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BBE Sonic Maximizer 9/10

The original BBE Sonic Maximizer was a hardware unit, which has been used all over the world. This DirectX plugin costs a fraction of the hardware unit, and because all the audio is processed digitally (without any conversion to and from analogue) it should sound very good as well! The idea of Sonic Maximizer is that it puts some life back into your music, so it sounds as good as it would do live. Essentially, when you hear music live, all the sounds arrive at your ears at roughly the same time, whatever the frequency of the sound (ignoring any small refraction or diffraction effects).

When sound is played back through your speakers there is "phase-shift" of sound waves. Consequently, music will sound duller and less clear as it would do live. This plugin claims to restore the low and high frequency sounds which are most effected by this "phase-shift". Before I used this plugin I was very sceptical, that it would work, given its relatively reasonable price of around $100. To try BBE Sonic Maximizer I opened up a remix of mine in Wavelab, which sampled some original Arabic folk music live recordings. The original recording was quite flat and I had tried to put some life into it by applying various reverb and echo effects in my remix, before using BBE. Then I applied BBE's "Mastering" preset. Although it improved the general clarity, it distorted the bass drum too much. So I turned down the left hand "Lo Contour" switch, and the results were impressive - just goes to show that this plugin, should not be used carefully! Not only did the bass sound tighter, the high frequencies seemed to exude more clarity than they previously did. There are other presets, all of which can be edited, for guitars, drums etc. The plugin seemed to work best on well-recorded music, without unwanted noise or interference. Even with poorly recorded music, however, it still injected some life into the recording.

This plugin does exactly what it claims to do. At this price I think every band should invest in this product. It probably has more use in the field of recording real instruments like in rock music than it does in electronic music. It would be fun to see whether this plugin is as good (or even better) than the hardware unit which Cakewalk say is used by Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Michael Jackson amongst others.