FG-X Virtual Mastering Console Dynamics Module is the initial plug-in in Slate Digital’s mastering line.
Imagine mastering your mixes without causing the lifeless, squashed, and over compressed sound that has become so common in modern music. We have all been at the mercy of the “loudness wars” for over ten years now. Masters have become louder and louder, at the expense of the music becoming harsh and lacking punch and dynamics. One of the main causes of this epidemic is the use of the Peak Limiter to achieve increased levels in the mastering stage. Peak limiters attenuate transients and often reduce punch, stereo imaging, can greatly alter mix balances, and cause a fatiguing result to the ears.
Some of the top mastering engineers have found ways to combat this sonic degradation by using techniques other then Peak Limiting. One of the more popular techniques is the use of saturation in both the analog and digital domain. Another popular method is clipping the front end of expensive A/D converters.
However, both of these methods, while usually more unobtrusive then peak limiting, have their downfalls. Static saturation curves are not universal in their ability to sound good on all transients. Clipping greatly reduces low end punch and is very poor at retaining sub bass. Both static saturation and clipping have a small window of gain maximizing before audible distortion. Enter Slate Digital.
FG-X Dynamics Rack
Two years ago Steven Slate and expert algorithm engineer Fabrice Gabriel started working out the concept for a digital audio process that could increase the level of a mix without altering the punch and dynamic feel, or make the mix sound squashed and lifeless. They started by researching saturation curves and their effect on various types of transient material. After several months of study and hundreds of listening tests, they made some fascinating discoveries. What they found, was that in order to transparently add level to a mix, a dynamic and intelligent transient saturation system would have to be developed.
New Advanced Algorithms were created to execute the extremely complex communication system that would be needed to properly perform the new dynamic operations. A new algorithm was formed, and the process was named “Intelligent Transient Preservation”, or ITP.
ITP – Intelligent Transient Preservation
The ITP process uses a complex lookahead detection algorithm to analyze oncoming transients and groups of transients. It then optimizes a specialized set of saturation curves for that specific transient. For example, if the ITP algorithm’s lookahead identifies a kick drum transient, it will optimize the algorithm so that it preserves low frequency energy. For a snare drum transient, it will optimize the algorithm to preserve upper mid range punch. The result is the most transparent means of level maximization the industry has ever heard, with extreme transparency, and no degrading artifacts common to peak limiters.
The FG Level maximization plug-in offers the user complete control of their mix, before and after the level maximization process. The Transient function contains two controls to fine tune mix transients. Enhance allows you to transparently increase the level of the transients in a mix, increasing the punch and dynamics without altering other elements of the mix. Detail adds more clarity and focus to the transients, perfect for buried snares or kicks. You will find the Transient functions not only ideal for mastering, but as great tools for the mixbuss and even drumbuss.
After the ITP powered Gain maximizer, there is a function called Impact. This new process can make even the loudest masters sound more dynamic, open, and punchy, even though the master has much more limited dynamic range then the mix.
In the rare case that a mix has poor frequency balance or small bursts of low frequency energy (such as a quick floor tom hit), the Safety slider prevents unwanted distortions or crackles, that until now have been extremely hard to prevent or tame. The dynamic multiband Safety algorithm reacts quickly and backs off quickly, allowing the FG Level to remain transparent and create worry free masters without artifacts.
Mastering Quality Compression
Some mastering compressor plug-ins try to emulate vintage analog units and add color, harmonics, and different filters that change the way your mix sounds. Most top mastering engineers use very little or no compression. When they do use compression, they use only the most transparent compressors that will not alter the tone or balance of the mix.
Slate Digital says the FG Dynamics plug-in is a true mastering quality compressor meant to control the dynamics of your mix in the most transparent way possible, not to color it with digitally modeled harmonics or distortions. The FG Dynamics compressor assumes that you have used your favorite color or tone compressor to achieve the sound on your final mix. It is the job of the FG Dynamics compressor to maintain that quality, not alter it. The advanced dynamics algorithm is claimed to be so transparent, you’ll wonder if its on.