Dominion, by DigitalFishPhones, is the brainchild of Sascha Eversmeier, whose Endorphin multi-band compressor has already won legions of devoted users. Like Endorphin, Dominion is a freeware VST plug-in, offering surprisingly high-quality audio processing, at a price to suit even the emptiest of pockets.
Dominion is particularly interesting because of its sheer originality: so far as I know, there are no other VST plug-ins available, freeware or commercial, which do quite the same job. Dominion, you see, is a 'signal modelling device' similar in concept to SPL's highly regarded Transient Designer dynamics processor, embodying characteristics of both compressors and expanders, yet without being either a compressor or an expander in the normal sense.
What Dominion does is allow you to make adjustments — even quite drastic adjustments — to the envelope of an incoming audio signal, regardless of input level. So, for instance, if you have a booming, slightly too ambient drum track, Dominion will let you 'tighten up' the decay to achieve a snappier, more punchy sound. Alternatively, a sound with too harsh an attack can be softened, while perhaps simultaneously boosting the decay portion to emphasise the 'room' around it.
Dominion is simple to use: there are sliders to set the input and output levels, and Level and Length sliders controlling the attack and sustain portions of the envelope to be applied to the sound. The envelope section is followed by a saturation stage, which nicely emulates the overload characteristics of an analogue device, to 'warm up' the sound as required. Next in the chain are the HF Details controls, which can be used to add 'brightening' harmonics to the signal in much the same way as an enhancer would. Finally, Dominion features a brick-wall limiter, to ensure that your tweaking won't cause levels to run out of control.
In use, Dominion sounds excellent, suggesting a range of creative possibilities. It can be set to work more or less transparently, or as quite a radical sound-design effect. The saturation and enhancement effects sound musical even at high settings, and are very usable. For me, Dominion has become an invaluable tool for tweaking and fine-tuning drum tracks, but this by no means represents the limit of its potential. Try it on guitars, vocals, bass lines — anything you think might benefit. The effect can be impressive, bringing convincing alterations to the character of a sound with few undesirable side-effects.
Dominion is available for Windows and Mac OS (courtesy of a port by Urs Heckmann), and is supplied with excellent PDF documentation. It works well, imposes only a modest CPU load, and sounds great. Do yourself a favour: download it today.