A few months ago, I happened to present my views on some of the latest and affordable audio production/editing plugins: One being Ummet Ozcan’s Genesis digital synth and the other an all-in-one mixing software from KSHMR, in collaboration with Splice. After these, I couldn’t find any other major competitor providing economical plugins worth mentioning until last week. While watching YouTube, targeted advertisements grabbed the opportunity to showcase a hilarious advert from Slate Digital. This commercial boasted to have found the long wanted antidote to “Dullaudiosis” or in real-life terms, mundane sounding mixdowns which in turn affects a lot of producers. Its name speaking for itself, “Fresh Air” is a free dynamics processor apparently engineered on emulation of vintage exciter circuits; in layman terms, assume a sort of nifty audio brightener.
A question remained lingering: does this equate to one of those dubious “Snake Oils” which declares its audacious benefits for sensual bed-time activities, or a precise tool which can come handy in all situation?
Before we go ahead, I want to clear any suspicion that this post is neither a result of promotion or sponsorship. These are my unfiltered first impressions (mind you, not a complete review) of this plugin, which are divided in segments to better suit the readers.
See, most plugins nowadays are facile to install without complications. Except maybe a few. Especially ones which work with iLok. This is the case with “Fresh Air”, as I was somewhat perplexed to see that I had to activate the license prior full usage via iLok license manager. I understand Slate Digital’s deal with the mentioned company, but for a freebie? Anyways, it takes two separate software downloads: The installer for the plugin and a setup for a lagging iLok license manager. I will not delve into entire details as my purpose is not to write an instruction manual here (there’s an official tutorial on the website, might you be hindered in this process).
How good is it?
I wish to have attached before and after application audio snippets, but unfortunately shortage of time and technical complexities were snags that came in my way. But this I can deliver: a honest reaction after using it. Right off the bat, the interface is clean and simple. There are five knobs: power, mid-air, high-air, trim and a simultaneous linker in between, allowing you to tinker both mid air and high air at once.
Now, I wanted to compare it with an industrial adversary. So I chose iZotope’s renowned flagship exciter tool (version eight) and started testing. I chose a ready-made House loop consisting of the requisite: kick, percussion and bassline. While the Fresh Air managed to add some high-end excitement, it did so at the expense of some clipping. Interestingly enough, the counterpart from iZotope did the same with nuance, further allowing one to tamper with multiband settings. There are presets in both, so I chose the proper labeled ones and applied both individually and on a bus together.
However, the story doesn’t end all on a grim note. It is obvious that a free offering cannot come shoulder to shoulder with a leading and paid one. Yet, when I tried the pair of them on a processed female vocal, surprisingly Fresh Air impressed me more. It left a pleasant natural after-effect of high-end clarity compared to its fiscal-heavy opponent, which didn’t do as much.
“Fresh Air” might not be the mixdown messiah one would have searched for their entire life (duh), but it is useful in smaller amounts. Of course it doesn’t directly rally against other paid alternatives, but it has the potential to shine under someone who won’t rely entirely on this plugin (more like a cherry on the top type scenario). So, I can recommend interested parties to play with it, perhaps it could be a worthy addition to your arsenal.