Oeksound (pronounced "oh-ek") created the exceptional soothe2, which Larry covers in our next issue. I made the mistake of dismissing the soothe [Tape Op #127] concept as merely a dynamic EQ with striking graphics. What a faulty assumption. Rarely have I found plug-ins that break new sonic ground. Drawing from the quality of soothe, spiff provides transient control with extreme detail. In short, spiff analyzes your audio source, confining processing to transient content while leaving the rest of the sound intact.

Although the presets work in many situations, fine-tuning yields the most useful results. Enabling the Delta control outputs only the processed signal. While this undoubtedly sounds strange, you'll be able to confine processing to only the elements you wish to adjust. Using Delta expedites setting up the detector's sidechain EQ. Lacking any focus to target areas, spiff will process all transient content, which is not always beneficial.

On a rock song with a hot tambourine track, spiff softened the icepick attack, yet maintained the sheen and velocity. Without spiff, I would have needed to call for a remix, manually spectral edit each hit (several hundred of them...), or hope a multiband compressor or dynamic EQ might help. I found Cut mode worked nicely on lip smacks and mouth clicks. Take note voiceover artists or podcasters; you need to make friends with spiff.

Although I devoted more analysis to the Cut function, the Boost process is equally useful. Mastering a folk rock song, where a finger-picked acoustic got lost among the midrange, spiff added just enough bite for the part to succeed. A snare that was too much "durf" and not enough "clock" was saved when spiff added attack to the fundamental. Likewise, a kick drum with too much "boom" and not enough "bam" appreciated the spiff treatment. Those were mono or stereo instances. In mid/side, spiff can spotlight lead vocals or increase the stereo spread of backing singers. I advise users to experiment with the Boost features; things that were formerly thought unfixable can be addressed with diligent fine-tuning of spiff's controls. Most of my tests were on full mix or stem submixes. Mix engineers will be delighted by the prospects of using spiff on individual tracks, as many mix jobs have a track or two that might not have been recorded ideally. Talk about truth in advertising, oeksound's slogan is "plug-ins you actually need." Relying on algorithmic intelligence that is actually intelligent, spiff and soothe2 are eminently usable, tweakable, and have become two of the most valuable plug-ins I own. Available in VST, AAX, and AU formats.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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