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Aphex <i>Aural Exciter</i>

Aphex Aural Exciter.Aphex Aural Exciter.

TDM plug‑in for Pro Tools

Reviewed: Mac version

The Aphex Aural Exciter has become a standard feature in studios around the world since its introduction in 1975, allowing engineers and producers to bring out more detail or add more 'air' to their mixes. Basically, the process recreates missing higher‑level harmonics, or adds additional ones, to enhance the natural brightness, clarity, presence and intelligibility of recorded audio. The good news is that this is now available as a Pro Tools TDM plug‑in, based on the technology used in the Type III Aural Exciter.

The user interface offers a wide range of controls including faders and switches, along with accurate metering of 'drive' and output levels. You set the Drive switch to control the input sensitivity of the processor, and use the Level fader to avoid clipping. The fader control section is where the real action takes place: here the user can control the bandwidth of the side‑chain at the point where the harmonic excitement effect is taking place, using a high‑pass filter. The Tune fader lets you choose the range of frequencies in the side‑chain which will be enhanced and then mixed in with the original signal at the output. You can adjust the high‑pass filter to accentuate the response, and you can also adjust the amount of additional harmonics being generated, and the balance between odd and even harmonics.

In action, the Exciter makes things sound brighter and harmonically more interesting — and without increasing the peak level of the audio material. I tried the Exciter on a solo electric guitar which was not 'jangling' enough, and, lo and behold, it brought the 'jangle' back like magic! A few minutes's work made the sound even better, the guitar arpeggios 'rippling' much more delicately where they had sounded a little clumsy beforehand. So should you buy the plug‑in or the hardware version? Well, according to Aphex, 80 percent of the beta‑testers think it sounds as good or better than the hardware version — and the software version is claimed to handle sibilant frequencies much better. Personally, as a busy Pro Tools user, I reckon I would definitely prefer to use the plug‑in, both for its convenience and for the automation possibilities. Mike Collins