I reviewed Igor Vasiliev’s recent update to ‘v.2.0’ of the excellent Audio Mastering app a few weeks ago on the blog. Version 2 bought some significant new features with the ‘advanced’ mode providing a flexible parametric EQ and real-time spectrum display of your audio while you work on the processing options.
As the time of this release, Igor did indicate that further new features were on the cards and that additional updates would soon follow. True to his word, today sees the release of the v.2.1 on the iTunes App Store. As usual with an update, there are some minor bug fixes and improvements such as better Dropbox operation and some additional colour schemes if the default visual look doesn’t do it for you.
However, the headline new feature is the introduction of a multi-band option within the compressor. You can now toggle between the previous single-band mode and the new three-band mode. This new mode separates your audio into three frequency bands (you have some control over the frequencies at which there bands transition into one another) and allows you to apply individual compression – with different compressor settings – to each band.
When compressing a whole mix (or even an individual instrument track that contains a wide frequency response), multi-band compression has an advantage that a peak in one frequency area (for example, a kick drum), that is loud enough to cause the compressor to trigger some gain reduction, doesn’t result in gain reduction in a different frequency band (for example, where your lead vocal or hi-hat are sitting). Equally, because you have the ability to apply different compression settings to each frequency band, you can, if required, choose to apply a firmer degree of control to one band (and reduce its dynamic range more extensively) without it impacting upon the other bands. Use it wisely and this can result in a more natural sound and less obvious compression processing.
There is, of course, a flip-side to this extra control; you have to learn just how to ‘use it wisely’ and, just as with any mastering-style processing, without some considerable care and attention [and perhaps 10+ years of experience :-)], it is perfectly possible to do as much sonic damage as it is good. This is, however, ‘user error’ rather than software error; having the option available is most definitely a plus.
Having given the update a bit of a workout this morning, one of the interesting things that Igor has done concerns the graphical feedback the compressor supplies you with when used in multi-band mode. The really neat trick is that you get to see a simplified display of the level variations for each frequency band and can use this to guide the setting of the threshold for the three bands. In turn, this makes it very easy to see whether you are choosing just to compress the level peaks in each band or whether you are applying compression pretty much all the time (both approaches can have their merits). Very useful….
At present, Audio Mastering 2 is really the only serious contender when it comes to a stand-alone audio mastering app for iOS musicians. This latest update just makes a great app even better. At UK£8.99 it is an absolute bargain and if you are serious about how you present your finished mixes to the wider world, this app is well worth investing in and learning how to use. Top-notch stuff.