We all wish we had a simple “sound good” button in our DAWs, right? And our good friends at Adobe have nearly created that in Audition with the Essential Sound Panel. But what if you just want to add a simple plugin which is easy to use, takes up little processing resources and just makes everything sound great? Read on to discover the unsung powerhouse inside Adobe Audition.
If you could have a simple Sound-Good button, you’d really want it to do several things:
- Control Volume
- Make a great sounding EQ curve and dynamically adjust it depending on the program material
- Make sure the signal never went over zero dB
- Be easy to figure out and use
- Have maximum flexibility
- Take few computer resources
- Tame unruly frequencies
- Add snap to bass freqencies
- Tame sibilance
If we had a single plugin which did all this, we’d be happy.
Well, this is why we’re so upbeat all the time, because there is such a thing: it’s called a multiband compressor. And while just about every DAW has their own version of one, the Adobe Audition variety is one of the best in the world.
True, it may not have all the bells and whistles of a Logic Pro or Waves MBC, but what lacks in dance-floor-bling, it makes up for in ease of use, and incredible sound.
The Good-Sound Button Setting
A multiband compressor (MBC) is really just multiple compressors mashed together across the frequency spectrum so that each band controls a specific set of frequencies. If you wanted a different compression for bass from mids, it happily can do that. You want to have a built-in de-esser as well? Easy. Just set up the highest band to do so, and the rest of the frequency bands are unaffected. What’s more, using an MBC can allow you to change the EQ curve of a channel, because each band can attenuate or boost its assigned frequency. So if you wanted to add more highs – and ensure than no loud transient highs crush your mix, you just turn up the individual gain of the high band, and bring its threshold lower. Now you’ve got some beautifully controlled – and louder – highs.
Using different attack and release settings, you can easily cause individual bands to be “snappier” or “more punchy” by setting slower attacks and faster releases. We have numerous videos on how to do this in the Cinema Sound Education and on the Youtube Channel.
But what’s the “Sound-Good” setting we’re talking about? Well, it happens to be the great place to start out using an MBC in just about any genre or kind of audio. Here’s the Cinema Sound start-out, sound-good settings for the magic MBC in AA:
- 150 Hz
- 950 Hz
- 4.5k Hz
- 0 Db
- 50 ms
- 75 ms
Is this the perfect setting for every sound? No. But it does allow is for you to starting bringing the threshold sliders down (be sure to link bands) and start immediately hearing your sound start to balance out and get controlled.
One of the wonderful benefits of this setting is any frequencies or bands which are a little too strong get nicely and gently brought into balance with the rest. The attack and release are gentle enough where you don’t hear any undue pumping, and the crossovers are set to have excellent control of low frequencies – including the fundamental frequencies of dialog, the low mid “roar”, the upper mid “honk” and the sibilances and sheenies. If there were an 8 band MBC, I’d simply be adding more bands based on these settings.
From here if you want to have a little direct control of the EQ, you can simply raise or lower each band’s gain, and have the MBC act like a large bell, quasi-parametric EQ. Boost the bass? Just raise the lowest band’s gain. Kill the mids? Drop those bands’ gain. Easy. And the crossovers are subtle enough (although you cannot control them) that it’ll feel like an EQ.
Try this setting first and see if you don’t get excited. Try it on your DX, your SFX, your MX and even your whole Mix.
To increase the effect, just bring the threshold sliders down lower. You’ll see the attenuation red leds grow longer. A reasonable setting doesn’t have bands go much higher than 6 dB. Higher attenuation creates a powerful effect, but may render other undesirable results like pumping and excessive noise. Remember that you can always compensate for gain reduction by adding more gain to the master gain on the right.
I’m a White Knuckler. I Need More Control!
Perfect. We are too. If you want to snap up your sound, just raise your ratio to 3-4:1, drop the attacks down to around 23-35 ms, and bring the releases to 50 ms. You’ll also want to bring down your thresholds to help the process. This setting will create a powerful “punchiness” to your transients which wasn’t there before – and although you can certainly do this with a single-band compressor, doing this across 4 bands hides most of the artifacts.
To smooth everything out, keep that 3:1 ratio, but drop the attacks to the fastest setting, and raise releases to 100 ms.
If you wanted to snap up just the bass, well, only add the changes to attack and release to the bass band. You get the idea.
As we mentioned earlier, you can always turn your top band into a de-esser, but you can do the same thing – sometimes to better effect – by applying this to that upper-mid band. A lot of energy slams through mixes in that range and causes them to be difficult to listen to. Bring your ratio to 3:1, and make your attack .1 ms, and bring down the threshold to taste – you may want to restore the attenuated volume by raising the band’s own gain slider. Here, you’ll have masterful control over those dynamic frequencies with ease.
Did I mention this thing takes up nearly nil processing power? So dope.
So drop an MBC on your wonky audio track or master and see if it doesn’t become your go-to plugin for the sound-good button from here on.
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