In Flux’s own words: “How to make a compressor, which can add loudness whilst keeping some airiness in the sound, which retains fast transients, subtle distinction and undertone?” Is Solera the answer to our prayers of a dynamics processor that only gives us the good sides?
Solera and the Pure Series
When you first open Solera there is a slight possibility you’ll become more than a little terrified. There are a lot of things in the window! Solera is basically four different plug-ins which can also be accessed separately if you have the Pure Series. If you keep this in mind and take your time to explore it you will soon be good friends with this bad boy. The four are: Pure Compressor, Pure Expander, Pure DCompressor and Pure DExpander. Their functions are the same as their names, with that said the DCompressor allows you to ‘de-compress’ or restore the original dynamic of the sound while the DExpander enhances the low levels of a sound and magnifies it.
Just to make myself perfectly clear: Solera is NOT about emulating old hardware so this isn’t just another three knob interface. We are talking about all the “regular” features of any dynamics processor plus many more things, such as a side-chain EQ, MS feature (for widening your mix) and Clipper (which turns it into a brick-wall limiter). It is simply too extensive to cover every feature in detail so check out the pictures and the Flux website for more information. We will, however, continue to talk about a few other features that I haven’t brought up yet.
Angel’s share. From the manual: “literally opens the sound, increases the dynamic impression, keeps some crest by adjusting in real time the ratio of every dynamic processing section regarding both their current settings about ratio and the signal content”. This is available in the all the Pure plug-ins as well as Solera.
Hysteresis. From the manual: “allows compressing and de-compressing, independently of the sound level and can be mixed with the standard compression scheme”. This is not available in the Expand and DExpand plug-ins.
Despite being just one knob each, you will want to experiment with these two features to fully understand what they do and how they work. In layman’s terms, Angel’s share gives the compressed material a more natural sound while Hysterasis eliminates all concepts of threshold. Does that sound cryptic? I said you should try it for yourself. Do any of these have any effect or are they just marketing nonsense? They DO have effect, try them and experiment with them. The Angel’s share is in a way a coloration knob, but still it isn’t.
The A-B slider. This is an amazing feature. The Flux plug-ins doesn’t have the same preset system that other Pro Tools plug-ins have, instead they have two separate save and recall parts, each having several ‘slots’ in which you save your presets. Now, what the A-B slider does is that it BLENDS two presets together! Creating new presets have never been easier and trying out different sounds have never been quicker.
Unfortunately, and this is the only negative thing I have to say about these plug-ins, if you press ‘compare’ the slider is reseted (but the settings on the knobs seems to be in the same position as the blended setting). This is a bug Flux knows about and they have promised to enhance the preset management in the next maintenance release.
So does it sound any good? Yes! Once again I have to give kudos to Flux for the innovative Angel’s share parameter, it alters the sound in a very smooth and subtle way so there is no need for fear of turning the knob to extreme settings. The Angel’s share makes the Flux plug-ins so much more flexible, and it’s not just available in Solera, it’s in the Pure plug-ins as well!
I launched a session with very dynamic vocals and inserted the Pure Compressor. I generally don’t like compressors, especially not on vocals but this really worked for me! I compared it to the Digidesign Compressor/Limiter Dyn 3 with the same settings but wasn’t overly enthusiastic until I started turning the knob the Digidesign plug-in lacks – the Angel’s share. Boy! Now we’re talking! This thing is nice!
The Pure DCompressor was a bit harder to understand. I tried it on some compressed guitars and as advertised, it actually “restored” some dynamics. My guess is that it really didn’t but it at least made the material more dynamic. With that said, it didn’t really fit these particular guitar tracks. Could be interesting to try on some over compressed drum loops perhaps.
The Expander works like an expander should and of course features the Angel’s share as well (no Hysteresis though), as do the DExpander. The DExpander is an interesting little addition to your plug-in list. I’m still not sure on what instruments it will work best though.
I tried the entire Solera for mastering. I started with some presets, they are pretty good, but with the A-B slider they are even better. Pick a sound that you like, blend it a little with the slider and call it a day. Alright, don’t flame me, mastering pros won’t like this way, but comparing this to say T-Racks is not even a contest. Solera simply is king when it comes to ITB (quick) mastering. This holds true even when it comes to ease of use because of the good presets and the A-B slider. If you really want to learn it though, then there’s a lot to learn but it will be well worth the time.
The Flux plug-ins are amazing. The A-B slider is what really tickled my creative nerve, unfortunately it is a bit buggy but according to Flux this will be fixed in the next maintenance release. That’s all the negative words I can come up with. Solera is probably the most complete dynamics tool I have ever used, it includes just about everything you would expect to see in a dynamics package plus the angel’s share and hysteresis features which are quite unique. It does seem like it can keep some of the dynamics that otherwise would be lost and it does seem that the sound is more “natural” (however vague that term is). Solera is my new go to plug-in for mastering and the Pure series will get some heavy duties from now on. If you can afford it, go for it, there is nothing more to say.