The SPL Vitalizer Plugin claims to shift louder frequencies in time, which unmasks softer sounds, making them more audible. This creates more clarity in the mix, with better defined lows, and more brilliant highs. It’s useable on individual channels or the mix bus. It also optimizes the frequencies outside of the human vocal range (which typically sound softer to the human ear) creating a more balanced sounding mix. This can create apparent loudness. There’s a stereo expander as well.
We’ll go through putting this on several tracks to create a song, to get a sense of it on different types of instruments.
The “Drive” knob will set the input level, ranging from -20dB to +6dB. The “Output” knob offers the same range, and may need to be adjusted up or down depending on signal loss or gain from processing.
The “Bass” knob tightens the sound by turning it right (just like a screw) and turning left softens it. The “Process” knob is like a mix knob (why not just call it that?) It controls how much of the original source signal is mixed in with the processed signal. We’ll start our song with this Kick sample, and here are examples of both Soft and Tight.
The “Compression” knob only affects the low frequencies, and is a soft-knee compressor so that it is less noticeable when activated. The “GR” light will come on when Gain Reduction is occurring. Turn to the right increases the compression ratio. As you do this, the Attack threshold decreases.
The “Mid-Hi Tune” knob sets the cut-off frequency (which defaults to 3kHz) from 22kHz to 1.1kHz. The Frequencies above the cut-off are boosted while those below are cut. Use the “Process” knob to adjust the effect. Note: this will also affect the Bass as the Process knob acts as a “mix” for both, mixing the original signal in with the processed signal. By setting the frequency really high, you can attenuate a very harsh high-end.
Next, we’ll use this pluck for our song. It is brightened by turning the “Process” all the way up, and leaving the Mid-Hi Tune at the default 3kHz.
The “LC-EQ” knob is for the high end frequencies from 2kHz to 20kHz. The “Intensity” knob affects this in the same way the Process knob affect the Bass and Mids. It mixes the original and processed signals
Note: LC is an odd name for a high frequency filter, no? “LC” is an abbreviation for coil filter. The “L” comes from the symbol for inductance, as a coil filter is an inductive filter. “C” stands for capacitor.
Now to add in some bass. This bass synth uses all 3 EQ knobs. The “BASS” knob is set to Soft and Process is all the way up. Then Mid-Hi is set all the way to the left. The low end gets a bit of a boost from this. LC-EQ is set to the lowest setting, which should be 2kHz, and Intensity is all the way up, in an effort to get some top end on the bass to poke out.
The “Stereo Expander” widens the stereo image by doubling the left and right signals, phase inverting them, and then summing with the opposite channel. This works quite well.
Here is a snare sample widened.
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This is applied to the mix bus. Say you want to pull the snares out of the entire mix. It does a pretty decent job.
Here are all of the clips combined into a song. First with no Vitalizer, and then with the Vitalizer enabled on each track as heard in the prior clips. You might expect it to be overwhelming and much louder, but all of those instances seem to keep the entire song in check. It seems a bit tighter and punchier. I’d probably turn the kick down a bit, and the “mix” seems to be a bit muted overall …
… so let’s put a Vitalizer on the Mix Bus and see if we can improve it. We’ll start with the “Mastering Session Start” preset. Adding in some compression helps tame the kick a bit, and then I adjusted the LC-EQ to about mid way and gave it a bit of the Stereo Expander. This brought the mix closer to sounding good.. I’m not advocating you actually put the Vitalizer on every track and then again on the mix bus, but this gives you an idea of what it can do.
The SPL Vitalizer is an interesting device. I’m not sure what to compare it to exactly. I like that they didn’t just try and mimic a straight EQ with some Saturation and Harmonic Distortion added in, as there are already other plugins that do that. On the other hand, it’s a bit confusing as to what this actually does. It kind of feels like a science project. Someone had a good idea regarding circuitry, and then tried to find a problem that it could fix. It definitely enhanced the low end, and let you add some sizzle to the top end, or conversely reduce the sizzle. (People notoriously overuse enhancers and maximizers on the high end, so it’s easy to use too much of this.) I do like the stereo expander. There’s already several plugins that do this, but this one sounded different to me.
Should you get it? I don’t think it needs to be at the top of the list. While it can help with the low end, I think there are better options for tightening up the low end. And if you want to add sizzle, there’s certainly many exciters out there. I think it’s most useful on the mix bus to try and sculpt it more towards perfection. If you already have a ton of the standard plugins, and your weakness is your mastering chain, then this plugin could be useful to just add a bit more here and there.
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