PerforModule – “AutoGain”
This is an audio effect rack which can be inserted anywhere to “auto-ride” the volume level. It can be used to provide automatic attenuation of too-loud signals and/or boosting of too-quiet signals by up to 6 decibels in either direction. The unique “Intensity” and “Target” setup allow for intuitive usage with auto-adjusting attack and release responses.
How it works:
“Flux Intensity” at zero (minimum) will bypass the effect. Once it is turned to 1 or more, the effect will begin. The higher the “Flux Intensity” control is set, the more the volume will fluctuate, trying to maintain the target level. Whether the volume fluctuates upward, downward, or both depends on the target setting and on the source material’s dynamic level.
With “Target Volume“ at minimum (zero), the gain-riding will ONLY be downwards. The setting of zero is good if you are sure you don’t want to boost the source, but only to attenuate it. As you move the target up, the gain will edge up into higher averages, while still trying to attenuate the louder parts. Near the middle it is likely to both boost and cut audio, trying to balance it. At maximum, it will strive for +6db.
When levels are within the “Goldilocks Zone”, nothing happens! Only when straying too loud or too quiet from the “Target” will they be smoothly curtailed or boosted.
Watch the green Auto-Gain knob move around to see what is happening to the gain in real-time!
Questions & Answers:
Q: Why would i use “AutoGain” instead of a compressor?
A: This just changes the volume level, and not the character of the sound. The attack and release response are both automatic, smoothly shifting in real-time according to the signal it is fed… which leads to a complex, “program-dependent” response curve. You could think of it as additive rather than multiplicative. I guess you could say it’s like a weird sort of semi-feedback optical compressor.
Q: How does “AutoGain” affect transients / dynamics?
A: The effect on transients varies depending on the source and settings. AutoGain reacts more quickly to more punchy inputs, and more smoothly to more smooth inputs. Set “Flux Intensity” and “Target” carefully to find the desired dynamic response you are looking for.
Q: Isn’t this a “cheater” effect? I don’t like cheater effects; they kill the soul of music.
A: Well, if you use this poorly, it will sound bad. So no, it’s not a “cheater” effect. ;)
Q: What do the blank macro controls do?
Don’t click here! Nothing will happen if you do!
Ideas for Usage:
Pre-Compression: on very dynamic material, use “AutoGain” just before a compressor, set moderately. Gently smooth out the dynamics a bit before they hit the compressor and allow the compressor settings to apply more uniformly. This can lead to a cleaner overall sound (as you don’t have to push the compressor so hard). This workflow works well on slower instruments.
Post-Compression: the inversion of what was just described, more suited for faster instruments: place AutoGain immediately after a compressor (disable the compressor’s own auto-makeup gain if it has it). The compression tames the transient peaks, then the AutoGain gently sculpts the overall level.
Volume Riding: use this like certain famous vst plugins to automatically help your bassist, vocalist, or any instrumentalist’s volume level stay consistent. You could use it for tracking (recording in the studio), live performance, or to process already-recorded parts. If you’re an ambitious member of a band and have the ability to route all the players thru your ableton rig, you could throw one of these on each instrument so they are all massaged in real-time.
Boosting Quiet Stems: sometimes when producing you’ll be working with very quiet recordings. This can be an easy way to make them sit in your mix clearer.
Attenuating Loud Stems: a common problem with a lot of mixes (especially with the prevalence of loop libraries which are already maxed out to 0db) is that the individual tracks are mixed too loudly, and then when summed the end result is not as clean as it could be.. This can be a quick way to curtail too-loud parts.
Previewing Clips: when previewing a bunch of audio clips sometimes it can be jarring when the volume differences between them are great. This can help keep everything in perspective when listening to a bunch of different clips (just drop them all onto the same track w/ AutoGain).
[please note, in order to use, you must own Ableton Live 9 + Max For Live, and have the "Max For Live Essentials" and "Max For Live Building Tools" packs installed]
If you like “AutoGain” by PerforModule, be sure to also check out the Alien Intuition set of devices:
The free “Super Fader Rider” you can acquire is similar to “AutoGain”, except it controls the volume mixer control itself (attenuation only), and has a fine-tuneable response.
The other groovy devices in the “Alien Intuition” set apply effects with automatically-responding parameters as well, for a range of specific purposes.