip.

~`~

Quad-Comp by IK Multimedia

Quad-Comp is a fairly straightforward yet versatile multiband compressor. It has a very precise onset behavior based on the peaks of material, so might be more suited for “curtailing” than for “grooving”. Its compression is the most subtle of all the multiband processors i’ve tested here, and like GMulti above, it can be adjusted fairly liberally without too much fear of “overdoing it”.

# of Bands: 2, 3, or 4.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression.
Latency: 3 samples.
CPU: 1%

The crossover slopes can be selected between 6, 12, 24 or 48 dB/oct, and all of them have nicely smooth adjacent band blending. This is great for when using the band makeup gains for non-dynamic tonal sculpting, since you can use 6dB/oct if you want gradual slopes, or you can get really clinical with 48, or go for something in-between.

You can link attack and release for all bands, or let them be independent. You can set different parameters for Center vs Side bands, if desired (but why no L-R?)

The GUI knobs are a bit small and glitchy when inputting text, so hopefully there will be a more modern-feeling update at some point.

A general complaint about IK Multimedia is their TR plugins installation process— it’s frankly annoying as hell, installing ALL of their plugins and requiring you to manually take out the ones you don’t own… every time there’s an update. Such a pain in the ass.

Quad-Comp has a home on my Orchestral Buss Elemental Mixing template.

~`~

VioletCM by Acoustica

I guess that Violet is supposed to be a hybrid of the Thermionic Culture Phoenix and the Tube-Tech SMC 2B, neither of which i have personal experience with. It’s the only tube (aka valve) multiband compressor plugin on this list, so that’s neat.

# of Bands: 3.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression.
Latency: 3452 samples.
CPU: 22%

Its timing and crossover settings are stepped, which i kinda enjoy most of the time, since it results in more decisive decision making.

I would describe its sound as “rounded and thick”— smooth while being punchy and solid. It’s cleaner than i expected, but gain reduction causes added harmonics, as does the preamp switch. Pushing the input gain harder seems to darken up the sound a touch, leading to a sort of subtle automatic de-essing. It doesn’t vibe quite like real tubes to me, but it does have a degree of character for sure. I’ve had issues with Acoustica’s older compressors coming across a bit sharp-edged in an overly digital manner before, but this one doesn’t feel that way.

You can’t select the ratios of any of the bands, which is a bit odd, so it’s more about massaging the thresholds in combination with the mix knob, here. The SHmod control allows for altering the overall attack shape (basically: left = fasterish, right = slowerish), which is really nice to have at hand and i think is a feature more compressors should consider utilizing.

Now for the criticisms: the GUI has a lot of wasted space, using up valuable screen real estate because apparently showing us a murky smear is important. The CPU and latency are very high. Initial loading of the plugin is slow. Is it worth it for the sound? You decide.

VioletCM is used on the Drum Room Elemental Mixing template.

~`~

TheKing by W.A. Production

TheKing is going for that “OTT” vibe by pairing upward with downward compression, using a single threshold for both on a given band. So you can use just downward compression or upward compression, or you can implement both simultaneously to have them play a sort of “tug-of-war” battle between compressing upwards and downwards.

# of Bands: 5 + Output Limiter.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression, Upward Compression, Fullband Limiting.
Latency: 0
CPU: 2%

The frequency band cutoff points are hardwired, so you can’t adjust them. I isolated them to estimate their ranges…

TheKing Frequency Bands (approximate)
Below 70: “Subs”
70 to 280: “Bass”
280 to 1.1k: “Low Mids”
1.1k to 4.2k: “Clarity”
Above 4.2k: “Brilliance”

The low-end treatment provided by TheKing seems to me to be well-suited more for rock/metal type music than EDM, providing focus to the region where bass guitar tends to reside moreso than thumping 808s.

The included Magic EQ knob is definitely hit-or-miss— mostly miss for me. There are 3 choices of curve to select between and i don’t find them very helpful except perhaps to restore a little touch of crispness when pushing the compression fairly deep.

Including a limiter was a wise choice, since upward compression doesn’t care about the peak level and is happy to push it up as high as the sky. Gotta stay grounded (especially as a king).

As for the phase response, it’s far from linear but it does avoid phase rotations at the crossover points (similar to ReaXComp).

Apparently TheKing2 is out now, but i can’t tell if there are any substantive differences other than the GUI, so the same assessments probably still apply to it.

TheKing is positioned on the Percussion Group Elemental Mixing channel strip.

~`~

X-Press by beatassist.eu

With a very efficient, no-nonsense GUI, X-Press (obtained from beatassist’s free BAFEX Studio Bundle) lays out the functions close at hand for easy tweakage. There’s no bizarre features here, just everything you’d expect.

# of Bands: 4.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression.
Latency: 0
CPU: 1%

Things are presented and adjusted here numerically rather than graphically, which i tend to prefer, since i’m generally using a different analyzer on an extra screen to visualize and make decisions about spectra anyways. X-Press uses VU meters to show gain reduction— a tried-and-true means to absorb at a glance info about both the amount and character of the dynamic movement happening. It works for me. Why can’t i type text into value fields, though?

Testing out this plugin for this review (since i haven’t used it that much yet), i am really liking the sound. It’s smooth and punchy at the same time, great for gently “auto-contouring” sounds that are a bit unpredictable in a mix, helping to “glue” and provide distinction between elements. Of course, adjusting the settings carefully is paramount to achieving such results.

I approve of this one. If you judge it by the simple GUI and lack of weird attempts at innovation, you’ll be missing out on a solid piece of gear. Haven’t decided where to place it in my Elemental Mixing templates yet… thinking a workhorse buss channel of some sort.

~`~

WindCompressor by Freeverb3

Is Freeverb3 an effect or a brand name? I’m not sure. I think they made a reverb called Freeverb and then that morphed into a brand name when they made more plugins. Possibly. Who cares? They sound good.

# of Bands: 3 + Output Limiter.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression, Fullband Limiting.
Latency: 98
CPU: 2%

WindCompressor is a straightforward multiband compressor, with the full complement of parameters to sculpt the sound as desired, including adjustable overall RMS and Lookahead. It appears that the cutoff between the mids and highs is steeper than the one between the lows and mids, which is interesting. It also includes an output limiter which can be handy.

The GUI is atrocious, almost painful to look at. I’m not a genius at graphic design myself, but… yikes. It motivates me to adjust the parameters as quickly as possible and move on, so i’ll take it as a plus. I’m sure that’s what the developer’s intention was, right? The sound is way better than the GUI, fortunately.

A bug i noticed using one of the Freeverb3 effects in a mix recently was the plugin latency sometimes not reporting to the DAW, resulting in incorrect playback timing. I fixed it each time this happened by disabling and re-enabling the plugin.

Honestly, i haven’t used WindCompressor much yet, but i’ve got it stuck in my Snares and Claps Group Elemental Mixing channel strip, since that slot was begging for a replacement. Time will tell how it fares in that role.

~`~

Pressit by Klevgrand

Pressit feels like it was designed for touchscreen use, but it’s hard to know the exact values of the parameters. Where is -6dB on a threshold slider? I have no idea. How do i dial in a ratio of 4:1? No clue. Do it by ear or go home. Well, that’s cool, i guess.

# of Bands: 3.
Dynamic Capabilities: Downward Compression.
Latency: 1763 samples.
CPU: 4.5%

It’s got pretty steep filters like TriComp mentioned above, except that the crossovers aren’t perfect, leading to resonance bumps at the cutoff points when the band levels are close to each other (similar to what’s up with EQ Three). This means that supposedly “subtle” settings will be causing some unwanted frequency contouring. Not acceptable! Naughty plugin. Unless you happen to want that specific behavior, i guess?

I really like Klevgrand’s plugins in general, so this one was a bit of a disappointment. Hopefully they’ll update it soon?

I have Pressit positioned on my Sound Design Buss Elemental Mixing template.

~`~

That’s all for now. Peace!

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