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Mixing with the Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter (Tip)

Feb 17, 2014

Tricks of the Mix: Find out how to bring that extra something to your mix using Waves plugins, brought to you by Waves Artists, Product Specialists and enthusiasts like yourself.

When used correctly, the Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter plugin can add a beautiful sheen or sparkle to vocals, lifting them from the mix. It is also a wonder at restoring life to dull instruments.

You can use the plugin as an insert or on a bus send. When using it as an insert, make sure it comes after any compression. I prefer the sound of Mix 1. First, adjust the input until the level is between -5 and +2, as the Aphex is a level-dependent effect. Then adjust the output for unity gain (same in as out) and slowly wind up the mix until you hear the right balance. If you remove the effect, it can trick your ears into thinking the sound is dull without it, so don't over-listen, and balance the effect while listening to the mix.

Alternatively, you can use the plugin on a bus send, which can be easier to adjust and can be useful for automating brightness for a single section. The setup is the same, only in AX mode (AX Mix on 10), with Analog Noise turned off.

Restoring sheen to dull instruments:
If you have guitars that have lost some HF due to old strings, or worn cymbals and percussion that have lost their sparkle, try using the Aphex on a bus send return in order to restore some HF content. Switch the Aphex to AX mode (with AX Mix on 10 and Analog turned off): you can then use the effect as a general sweetener for those sounds. Applying a lot of high EQ can make cymbals and guitars sound harsh; the Aphex is designed to add harmonics that are not there, so before you start piling on the EQ gain, try the Aphex – but be very gentle with it.

Using the Aphex Exciter as a de-essing sidechain:
Some vocal recordings can suffer from high levels of sibilance which a de-esser may not be able to reduce without affecting the vocal. With the Aphex Exciter, you can duplicate your vocal track and trigger the de-esser sidechain more efficiently.

Duplicate the track, but route it to a bus with no output. Add an EQ to remove all low frequencies, open the Aphex Exciter as an insert, adjust the input until the level is between -5 and +2, and adjust the output for unity gain (as explained above). Then, on the vocal track, use Waves DeEsser (still the best DeEsser out there), and sidechain the bus from the Aphex vocal track. The extra harmonics generated may help you control the DeEsser more effectively by accentuating the S!

You can automate the level of the Aphex vocal track in order to drive the DeEsser only when necessary. You now have a fine-control sibilance fader!