Un-harsh your mellow with ease!
Review by Justin Perkins
Soothe (now soothe 2) is designed to automatically and intelligently detect problem frequencies in an audio source and attenuate them quickly and transparently.
I started using soothe in my mastering chain upon its release in late 2017, both in the box and in conjunction with my analog tools. It’s perfect at quickly and precisely targeting sibilance and other harsh tonalities in a mix during the mastering process.
The soothe GUI is spacious, clean, and intuitive. There are simple, clear pop-ups to guide you—great for those of us who don’t like to read manuals. You get very good visual feedback about which frequencies are being attenuated and by how much, all driven by the big Depth knob.
New in 2
New in soothe 2 is Soft and Hard modes. Soft is more subtle and transparent, while Hard is more adjustable and reactive to the incoming level. There are controls for attack and release, as well as sharpness and selectivity. These can be dialed to taste much as you would a compressor or dynamic EQ. There’s a wet/dry mix, stereo and mid/side modes, a delta preview mode, and quality settings.
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Don’t de-ess it—soothe it instead!
Instead of a traditional threshold like on most de-essers and dynamics processors, soothe 2 automatically detects the level of the incoming offending signal—you simply dial in the amount of processing you’d like to hear. soothe expertly adapts to level changes in the incoming signal, so the amount of processing in play stays proportional—no need to fiddle with threshold automation for music with wildly fluctuating volume dynamics.
soothe the harsh mids
soothe 2 quickly and transparently attacks sharp or piercing frequencies found in the upper mid and high frequency ranges. On aggressive acoustic guitars, vocal sibilance, percussive elements, or even the abrasiveness induced by cheaper digital systems, soothe 2 does as its name suggests, and makes things sound more soothing.
As with similar tools, it’s possible to push soothe too far. This is especially true when applying it to a stereo mix during mastering. To help dial in the correct amount, the Delta feature allows you to listen to the difference signal, or what soothe is actually catching and suppressing. This will enable you to be selective and careful about what you’re taking out. I wish more plugins had a delta function, as it’s quite handy.
soothe on the side
Another great feature of soothe is its easily adjustable sidechain EQ that alters which frequencies influence the detector. You can zero in on offending frequencies and aggressively boost them in the side chain to trigger more soothe, or vice versa.
Dynamics and depth
soothe 2 now adds parameter adjustments for attack, release, soft/hard, sharpness, and selectively. These are all pretty self-explanatory and easy to fine tune to taste, especially using the delta mode.
Once you settle on some basic settings that work for you, the big Depth knob is probably what you’ll use most to control how much or how little work the plugin is doing.
For those who like to tweak, there are some oversampling and quality settings that you can optimize for your system. There are also settings for offline rendering and realtime playback so you can crank up the quality when doing your final offline bounce/render, but keep things CPU friendly as you work.
There’s a parallel blend option, but I find that soothe 2 is such a transparent tool that I don’t often see the need to blend it to less than 100%; the option is there if you need it.
A significant addition in soothe 2 is mid/side processing. Yes, some de-essers can do mid/side processing, and some de-essers utilize an automatic threshold concept, but soothe 2 is the first plugin I’m aware of that does both natively.
The reason mid/side is crucial for mastering is that usually, the lead vocals are in the center, so with mid/side processing, you can tame center channel sibilance while leaving the side channels alone. Or, in cases where wide-panned acoustic guitars or backing vocals are too bright, soothe 2 can address them without impacting things in the center. The addition of mid/side in soothe 2 opens up another world of possibilities, as it can be enabled globally or per-EQ detection band.
Way down low
The other major improvement in soothe 2 is that instead of only being able to address upper mid and high frequencies, soothe 2 can work all the way down to 20Hz. This is something I requested to them early on via Twitter and got a gentle nod that they were working on it, so I’m pretty excited to see it make the cut in version 2.
After hearing how effective the original soothe was on high frequencies in mastering, I immediately wanted to do the same with low mids and lows. Sometimes in mastering, tom fills, or certain bass notes can get out of control. In particular, I wanted something I could use when mastering music that has upright acoustic bass such as jazz and bluegrass. These instruments are notoriously troublesome, and being a non-fretted instrument, intonation variances due to human playing means that resonant frequencies can shift ever so slightly throughout the song, making a fixed EQ setting not as effective. In cases where busy walking bass lines are just all over the place, soothe 2 tames that nicely.
I’ve already been able to use soothe 2 on several acoustic-based recordings. Now, upright bass, cello, etc. are much easier to control in mastering. Here soothe 2 truly is a miracle worker.
Soothing the CPU
Lastly, soothe 2 is now much less taxing on the CPU. I can see this benefiting mixing and mastering engineers alike. Mixing engineers can now use more instances per song in real time, and mastering engineers working at high sample rates can use the higher quality settings without waiting to turn them on when rendering. I’m doing just that and have yet to feel any system stress due to soothe 2. I should note that I find it to be extremely stable in WaveLab Pro, REAPER, and Pro Tools.
I have no idea how they did it, but oeksound managed to make an essential and unique plugin even better. If you were a soothe user, soothe 2 is a no-brainer upgrade. If you’re not currently using soothe, in my opinion, soothe 2 is one of those indispensable plugins that comes around once a decade. If you work with digital audio, you need to be working with soothe as well.
Price: 199€ (upgrade from the original soothe 50€)
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