BeatSkillz has announced the release of MAX1, a freeware auto-compressor and maximizer effect in VST/AU/AAX plugin formats for PC and Mac.
From my experience, of all the mixing tools like equalizers, limiters, and reverbs, the compressor is the one that takes the most time to learn. When setting up the compressor, it’s easy to go overboard and outright destroy the processed audio signal on the input. Apart from a set of trained ears and a clear understanding of the concept of compression, you’ll also need a proper listening setup that will allow you to hear what the compressor does to the processed audio material.
For those who’d like to take some of the guesswork out of the mixing process, BeatSkillz has just released a freeware automatic compression tool called MAX1. The effect features an auto-release algorithm which conforms the compressor’s response to the characteristics of the processed signal. To make the workflow simpler than what is normally seen in a compressor, MAX1 features only the threshold, attack, and post gain (aka output volume) knobs, along with a soft clipper switch and a peak/RMS switch for the gain reduction and volume meters. In practice, this means that the user can simply load the plugin on a channel that needs to be compressed, adjust the threshold value to set the compression amount, and adjust the attack time to taste (depending on how much or little the transients need to be emphasized).
I put MAX1 through a quick test in MuLab 6 and I’m happy to say that it worked as advertised. Not having a release time parameter on a compressor can be a blessing or a curse, but chances are that you won’t regret losing that added layer of control if you’re using an automated tool like MAX1 to begin with. Where this compressor/maximizer shines is adding serious amounts of loudness and punch to percussive tracks and bass lines. I was able to drive the compressor quite a bit without having the processed signal fall apart. The soft clipper on the output helps beef up the sound even more without ending up with nasty digital artifacts. The CPU usage hovered around 3% on a single core, which is a very good result.
Just to be clear, MAX1 isn’t the only automated compressor plugin out there. Plugins similar to this one have been around for quite some time now, one of my favorites being the brilliant DC1A freeware compressor by Klanghelm. I always highly recommend that one for processing vocals and even some more dynamic parts like bass guitars. However, MAX1 is a slightly different beast, and I’m expecting it to become quite a popular tool for maximizing electronic drums, synthesized basslines, and even entire electronic music mixes. It’s definitely a well-made maximizer that’s worth adding to your plugin collection.
The plugin is available for direct download from the developer’s website, no registration required in advance. It does need to be activated, though, meaning that you’ll need to register your copy eventually, but it’s one of the smoothest registration processes I’ve seen to date. When loading the plugin for the first time, simply enter your email address on the popup screen and click the “Free Serial” button. Your personal serial number will be delivered to your email address and the plugin will be activated as soon as you enter that number in the DAW. Cool!
MAX1 is available for free download via BeatSkillz (13.7 MB download size, EXE installer, 32-bit & 64-bit VST/AU/AAX plug-in formats for Windows & Mac OS).