A ‘magic wand’ plugin for mix­ing and mas­ter­ing with a core al­go­rithm built on – wait for it – fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy. Yes, re­ally…

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The lat­est en­trant into Han­nover-based de­vel­op­ers Zynaptiq’s range of in­no­va­tive, am­bi­tious plugins, In­ten­sity is a sort of cross between a dy­nam­ics pro­ces­sor and a dy­namic EQ that prom­ises, quite sim­ply, to im­prove the sound of any­thing you send its way.

Zynaptiq de­scribe In­ten­sity as like an ar­ti­fi­cially in­tel­li­gent “in­fi­nite-band com­pres­sor that thresh­old-less-ly op­er­ates rel­a­tive to the in­put sig­nal”, be­fore go­ing on to say that it’s “ab­so­lutely not a com­pres­sor”. Ap­par­ently, the en­gine is based on the tech­niques used in fa­cial recog­ni­tion al­go­rithms, al­though at no point is it made clear what that equates to in prac­ti­cal terms. Ul­ti­mately, this is one of those out-there ef­fects that kind of de­fies de­scrip­tion and just has to be used and heard to be ap­pre­ci­ated. Zynaptiq sug­gest that it’s a plugin you’ll want to use on ev­ery­thing you do, from in­di­vid­ual in­stru­ment chan­nels to buses and full mixes, as it sim­ply makes stuff sound bet­ter. Well, they would, wouldn’t they?

Power balls

The plugin (VST/AU/AAX) is largely op­er­ated us­ing one main con­trol: the In­ten­sity ‘ball’ (don’t worry, it’s just a slider, re­ally). This de­ploys the afore­men­tioned al­go­rithm to ‘in­tel­li­gently’ in­crease the lev­els of those parts of the sig­nal that it deems to be “de­tails” and defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics. Think the body of a kick drum, the sheen of cym­bals, the sparkle of a vo­cal, the meat of a bass gui­tar, etc. The process can be ap­plied evenly across the whole sig­nal, or – as is more likely in al­most all sce­nar­ios – ‘sculpted’ us­ing the Bias con­trol, which you can read about in To­tally bi­ased be­low. As rais­ing the In­ten­sity in­vari­ably boosts the over­all level, a Level Com­pen­sa­tion func­tion is on hand for au­to­mat­i­cally match­ing the out­put gain to the in­put level.

The re­main­ing two con­trols, Dry-Wet Mix and Out­put, are rather more con­ven­tional. Out­put ad­justs the fi­nal, dry/wet-mixed out­put level by up to 12dB up or down, and can op­tion­ally pass the sig­nal through a soft-knee limiter that doesn’t have to be pushed far at all be­fore heavy sat­u­ra­tion starts to kick in. The Mix con­trol proves to be al­most as im­por­tant as In­ten­sity and Bias, as this is the kind of pro­ces­sor you’ll of­ten want to run in par­al­lel rather than 100% full-on. Like other Zynaptiq plugins, it’s in­cred­i­bly easy to go too far with In­ten­sity, and low­er­ing the Mix blend can go a long way to­wards bring­ing it back into line.

In­tense flavours

In­ten­sity is yet an­other re­mark­able ad­di­tion to Zynaptiq‘s ros­ter of fu­tur­is­tic de­vices – a unique and high-tech pro­duc­tion and en­gi­neer­ing tool that gets as close to feel­ing like ‘magic’ as soft­ware ever does. As men­tioned, it re­ally does need to be han­dled with care, and it can do slightly odd things with re­verb tails at times; but get it right through con­sid­ered tweak­ing of the Bias and Mix pa­ram­e­ters and the re­sults can be ab­so­lutely stun­ning, im­prov­ing what­ever’s sent through it in terms of clar­ity, sepa­ra­tion, ‘air’, pres­ence and vibe, whether that’s the el­e­men­tal com­po­nents of a drum track, the nu­ances of gui­tar line or vo­cal, or the sonic ag­gre­gate of the mas­ter bus. Slid­ing up and down the func­tional scale between ef­fort­less ‘quick fixer’ and se­ri­ous fi­nal­is­ing tool, this is a plugin that ev­ery pro­ducer needs to try.


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