BABY Audio's new Parallel Aggressor combines elements of some of their other plug-ins to add punch or weight to a track or mix. But this isn't simply a straight rehash. According to the company, the algorithms are tweaked specifically for use in this new plug-in. Three main sliders control the mix of multiple effects, which includes the unprocessed audio along with two separately processed copies of the same audio. Dry LVL is the incoming/unaffected signal, Spank LVL is the compressor/limiter section adapted from the I Heart NY plug-in [Tape Op #139], and Heat LVL (leveraged from the Super VHS plug-in) adds saturation and more color. You can solo one or any combination of these three sections.
There are two dials for controlling the amount of each effect – Spank or Heat – for their respective sliders. Along the bottom of the GUI are more buttons to fine-tune the character of Spank and Heat. On the edges of the window are two pulsating and glowing semi-circles that function as meters. Clicking the Baby Audio logo will bypass the plug-in for quick A/B comparisons. Finally, in the upper left corner, there is a button to select three different color schemes; I preferred the dark theme.
The obvious, and perhaps most common use for Parallel Aggressor (in my opinion) is with drums, and it was the first thing I tried since I typically use a parallel drum bus setup. I inserted Parallel Aggressor and scrolled through some of the presets to get a feel for where to go first. Then I reset to the default and started working the controls. Since it was already on a bus, I removed most of the dry signal, pushed up the Spank, and added some Heat to get extra punch and weight so that the drums were slamming. Very nice!
I also wondered how it would sound across the master bus where I might generally use a compressor, barely touching the mix for some glue and color – it was super easy to overdo it! With the Auto Gain disabled and a tiny bit of Smack and Heat, I did prefer the overall mix of a rock track with Parallel Aggressor engaged.
Next, I inserted the plug-in on a rock vocal harmony track. I had already pitched down a section to add some growl effect, but it wasn't quite there yet. I switched off the Auto Gain button, added a little Spank (with extra Smack and Punch), then cranked up the Heat slider (with Extra Heat, while engaging both the high-pass and low-pass filters). Then I mixed this with my other vocal tracks and finally achieved that "big cat snarl" effect I was searching for!
With the Auto Gain feature engaged, my tracks were almost always slightly louder than the original signal. Though it did usually sound better, sometimes it was louder and could be perceived as better (watch the levels!). I asked BABY Audio and they agreed that it is primarily intended as a rough match to assist in getting to a sound quickly, but also depends on the source material. To keep latency at a minimum, the company chose not to implement a more sophisticated matching algorithm. I found Auto Gain to be helpful for quickly dialing in the sound – further refinement can then be implemented with the Auto Gain feature disabled.
Parallel Aggressor supports most major DAWs. A trial is available, but it will insert five seconds of silence every 60 seconds. I find dropouts distracting for critical listening, even when demoing, so I would've preferred a full-featured, timed trial. Luckily, the full license is reasonably-priced at only $49. This purchase was a "no brainer" for me; I expect to use this Parallel Aggressor often! Mac OS 10.7 and PC Windows 7 compatible in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.