Transforming source materials into something better and new, that is what alchemists in the Middle Ages did. Unfortunately they never revealed the mystery of transforming cheap metal into gold. Nowadays there are sound alchemists that purify their audio sources and bring sound to perfection. Thanks to Flux and his multi-dynamic plug-in Alchemist v3 you can now turn audio into gold.
The Alchemist is a 5 band multi-dynamic processor. You can add up to five bands and tweak each of them separately with the following processors: compressor, de-compressor, expander, de-expander, Bitter/Sweet (a transient shaper), a MS (mid/side) control and a whole bunch of time related settings. The dynamic tools come with a bunch of parameters. Besides the standard features like threshold and knee to see what all that stuff is doing with your signal you have different metering options for the levels and the dynamic processing. And of course you can adjust the crossover frequencies, the input and output gain and a clipper with knee and celling and you have the mandatory bypass button.
The plug-in is multichannel compatible with up to 8 channels in and out. Each one can be treated separately. I will get to this later in this review.
Alchemist V3 is available for Mac and Windows as native AU 32&64 bit, VST 32&64 bit, AAX 32&64 bit and also Waves WPAPI and Merging VS3. For the licensing an iLok or Flux Dongle is required. The Price is $ 699 in the flux online shop.
First off, I really like the displays that show everything you need to know and help keeping all of the processing in track. There are incoming and outgoing level meters for each channel. These meters automatically change depending on the number of in and outs you use and of course they give you feedback about the peaks. Finally there are different bands that give direct feedback over the processing.
Additionally there are vertical lines detecting the compression or expansion and of course de-compression and de-expansion.
Flux did a great job placing all these effects and processors in one friendly and well-structured user interface. The left side has all the master parameters. The main parameters for compressor and the other processors are automatically covered by the displays and switches when you select the band you want to work with.
Last but not least there is a meter showing you the compressor and expansion settings like threshold line and knee.
I started with a simple drum loop that I wanted to pump up a little to could quickly check how friendly the user interface is and how fast you can get used to the plug-in. I began with a single band and tested the compressor and its different modes. The default mode is "Solera", this is the same algorithm as in the identically named plug-in from Flux. My first impression was that this mode works best as it is really sensitive but effective. In total there a 8 different modes. The "Classic Fast", "Classic Medium" and "Classic Slow", the "Classic Feed Backward" also in fast, medium and slow and last the "Solera Feed Backward". The Feed Backward modes are a based on vintage hardware.
I went on testing with three bands to control low, mid and high frequencies of the drum loop individually. When adding one more band I accidentally removed a band. So I added it again and thought I would have to set up all the changes I made before but the Alchemist is clever enough to remember all my settings which is a big plus.
To control the transients and keep the shape of the sounds there are some time-related controls. Besides the standard "Attack" and "Release" there are "Hold", "Release Minimum", "Dynamic Factor" and "Release Mode". The "Release Mode" features "Manual", "Auto" and "Advanced". The "Auto" mode fixed the pumping sound I got with my previous settings.
After testing the compressor I went on with the DCompressor. I picked a BOOM Library trailer hit sound effect and compressed it way too heavily to see if and how the Alchemist is capable of restoring it.
To make it short, the DCompressor does exactly what it is supposed to do and can even handle very heavily processed signals.
After de-compressing I continued tweaking the sound further in order to get back the punch of the impact and get rid of the rumbling low end that is still present in the tail. I added some additional processing: at first I tried using the expander to get back the smack of the impact but I was not satisfied with the results. So I tried the "Bitter Sweet" transient designer and some de-expansion. Those two really are a great combo and they did the trick.
Let me just name some last great features. The master control section features a dry/wet mix for parallel processing. Besides that there is a phase invert button. This is really helpful and lets you directly hear what the Alchemist is doing with your sound. The clipper works fine and precisely.
In terms of sound shaping there are tons of ways to process your signal. It will take way to much time to get to know every detail and combination possibilities this multi-dynamic processor has to offer. Experimenting and exploring is fun, but there is one more thing that you should know. I used the plug-in on my MacBookPro (Mid 2010) that tops all the minimum requirements, but it was not running constantly fluent with one instance on the master track. The slider function for checking and mixing two presets/settings sometimes produced clicks and was lagging. But I guess that's nothing new. State-of-the-art software with heavy processing algorithms doesn't work perfectly on outdated hardware. I think it's time to update my workstation :-)
If you want to convince yourself of the Alchemist V3 - visit www.fluxhome.com to download the free TRAIL version.