Though not as popular as compressors, maximizers (sometimes called exciters or enhancers) are many engineers’ “secret weapon” for adding extra pop and sizzle or smoothing out rough-edged tracks. For those familiar with studio compressors, BBE is to maximizers as DBX is to compressors: affordable and dependable. BBE’s D82 Sonic Maximizer plugin, a faithful emulation of their hardware unit, is a flexible addition to any recordist’s arsenal.
Using two simple controls, Lo Contour and Process, the D82 adjusts phase irregularities in low and high frequencies. Overall, I found the plugin most useful at rounding out the boomy bass and low-mid frequencies found in acoustic recordings. As a test, I applied it to an overly muted kick drum recording and it brought clarity and definition back to the track.
The D82’s preset settings are too generalized to rely on, but it doesn’t take long to become comfortable tweaking the controls. I found that the plugin sounds best placed at the front of the signal chain and applied in moderation. High end companies offer similar plugins to tackle multi-band dynamics, such as Sonalksis’ CQ1 Multi-Band Compander. However, no one offers a plugin that functions quite like the D82 at a low price.
BBE currently offers the D82 along with with two other plugins, the H82 Harmonic Maximizer and L82 Loudness Maximizer in its Sonic Suite Bundle. The H82 is a variation on the Sonic Maximizer that adds harmonic content to the original signal while the L82 is a more conventional limiter. While the H82 and L82 aren’t quite as flexible as the Sonic Maximizer, at $99 the Sonic Suite is a bargain worth checking out.