A little different as what follows is a review of a piece of software rather than hardware. Also as part of this review I have included our test track of our in-house evaluation of Solera.
My thanks to Gabriel Leopardi and Cirse for allowing us to post the results of the test.
Brand:Flux available from http://www.fluxhome.com/
Price: 390 Euros alone or maybe ordered as part of a suite.
Picture: see below
Click to view attachment
What is it:
Solera II is a plug-in dynamics processor aimed at professional Mastering Studios. As a dynamic processor it offers compression, de-compression, expansion and de-expansion options as well as brick wall limiting. As a plug-in it can run under both Windows (XP 32 and 64 bit and Vista 32 and 64 bit) and Mac (Tiger and Leopard) and as a Universal binary. It's been tested on a variety of DAWs (see Flux site for a list).
Solera is available from the Flux site above. Note that you need either an i-lok or a Flux authorisation dongle to run the full version. On purchase with an i-lok your ilok is provided with the authorisation code, and Flux provide a download link, for the software.
Solera II is primarily designed for mastering and re-mastering applications. However, it can also be used as a regular dynamics processor for superior sonic quality and distortion free operation. Solera II manages digital audio up to 384 KHz, and up to 8 channels. This is the native version of the plug-in for AU, RTAS and VST. The DSP based Pyramix version is available from the Merging Technologies sale network.
Reason for purchase:
We needed a mastering grade compressor that is versatile enough to do some upward expansion because we are often sent audio that has been heavily compressed or limited prior to the mastering stage. Solera II has sufficient versatility to do this. In addition we were also interested in its mid-side capabilities that would allow us to more easily isolate left, right and mid channels of a stereo mix for more accurate mastering work.
Prior to purchase we tested a demonstration version for nearly three months. The demo version has some restrictions but otherwise mirrors the full license. Restrictions on the demo are that you cannot record with it or save your own pre-sets and also that after 30 minutes some controls no longer function. Note: you do not need an i-lok to try the demo.
This test was on Magix Sequoia 11 in Windows XP 64 bit on an i7 Nihilim pc using a full (not demo) version of Solera authorised via i-lok. During our tests of the demo version and subsequently with the full version we have not experienced any software glitches with Sequoia as host.
On the left hand side of the processor are controls for input and output gain and dry mix plus a clip control. The centre of the processor is dominated by a graphic display of the dynamic process that you apply. Just below this are the mid-side control and the four tabs for dynamics. These tabs are because Solera is a dynamics processor that has four, parallel stages: compression, de-compression, expansion and de-expansion (one tab each) and you can run any and all of these processes together. Each process has its own controls for threshold, ratio, knee and so on. To the far right are controls for the ADSR at the bottom right and the eq for the 'angel's share' and 'hysteresis' at the top right. Along the bottom you may load two presets (A and B ) and you may also automate and morph between these. Users can either write and recall their own settings or use some already supplied.
Angel's Share and hysteresis are controls specific to Flux and are not found on any other hardware or software dynamic processor. As Flux put it: 'Angel's Share is the parameter controlling the amount of auto-ratio determined by the signal dynamics and the manual ratio setting. Hysteresis is the parameter controlling the amount of auto-threshold determined by the signal dynamics and the manual threshold value. Angel's Share and Hysteresis are key features of all Flux:: dynamic processors because they make use of the dynamic range content of the signal, and not just the signal levels as standard processors do.'
In short Solera offers the user a lot of control over many functions and as many of these controls can be very finely controlled it lends itself well to a Mastering set-up.
As part of our test we used Solera to try to apply upward expansion of an already mastered track. Gabriel Leopardi and Cirse were kind enough to allow us to use a recently recorded and mastered Cirse track for this test. The original track maybe found here and our test after upward expansion is here:
Click to view attachment
For our test we wanted to see if we could:
Achieve some expansion of a busy mix that had already had either compression or limiting applied as part of the entire mix. We particularly wanted in this case to see what affect we could have on Luciana's vocal on this track but we also wanted to see if we could bring out the synth bass that is also present in the mix without inducing undue pumping or artefacts.
What we did:
To do this we ran Solera both in compression mode and expansion with 'angel's share' set for the vocals. In compression we used the ADSR set manually to try to differentiate the synth from the bass guitar. In expansion we ran the ADSR set to auto and applied 'angel's share' for the vocal on the mid channel only. We did not use any presets.
NB: we also ran a linear phase EQ set as hpf at 25Hz -12dB 8ave to reduce some of the sub-bass energy.
See attached audio file.
Note - we did not work to a reference track so we may not have achieved an end result that Cirse were originally after - that wasn't our purpose. Also the test isn't a straight A/B of the original versus the test to see which sounds better (and we did not fully 're-master' the track apart form some hpf). It is only a test to see if Solera could effectively be used to upward expand a vocal in a busy mix.
Overall we're happy with the result and Solera II.
Very versatile processor.
User has a lot of control.
Four parallel dynamic functions.
Mid side capabilities.
Not cheap for a plug-in.
Quite intensive CPU load.
Interface is, to me, unnecessary 'eye-candy'.
Well worth the money as a mastering grade and versatile dynamics processor. Could also be used for mixing BUT you may not get the full use of it.