In this review, Mike Thornton take a look at the new compressor plug-in from Sound Radix. POWAIR isn’t just another compressor, it is a two-stage loudness leveler and compressor plug-in with a number of features that set it apart from other compressor plug-ins.
This all came about by a comment made to Nir from Sound Radix at an AES show by multi-Grammy award winner Frank Filipetti and the sense of what he said was...
Listen guys, I’m working on this vocal track and I get the compressor to work all smooth and nice on this section, and then when the loud part comes in, the compressor over-compresses and kills my sound. Now, I could automate the threshold but what I want is a compressor that will keep the sound I did in the soft part, in the loud part as well. Can you do it?
POWAIR is the outcome...
BS1770 K-Weighted Loudness Leveler Section
The first part is a loudness leveller section which is great for loudness workflows as you can set your target loudness, and the amount of gain adjustment you want and POWAIR will enable you to deliver loudness compliant content.
The input meter displays the incoming audio’s loudness level and the gain changes applied by the leveler section. The level boosts as a yellow bar and level reductions display as turquoise on the gain boost/reduction meter to the right-hand side of the input meter.
The Target Level sets the loudness level target for the auto-leveler with input signal levels below the target level being boosted and those above the target level being reduced to achieve the desired target level.
You have a Noise Floor control which determines the point at which gain with be applied which prevents the lifting of the low-level audio that you can get with conventional compressors.
The Gain Range sets how much gain adjustment will be applied. Smaller amounts will limit the maximum gain or attenuation introduced by the leveller to small changes, whereas higher amounts will enable you to get larger adjustments and help level out wayward audio.
The second part of Power is a compressor with a different take on gain detection and reduction, that isn’t based on analog models but handles everything in the digital domain.
The Attack and Recovery controls are similar to those you would find on any dynamics processor. The compressor section is a fixed-threshold soft-knee design. For more gain reduction simply turn up the compression control The dB display in the middle of the section is the gain of the signal going into the detector. More level, more compression.
The Punch control is designed to limit the level of the transients during the attack time. When set to zero, no transients get through and POWAIR effectively behaves as a brick-wall limiter. This enables independent attack time and level controls, allowing for greater transients shaping flexibility. In classic compressors, reducing the attack time is required in order to achieve less punch. With the Punch control, it’s possible to have longer attack times while independently controlling the transients’ loudness, so less punch can be achieved without compromising on the transients’ shape.
The Adaptive Compression control varies the dynamic adaptation of the compression amount to the incoming signal. When set to zero, the stronger the input signal and compression, the more compression will occur, as you would expect from a conventional compressor. As you increase the Adaptive Compression POWAIR will preserve the average compression amount and maintain the timbre and intensity even when the input level increases. The average-level calibration point is defined by the leveler’s Target Level. The outcome of this is you can have the same amount of compression whether irrespective of the level going into the compressor, something not normally possible with conventional compressors.
What Do I Think Of POWAIR?
As you will see from my video review it can contain the excessive variations and bring the loudness range under control for a podcast or documentary, using just the leveler or adding the compressor section as it can work in tandem with the leveller rather than fighting each other.
This is a major step forward and in some of my workflows POWAIR has replaced 3 plug-ins down to one, what’s more, I have found its great for levelling content with significantly different levels between different voices.
Almost immediately it saved a client's bacon when they had an interview recorded with a single mic and the various contributor's levels were very different. I was struggling with conventional tools but once I tried POWAIR I was able to save the session and I simulated this problem in my video review.
Overall POWAIR has revolutionised my loudness workflows and is able to level some very challenging audio. The new look at detection and reduction works really well also gives us the Adaptive and Punch options. Thanks to Sound Radix for such a versatile dynamics management tool.