Before I dive into a ton of information, let me start by saying I may have found my new “desert island” plug-in. In a matter of one week, this plug-in has made my mixes better and continues to show its flexibility when used on all styles of music. The MAGNUM-K is based on the hardware unit that Mäag Audio makes, but the plug-in itself has quite a few extra features that make it a serious mixing and mastering tool.
Let’s first go over the compression features. The main compressor section is straightforward and intuitive; rotary-style knobs control Comp Range, Ratio, and Threshold to fine-tune the amount of compression. Then you have Attack and Release settings, internal sidechain filters (40, 80, 120, 220 Hz, or external sidechain), as well as feed-back and feed-forward compression options: Simple, yet powerful and flexible. Faster attack times with just a few dB of compression tamed transients without any unpleasant “grabbing,” and even provided a nice knock to drums or a full mix, keeping it exciting. Although this plug-in excels at getting a refined and polished sound, I was also able to get a pretty aggressive FET-style compression. Just after the main dynamics section is the K Comp, an independent compressor that is focused around 3 kHz to help with harshness or pokey frequencies. As you can imagine, this is incredibly useful on vocals, cymbal-heavy drums, or mixes that could use a little extra control in that range. The K Comp is controlled by one simple Threshold knob, and it works perfectly. I found it easy to overuse at first, taking a little too much excitement out of the upper midrange, but it soon became easy to figure how and when to use.
Next, we have the famous Parallel EQ2 section, consisting of a Low Mid Frequency (LMF) boost and Mäag’s oh-so-sweet Air Band. The LMF fixed frequency points are determined by whether you’ve chosen a Wide or Tight bell curve. For Wide, you can choose between Sub, 57, 88, 220, 400 Hz, or 1.4 kHz. With Tight, you have Sub, 40, 65, 150, 250 Hz, or 1 kHz. The Air Band frequency selections are 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, or 40 kHz. If you’ve used a Mäag EQ before you’ll know how pleasant and smooth they sound. Adding a touch of 40 Hz can bring incredible weight to a mix, and really anything in the Air Band is just pure gold. Again, it can be easy to overuse the amount of 20 kHz you add to something, but boy does it sound heavenly! After the EQ section is a Soft Limit button that does just what you’d expect. A small Threshold control is provided to adjust how much color and limiting you would like, and a green LED will turn pink then red as limiting increases.
It should be said that although there is one main I/O and gain reduction meter at the bottom, there is a Peak indicator LED at the input with reactive LEDs on the main compressor and K Comp sections to let you know just how hard you’re hitting each threshold.
Next we have the special features that can only be found on the plug-in version of the Mäag Audio MAGNUM-K. In the bottom panel of the GUI, you have Parameter Link (to simultaneously control the L/R knobs), M/S (when engaged, the upper panel controls Mid and the lower panel controls the sides), and Sidechain Link (allowing your sidechain to controls both units). Then there is the TMT Channel section, developed by Brainworx, to give you 20 unique hardware channels to choose from as if you were working on an analog console. Think of it this way; if you pulled up a stereo mix on two faders of an analog console and then strapped a stereo compressor on both channels, you would have some very slight differences between both channels. They won’t react exactly the same because they’re physically different. In the digital realm, however, two faders in Pro Tools are identical. Here’s how Christoph Tkocz from Brainworx describes their groundbreaking tech: “TMT is Brainworx’s patented ‘Tolerance Modeling Technology’, originally found in the bx_console line of plug-ins. It takes the real-world tolerances of audio components found in audio circuits into account, and offers various channels of analog audio which have realistic variances in frequency response, time constants in dynamic sections, etc. The result is digital audio that sounds as analog as possible, whereas even the L/R channels of a stereo instance will react slightly different.” Digital Mode is used on a stereo channel to bypass TMT so that each side matches exactly. Though I didn’t find TMT to be a game-changing feature, I could hear a slight opening of the midrange.
Lastly, you have the BX Section, which houses Mono Maker and Stereo Width controls. Mono Maker works like an elliptical EQ. You can select a frequency between 20 Hz to 20 kHz, and anything below that frequency will be folded to mono with no phase incoherencies. When used on a full mix at around 150 to 200 Hz, I was shocked at how tight the low end became. Unless you’re going for a specific effect, there’s really no reason for low frequencies to be panned to the outer limits of the stereo field. This kind of EQ is commonly used when mastering for vinyl, as excessive low end in the stereo field can cause a needle to jump out of its groove. Stereo Width allows you to control the width of your mix between 0-400% (100% being the original width). Obviously, 400% is over the top, but around 130-140% on a full mix sounds excellent without getting into phase issues. Just below the I/O and Gain Reduction meter is a Correlation Meter showing -1 to +1 dB. Mäag suggests that, “If you notice the Correlation Meter showing less than ±1 (or 90°), dial up the Mono Maker a bit to tighten up the low end until acceptable levels are shown.”
Every section of the plug-in can be bypassed. There’s Input Attenuation, Input Gain, Makeup Gain, a selectable High Pass Filter (40, 80, 120, or 220 Hz) that can be placed after the Input Gain or just before the Soft Limit, Undo/Redo control, and even four different customizable settings (A/B/C/D). This means you could have different settings for your verse (A) and chorus (B), and simply automate between A and B throughout the track. I can’t say enough about this plug-in. Brainworx has created simple adjustments for powerful tools. The compression is extremely controlled, the EQ is top-notch and can make almost anything sound better, plus the addition of mid/side and the Mono/Stereo features make this plug-in an absolute dream for bus compression and mastering work. I can’t imagine making a mix now without at least one instance of the Mäag Audio MAGNUM-K plug-in – it’s a winner. Available in AAX DSP, AAX Native, AU, VST2, and VST3 formats.