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Reviewed By bduffy [read all by] on October 1st, 2021
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Mac.
Last edited by bduffy on 1st October 2021.

Not a successful multiband compressor.

I was disappointed with KTT. OTT's controls are infamously mysterious, but this takes it to the next level.

Despite the quotidian interface, it's often unclear what exactly is happening to the signal, with no control over the individual bands, and the controls do not seem to do what they say.

And there only seems to be two settings: kind-of-off, and BLASTING IN YOUR FACE. And not in a fun way. There seems to be some kind of audible gating happening; the tails of signals are plagued with a progressive chopping effect, and the tail gets completely cut off. I would expect the opposite with aggressive compression, leading me to believe that there is something else going on behind the scenes.

The bottom line: it just doesn't sound good. OTT has a pleasing quality, often like an aggressive exciter. But KTT just brings cloudy artefacts to the party. I'm calling the cops on this one. Stay away.

Reviewed By bduffy [read all by] on October 1st, 2021
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Mac

A welcome return of the legendary Listen Mic Compressor.

I was a huge fan of SSL's previous LMC-1 compressor—a wonderful freebie that they mysteriously killed after only a couple of years on the market. Up until now, the LMC could only be found as a minor component on their Duende software. But now, it's available to all.

SSL really upped the features on this version; the user has complete control over the signal, and it's good to see developers not be so beholden to the limitations of the original (much like Overloud's excellent Gem Mod emulation).

This is one of my favourite compressors, and is getting a heavy workout on drums, guitars, and parallel processing on vocals. Get it now.

Reviewed By bduffy [read all by] on April 7th, 2021
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Mac.
Last edited by bduffy on 7th April 2021.

As a longtime superfan of the PolyTune pedal, I was shocked to discover that this plugin quietly existed in the world. I used to check on the TC website all the time, wondering why they hadn't released a plugin version of this revolutionary plugin, and then one day during some plugin research here—what do I find? A listing for PolyTune! And it's only $49.

So this functions and looks exactly like the guitar pedal. No surprises here. I noticed that the GUI is not Retina-ready, which leads me to believe this plugin might be somewhat neglected and may not get updated. But for now, it's working fine on MacOS Catalina, as of April 2021.

Generally, the polyphonic tuning is accurate, and can be very useful for dynamic sections of a song where the player is hitting the strings at hard levels and might be skewing the tuning. Using the polyphonic mode can get your a nice average tuning for chords, and then it will automatically switch to single-note mode when you hit individual strings. It's brilliant.

There is a very generous trial version available from the product page, I highly recommend any and all guitar players grab it. It makes life so much easier.

Reviewed By bduffy [read all by] on July 3rd, 2018
Version reviewed: 3.0.7 on Mac

Stunning functionality and sound.

I picked this up for an insane $1.00 on pluginboutique.com. If you ever see this come up on special, you must grab it. This is simply one of the best all-purpose synths out there today.

AIR Technology has been around for a long time; until recently, their plug-ins were only available to Pro Tools users (they make the default effect suite included with Pro Tools), but they have opened it up in recent years to other formats.

I expected this to fall along the lines of the instruments included with Pro Tools; professional, but outdated, bearing the imprint of circa-mid-2000's. But boy, was I wrong. Of course the presets are techno-centric, but they sound fantastic and serve as great starting points. I found myself sinking in and wasting many an hour digging in and even coming up with ideas.

What really sets this apart is the multitude of features. It reminds me a lot of Omnisphere, without being sample-based: dual oscillators that can be blended or turned on or off separately; a rich step-sequencer and arpeggiator; a rich selection of saturation for the filters and excellent in-line effects. I'm reminded that AIR used to be Wizoo, who made some of Steinberg's finest, long-lost synths, whose ethos still runs through Cubase today.

Not only this, it's insanely light on resources. I'm not sure that I could top out Cubase, running on a 2013 MacBook.

I could go on and on, but really, this is a tremendous, still totally relevant synth today, and worth every penny at full price, but it's shocking that one can pick this up for as little as one dollar. I urge anyone to check it out; it's the underrated secret deal of the decade.

Reviewed By bduffy [read all by] on April 1st, 2017
Version reviewed: 1.x on Windows

sixtyfive is one of the things I miss from when I was using Windows. God, I would kill for a Mac port of this (but I realize that's impossible).

I've tried UAD's and Waves' dbx emus, and to me, this one sounds the best, retaining the bottom end of the input and not collapsing into digital mush as quickly as the aforementioned—especially at high gain-reduction levels.

It's worth 10x its asking price. Cannot recommend it enough.

Reviewed By bduffy [read all by] on October 7th, 2014
Version reviewed: 9 on Mac

An Underrated Gem

RenAxx fooled many people when it suddenly appeared in the early 00's: it looks simply like a hastily-reskinned RenVox, with the exact same controls. I ignored it for a long time, but I have rediscovered it since then, finding it quite useful for drums, of all things.

The GUI couldn't be simpler; if you can get past the retina-blazing "Tolex" background, it's just a simple threshold/makeup compressor with automatic release control, and a limiter at the output to prevent clipping (just like Renaissance Vox!). The key to the Renaissance compressors' success, I think, is the automatic release parameters, or whatever is going on behind the scenes.

Compression is smooth and transparent, and you can see why this is marketed towards beginners-and-up. There seems to be something about the compression that "fattens" the sound a bit—somewhat reminiscent of Vintage Warmer's release character—that of course works well for guitars, but I have found to be really effective on drums (individual and full busses), and it can make a snare sound fuller, even at higher levels. You can push this thing quite heavily and still retain a good attack characteristics. It's very useful for slapping quickly on an acoustic guitar bus too, say, to gel them together and tame unruly plosives.

All in all, I'd say this is a delightful tool, and when one surveys the plug-in horizon, there are few compressors marketed specifically for guitars, so I think it's a great effect to have at hand when you need it—especially if you're more of a songwriter than an engineer. And if you're put off by its simplicity, just remember: some of the world's most coveted compressors are fixed-ratio/auto-release compressors with simple controls (UREI 1176, anyone? LA2A?), and I think this is a plug-in classic that deserves reappraisal and a higher place in peoples' plugin roster—especially if you got it during a Waves sale, or free with your Waves bundle.

Reviewed By bduffy [read all by] on January 13th, 2014
Version reviewed: 10.9 on Mac.
Last edited by bduffy on 13th January 2014.

Native Instruments really shocked with this too-good-to-be-free compressor. This is probably the best "one-knob"-style compressor since Audio Damage's Rough Rider (but without the high-cut), and one of the best compressors you'll try this year.

What's really wonderful about Supercharger is that it gives you some control over the sound, including the all-important wet/dry mix, plus saturation and "Punch" modes. The Punch mode is reminiscent of Cubase's Vintage Compressor's punch mode, creating a very sharp attack, similar to a transient designer. The saturation is typically pleasant and well-suited to bass and drums.

Overall one NI's best offerings, at one of their best prices! $49 is more then reasonable for this little powerhouse, and for those who were paying attention last Christmas, they got it for free. Amazing.

Reviewed By bduffy [read all by] on December 8th, 2012
Version reviewed: 1 on Windows

I was a little surprised to see this old relic pop up on the "Products" page!

I'm not sure if this will work for many people running modern systems anymore (DX is dead), but it was actually a pretty good-sounding EQ/channel strip in its day. What I recall is that the controls are programmed terribly - they "pull" when you expect them to "push" - and I was forced to stop using it. Which is too bad, it had a nice high shelf and gentle compressor.

Not too much to add, apart from that. There are many, superior, free modern options for channel strips (not the least of which is Cubase 7's excellent new Channel Strips), so I would avoid this.

Reviewed By bduffy [read all by] on May 29th, 2012
Version reviewed: 1.0.9 on Mac

This is quite an extraordinary EQ. I'm usually not crazy about Bezier curves (even in Adobe Illustrator, they drive me mad!), but this EQ gives me an excuse to get more familiar with them. But I do have to say, the "killer app" with this EQ is the amazing spectral display.

The RGB display undulates and moves with the audio signal (red = low end, high = blue, as expected), making it very easy to zero in on hot spots in the recording. I was able to instantly remove the boxy character from a tricky voiceover in a mixed ad spot, while leaving the background music largely unaffected, just by adding a generous dip around the "green" area, which was clearly the VO's fundamental area.

There are some great tricks here too, like being able to transpose and adjust the gain of filters. The limiter is a nice touch, although it doesn't seem to protect the signal from distorting at all. It may need another tweak or two, but generally, I would never boost enough to make my EQ scream, so this is not a big deal.

Another con: there does not seem to be a way to bypass a band; you can only create and delete bands, which seems a little destructive for the sensitive art of mastering.

Also a great feature: you can control how precisely the EQ follows the "ideal equalization curve". At lower values, a dotted line will show how much the actual EQ is diverging from the ideal EQ, and you can increase the precision to more closely match the "ideal". I could use it a highest quality in Wavelab 7, no problem, but it sounded good even at lower settings.

Overall, this seems ideal as a mastering tool, given its buffer sizes and CPU use. Again, it's easy to find trouble areas in your mixes with the display, and the curve splines can give you very precise control over the signal, or even offer a novel way of approaching EQ. At $19, this is a crazy steal, and there's a 4-band version, which could already meet most mixing/mastering needs. I strongly advise readers looking for a cool linear-phase filter to check it out.

Reviewed By bduffy [read all by] on May 4th, 2012
Version reviewed: 1.0.2 on Mac

The best thing about Presence is that it's simple. You can insert this, twist a couple knobs and make your source sound better right away. I find this particularly useful for dead-sounding mixes, but can be just the thing for drums, acoustics, vocals and the typical targets that benefit from exciters.

The GUI is pretty straightforward: Low & High gain, input/output gain and a very-welcome low-cut filter (this is great because you can augment the lows with the exciter, but roll off unwanted subs with the filter). A unique feature is the "Tilt" dial, which can be used to shift the whole spectrum to more highs or more lows. I find you can really dial in a nice, professional high end on a master with this. I'm not sure if this is just a simple "tilt EQ", but usually things are more dynamic with SKnote's stuff. At any rate, it does not sound harsh, even on significant boosts!

I do have to take some points of the GUI for a reason that plagues most of SKNote's "grey" line: the grey-on-black text is very hard to read, and I just have to wonder why he doesn't punch of the whiteness a few notches. Overall, I love the GUI, but I just cannot read the font on my smaller monitor.

I like to follow up Presence with SKnote's Roundtone tape emulation plug-in. This can help soften any harsh tones from the boosts in the exciter, for a more natural sound.

All in all, it's hard not to recommend this plugin! I would say it doesn't quite clear up the midrange elements like a BBE or Aphex, but is one of the best I've heard for high and low end. Another interesting and appealing release from SKNote, again featuring his unique approach to plug-in design, at a very low price.

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