More people than ever before are getting into music production nowadays. And if you start getting more serious about your work, your path will unavoidably lead to learning how to properly mix your tracks. But the tools needed for that are quite expensive. Even the cheaper software solutions for a complete toolset will probably cost you multiple hundred dollars.
Hardware solutions are even more expensive and additionally require maintenance and storage space. So, many producers are in need of a plugin that delivers multiple tools for your mixes at once. Tokyo Dawn Records aims at exactly those producers with their NOVA plugin, which promises to deliver a great set of utilities for free. But can it compare to more expensive, established software? I took the plugin to the test to find out.
Grab your copy of NOVA via tokyodawn.net.
The user interface of the NOVA plugin is structured in two parts: On the top, you have your usual visual parametric EQ layout. Below, you’ll find more in-depth control over the parameters. Here is also where you can engage the different special features of the plugin.
The plugin features up to six EQ bands with the Gentleman’s Edition, where each band features different filter and bell curve shapes to adjust the sound. You also have access to the so-called ‘wide-band’, which consists of the range of all frequencies. When boosting or subtracting different frequencies, you can choose to enable automatic gain for the output signal. This adjusts the level of the output to the boosted EQ band and helps you make better EQ decisions. You can also set overall low-pass and high-pass filters to the sound, with a wide range of slopes. You can adjust each of the EQ parameters individually by accessing the knobs below the visual EQ.
The true power of the plugin arrives when you turn to the dynamics controls. These are located at the bottom, next to the EQ parameters. If you select the wide-band, you get control over the master compression. This corresponds to a compressor that is applied to the complete set of frequencies of the signal. You can set the threshold and ratio as well as the attack and release times. An important note here is that the compressor works with the RMS signal – the time-averaged audio level – instead of the true peak. This corresponds to a more natural sense of loudness. A very nice feature is the GR delta button, located at the top right of the bottom part. This only enables audio which is affected by the compression and comes in handy while mixing.
The NOVA plugin can do much more than just simple EQ and compression. If you select a particular frequency band, you get access to the dynamic controls for that exact frequency band. This enables you to do dynamic EQing and multiband compression. You can do a three-band shelf-type setup for more classical-sounding multiband compression, or pick out one bell-shaped band getting reduced, resulting in a dynamic EQ approach. Additionally, you can apply a compressor to the wideband and exclude a particular frequency band from it. This way, you compress all the other frequencies while maintaining the dynamics of that particular band. If you own the Gentleman’s Edition, you can also apply upward expansion to the signal, boosting it when it gets louder. This comes in handy when you want to restore transients.
The base version of the plugin is completely free! This is especially astounding considering the vast feature set of even the base version. Here you get up to four frequency bands and full control over the compression settings. You, however, lack some features which make your life a little bit easier. The full version, called Gentleman’s Edition*, comes with up to six frequency bands, an “insane” mode that boosts audio quality at the cost of CPU usage, and an expansion mode for the dynamics, additionally to some other minor controls. The Gentleman’s edition will cost you $60.
If I’m being honest, I cannot recommend this plugin enough. This is the ideal starting point for producers on a budget who want to get their hands on a plugin with an extensive feature set. Considering that it’s free, the amount of control you get over your mixes using NOVA is exceptional. Its compression and EQing sounds really great, even compared to the big names in the scene. In conclusion, this is a must-have plugin for every producer who wants to get into mixing, or established audio engineers who don’t own a dynamic EQ yet.Find more information about this plugin on tokyodawn.net