PreSonus Blog

The Dynamic Brightener—Reloaded

In April 2019, I did a Friday Tip called The Dynamic Brightener for Guitar. It’s kind of a cross between dynamic EQ and a transient shaper, and has been a useful FX Chain for me. In fact, it’s been so useful that I’ve used it a lot—and in the process, wanted to enhance it further. This “reloaded” version makes it suitable for more types of audio sources (try it with drums, bass, ukulele, piano, or anything percussive), as well as less critical to adjust. It also lessens potential high-frequency “smearing” issues—the original version applied large amounts of boost and cut, with a non-linear-phase EQ.

Although the original version could have been built using a Splitter, I did a bus-based implementation so that it would work with Studio One Artist. This new version needs to use the Splitter (sorry, Artist users), but that’s what allows for the improvements.

Another interesting aspect is that by using the effects’ expanded view in the channel inserts, you don’t even need to open the effect or Splitter interfaces, to do all the necessary tweaking. This makes the reloaded version much easier to edit for different types of tracks.

How It Works

Fig. 1 shows the FX Chain’s block diagram.

Figure 1: The Reloaded Dynamic Brightener’s block diagram.

 

Splitter 1 is a normal split. The left split provides the track’s dry sound, while the right split goes to Splitter 2, which is set up as a Frequency Split. The Frequency Split determines the cutoff for the high frequencies going into the right split. Splitter 2’s left split, which contains only the split’s lower frequencies, is attenuated completely. Basically, Splitter 2 exists solely to isolate the audio source’s very highest frequencies.

These high frequencies go to an Expander, which emphasizes the peaks. This is what gives both the transient shaping and dynamic EQ-type effects. Because the high frequencies aren’t very loud, the Mixtool allows boosting them to hit the desired level.

Fig. 2 shows the initial Expander and Mixtool settings. But, you won’t be opening the interfaces very much, if at all…you don’t even need Macro Controls.

 

Figure 2: Initial parameter settings for the Expander and Mixtool.

 

Using the Reloaded Dynamic Brightener

In the short console view, open up the “sidecar” that shows the effects. Expand the effects, and set the mixer channel high enough to see the ones shown in fig. 3.

Figure 3: The Reloaded Dynamic Brightener controls.

Here’s how to optimize the settings for your particular application:

  1. Turn off Splitter 1’s output 1 power button. This mutes the dry signal, so we can concentrate on the brightener’s settings.
  2. Adjust Splitter 2’s Frequency Split to isolate the optimum high-frequency range for brightening. This can be as low as 1 kHz or less for guitars with humbucker pickups, on up to 6 kHz (or more) to emphasize drum transients.
  3. Set the Expander’s Ratio and Threshold parameters for the desired amount of brightening and transient shaping. Higher Threshold settings pick off only the top of the boosted high-frequency peaks; the Ratio parameter controls the transient shape. The higher the ratio, the “peakier” the transient.
  4. After editing the high frequencies, re-enable the dry signal by turning on Splitter 1’s output 1 button.
  5. Mix in the desired amount of brightening with the Mixtool Gain parameter. In extreme cases you may want to increase the level control at the end of the Splitter 2 branch, or the output level from Splitter 2 output 2, but this will be needed rarely, if at all.
  6. As a reality check to determine what the brightener contributes to the sound, turn off either Splitter 1 or Splitter 2’s output 2 power button to mute the brightened signal path.

 

This is a tidier, easier-to-adjust, and better-sounding setup than the original dynamic brightener. Download the FX Chain here—the default settings are for dry guitar, and assume a normalized overall track level. With lower track levels, you’ll need to lower the Expander Threshold, or boost output 2 from Splitter 1. But feel free to tweak away, and make the Reloaded Dynamic Brightener do your bidding, for a wide variety of different audio signals.

  • You can always just drag the chain from your desktop or downloads folder into a track, but if you put it in the default user folder (not the factory folder) mentioned in Fun Facts, it should show up once you refresh the browser. Good luck!

  • Bob Jones

    Craig, thanks for your reply, but as of now I still not not been able to follow the crumbs home, even after wading through Fun Facts. But I take your point about loading the chain myself. It feels like the dawn of a new era.

  • Craig Anderton

    I’m so glad you liked it! FYI, I’m working on a new edition of the Studio One tips and tricks book, and go into a lot more detail about what makes an FX Chain work. It’s easy enough to just load a chain and use it, but what you did gains the kind of experience that will come in handy when you start creating your own FX Chains (which is where the real fun begins!). Anyway, regarding downloads, please see the blog post Fun Facts about FX Chains. I think that will answer you questions but if not, feel free to circle back.

  • Bob Jones

    Craig, I’m a beginner, but after carefully reading your explanation, I was able to follow everything. I think I understand how this works, and I was able to set it up manually on a bus for three Les Paul leads in my song. I worked with your setting for a while and then took a look at the Pro EQ to find that there was a lot of activity down around 1.35 kHz, so I lowered the frequency split to that level. The lines have more punch now! This is by far the most sophisticated thing I’ve done to date in Studio One. Thank you for putting it together.

    I do have a question. You talked about downloading the FX Chain. I did that, but I didn’t see it show up in Studio One, so I just added the Splitters and the Mixtool myself, following your examples. Did I miss something? Should I be able to find the chain in the Browser?

    Thanks again

  • Thomas Mavian

    This is so good Craig, thank you!