NuGen Audio Stereo Pack Plug-In Suite Review

Dec 1, 2010 9:00 AM, By Brandon Hickey



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The Monofilter tightens low frequencies by forcing them to mono below the crossover point.

The Monofilter tightens low frequencies by forcing them to mono below the crossover point.

The Stereoplacer plug-in offers frequency-specific panning within a user-friendly, intuitive GUI. Frequencies are laid out across a horizontal plot, with a horizontal “flat” line through the center. Clicking and dragging the horizontal line creates a breakpoint at that frequency, where dragging upward pans left and downward pans right. It feels like boosting and cutting frequencies on an EQ plug-in, except boost and cut become panning left and right directionality.

My immediate thought was to use Stereoplacer to take a mono piano recording, split the stereo image in half with a high and low shelf, and send the highs to the left and lows to the right. I also started playing with the same effect on mono recordings of choirs and orchestras. Stereoplacer did an incredible job, precisely mapping the designated frequencies to the desired spatial locations. In every case, the effect was free of sonic impurities or phase-related artifacts, but the result was unnaturally clean. This was easily corrected by running the processed signal through the Stereoizer, which filled in the missing space.

With the precision of Stereoplacer, I could take mono jazz records and remix cymbals to the left or sax solos to the right. I carved out certain elements of the overall mix based on their fundamental frequencies and redirected them to different places in the soundfield. In all honesty, I was surprised to find that things like that could actually work without sounding unmusical.

The concept behind the Monofilter is simple: As low-frequency energy is perceived with a lack of directionality, it’s inefficient to push unique lows to each speaker in a stereo pair of speakers. Instead, summing all lows to mono and using the force of two speakers to push the bass in phase through two speakers creates the potential for a tighter and more plentiful bottom end. To that end, the Monofilter sums information below the chosen crossover frequency to mono.

From there, you can solo the stereo high frequencies—or alternatively, the mono low-frequency information—so you can make critical judgments about the overall effect. This is particularly helpful when it comes to implementing one of the plug-in’s best features. The bottom of Monofilter’s window displays phase correlation across the broadband frequency spectrum. By listening to the mono-summed signal and referring to the visual feedback offered by this phase scope, you can make manual adjustments to shift the phase relationship of the two audio channels and remove potential cancellations. You can also apply automatic detection and correction. This not only helps make bass tight and punchy by locking in phase-correlated bass and pushing it through a pair of speakers, but it generally helps in correctly summing the mix to mono.

You can implement a very clean bass-management crossover by soloing the upper stereo information and mono-summed lows, each on separate instances of the plug-in processing the same material. Output from the stereo-solo’d plug-in can feed stereo satellites, while you can feed the mono sum discretely to a subwoofer. Having the highs and lows on different channels also allowed me to compress the bass frequencies in a mix differently from the high frequencies. Whether I was treating the 2-bus of a mix or mastering a finished mix, this procedure became a no-brainer. I can’t envision myself ever calling a mix finished without treating it with Monofilter. Plus, with Monofilter you can manipulate the output level of each signal and lows vs. highs. As a result, you can pump up the bass on the output in a way that sounds less colored than, say, simply adding a low shelf to the entire mix.

Once I started using Monofilter on my Logic and PreSonus Studio One mixes, I found myself hesitant to even mix music in Pro Tools for lack of an RTAS version. Thankfully, at the time of this writing, an RTAS version is on the verge of release and a beta version has been a welcome addition to my Pro Tools workflow.

Flatly stated, the Stereo Pack’s plug-ins all work as advertised and exceeded my expectations. However, you’ll need plenty of CPU power to run them in HQ mode. Even so, I found myself enjoying the quality of the plug-ins before realizing that I wasn’t even running the high-quality option. Once I made the switch, I was thrilled to find that the HQ version sounded even better and it was difficult to turn back. In my tests, the combination of stunning visual feedback and high-powered sonic performance often proved more than my 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro could handle. My CPU easily started to choke running the HQ Monofilter across the 2-bus of a 20-track, 24-bit/44.1kHz mix. Bottom line: Bring your best CPU to this game.

Who would love these processors? As forward-thinking as this set of plug-ins is, I wouldn’t classify them as geared toward audiophiles and mastering engineers. While they would satisfy the most critical listener, they are accessible enough to interest users at all levels of experience. Everyone from electronic musicians, beat-makers, mixing engineers and sound designers can benefit from these plug-ins. They sound great and offer musical results delivered in a creative fashion.

Brandon Hickey records and mixes audio for independent films and teaches audio post.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Stereo Pack Plug-In Suite product page.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Stereo Pack Plug-In Suite product page.

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