PressIt review – Klevgränd Produktion add a multi-band compressor to their iOS music app line-up

Download from iTunes App Storepressit logoI’ve reviewed Vandelay, SquashitSvep, RoverbEnkl and, most recently, Korvpressor from Klevgränd Produktion previously on the blog and, in each case, was hugely impressed with the creative possibilities that these apps provide. They are also very very competitively priced and any of these would be worth including within your iOS audio app collection.

Korvpressor provided a very easy-to-use, but rather nice sounding, single-band compressor app with Audiobus and IAA support. However, Klevgränd Produktion are clearly not finished with the compression options as their latest app – PressIt – has arrived on the App Store today and provides a multi-band compression tool.

PressIt is launched with an introductory price of just UK3.99 (this will, apparently, change in a couple of weeks so grab it while you can), requires iOS7.0 or later, also includes Audiobus and IAA support and is an iPad-only app at present. At just a 3MB download, it will, however, squeeze on to even a tightly packed iPad.

PressIt - multi-band compression for the iOS music-making masses?

PressIt – multi-band compression for the iOS music-making masses?

Multi-band compression is a powerful tool and, used with due care and attention, can be used on individual instruments, bus mixes (for example, applied to a full drum kit) or used on the main stereo mix as a sort of final stage of the mix process or part of the mastering process (as, for example, in Audio Mastering or Final Touch).

Don’t press the buttons

Like all Klevgränd Produktion’s iOs music apps, PressIt bring an interface that is stylish, accessible, minimalist and yet offers a set of key controls that allow the user to get the job done with sufficient control. The PressIt title is, however, more about what the app does to your sound than to how you use it; there are lots of rotary knobs and some slider controls but only a few buttons to press :-)

PressIt offer three-band compression with the low, mid and high bands all offering the same five controls, albeit in different colour schemes. The main part of the screen contains the Threshold and Ratio sliders for each band. These work as in a single-band compressor with lower threshold settings meaning the compression is applied at ever lower levels on input signal, while higher ratio settings mean greater levels of compression applied when the input signal goes over that threshold.

You can adjust the frequency rages covered by the three bands by tapping and dragging at their boundaries.

You can adjust the frequency rages covered by the three bands by tapping and dragging at their boundaries. Here, the low frequency band only covers the very lowest of frequencies.

Each band also includes Attack, Release and Make-Up (make-up gain; to you can add some overall level back in to that band after the compression has been applied); again, these are pretty standard compression controls with the Attack and Release dials influencing just how fast the compressor responds to the variation in input levels and how quickly the compression is released once it has been triggered.

Each band includes buttons to toggle on/off the ‘mute’ (M) or bypass (bypass the processing for that band). All of these should be given plenty of use while setting up PressIt so you can A/B your processing and really hear what you are doing to your audio.

Left and right you get Input and Output level controls, both of which have little virtual LED level meters at the top. There are also buttons for the ‘lookahead’ feature and to engage a final stage limiter. The former gives PressIt a little more time to work out its processing algorithm by adding a short delay in the processing chain (very short; I toggled it in/out and didn’t really find the difference in response audible). The limiter stops the app’s output from getting too hot and therefore avoids any digital audio nastiness that might occur.

The 'virtual LEDs' in the three band show you the input levels and gain reduction being applied.

The ‘virtual LEDs’ in the three band show you the input levels and gain reduction being applied.

The almost ‘film strip’ nature of each of the three Threshold/Ratio sections is because these sections also contain vertical strips of virtual LEDs on the left/right sides. On the left edge of each band you see the input level to that band and this can help you pick a suitable Threshold level. On the right-edge of each band the LEDs show the amount of gain reduction being applied by the compressor to that band. These can help in setting your Ratio control depending upon whether you just want a little gentle compression (for a more natural/transparent sound) or you want to really squash things.

The other key feature to note is that you can vary the crossover frequency between the three bands. If you tap on the vertical ‘join’ between a pair of bands, you can then just drag left/right to change the frequency ranges each band is applied to.

More info please?

While I really like the minimalist visual approach of all the Klevgränd Produktion apps, having given us actual numerical values for all the dials, I think I would rather have liked the option (even if only shown while a control is being adjusted?) of seeing the actual Threshold and Ratio values as I set them and perhaps knowing exactly what frequency each of the bands is split at. I know this is perhaps something that you should really just let your ears judge (if it sounds right then it is right) but it might be particularly reassuring for those new to multi-band compression (or even compression in general) as they experiment with the app.

PressIt worked very smoothly within Audiobus.

PressIt worked very smoothly within Audiobus.

My only other comment is that it might be nice to have a ‘master bypass’ button on the main screen for A/B comparisons. These minor quibbles aside (and that might well be on the agenda for any future updates), PressIt is yet another masterful execution of something quite complex in a completely simple user interface; Klevgränd Produktion seem to be very good at this and, to a large extent, I think this is because they design apps with a very well-focussed aim; the simplicity of the control set comes from the original KISS concepts and ethos.

Apply the pressure

From a technical perspective, PressIt was also a please to use. Dropped into the Audiobus Effects slot, the app – like all Klevgränd Produktion’s apps – behaved very well and, applied to something like a drum machine (Patterning is shown in the screenshot included here), you could easily dial in something gentle just to beef things up a bit or go a bit mental and create a pumping monster.

PressIt also worked well via IAA as shown here used within Cubasis.

PressIt also worked well via IAA as shown here used within Cubasis.

However, I did most of my testing within Cubasis and using PressIt applied as an insert effect of the main stereo output (essentially using the app as a multi-band ‘mastering’ compressor applied to my mix). Again, from a technical perspective I had no problems and, by experimenting with the various controls described above, it is possible to take your final mix in all sorts of dynamics and tonal directions should you wish.

With great power comes great responsibility….

OK, so a multi-band compressor will not turn you into a superhero (sonic or otherwise) but, as I’ve mentioned a number of times here on the blog when dealing with apps related to any part of the mastering process, multi-band processing processing – in an audio sense at least – is a very powerful tool. That is a good thing in that it gives the user a level of control over their audio processing that a single-band compressor can not. However, unless it is used with a certain amount of discretion (or applied in a way to deliberately make an extreme audio statement), it can be very easy to take a mix backwards rather than forwards.

For example, within multi-band compression – including PressIt – while it is generally a dynamics tool, because you can also adjust the level of each frequency band independently (for example, by adjusting the Ratio or Make-up controls in PressIt), what you also have is a sort of dynamics-based EQ. You might start out simply wanting to influence the dynamics, but by changing those for a specific frequency band, you are also adjusting the overall frequency balance of the mix….  and this might be an EQ balance that you have already spent quite some time ‘getting right’ at the mixing stage. Chickens, eggs, chickens, eggs….  yep, which EQ settings (mix or master) come first…  it can get to be quite complex stuff.

PressIt is supplied with a small set of very useful presets.... but if you are new to multi-band compression then start with something as subtle as possible.

PressIt is supplied with a small set of very useful presets…. but if you are new to multi-band compression then start with something as subtle as possible.

This is not the fault of the tools though – be that PressIt, Audio Mastering, Final Touch or a desktop equivalent such as Ozone – and nor is it a reflection on how ‘difficult’ the control sets are to operate (indeed, PressIt’s control set is very easy to operate). It is, however, a reflection on just how dramatic a change to can create in the processed audio using these tools and, for the inexperienced, or for those mixing on monitoring systems that are of a more basic variety (and perhaps make some mix decisions harder to make), it can be quite a challenge to get things ‘right’.

This really is a case where, to start with at least, less is most certainly more and, if you are new to the whole mixing/mastering process (under iOS or otherwise), a little bit of background is really (REALLY!) going to go a long way. If you want some suggestions, then check out the ‘101 resources‘ post I put together on the blog a little while ago…  It includes some useful free resources that you can dig into as well as some paid options…

The app does, however, include a few presets that can help get you started. However, if you really want to go gently on what is already a well-crafted mix, set a very low threshold (so the compressors kick in most of the time) but also a low ratio for each band (so that not much compression is applied). The aim should be for the gain reduction meters to just flicker a few lights but perhaps most of the time…. This will just tighten up each band and, if you are feeling more adventurous, then you can start adjusting from there :-)

In summary

I’ve been happy to recommend all of Klevgränd Produktion’s apps that I’ve reviewed in the past and PressIt is no exception. They are all beautifully designed, tightly focused and, most importantly, they sound great. It sweetens the deal that they are all also ridiculously good value for money under iOS.

Not just iOS though….   over recent months, Klevgränd have been introducing both AU and VST versions of their iOS music apps and PressIt is also available in a desktop format at a discounted launch price of just US$29.99 for the next couple of weeks. I’ve used a number of the desktop plugins and they are just as impressive as the iOS versions.

PressIt is both easy to use and, in an audio sense, a powerful sound-shaping tool. It works brilliantly but do use it wisely young iOS music-maker…   :-)

PressIt



Be Sociable; share this post....

    Speak Your Mind

    *