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Mäag Audio EQ4

Reviewed By RobertSchulz [all]
February 9th, 2023
Version reviewed: 1.14.1 on Windows

First things first. I want to tell a little about my story with the Mäag plugins as I think it is important for the understanding of my valuation of EQ4.

I once had the opportunity at a special deal to get the Mäag EQ4 or EQ2 for almost the same price. And if you're thinking the EQ2 is a shrinked down version of the EQ4, you're completely wrong. I thought that too at the beginning, but it's not, they do differ in functionality. But the popularity usually sees the EQ4 as better plugin. But Against all popular thinking, I decided to go for the Mäag EQ2. It convinced me more at that point of time especially because of the additional 15k Sweetspot of the Air band, which the EQ4 doesn't have. Since the other EQ bands didn't mattered to me that much and my thought was that the pattented Air band technologoy is the outstanding factor of the Mäag devices (which I still think after a long time using them), so I wanted a fully complete Air band control.

I used the EQ2 long time and I'm still a bit more fan of it, but how fate happens to be their came Dirk Ulrich's Farewell sale and I decided to don't miss the chance and get the long-wanted EQ4, which was the version which got me interested first in Mäag devices long time ago as I saw it used by Dave Pensado in his YouTube video series. He said he used it for Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera etc. and I still was hooked by this blue little legend. So now I finally got it.

Review of the Mäag EQ4 itself:
I think it's important to point out again, that the major factor of this plugin (or even the whole Mäag series) is the Air band technology, which is also pattented. It sounds absolutely amazing and dependent upon the amount and cutoff point it really brings the audio source a shine I never heard done before by any other plugin. The Mäag E4's air band has 5 cutoff points for the high-shelf (2.5k, 5k, 10k, 20k and 40k) - it's important to note again that the 15k point is missing. You would say "it's just one single preset, I don't need that". But I can say that this 15k preset is very very pleasant sounding and best preset in my opinion, espcially for vocals. 80% of when I am using my EQ2, I am using the 15k sweetspot. So I really miss that much in the EQ4 and is amongst many others another reason for me why the EQ4 never could be mentioned as the "full" version of both EQs. They are complementation, not a substitution for each other.

Beside the Air-band high-shelf, EQ4 has 5 fixed frequency bands (Sub - 10hz, 40hz, 160 hz, 650 hz and 2.5kHz) in comparison to EQ2 which has just 1 single band, but there the frequency is selectable between 8 different frequeny settings reaching from 10hz (Sub) to 1,4k. In EQ4, You can boost and cut which isn't possible in EQ2 which only allows you to boost but not to cut. Depending upon your mixing technique this could be a big plus for the EQ4, for me personally it isn't that much because I like to have more precision when I cut and this is also another thing I will come to in a second.

But keep in mind, the fixed frequency bands and you also do not have an option to change bandwidth/Q. Speaking about the sound of the frequency bands, I would describe it as clean. Nothing special in sound coloration. Maybe this is exactly what you want and need when you use this EQ for mixing and mastering, but others may hope for little bit more of analog saturation and feeling connected to it. That's not what you get with this plugin.

Another important thing to consider is that you can't do extremely precise adjustments of either band including the air one, neither in EQ2 nor in EQ4. In EQ4 you have a range from -5.0 to +5.0 and you step by 0.5 steps over the settings. Meaning in total you have ((5+5)*2) + 1 = 21 steps/settings per band available, which probably will be fine in most scenarios but also could lead to problems if you need that exact adjustment of a 0.7 value for example. I wish that they could add an option in the a future update to change the precision to be more accurate.

Also another big disadvantage of the EQ4 for me personally is that you can't bypass/mute a certain a frequency band/filter. You only have a global On/Off button to bypass the complete plugin. In EQ2 you can bypass the 1 and only frequency band + the air band separately. This is not possible in EQ4. And yes, you can turn the Air Band off, but this is not exactly what I mean by a correct and clean bypass as you need to change the value of the knob to do so.

The Trim feature is nice to regulate the volume back to unity gain, but I also wish that there would be a Dry/Wet knob for smoothing out the filter and the air band essence. Especially because we can't fine tune with the knobs as descibed before.

Another thing worth to mention is that parameter values can not be typed in. These are 1-to-1 hardware-like drag-only plugins!

Last but not least - a nitpicky note: The name of the plugin is a little bit confusing, because EQ4 actually contains 5 filters (excluding the air band high shelf), not 4. I think this is because the 10 hz sub didn't counted that much, but in fact they EQ4 contains 5 filters.

If you are interested in purchasing either one, the EQ2 or EQ4 (or even both), here is another tip from me. I recently discovered the Magnum-K plugin, which is the third sibling of the Mäag device series. It combines a compressor and an EQ, but the EQ section (which is like a modified copy of the original EQ2 - f.e. for the air band, the 2.5k and 5k are replaced by 25k and 30k settings) can be used completely separated and it offers in addition/comparison to EQ4 and EQ2 among other features M/S processing and a dry/wet knob. So if you are interested in acquiring one of the plugins of the Mäag series, it's definitely worth to check this out before as well. I actually now have all 3 of them and can recommend them to everyone.

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Reviewed By RobertSchulz [all]
December 9th, 2022
Version reviewed: 1.0.9 on Windows

The sound of this compressor is great. It has 4 fundamental modes in which you can run it (my personal favorite is the "Crispy" mode, it brings shine to the source in an instant).

I also really like the feature that you can put 3 instances of the actual compressor plugin in serial, means you can even create your own costumized chains consisting of different compressor modes, which is awesome.

Big shoutout for the VST2 compatibility, the auto-gain and the Dry/Wet parameter.

But there also are some disadvantages.

1. NO GLOBAL CONTROLS - Depite the amazing fact to chain up to 3 compressor instances inside of the plugin itself, you don't have any global controls to control all of them at once.

For example, I can dry/wet each individual compressor (which is super) but at the other hand, I can't smooth out the whole chain because there isn't a global Dry/Wet parameter provided.

Also I am missing a global BYPASS to compare the output with the input signal properly. At the moment, I only can bypass single compressor instances. And if I need to use a lot of A/B comparison, this will cost a decent amount of time.

2. Input/Output Fader has no meter - In some cases it can be useful to have a meter for the input and/or output signal right in the plugin. This also would give better help for using the THRESHOLD parameter.

3. Switching of the instance's position is not possible. - This could be a nice feature for an updated version. If you use all of the 3 instances for example, one cannot switch compressor 3 with 1 or compressor 1 with 2. That could really change the sound a lot.

4. Manual is not directly accesible from inside of the plugin. - A rather nit-picky one but worth to mention nonetheless. The manual lies in the downloaded installer files, but can't be accessed anyhow from inside of the plugin. Of course, the number of parameters T-Compressor has is fairly no so much, but it could give some help understanding the plugin for the ones who come new into it.

In short: A good tool but 4/5 stars because there is still place to go upwards.

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Little Radiator

Reviewed By RobertSchulz [all]
November 25th, 2022
Version reviewed: 5.3.8 on Windows

Great sounding tube-emulation. Love the sound you get from the bias-switch and the dry/wet feature. List price isn't really worth it tough, but great tool for getting it for free. They should make Little Radiator as your free entry to many new costumers like me for unlimited time, not just once every couple of years.

Only thing is I would wish there would be the output volume knob which Radiator has. Dry/Wet isn't exactly the right choice to lower down the volume back to unity gain but I guess of course this belongs to that Little Radiotor is just a fair and simple limited version of Radiator.

But for 79$ list price a fair argument to put nonetheless.

4/5 stars.

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Brainworx bx_masterdesk

Reviewed By RobertSchulz [all]
October 21st, 2022
Version reviewed: 1.6 on Windows

Good tool for mastering. Combines some useful features (a compressor [in L/R or stereo mode], a deesser, a tone balance EQ, the dynamic range analyzers - a unique feature of brainworx plugins, and one of my favorites - the advanced stereo width knob which implements a carefully shaped EQ to only give the parts of the signal more presence and width who shall have it) but still has some little issues for my use with it:

  1. TMT modelling and compressor modes combined - I think it is a great idea to implement 4 different compressor settings. I also think that brainworx' own TMT modelling is great and a unique thing to add that little extra analogue flavor to your tracks/mixes and I know from other brainworx products.

    But I don't like the decision here, that both of these characteristics are combined into one single set of the 4 presets.

    I think it would give much better transperance to know what is actually given what kind of sonic change here, if the user could adjust the TMT flavor and the compressor characteristic separate and individually.
  2. Limited Parallel compression - I really use effects in parallel a lot, I'm a big fan of this technique, to sooth out the portion I just want to have on the signal.

    But the implementation that the mix parameter for the compression only covers a range of 100 to 86, and then cutsoff to 0, does not allow me to do that.

    I know that the decision about this exact implementation was long in the minds of the creators to provide a more simple and go-to environment, but simply is limiting my way of using parallel compression.
  3. No bypass for sections - It is not possible to just quickly bypass a single element of bx_masterdesk for a quick A/B check. I need to change the parameter value to its default or 0 to mirror a bypass, which is quite inconvenient.

    This is also double timed bad, because the place for On/Off buttons for the elements is there it and probably could have been implemented in less than a half hour.
  4. Compressor in complete Linked or Unlinked mode - One of the main important background features of bx_masterdesk is the capability of the compressor to affect either the whole entired stereo signal or L and R independetly.

    The default implementation is the L/R (unlinked) mode turned on (having to independent compressors for the left and right channel) for certain reasons, but I personally prefer treating the complete stereo signal to keep my balance in the mix. A cool and unique feature could have been if there would a mix control which balances between the linked and unlinked stereo compressor to have some sonic character from both.
  5. Resonance filters only have 2 fixed frequency parameters - Could have been better, if the user can adjust the exact frequencies for the resonances and the provided and recommended frequencie values were presets or default values.
  6. The visualization for the compressor's gain reduction is misplaced on the GUI - brainworx itself states in the manual: "The Gain Reduction meter shows the amount of compression taking place on the Left and Right channels of your master. Although located around the Compressor Mix knob, the compression amount will be dialed in using the Volume knob, not the Mix control!" - They placed the gain reduction meter for better symmetry with the Deesser's gain reduction meter to the compressor's mix control although this paramter does not have an affect on the actual gain-reduction.
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Brainworx bx_cleansweep V2

Reviewed By RobertSchulz [all]
October 19th, 2022
Version reviewed: V2 on Windows

The plugin in one sentence: 1x Lowpass-filter (Range: 20-22.000 Hz, 6 dB/Octave) and 1x Highpass-filter (Range: 20-11.000 Hz, 6 dB/Octave) which use brainworx' own "Anti-Cramp technology" and whose cut off frequencies can be controlled simultaneously by using the dedicated joystick.

I personally think the joystick component is a rather unuseful feature made much too prominent. Controlling both cutoffs for high-pass and low-pass filter can give you a solid band-pass filter, but the issue that the high-pass only ranges to 11k (although this is quite a great value for a high-pass on its own) limits the fun you can have with it.

The 6db/Octave butterworth filter indeed sound musical but one the other hand they are also very limited in the things you can do with them and allowing no surgical filtering. Not to mind about not having Resonance (Q) or gain parameters to shape the sound more to one's own needs.

I also do not like that each of the both filter actually has two separate control parameter, which again are very laid out far from each other on the desktop. You can use the little dials to the upper left side to swipe through the frequency spectrum and you also can do this via "mouse-over" controlling but these 2 dials neither give you information about the current cutoff frequency nor do they have the capability to type in the frequency.

This is what you do with the separate controls at the lower right, underneath the display. A kind of strange layout.

At last, I think that the name is misplaced. This plugin does not offer the accuracy to really provide clean and costumized sweeps as rather a raw but indeed very musical tool to create sweeps especially for the low-filter, since high-pass just cover half of the range.

The plugin could also have been updated to provide resizing, since it is small on modern desktops and values are hard to read.

Resume: For using it as simple low-and highpass-filter tool, it can be great, but even for that purpose it can give you a struggle because of its limited capacity and the way to use it.

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Brainworx bx_digital V3

Reviewed By RobertSchulz [all]
October 5th, 2022
Version reviewed: 3.0 on Windows

bx_digital is a great overall tool for mastering (offers a lot of special features combined), which I will use it for, but in my honest opinion not the best M/S EQ or EQ in general for mastering and I want to tell you why:

  1. The interface is a bit clumsy and hard to read. Sections aren't clearly separated, parameter which obviously belong together aren't layed out as close as they should be and some parameters are placed on quite unusual places or their use is not easy to understand due to an confusing parameter name. - Now this is a problem I encountered in many brainworx plugins, and although I know the guys of brainworx work hard and do great things to their plugins under the hood, this a thing which turns me away from using their plugins, everytime I feel to dig into it/them again.
  2. No Mute/Bypass for MID or SIDE processing. - Now bx_digital offers plenty of options to solo a single band and the section (Mid or Side) connected to it. But it doesn't offer a way to bypass or mute the EQ processing of a section, which is in my opinion quite a vital feature to an M/S EQ (especially for a high-end MS/ EQ of that kind) and I really was suprised that bx_digital didn't has it.

    Why would you need that, you ask? Well, You want to bypass just the mide or sides to adjust the EQ bands and control whether the processed signal really sounds better than before (look how the EQ altered the signal of that section only).

    In this plugin, you need to disable all other filters of a section to achieve that. A No-go for me.
  3. No fixed solo for bands. - The only way in bx_digital to solo a specific band is to tweak (actually change its setting) and hold a band-related parameter or disable all other filters. It is not possible to solo more than 1 band and not possible to solo a single band in a fixed manner. Bad.
  4. Auto-Solo and/or Auto-Listen itself is a mess - Auto-Solo soloes the section (mid or side), Auto-Listen actually the frequency band, but Auto-Listen only soloes while you tweak, if you rest the parameter, it stops soloing.

    Beside this you can choose between whether you want to solo the gain, frequency and bandwidth of the soloed band. Why should anyone need that?

    If I want to solo a band, I want to hear how I change it, not anything else. Here I think Dirk went too much into the detail in a rather unneeded feature and wasted time and capacity in place of more important aspects of the plugin.

    Conclusion: The logic and sense behind the concept of these both functions I feel as very unuseful.

  5. The slopes of High and Low Shelves are fixed, not adjustable. - When not providing a Q-value (which is common), you should provide at least different types of slopes. But here nothing.

    Tip: You can use reduce the presence or bass shift to alter the slope a little but as described in a minute this also affects adjacent frequencies.
  6. Parameter values do not reset to its default value at double or right click. - It is only possible by using CTRL or CMD and click. - You might say this is nitpicky, but if you use the plugin more often you definitely have a problem with that.
  7. Presence and bass shift features affect other bands. - I think the idea behind that is great and unique to bx_digital but however it isn't as useful for me when bass or high-end boost reduces the frequencies ranges around. Yes, a Pultec is based on doing exactly that, but this one is not a Pultec-EQ, it is a transparent mastering EQ, which you use for sublte changes, not to deconstruct the EQ-curve of your entired mix.

    Speaking about the controls of Presence and bass shift in the dedicated sections, the layout is actually assymetrical between the Mid and the Side sections. On the left side, the dynamic EQ is at third place, while at the right side the dynamic EQ knob is at first, shifting both controls. This can be a little inconvenient if you're adjusting them both, but that just a simple note.
  8. Dynamic EQ does not offer threshold and adjustable times. - This a new feature of V3 and a succesor to the in-built De-Esser and you can adjust the frequency but to use it as clear dynamic EQ it is limited in what it can do (no threshold, no accurate Attack and release times).
  9. The visualized graph does not give a clue about which filter is doing what exactly. - There is no visual help to detect immediately which filter does what in the signal. You need to tweak the filter to get an impression what is doing what.

    Especially on long sessions with many filters engaged a bad thing, where you don't recognize the setting in an instant. Just a little mark with the name or number of the filter could help, but isn't there.
  10. No quick reset for Mid or Side section. - If you completely think with the eqing of the side and want to readjust the parameters for the mid (or vice versa), there's no way to reset all parameters for a section only at once.

bx_digital might have been a great tool for years and a pioneer as M/S equalizer once, but there are really better options available today, just for the EQ part.

Other feature wishes:

  1. Gain Scale - independent for Mid and Side.
  2. Disable the graph with the discontinued lines of the unused filters in the analyzer (Quite distracting).
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Reviewed By RobertSchulz [all]
September 21st, 2022
Version reviewed: 15.01 on Windows

Some frequencies of your mix are out of phase? No problem.

Shift the frequencies of your signal to your needs is now possible with MFreeformPhase.

The only nitpick: As someone already suggested in the KVR forum, it would be great if one could be able to draw straight lines in the display to accurately and equally shift whole frequency ranges. Thats why I reduce 1 star for a 5/5 review.


Tip: In addition to use MFreeformPhase to correct frequency-dependent phase problems, a helpful and also free tool to detect those problematic frequency ranges is Correlometer by Voxengo, which offers individual correlometers per up to 64 frequency bands.

Both work absolutely great in conjunction with each other and I just can't recommend this way enough instead of using a conventional correlometer and phase corrector which affects the whole entired signal. Why affecting the whole signal, if the phase problem is only related to a certain frequency range?

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SPL Free Ranger

Reviewed By RobertSchulz [all]
September 20th, 2022
Version reviewed: 1.16 on Windows

Not as useful as I thought:

  1. The plugin offers only 4 adjustable bands (40hz, 150hz, 1.8k and 16k), not all of the 8 which are shown in the interface. Less bands are common to me as I use a lot of analog modelled plugins, but why even wasting the already barely given GUI space with 4 not usable sliders? This isn't even an updatable plugin, the free version is a standalone plugin. Just to make the user hungry for the paid version? No, not in this way.
  2. The sliders can be adjusted only by horizontal dragging (which is a little incomfortable) or by hovering over and using your mousewheel, but is problematic due to point 3.
  3. The GUI is very small and sliders are hard to pinpoint if you want to adjust the frequencies. Not sufficient enough for modern desktops.
    The interface should have been updated a long while ago to be resizable.
  4. Also for being a passive EQ, it actually introduces a gain change by boosting a frequency. So no really a change to an active EQ here.
  5. Sliders do not reset at double click - only at Ctrl/CMD + click. - Yes, it's nitpicky, but if you try to use the plugin frequently, you will have a problem with this.
  6. No Mute, no solo for band nor do the bands even show values or can be adjusted to a certain value.
  7. Last but not least: No coloration or anything special to the sound. :P.

Only cool feature I like is that you can have 4 preset states for the sliders and even automate between them, but that doesn't equalize the disadvantages with this one.

Resume: Even as free plugin, this thing isn't worth to download and authorize it. Hugely Overrated plugin.

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Youlean Loudness Meter

Reviewed By RobertSchulz [all]
September 15th, 2022
Version reviewed: 2.4.3 on Windows

I love this plugin. I use it for every master I got.
(Also for gain matching and compensation of different tracks when mixing).

But there is one thing which so unbelievably annoys me every time I'm using it:

I use the plugin only for the meters to the left (without the histogram) and like to use it in vertical mode (that is: 'Histogram graph - OFF' in the view settings), pinning it to one side of my screen. In this way I can always look at the meteres on the fly, without wasting any space unnessary and have the place empty for my DAW and other plugins.

Now, the problem is that every f***ing time I initiate one instance of YLM2, I need to switch back over to the settings at the very top left corner, click on the switch to disable the histogram view and again close the view settings.

Why can't the plugin remember that state or have a preset with my preferred visuals?

A great plugin, but that is absolutely worth for me to take one star away from a 5/5 review.

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Bitter Sweet FREE

Reviewed By RobertSchulz [all]
September 15th, 2022
Version reviewed: 3.0 on Windows

Good and free M/S transient shaper. I like that you can chose between the mid and sides (or both) to be processed. That is a unique feature that other transient shaper I know doesn't offer.

Now some disadvantages:

  • The GUI is very small. Yes, this plugin was made a long while ago, but it really could have an overhaul to make it more suitable for modern desktops.
  • The "Link to Output Gain" feature is pretty useless. The gain compensation of the output does not work properly. Yes, it compensates a little, but the output is still significantly louder than the input.
    To cite the manual, "When engaged, the output gain is compensated depending of the transient amount to produce an almost unity gain." is not true.
  • The switch to change the signal to be processed (Mid, Side or both) works only via draging, not clicking. Very annoying if you want to use the plugin frequently for that feature, considering this one of the features, which makes BitterSweet outstanding from others.
  • Requires additional folder, in which the GUI png's lie. This also causes it to open up a little bit delayed.

    Resume: After so many years, It really would deserve an update.
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