BBE processors have been around for many years now, finding their way into the racks of studio engineers, live sound engineers, radio broadcasters and other folks involved in audio production.
Now, the patented BBE process has gone beyond the realm of hardware and entered the virtual world of plug-ins. The new DirectX/Mac VST `plug-in ($99) restores clarity and detail to sounds just like its hardware counterparts, with the added benefit of being able to process as many channels of audio as your PC or Macintosh computer can handle.
The BBE plug-in will be immediately familiar to those who have used BBE processors – the plug-in mimics the look of the BBE rackmount processor, right down to the blue swoosh graphic and four Phillips-head screws. Controls even look the same, including the plug-in’s In/Out switch, Lo Contour knob and Process knob. A familiar five-LED output level meter starts at -20 dB and terminates in a pair of red CLIP indicators.
The plug-in has a few features not found on the hardware processors, including an Output Level knob, handy for controlling plug-in gain structure. Also exclusive to the plug-in is the ability to save and load presets; great for instant recall of the plug-in’s settings when revisiting a mix, or for copying the same settings to many other tracks.
Dialing in the BBE process is simple. Just engage the In/Out button, and turn up the Process and Low Contour knobs until your audio sounds like you want it.
The BBE Process knob restores clarity, detail and air in a way that plain EQ cannot by making upper harmonics arrive when they should relative to lower-frequency sounds. The Process knob also boosts upper-mid and treble frequencies in program-dependent fashion to accentuate the effect.
The Lo Contour knob operates in the same manner as the upper-frequency process, aligning harmonics with the lower fundamental frequencies through BBE’s proprietary process. Again, the Lo Contour function provides program-contextual low-end “enhancement” that cannot be achieved with a standard EQ.
BBE has provided plenty of range on each of the processing controls to address even the most problematic recordings – with up to a maximum boost of 12 dB per control. (As with any processor, on typical recordings, cranking in too much of an effect can negatively alter the sound (start out subtle).
On the top end, the BBE processing can work some serious magic. It opens up percussion, acoustic and electric guitars, making them sound crisp and alive. The processing also adds low-end bite and growl to bass, and can restore shimmer and air to vocals – especially backing vocals.
The BBE plug-in places minimal load on the CPU – I estimated it at about 1 percent of CPU resources per channel (on my Micron Millennia 933 MHz Pentium III machine). This means you can stack up BBE plug-ins without taxing your system too much.
Which is exactly what I did in testing out this plug-in. I brought up a song in-progress, and started replacing high-frequency EQ, high-pass filters and exciters with the BBE plug-in. If I liked what I heard, I left the plug-in and yanked the others. By the end of the experiment, I had BBE plug-ins scattered all over my project and CPU load had actually decreased.
The BBE plug-in supports internal processing resolutions of 16-, 24- and 32-bits, and works with the usual sample rates from 22 kHz to 96 kHz. It will also happily work on both mono and stereo tracks.
The DirectX plug-in is distributed by Cakewalk (Web Site) and the Mac VST version is directly distributed by BBE plug-in developer, Virsonix. Free trial downloads and purchase information can be found on the Virsonix web site at Web Site
Overall, the BBE DirectX/VST software offers the same no-fuss openness and detail of the hardware units, earning it a place on my must-have list of audio plug-ins.
Contact: Versonix at 650-483-6952; Web Site