Maxing Out, Optimally

The colorful BBE Sonic Sweet Optimized from Nomad Factory re-introduces four popular BBE plug-ins, but specifically for Avid AAX and Pro Tools 11 users.
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In his Continuing Adventures in Software, Rich Tozzoli tastes the sweet in suite.

The GUI for the BBE Sound Sonic Maximizer—Optimized, one of four modules in the BBE Sonic Sweet Optimized plug-in bundle from Nomad Factory. The colorful BBE Sonic Sweet Optimized from Nomad Factory re-introduces four popular BBE plug-ins, but specifically for Avid AAX and Pro Tools 11 users. It supports all the expected formats: AU, AAX, RTAS (32-bit) AS and VST for both Mac and PC ($149 purchase/$69 upgrade at nomadfactory.com).

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The first of the suite that I tried out was the red Sonic Maximizer. These are simple plug-ins to use, with all of them having In and Out level control “knobs” (+/- 12 dB), I/O meters, a master Power button and On/Protect (except for the Loudness Maximizer). There is a preset menu on each located just above the GUI, which drops down to reveal a variety of choices. There are only three process knobs on the Sonic Maximizer—Lo Contour (0 dB to +15 dB) for phase compensated lows, Process (0 dB to +14 dB) for phase compensated highs, iSet frequency control (400 Hz to 1.4 kHz) and a BBE Process In/Out button.

I placed it on a Martin D18 acoustic, tracked with a single DPA 2011a through a Millennia HV-37. The sound was pleasing to begin with, but with a few tweaks, the Sonic Maximizer added a sense of harmonic air to the part. I pushed the iSet knob around, and found the upper range to be too dull, and the lower range to have a bit too much mid punch. I settled on 500 Hz, with the Lo Contour at around 2 o’clock and the Process at the same. Interestingly, I was concerned that the guitar was too bright and sharp, but when I put it in the track, it was an “oh s#)$*” moment. It was perfect, punching through the mix with a nice sense of air and space. I was actually able to lower the acoustic a few dBs, and it was still heard clearly. Gotta love that one. It’s one of those things where if you used an EQ to get this sound, you might have to worry about pushing the frequencies above the “norm.” You are simply turning knobs, not seeing the effect graphically; it’s all in the ears. I immediately saved a preset called RT Acoustic, which automatically resides in the 00-User Presets folder on the dropdown menu.

The purple BBE Mach 3 Bass, like the others, has the In and Out knobs, metering and On/ Protect switch. The knobs are Mach 3 Bass for up to 10 dB of processing, Freq Set (40 Hz to 300 Hz) and Response, which adjusts the center frequency (1 to 10). Like the others, there is the dropdown preset menu above the GUI. To test it, I loaded Guitars & Basses–Bass Walkin on my old 70 Fender P, which happened to be a picked part. The preset was Mach 3 Bass at +6.50, Freq Set at 197 Hz and Response up 4.69. The In and Out knobs were straight up with no gain. There was a subtle bit of presence added to the part, and not thickness, which I liked. I clicked on the On/Off button on the far right to compare and sure enough, it was working—and it wasn’t a volume thing. What I really like about it is that the Mach 3 bass doesn’t overwhelm the bass with mush; it’s a tasty, subtle flavor that enhances what is already there. Sure, you can push it to mush, but it sounds best when used to flavor. So while I was at it, I placed it on the kick drum and got a little extra punch out of that.

The green Loudness Maximizer, which is a multi-band limiter, features the I/O knobs and metering, but has an Attenuation meter as well as knobs for Sensitivity (0 dB to +30 dB), Release (0 ms to 500 ms) and Enhancer (0 to 100%). I dropped it across my stereo master fader and loaded in the preset Mix & Mastering– Track Maximizer. Again, it just worked, plain and simple. The track was a bit bigger and wider, with no artificial sound or artifacts. The Enhancer function seems to widen the mix, and the Sensitivity can really make it pump, which can then be dialed in with the Release. Again, it’s a few twists of a few knobs, and it’s simply better. Like the other ones, I just add a light touch of it to enhance what was already there.

The blue Maximizer features four knobs, Lo Tune (40 Hz to 150 Hz), Lo Mix (0-10), Hi Tune (554 Hz to 5.60 kHz) and Hi Mix (0-10). Again, I tried this on an acoustic part with a lot of picked notes up the neck. What the Lo Tune and Lo Mix knobs helped me do is add bottom presence to the notes, almost to the point of mud. But once again, when placed in the track, it was right on point. If you want more clarity out of the part, simply set the Hi Tune anywhere above 2 kHz and push the Hi Mix up. It also worked great on vocals and percussion, adding that same type of presence, but without using EQ.

I forgot about how much I like the BBE products, as they can deliver that nice element of air, presence and punch to a mix. Note that Nomad Factory says the BBE Sonic Sweet Optimized is not compatible with previous versions of Sonic Sweet, since it was built from the ground up for Pro Tools 11 users. They will not replace the old ones, but will be added to the plug-ins folder as new plug-ins. No matter what, I’m glad to have them.