I use and can vouch for (highest price first):
T-RackS DX plugin (currently has bugs that crash SF, www.t-racks.com)
Ozone DX (www.izotope.com/products/audio/ozone/)
Vintage Warmer DX (www.pspaudioware.com)
Sonic Finalizer VST/DX (www.voxengo.com, Sonic Foundry doesn't support VST adapter usage !)
Endorphin (VST again !) http://www.digitalfishphones.com/main.php (free)
In order of transparancy for light/medium smoothing (subjective opinion):
Ozone / Sonic Finalizer / Endorphin / T-RackS / Vintage Warmer
In order of transparancy for heavy smoothing (s.o):
Sonic Finalizer / Vintage Warmer / Endorphin / Ozone / T-RackS
In order of best satuation (s.o.):
Vintage Warmer / T-RackS / Endorphin / ---> Ozone
In order of most features:
Ozone / T-RackS/ Vintage Warmer/ ----
You get the idea. It all depends on what you want to do, what tools you need to do it with, how long you want to take to learn a tool, blah, etc. depends on a lot of stuff. I use them to home master relatively ruff mixes (dynamics & EQ mixes). Some of the tools have downloadable versions for you to test with.
I currently use Vintage Warmer and Ozone the most and am just getting up to speed with Sonic Finalizer and Endorphin relatively speaking. I am actually learning new things from the boads every week and have been using the tools every week since Jan 2003 and would consider myself a beginner to home mastering and those tools after that amount of time.
If I could only use one of those plugins currently I would pick Vintage Warmer and run it in MAGIX audio cleaning lab ($39) so I could cheat and use their multiband limiter also. Once CD architect is fixed so that I can have a plugin inserted in every song (for more than 8 songs) and it will support my VST plugs (lower priority) I can begin using that tool also.
The learning curve includes starting with presets doing a CD project. Ripping it up and beginning again, over and over until you find yourself dialing in all the various parameters by ear (or using metering & spectrum analyzer assistance) and finally having it sound good while playing your favorite reference CD.
<<Sonic Finalizer VST/DX (www.voxengo.com, Sonic Foundry doesn't support VST adapter usage !)>>
I'm not sure what you mean by "Sonic Foundry doesn't support" but from some comments on the Vegas forum by SOFO techs, its clear they are pretty enthusiastic about how well fxpansion's dxwrapper (now a Cakewalk product) works with SOFO apps and have encouraged folks to use it. I'm really pleased with the results I'm getting.
Oh yes, we're talking expanders and I got carried away with the smoothness stuff ...
I don't know how to get Vintage Warmer to expand anything in the strict sense (like explicitly setting a ratio 1:1.5 for example). If you post a question on their forum one of the engineers will let you know pretty quick if they have an expansion-like feature.
Ozone has a great guide that explains their products' multiband (4) downward/upward expander.
Ozone ($$), Sonic Finalizer ($ - VST - need Sonar or Magix for that one), and Ionizer ($$$) are my most transparant and smooth expanders. Depends if you want
upward/downward, noise reduction, power, etc.
On a desert island if I had a relatively stable mix I'd go with the Ozone in a CD architect environment (once they fix the multiple insert problem). Otherwise Sonic Finalizer is really sweet. Once I learn Ionizer expansion better I'll have an opinion other than "it's pretty hard..."
I forgot to mention support - #1 PSP/VOXENGO - hands down best (hours), everyone else is in the days timeframe (and sometimes not willing to reslove issues), I haven't needed Ozone support, the product is rock solid, documentation is satifactory and the features work as advertised. Forums on the various vendors pages will tell some of the support story also...
Here's what I am talking about. I reported a problem with the latest VST wrapper (from Cakewalks website) and got the response. If it's not too much trouble could I take this off line and compare notes with you ? Thanks, Kyle
From: "Nick Wiesmueller" <NWiesmueller@SonicFoundry.com> | This is spam | Add to Address Book
To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Sound Forge 6.0 support request from Kyle Nineff
Date: Mon, 19 May 2003 10:20:03 -0500
Thanks for writing.
Unfortunately using a VST wrapper to run VST plug-ins is not supported
our applications at this time, however if you would like to see this as
supported feature, please let us know at our product suggestion page
****FOR CLARITY, PLEASE ATTACH THIS TO ANY RESPONSE****
Technical Support Representative
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Madison, WI 53704
Paid Tech Support--1-900-407-6642
Tech Support FAX---1-608-250-1745
I have not used this on a full project yet (almost though) but it sounds like you may need MixTreble from PSP (in their MixPack) - it can put some dynamics and transients back in to a pretty compressed mix.
I've tried it on a couple of songs and there's a preset called 'transient 2' you can start with. I'd consider that one and download the demo. It'll handle a full mix or an individual pre-mix track.
You'd have to potentially add another multiband comp/lim after that and re-balance the EQ/Dynamics. That's what I do since I haven't learned to control the MixTreble very well yet. So far I just know how to pur some transients back in.
The neat thing about the PSP plugins is the MIX control that lets you adjust the amount of dry/effect without having to make any latency or phase adjustments. You can kind of ease the effect in kind of like on a dry/effect knob on a reverb you know ?
Here's what I am talking about. I reported a problem with the latest VST wrapper (from Cakewalks website) and got the response. If it's not too much trouble could I take this off line and compare notes with you ? Thanks, Kyle>>
Yes I figured you meant that SOFO did not *officially* support VST wrappers although they acknowledged that the fxpansion wrapper worked quite well. That's the reason I tried it and then purchased it. I probably don't have much to report or compare notes about other than the wrapper seems to have worked like its supposed to. Transparent. I don't have a lot of VST plugs but the ones I do have are working great. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com
I found a guy on one of the Syntrillium (Cool Edit) forums who had the same problem with the latest VST Adapter (v 4.3 I think ?) downloaded from the Cakewalk web page. He rolled back to his previous version and the problem went away. Exiting the VST plugin causes the host to crash, a stack trace shows CWVST.DLL at the top.
Cakewalk is working the problem. Hopefully Sonic Foundry will cooperate. I'm already re-assesing my reliance on their products after having reported bugs in the past 4-5 months and getting sneered at. I'm a paying customer.
I went thru the project I'm working on and found a song that was overly squished beyond recognition - it looked like a knife had sliced it in the editor window. I didn't get the stats but I suspect the rms to peak ratio is pretty bad - bottom line is no dynamics.
I used MixTreble (www.pspaudioware.com DX plugin) to pull some of the dynamics back out of it by using the Transients section. I am getting some favorable early results and wanted to let you know. In my case I rolled off the ratio and slope and adjusted HF damping. Here's a brief description from the manual:
This section is designed for enhancing transients which have been flattened by poor-quality analog equipment. The operation of this section is based on the high-frequency compander. Due to this algorithm, it is possible to revitalize tracks whose details have been softened, as well as to improve definition in the medium and high-frequency range, without an increase in the noise content. In order to set the algorithm properly, it is recommended that you: keep this section and the "Hiss Remover" section on,
set "ratio" and "filt.slope" in the mid. position, "hi.damp" at 0%, and "adjust" at -oo dB,
gradually increase the "adjust" parameter value to achieve a satisfactory increase in the definition and dynamics, adjust the "hi.slope" parameter value: if it is necessary to revitalize higher frequencies, the slope of the filter should be increased, correct the expansion depth using the "ratio" parameter, in case of overbrightness, it should be reduced by increasing the "hi.damp" parameter value.
...I'm back now. I noticed that I am able to get some kick thump definition back as well as any abount of hi mids and treble. Following that I use Vintage Warmer in the signal chain to re-shape the low/mid/high bands. Ozone would work too or another multiband comp/lim. Speaking of Ozone the MixTreble transient expander sounds different than the Ozone expanders to be, possibly having more definition because of the associated treble boost.
I was pretty surprised to get this far, after thinking about your question I tried this out on a track I had previously written off as ruined (it does sound better but not perfect).
I found a guy on one of the Syntrillium (Cool Edit) forums who had the same problem with the latest VST Adapter (v 4.3 I think ?) downloaded from the Cakewalk web page. He rolled back to his previous version and the problem went away. Exiting the VST plugin causes the host to crash, a stack trace shows CWVST.DLL at the top.>>
Thanks Kyle. That may be it. I believe I have 4.1 (I'm not at the studio computer right now to determine this). I purchased it 2-3 months ago from fxpansion just when the transition was taking place. At any rate, as I've said, no problems at all with it and I appreciate the heads up on 4.3 which I will certainly avoid. ;-)
Sonic Finalizer just got some dynamic gain lights added to it to make gain reduction/expansion easier to dial in. I used it last night and I think its expander is somewhat softer than the one in PSP MixTreble. Depends what you need ! There's a demo available.
...in case you don't have enough options to try (it's VST though - you'd need an adapter like Cakewalk VST adapter)...