Lets talk about mixing levels (again)

Some years ago we had lots of discussions about proper mixing levels in the digital domain – with mixed (sic!) results, IIRC. Meanwhile, more and more influencers are claiming that targeting -18dBFS with a VU meter readout is the “digital audio sweet spot” and the way forward in terms of plugin gain staging. In practise that would imply mixing digital peak levels at around 0dBFS again but maybe I’ve missed something during my absence in recent years. So, to what mixing levels are you up to in your DAW today?

[CLOSED] VoS plugins 64bit public beta 1

Update 07/16/21: The beta has been closed. Stay tuned for upcoming info and releases. For the time being, the beta package remains available in the download section. Thanks to all here for contributing!!!

Until around mid July you can grab here the VoS plugin 64bit public beta package. Included are epicVerb, BaxterEQ, preFIX, NastyDLAmkII, NastyVCS and DensityMkIII in both 32 and 64 bit, VST 2 and 3 for Windows PC.

Please be careful using them since they are beta. They might crash, generate loud noises and things like that. Also do not use them in real productions since parameters and settings might change until release and break compatibility.

To report issues just create a comment right to this post and please include detailed information about the issue, which plugin is actually affected and in which host and version.

A brief update on the future of VoS plugins

First of all: I hear you!

While receiving so many questions and requests on this topic on all the different channels these days a brief update here seems to be overdue.

Plugin downloads might be online again as soon as I manage to find a decent free cloud space to offer hassle-free downloads without any traffic/bandwidth limits (or advertising). Hints appreciated.

There are no plans to make them payware.

Some of my plugin designs needs to be revised to assure that they will stand the test of time for yet another decade ๐Ÿ™‚ and this means also that they are going to support 64bit of course.

With some selected VoS plugins, there will be a 64bit public beta which is planned to be held this July. I hope you’ll gonna join.

The story continues, stay tuned!


42 Audio Illusions & Phenomena

In a comprehensive series of five YouTube videos, Casey Connor provided an awesome overview and demonstration of 42 (!) different psychoacoustic effects. Watching and hearing (headphones required) not only is so much entertaining and educational but also provides some deep insights why we all do not hear in the exact same way. Relevant for all of us in the audio domain whether it is sound design, mixing, mastering or development. Highly recommended!

A more realistic look at the Pultec style equalizer designs

One of the few historic audio devices with almost mystical status is the Pultec EQP-1A EQ and a lot of replicas has been made available during the decades. Whether being replicated in soft- or hardware, what can we expect from a more realistic point of view? Lets have a closer look.

Some fancy curves from the original EQP-1A manual
  • In the top most frequency range a shelving filter with 3 pre selected frequencies is offered but just for attenuation. Much more common and usable for todays mixing and mastering duties would be an air band shelving boost option here.
  • Also in the HF department there is just one single peak filter but this time just for boosting. It offers 7 pre selected frequencies between 3 and 16kHz and only here the bandwidth can be adjusted. However, the actual curves could have been steeper for todays mixing duties.
  • There is no option in the mid or low-mid range at all and also no high pass option. Instead, there is a shelving filter for the low-end which allows for boost and/or attenuation around four pre selected frequencies between 20 and 100 Hz.

All in all, this appears to be a rather quirky EQ concept with quite some limitations. On top of that, the low frequency behaviour of the boost and cut filters is rather unpredictable if both filters are engaged simultaneously which is exactly the reason why the original manual basically states “Do not attempt to do this!”.

Nowadays being refered to as the “Pultec Bass Trick” the idea is that you not only boost in some low end area but also create some sort of frequency dip sligthly above to avoid too much of a boost and muddiness in total. In practise, this appears to be rather unpredictable. Dial in a boost at 3 and an attenuation at 5, just as an example: Does this already feature a frequency dip? And if so at which frequency exactly? One has no idea and it even gets worse.

Due to aged electronics or component variety one has to expect that the actual curve behaviour might differ and also to see each vendors replica implementation to be different from another. In practise this indeed holds true and we can see the actual bass frequency dip at a much higher frequency within one model compared to another, just as an example.

… the more I boost the EQ the more it makes me smile …

A reviewers statement misguided by simple loudness increase?

Fun fact: Like the original device, all current (hardware) replica models do not have an output gain control. Also they increase the overall signal level just by getting inserted into the signal path.

So, where is the beef? Its definately not in the curves or the overall concept for sure. Maybe I’ll take some time for a follow-up article and a closer look into the buffer amplifier design to see if all the hype is justified.

Further Links

Not really demystifying but fun to read:

In the VoS plugin line you can find some Pultec style low end performance within NastyVCS: https://varietyofsound.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/nastyvcs-released-today/

Also interesting to read and hear: https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/pultec-shootout-with-sound-samples/

Survey: Which software sampler are you using and why?

Pianobook community sample libraries

If you did not stumbled across this awesome community project yet, you definetely should have a look at it. In particular if you are into anything sound design or film scoring related.

“Pianobook is a collective sample project inspiring musicians to embrace the magic of sampling and share their creations with the community.”


If offers a sheer number (520 at the time of writing) of sample libraries free to download and use. The actual content is not limited to piano libraries but meanwhile contains quite a range of different acoustic instruments or even voices and some synthetic stuff.

While centered around Kontakt capabilities when once started, it meanwhile offers also downloads in EXS or Decent Sampler format, at least to some extend. On top, it is an open project and invites everybody to also contribute to the library.

One should definitately check out the upright pianos to discover some real gems. Also the “found sounds” section reveals some great discoveries. To get a glimpse and more easy access to the library as a whole, I strongly recommend the according YT channel.


The Korg SDD-3000 – perfect for LoFi?

By accident, I recently stumbled upon the UAD Korg SDD-3000 digital delay version. When I noticed that they modelled also its amplifiers as well as the 13bit converters they immediately got my attention. Having also high- and low-pass filters on board, this could easily double as a great lofi device – so lets have a closer look.

As in the original hardware, the device offers several gain stage adjustments for both input and ouptut, intended to match different instrument or line level signals. These amplifiers are always in, no matter if the BYPASS switch is activated or not. Interestingly, UA also integrated this in its “Unison” interface feature as an preamp option.

Depending on how hard the input gain is driven, quite heavy distortion and saturation effects can occur. As soon as the Bypass is deactivated, the effect signal path containing the 13bit converted and HP/LP filtered signal can be dialed in with the LEVEL BALANCE. If this balance is now set to EFFECT only or just the WET SOLO option has been turned on (plus avoiding any amounts of feedback in this case) the device now offers a pretty much nicely degraded signal path for any sort of creative effects. Depending on the actual settings one can dial in now some really creamy or even gritty effects. Be aware, that this signal path contains an additional delay according to the DELAY TIME setting, of course.

The analysis charts are showing – from left to right – the basic frequency response (in bypass mode), some example harmonic distortions when hitting the input gain quite hard and the filtered effect signal path frequency response according to the UI settings above. The slight frequency bump on the right side of the charts might be caused by the plugin oversampling filters – the original hardware does not show this and its spectrum ends somewhere around 17kHz.

As in the original hardware, all settings are just within limited ranges and so it is not that flexible in general. However, soundwise its pretty much awesome. Oh and by the way, it also doubles as a simple but impressive delay ๐Ÿ˜‰

A short review of the LIRA 8 VSTi

While currently having the original SOMA Lyra-8 hardware here on my desk I was curious how the VST emulation created by Mike Moreno DSP might appear in comparison. The release is available in VST formats for Mac and PC under “Pay what you want or download for free”.

In case you never heard of the hardware Lyra, it’s basically a 8 voice drone synthesizer, providing some LFO and FM modulation capabilities plus a basic delay and distortion FX. It does not provide any Midi control but solely relies on manual interaction with it’s analog interface (plus some quite limited CV support). It also does not have any sort of filter, mod matrix or effect structure. However, it perfectly fits for different styles of experimental electronic and ambient music as well as all kinds of sound design e.g for film scoring and such.

The VST plugin resembles the overall appearance and usage concept almost identical to the hardware. All parameters are accessible via host automation in your DAW which indeed turns out to be really useful. To trigger the sensors, Midi notes C1 to G1 can also be used instead of clicking the interface. Since the original sensors are sensitiv to skin capacitance/resistance, I would have expected the plugin sensors to have some sort of velocity or aftertouch control accordingly but this is not the case.

Soundwise the plugin was a real surprise. While it might not stand an A/B test with its analog counterpart, it amazingly captures its overall sound aesthetic and gives instant gratification in this regard. Wobbling drones, shimmering soundscapes and fizzling FM weirdness – it can all do that and much more. But maybe even more important it is real fun to twiddle with and it appears to be very inspirational, exactly like the HW does.

What the plugin itself can’t give you of course is the tactile experience. Beside that there is an issue when it comes to tuning sounds. The oscillator tune parameters actually do have just very imprecise control given the huge frequency range across all octaves. This becomes even more of an issue if you try to finetune something in its FM sweetspot area.

Overall verdict: Highly recommended for all sorts of sound design or pure inspiration – if you can live with its constraints.

white is the new black