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PCRECORDING.COM - - Virsonix Sonic Maximizer Review

Virsonix Sonic Maximizer
Manuf: Virsonix
Price: $129.00 American
OS: 95/98/ME
Min. Req.: Intel-based PC or compatible (486 or higher), 16 MB, Win9x, ME, 2000, or XP


 

Overview

There are many DAW users, particularly those in the home studio environment, who face challenges to get the best sound out of their recordings. Mixing and mastering skills come with experience and experimentation. Some people simply do not have the ear for it. Others don't have the time. As one might expect, there is always a tool for every need and someone to market it.

Virsonix, in partnership with BBE Sound Inc, has brought the world-famous analog Sonic Maximizer into the digital domain - - identical in performance and processing to the famous analog unit. The BBE Sonic Maximizer is distributed by Cakewalk, designed to add the vitality and dynamics heard in many professional recordings.

The original BBE Maximiser was designed to counteract unwanted phase changes introduced by audio systems. The Maximizer splits the signal into three frequency bands and applies different amounts of delay to each - - an attempt to reintroduce the original phase relationships in the original signal.

The Sonic Maximizer is a simple three function software device and features a user interface that emulates the original hardware unit. It operates as a DirectX plugin in any recording DirectX compatible recording software. The Maximizer can be used to enhance individual tracks or as a final mastering plugin. The plugin supports 16, 24, and 32 bit floating-point processing and sample rates up to 96k.

Useability

The Maximizer is very simple in design and use. The user simply activates it as a plugin in the recording software. The user interface features three knobs that are adjusted with a mouse by left-clicking on the knob, holding the button down and moving the mouse up or down. The first knob determines the low profile setting - - the frequency where the plugin will concentrate its processing. The second knob sets the overall mix level of dry signal and processed signal. The third knob is a volume/output control that sets the overall dB level of the output. There is a LED readout that lets you know how much output there is and whether you are clipping the signal. There is a button that allows the user to choose whether the input or output is processed.

 

 

The Maximizer is very easy to use. After recording a track, simply choose the appropriate instrument via the drop-down menu and make adjustments while listening to your track in your monitors. One can adjust each of the knobs at will, though the drop-down menu provides a good starting point for the mix levels.
 

Sound Quality

I tested the Maximizer on my acoustic guitar tracks, my sampled piano and bass guitar tracks (Black and Whites and GigaStudio generated) and finally on vocals.

I used the pull-down menu of presets on the various instruments I had recorded. The sound was more polished, brightened and punched up. I unsuccessfully tried to manually duplicate the results via eq, stereo separation adjustments, etc. The Maximizer was doing something that I could not do manually. This was really very cool. I did note that the Maximizer made a more positive difference in well-recorded tracks versus poorly recorded tracks. That is, the more you give it to work with the better it does. With a bad signal it tends to enhance the bad as much as the good.

Like any other plugin, I quickly learned that the Maximizer can be overused and result in a poorer quality sound than the original. One annoyance was that the knobs jumped to wherever my mouse pointer was when I depressed the button. It would be great if a finer set of knob changes could be tied to the cursor buttons for more incremental changes.

Mix

I last used the Maximizer as the final plugin for mixdown of a whole song I had previously recorded. I noted that it did give a professional "polish" to the final sound that I was not able to exactly duplicate manually. It was as if the plugin knew what it needed to do make it sound right.

Conclusions

The Maximizer will enhance and polish your audio tracks. While I do not believe that the Maximizer can replace a truly skilled mix technician nor fix poor recordings, it is another useful tool in the studio arsenal. For a person who does not have extensive experience in mixing, it can help bridge the gap between a poor end result and a more polished, professional sound. It will also work well for the musician who is trying to improve a "demo" song for presentation or for the user to finalize a song without having to go to a professional studio.

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