An Exciter is a processing technique used to enhance an audio signal by dynamic equalization, phase manipulation, harmonic synthesis of high-frequency signals, and through the addition of subtle harmonic distortion. In the past, engineers and producers have used the Exciter to bring out vocals, and on various instruments. It’s at the heart of great-sounding mixes in rock, pop, jazz, classical and every other genre of modern music. Check out the following tutorial to learn how to add character to your mix with an Aural Exciter!
Tube Powered Sound
When it comes to software emulations of famous analog hardware audio processors, one plugin definitely stands out from the rest. Aphex Aural Exciter by Waves is, without any doubt a faithful emulation of its hardware predecessor. The original Aphex Aural Exciter was highly regarded for its ability to increase and enhance presence, brightness, and vibrancy on vocal and instrument tracks alike. In the next tutorial, we will analyze the plugin mentioned above and give you some ideas so you can get the best of it.
On the far left side, we can see a mode switch. The first of the mode is “BP,” and it stands for bypass. Therefore In this mode, you won’t hear any significant change in sound. It is instead modeling the bypass mode of the original hardware, which gives a specific character to the sound by coloring it subtly, just like the real hardware unit.
Furthermore, by checking the far right side of the mode section, you’ll find the “AX” mode. This mode is suitable for the send/return. This is, therefore, an excellent option for automating the send to change the effect throughout the track. However, in this mode, the “AX MIX” is automatically set to the maximum level, and it’s not possible to change that.
Moving forward, the “MIX2” mode can be used as an insert because it recreates the hardware unit mix mode for that exact purpose.
If you want to get the same effect as “AX MIX” but on the insert, try to use the “MIX1” mode. This mode is an insert that recreates the hardware unit send/return mode. Consequently, it faithfully emulates the hardware unit effect.
After introducing you to the main parameters of the Aphex Aural Exciter, let us switch to the practical examples. For this reason, I made a short loop in SoundBridge, which includes drums, bass, kalimba, and vocal phrase. So let’s listen to it without any processing.
~Full loop without processing
Basically, we can hear that the Vocal, Kalimba, and the Guitar are sounding pretty muffled and lifeless. Let’s try fixing the vocal first. For the vocal processing, I will select “ MIX1” mode with high input and low output settings. AX MIX parameter is also set to high. Let us hear how the vocals sound with and without processing.
~Vocal without processing
~Vocal with Aphex
Of course, there is a massive difference in terms of clarity and sonic character.
Kalimba instrument processing
Pursuing this further, Kalimba is a bell-like instrument which resonates in both high and mid frequencies of the sound spectrum. We will enhance its clarity and character with Aphex Aural Exciter. Let us listen to it before and after processing.
~Kalimba without processing
~Kalimba with Aphex
Again we can hear that Aphex introduced a lot of character to the sound. In short, it brought this sound back to life.
Guitar sound processing
For the final example, I will process a guitar sound with Aphex Aural Exciter since it sounds a bit boxy.
~Guitar without processing
~Guitar with Aphex Aural Exciter
In the final analysis, after listening to the changes in the sound, you can notice plenty of mid frequencies boosting. In this case, this is exactly what this guitar riff needed to become more present in the mix.
To conclude, Aphex Aural Exciter really adds character, clarity, slight distortion, and compression to everything it processes. In essence, It is a great tool that I highly recommend. With this in mind, let’s listen to the full mix without and with Aphex Aural Exciter instrument processing.
~Full loop without processing
~Full loop with Aphex Aural Exciter
Download the project here.