Saturday, December 24, 2011
Review of the Sonalksis Stereo Tools
Alright, so I'm new to this brand called Sonalksis, (I believe pronounced Son-aulk-sis), which is this smaller plugin company that makes a handful of really need plugins. I recently found out about them from reading an interview with a producer I like, and I decided to head over to their website. After many hours, I ended up getting the 14 day trials for almost all of their plugins, and I ended up purchasing the Sonalksis STEREO TOOLS plugin.
This is a very simple plugin for adjusting stereo width in sources, similar to the Waves S1 or one of my personal (and free) favorite plugins, the Omnisone stereo imager by jb. However, this has a couple features that really make it shine.
First of all, there is a phase invert switch on the top left of the plugin for the Left, Right, or Both. This can be useful when dealing with any stereo pair of mics as a quick check before and after you do stereo image processing. Sometimes making the stereo image narrower will make imaging problems more obvious. You also have Mid-Side input or standard left and right, as well as a "flip left and right" button. In the main part of the plugin we have Balance (like a pan pot) and then WIDTH. Our main focus! This width has a really cool feature about it in that you can select "Zero Width Below" and you basically have a high pass filter. This is AMAZING for putting this across the stereo bus, because you can select the filter down to maybe 80 or 100hz, and nothing below that will be shifted to the outsides, they will be shunted to mono. Now this is usually not a problem because the only things that are in that region are already mono! (kick, bass, etc).
However, this becomes really cool on things like acoustic guitars, which can start to sound really weird if you make them too wide. What I have done so far is put the HPF on to maybe 100-200hz, and just let the width stay at 100%. That way, I have my normal wide stereo image for acoustic, but my low end is solid in the middle.
There is also a stereo panning section that allows you to pan the left and right channels yourself rather than just having a single balance fader. In addition, there is a Mono button that simply allows you to keep it mono.
One of my favorite parts of this plugin is that is had a great Phase scope, Frequency Analyzer, and Lissajous meter. These three things make it really useful for gauging the size and shape of the mix when placed on the stereo buss (which honestly I find that I like a whole lot!) I don't always do stereo widening on the 2bus, but I find that digital doesn't always have the width and depth that analog has, so you have to be a lot more creative with your mixing to create
My only qualm about the plugin is that sometimes it seems to take away some low end from the source, and there is no readjustment for adding low end back, which I think should be on a new update.
Aside from the Stereo Tools plug, my favorites were the Sonalksis SV314 Compressor and the Sonalksis Creative Filter. Some of their plugins I found to be difficult to use, very hard to read, too much on the screen, like their two multiband dynamics plugins. I did really like their gate plugin, but there was no Floor adjustment, which bothers the heck out of me; I never gate to zero because it sounds too unnatural.
So this is a great plugin! If you need a solid stereo imager and want something useful, check out the Sonalksis StereoTools. If you don't have the money for it, get JB Omnisone.