Could this natty plug‑in streamline your approach to compression, limiting and expansion?
Signum Audio’s Skye Dynamics is a three‑stage processor intended primarily to sound “clean and transparent”. Of course, since every DAW ships with a usable set of dynamics processors, if a third‑party plug‑in is to be worth buying, it really must offer something that they don’t. So what is it that Skye brings to the table?
Most of the action takes place in a single screen, whose default view is dominated by an X/Y plot and, either side, bar meters. A tabbed section beneath hosts controls for three processors: an expander, a compressor and a limiter. The tabbed pages put equivalent controls for each processor in the same place, and that’s obviously helpful when it comes to ease of use. A small pin matrix pane caters for channel routing/linking.
The main graph displays a single transfer plot that reflects the contribution of all three processors, each helpfully distinguished by colour. I really like this GUI, as it’s so simple to see what’s going on. Much easier, in fact, than it is to describe why! It’s fully scalable too, and should you wish to hide the plot for a more minial view you can do that too. Unfortunately, on my MacBook Pro (late 2018, Mac OS 10.14.1) in Reaper v6.36 (VST3 or AU v1.0.2) I found that if I tried to do too many GUI changes too quickly, I sometimes experienced crashes. Signum say the issue has not been widely reported and, at the time of writing, they’re working to replicate and address this in a free update.
If you click and drag on the plot you can zoom in, and this makes it trivially easy to fine‑tune each stage’s response.
Perhaps more interesting is a graph‑zoom feature: if you click and drag on the plot you can zoom in, and this makes it trivially easy to fine‑tune each stage’s response. Yes, your ears should be the final arbiter, but this helps you get there so much more quickly.
Each processor can be set to respond to the signal it’s processing or to an external sidechain input. It can be individually bypassed, and it has its own dedicated mix control too; sidechain compression is an obvious application but a keyed expander is always fun too, and I often run a parallel compressor (set to raise the lower‑level details) into a limiter (to control the peaks). It’s great to have this flexibility here. The tiniest gripe is that the effect of such parallel processing on the signal level is not fully reflected on the transfer plot, which accounts only for the wet signal. For example, while the limiter of course reacts to the compressor’s wet/dry mixed output, the effects of parallel compression and makeup gain in lifting low‑level details is not displayed.
The metering in general, though, is great; it packs in plenty of information without overwhelming. The input/output level meters (the surround version supports up to 7.1.4, with a separate bar for each channel) display the sample peak levels for the currently selected processor. Closer inspection reveals that gain reduction is also displayed; this seems to be the total gain reduction across all active processors. The external sidechain signal level is also displayed when active. Signum say that they may be able to add an averaging meter in an update if there’s sufficient demand, so if you fancy that being added do get those emails sent in!
On the whole, Skye Dynamics is a wonderfully versatile plug‑in. Not only does it sound good, but it helps you get so much done so quickly. You have control over the attack curve (not just time) and there’s a scalable auto‑release, and these things in combination make it oh‑so‑easy to adapt the many presets to suit use on pretty much any source. If you’re still at the ‘compressorphobic’ stage, or simply like to work quickly, this could be a very big plus. While it’s clean in terms of harmonic distortion, you can set times fast enough to distort the waveform, and you can do anything from relaxed gain reduction to lifting of details and full‑on pumping. Yes, it’s true that you could achieve most of what you can with Skye using a combination of your existing tools. But I doubt you could do it so quickly or so easily.
A deceptively simple set of processors, which sound clean and versatile but offer some useful controls and a refreshing GUI. Suitable for pretty much any application and well worth checking out the demo.