Ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers

Computer Music - - Make Music Now -

We’ve just spent two full pages dis­cussing the de­sir­able prop­er­ties of mag­netic tape, and the ma­chines used to record onto it. Now let’s con­sider how maddening all of those ‘qual­i­ties’ must have seemed to en­gi­neers who had no choice but to com­mit to a medium that was easy to dis­tort, and played havoc with the high end.

Some man­u­fac­tur­ers at­tempted to rec­tify the neg­a­tive side-ef­fects of tape by of­fer­ing de­vices de­signed to en­hance the sig­nal in ways that mere equalis­ers could not – you can’t cut or boost a fre­quency that isn’t cap­tured on tape, you see.

Aphex Elec­tron­ics were (and are) the most fa­mous name in au­dio en­hance­ment, thanks to their Au­ral Ex­citer. De­vel­oped in the mid-70s, the Au­ral Ex­citer wasn’t ini­tially for sale, but rather rented out for a whop­ping $30-per-minute (of the record­ing it­self, not the stu­dio time). The Au­ral Ex­citer worked by a com­bi­na­tion of phase- shift­ing and added high fre­quency har­mon­ics, both very sub­tly ap­plied. Even­tu­ally Aphex would not only sell cheap ded­i­cated Ex­citers, but li­cense the tech­nol­ogy to third-party soft­ware de­vel­op­ers.

BBE Sound’s Sonic Max­i­mizer is a pop­u­lar al­ter­na­tive to the Au­ral Ex­citer. Un­like the lat­ter, the Sonic Max­i­mizer doesn’t add har­mon­ics, but in­stead at­tempts to cor­rect the smear in­tro­duced by loud­speak­ers. This is ac­com­plished by al­ter­ing the tim­ing and phase re­la­tion­ship of the har­mon­ics in the recorded sig­nal. Like Aphex, BBE’s tech­nol­ogy would even­tu­ally ap­pear in vir­tual form.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers rang­ing from Behringer to SPL would later get in on the game, too, and prod­ucts like th­ese can still be use­ful for bring­ing some life to ster­ile or dull record­ings.

Once avail­able only as a costly rental, the Aphex Au­ral Ex­citer box can now be had in vir­tual form cour­tesy of Waves

BBE Sound’s Sonic Max­i­mizer is a fa­mous rack ef­fect known for its hi-fi-style bass and tre­ble en­hance­ment

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