Can this bold new effects chain plugin really democratise the mastering process and give professional engineers sleepless nights?
Devised and designed by Brainworx/Plugin Alliance main man and renowned producer/ engineer Dirk Ulrich, bx_masterdesk is the latest addition to the currently trending category of simplified mixing and mastering processors. Ulrich reckons “many people are overthinking the mastering process”, and to that end, his new plugin (VST/AU/AAX) provides a complete system for quick and easy mastering, via a stripped-back control set that governs a far more complex array of under-the-hood algorithms and processes.
bx_masterdesk emulates an analogue mastering chain, comprising compression, bass enhancement and general EQ, THD saturation, de-essing, limiting and stereo manipulation. The first thing to do is set the input gain into the compressor at the start of the chain using the big Volume knob. The quietly ingenious Dynamic Range VU meter allows you to visually monitor the loudness level in easy-to-understand terms by describing the difference between peak and RMS levels at any given moment (the crest factor). You can raise or lower the volume as per requirements to keep the needle in the green range (between 6 and 8dB), and you can pretty much rest assured that your track is safely within established ‘loudness norms’.
The Foundation control is your next port of call. This governs a tilt EQ that enthusiastically boosts or pulls back the low end. It’s pretty heavy-handed – surprisingly so, given the restraint exercised in the parameter boundaries of the other controls – and we can’t imagine ever wanting to twist it more than about 45 degrees off centre in either direction. Really, we’d prefer finer adjustment across a shorter range.
Next comes the Tone section, home to a fourband EQ. This enables up to 3dB of cut or boost to be applied to Bass and Treble bands, and a broad mid-range bell filter; and up to 6dB of cut/ boost (with a contrary boost/cut in the highmids) to the high-frequency Presence band. In the interest of keeping the interface as unintimidating and ‘muso-friendly’ as possible, the EQ looks like a guitar amp tone stack, and the centre/corner frequencies of each band
“The Dynamic Range VU meter lets you visually monitor the loudness level in easyto-understand terms”