Focusrite has created something it calls The Collective, which is an online platform for its new plug-ins and other content. The latest additions are three plugs in the FAST family - Compressor, Equaliser and Reveal. The result of a partnership with Sonible, they use AI to analyse and shape the dynamics of your tracks, while also providing a range of deeper tools for those who want more control. They’re designed to be usable by novice producers, where you let the AI make the decisions for you, as well as intermediate and advanced users, who will want more hands-on tweaking.
Although they do different things, the three plug-ins all have a similar workflow. They default to “fast” mode, which means when you press the learn button during playback, the plug-in analyses the sound - a vocal, guitar or drum track for example - and changes its settings to offer what it thinks is an optimum treatment. This is based on further settings that you make in a dropdown menu. For the compressor and EQ you can select a source type (female vocal, electric guitar and so on) and then a variation (soft, neutral, hard). For the Reveal plug which is essentially a ducker, this changes to offering a choice of separation amounts based on side chain input.
In its simple mode, FAST Equaliser makes its settings based on your chosen source type and then labels each of its bands with a helpful explainer. So the body, nasal and sibilant parts of a vocal for example can be easily seen and you can move things around to change the equalisation. Bands can be soloed and there are master Intensity and Gain sliders too. In Detailed mode the labels remain but you now get the option to change curve types and fine grained settings, as you would in any other professional EQ plug-in.
The compressor uses a similar interface and displays dual waveforms to show the amount of compression being applied. In FAST mode you can drag a simple line up or down to change this, while behind the scenes it uses clever maths to do its thing. In Detailed view, more expansive settings become available including Spectral Balancing, which dynamically monitors the tonal balance of the input signal.
Last but not least, Reveal is a multiband processor that helps you separate out two sounds that are fighting for the same sonic space. Essentially performing AI-powered ducking, it constantly monitors your two sources to dynamically quieten one (say a guitar) when another (say a vocal) needs to cut through, when the two are in the same frequency range.
Focusrite has created some excellent plugs here, giving great results with minimum input from the user if that’s how you want to use them. Just pick your source types and you’re away. For more experienced users, or those who are graduating from the AI-powered modes, there’s all the detailed controls you need, and none that you don’t. Using these plugs is quick and easy, and the results are great. Each one costs $5.99/month for 15 months, after which you own it - so a shade under $90. You can cancel at any time should you need to.
Price: $5.99/month for 15 months per plug then you own it.
Pros: Very simple to use. Great results. For novice or pro users. Spread the cost. AI-powered settings work well.
Cons: You can’t buy them outright straight away, if that bothers you.