Audionamix’s ADX Vocal Volume Control plug-in (VVC) addresses a common, critical, and chronically unmet need of producers and mastering engineers: adjusting the lead vocal’s volume in a baked-in stereo or mono mix of a multitrack production without affecting other elements in the mix.
Sure, you can boost the lead vocal in a stereo mix using mid-side processing to raise the volume of the mid channel—but not without also boosting the kick, snare, bass guitar, and any other center-panned elements. (And mid-side processing is worthless on mono mixes and stems.) VVC promises more discrete—arguably magical—processing. If it works, I thought to myself, this would be the Holy Grail and the answer to my prayers. I was dying to give it a spin.
Version 3.0 of the cross-platform plug-in is available in AAX Native (64-and 32-bit), AU, and VST formats. I reviewed the AU plug-in in Digital Performer 9.02 (DP), using an 8-core Mac Pro running OS X 10.11.5.
HOW IT WORKS
VVC uses multiple algorithms to separate lead vocals—or any monophonic melodic instrument—from a track, whether the original file was stereo or mono. After the separation is complete, you can change the vocal or instrument’s volume and pan position ostensibly without affecting other elements in the mix.
After instantiating VVC on a track insert, you make a selection of the audio you wish to be separated. (In DP 9.02, selecting the audio is unnecessary.) Then you either perform an offline bounce or play through the selection so the plug-in can acquire the audio. Pressing the Separate button sends the data to Audionamix’s ADX servers, where it is processed. Access to the ADX cloud is granted by an API (application programming interface) key you receive after purchasing the software (iLok is not used).
The plug-in’s Separation Mode determines what material gets separated from your audio selection (see Fig. 1). In Vocal mode, the proprietary processing includes Audionamix’s Automatic Voice Activity Detection (AVAD) algorithm. AVAD detects where singing occurs in the selected material and extracts melodic content only in those sections, leaving the original mix unaffected elsewhere. In Melody mode, melodic content is extracted throughout the entire audio selection; this mode is not only useful for extracting monophonic guitars and the like, but also as fallback processing should AVAD fail to extract some vocal phrases. In either mode, activating the High Quality button will yield better-sounding results (at the expense of a longer wait for processing to complete).
|Fig. 1. Audionamix
ADX VVC 3.0’s simple
interface makes it easy to
adjust levels and panning
of vocals and monophonic
instruments in a bakedin
stereo or mono mix.
Use the Separation Mode
button on the left side of
the GUI to select vocal or
When separating vocals, enter the highest and lowest notes that were sung in the GUI’s two Pitch Range boxes to help VVC target the vocal more precisely. If you want to separate reverb in your original file along with the vocal, turn on VVC’s Reverb option before engaging separation processing. Doing so will maintain the wet/dry balance of the original vocal as you make subsequent changes to its gain and pan position. Activating the plug-in’s Consonants option helps VVC to extract the high-frequency, noisy components of a vocal produced by enunciated consonants; if you hear drum hits or other non-vocal transients being separated with the vocal, turn this option off and engage the processing again.