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Sony Oxford Inflator - Please Demistify?
Old 11th October 2006
  #1
Gear Head
 
John J.'s Avatar
 

Sony Oxford Inflator - Please Demistify?

Slutz!

Before downloading another plug demo I'd like to know...

What can owners of the Sony Oxford Inflator tell me regarding real world experience with this plug?

I just googd & read the online Inflator PDF and including the ability of distorting "harmonics" as well as "apparent loudness" and also "warmth" I'm wondering if this thing is an L1 UltraMaximizer with some Sony color? Or a Sony warmer-upper?

While some other reviews, I have to ask inflator users to demistify how this plug can make individual tracks seem "bigger". I've been looking around the net, and not alot drawing a clear picture about this plug. Thanks!

- John
Old 11th October 2006
  #2
Lives for gear
 

its nothing like an L1 as its not a limiter. an L1 will squash your mix to a pancake the inflator brings a mix to life by predicting percieved loudness and adding harmonics. thats the general jist of it anyway i dont think anyone outside sony realy knows the details of how it works which is why theres not much info on it. you realy have to try and hear what it does. my way of describing it is a 'sounds good' button. you have to be carefull not to overuse it but aslong as you keep that in mind inflate away.
Old 11th October 2006
  #3
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by John J. View Post
Slutz!

Before downloading another plug demo I'd like to know...

What can owners of the Sony Oxford Inflator tell me regarding real world experience with this plug?

I just googd & read the online Inflator PDF and including the ability of distorting "harmonics" as well as "apparent loudness" and also "warmth" I'm wondering if this thing is an L1 UltraMaximizer with some Sony color? Or a Sony warmer-upper?

While some other reviews, I have to ask inflator users to demistify how this plug can make individual tracks seem "bigger". I've been looking around the net, and not alot drawing a clear picture about this plug. Thanks!

- John
Let me try in a few sentences :-)

The Inflator is basically a kind of distortion generator that gives the impression of greater loudness by producing the harmonic cues we naturally associate with loud programme.

It isn't a conventional compressor or limiter, in the sense that it does NOT actually change gain in response to programme in a direct way. However with the effect set at maximum it will naturally prevent sample value overs due to the nature (or side effect) of the process. Lower effect settings can be useful if character harmonics (warmth and the like) are desired but peak level control isn't a priority (i.e. in single tracks etc.)..

Because it produces extra harmonics (more frequency content), the output programme actually has a higher average content. In other words, the average level does increase, but the peak level does not.

The Curve control varies the nature of the effect from minimum where the programme seems to be expanded (increased dynamic range) - through half way where the dynamic range seems least affected - to maximum where the programme is loudest and seems to have some degree of dynamic compression.

And finally the big bonus is - because it's NOT a comp/limiter, it can be used AS WELL as your usual compression - not necessarily instead :-)

I hope this helps :-)
Old 11th October 2006
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

The Inflator is very different than the L1/L2. It is not a traditional limiter. IMO, the bring out perceived loudness, it does a much better job than the L1/L2. It can add harmonics using the curve function or it can be clean. But with any processor, it can be overdone. But abusing the Inflator sounds better than abusing the L1 for sure. I've been using it for mixing and mastering for the last 3 years and I have yest to find a replacement plug for what it does. It is one of my all time favorite.
Old 12th October 2006
  #5
Gear Head
 
John J.'s Avatar
 

Cheers guys, thanks!

Your posts are some of the most direct explanations I've seen on the net, much appreciated. Keep 'em coming!

- John
Old 12th October 2006
  #6
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Cornvalley's Avatar
From Mr. Frindles previous posts about Inflator

The best way to set it up to get an idea of the effect is to;

- make sure it is set to direct mode (i.e. non band split)
- set the effect control to maximum,
- set the input control to just achieve max modulation (i.e. the first red point on the meter),
- set the output control to maximum to get full modulation,
- set the curve control to central position (this is the neutral position).

If you now operate the in/out button you should hear an increase in loudness of around 1.5 to 2dB - without any apparent loss of dynamic range. Please also note that there is no increase in peak output level - the output red light should not come on despite the apparent increase in volume.

Now if you advance the curve control +vely the loudness will increase even further, but at the expense of greater distortion and a reduction in apparent dynamic range. (Sounds a bit like instantaneous mild compression without a time constant).

Decreasing the curve control -vely the reverse is true in that the loudness gain will be reduced, but the dynamic range will apparently increase with the loud stuff seeming proportionately louder with respect to the quieter passages. (Sounds like mild expansion without any time constant).

If you obtain a setting that suits your programme you can try pushing things even harder to get yet more loudness. To do this;

- make sure the clip 0dB function is inactive,
- increase the input level control so that the peak level increases to around +3dB into the over drive range (i.e. beyond the original red mark on the meter, towards the overall red mark at the top).

Depending on your programme type it may be possible to increase the input peak level by 3dB or more without any apparent loss of the peaks or dynamic range. If you can achieve this level of boost without too much loss of programme quality the total overall apparent loudness will have increased by 4 - 5dB.
The amount you can do this will depend on the relationship between the duration of the peaks wrt the average levels in the programme. Best results are normally obtained when the peaks in the over drive region are relatively short term, e.g. percussion or attacks (i.e. if it hasn't been too compressed and squashed intially).

The total volume increase can be heard by operating the bypass function. It's interesting to compare this method with what can be achieved with a conventional limiter.

The inflator can actually provide useful loudness increase even when used after a limiter - but the increase will be less - and of course, the peaks lost by the limiting cannot be recovered afterwards.

Things worth noting;

- The inflator will only block all output overs when it is used in non bandsplit mode and with the effect control always at maximum setting. Reducing the effect control or operating the bandsplit function will always produce higher levels and will force you to reduce the output gain - which detracts from the aim of maximum loudness.

- For loudness enhancement is should always be the last thing on the buss. Putting EQ or compression after it may ruin it's effect, cause overs and accentuate the artefacts.

- Whilst it is ok to use it on singal tracks in the mix (to fatten out or add weight to some tracks) and still use it on the main buss for loudness enhancement as well, care should be taken to never end up with two inflators directly in series on complex mixed programme.

- Programme consisting almost exclusively of extreme HF may not survive the inflator - some examples include certain post pro sound effects and foley.


- The clip 0dB in combination with effect control settings (less than max) are provided to allow distortion and saturation effects to be added to individual sounds.
- The bandsplit mode is intended to add weight and presence to complex mixed music - and isn't primarily intended to increase apparent loudness significantly.



You may also find that you can reduce your compression to some extent and produce mixes that seem to have significant dynamic range, even though they are still very loud and very highly modulated.

The best way to achieve this is:

Reduce the output of the limiter gain between 3 and 6dB (to avoid TDM buss overs).
Reduce the attack time of the limiter to allow short term peaks to pass up to full level again - to get back some 'attack and sparkle'.
De-select the 'Clip 0dBr' and 'Bandsplit' options on the inflator, so it works in direct mode.
Wind up the 'Effect, Curve and Output' controls to max.
Then start increasing the inflator 'Input' level control beyond the 0dB red digital max mark on the meter into the overdrive area, to make up for the level you lost by adjusting the limiter down.

Depending on the programme, you may find that you can wind all the gain back on again and still hear the peaks you allowed through the limiter, that would have otherwise caused overs and red lights on your final output.

What's happening here is that the inflator is including the harmonic content of the short term peaks in your output (up to 6dB above digital max) without actually producing more peak level. This can sound much better than simply shaving them all off with a limiter :-)

You can then fiddle with the 'Curve' control to optimise the sound of the result, max +ve will give the greatest loudness and mid position will provide slightly less loudness but more realism. Max -ve will seem to actually increase the dynamic range making the loud bits louder than the softer bits - which may allow you compress even harder in your comp/limiter and use shorter release time settings - because the inflator will cover up some of the side effects this would have caused.
Old 12th October 2006
  #7
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pigpen's Avatar
 

damn this is the best forum reads of the day for me....hooray for the music computers section!
Old 12th October 2006
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cornvalley View Post
The best way to set it up to get an idea of the effect is to;

.
Thanks for re-posting my earlier inflator explanations :-) I looked around for them with the same idea in mind - but didn't find them..
Old 12th October 2006
  #9
Lives for gear
 
max cooper's Avatar
 

It's very cool what it does to kick drums and toms.

Be careful if you're listening to drums when you push that slider up! Turn your monitors down until you get an idea of what it's going to do.
Old 12th October 2006
  #10
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cdog's Avatar
The Inflator is one of the best plugins on the market.

Old 12th November 2006
  #11
Here for the gear
 

Is there anything else like it from other companies around that same price? Even analog gear? (other than mastering compressors and the like.)
Old 12th November 2006
  #12
Gear Addict
 
the russian's Avatar
 

I love what the Inflator does, but I haven't found a practical application for it yet.
Old 12th November 2006
  #13
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T_R_S's Avatar
Inflator sounds harsh to my ears ...
Old 12th November 2006
  #14
Lives for gear
 

with the curve up it gets brighter which isnt always what you want but with the curve at 0 ive never found it to be harsh, but if its not your thing fine its just another tool in the bag to achieve an end result.
a recent practical use was when i had to make a mix overly bright, the tracks had not been recorder bright so trying to use eq alone just got harsh when trying to boost the high end but a couple of inflators in the mix were able to give the apparent volume meaning and added brightness and did the job very nicely. it also meant less compressor which really helped the track. in the past ive mainly used it more as a loudness maximiser rather than a to make things brighter/darker it wasnt untill i tried it in that situation that i found out how powerful it could be.
just one experence anyway.

i always find i use an inflator somewhere, usually on sub groups or the master rather than individual tracks but its depends whats needed.

i dont know of anything else analogue or digital that come close to doing what the inflator does. maybe some good mastering gear gets close but i couldnt name any.
Old 12th November 2006
  #15
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mixerguy's Avatar
use it carefully, is my best advice...

Old 12th November 2006
  #16
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cdog's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by the russian View Post
I love what the Inflator does, but I haven't found a practical application for it yet.
I have not found something you CAN'T use it on.

Vocals, bass and the mixbuss come to mind as favorites.

Old 29th December 2008
  #17
Lives for gear
 
mike vee's Avatar
yea, I use the inflator on every mix I do...always the last plug on 2 bus. Sometimes it makes a track much louder, sometimes not as much depending on how much compression was used on the drums bus and such before it...but it always adds really nice harmonics and brings a track to life....if i could keep only one plug this would be it!!!
Old 29th December 2008
  #18
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cdog View Post
I have not found something you CAN'T use it on.

Vocals, bass and the mixbuss come to mind as favorites.

thumbsup
Old 29th December 2008
  #19
Gear Maniac
 
fader8's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tobeno View Post
Is there anything else like it from other companies around that same price? Even analog gear? (other than mastering compressors and the like.)
The UAD Precision Maximiser is a somewhat similar beast.
Old 29th December 2008
  #20
First off--NOTHING out there is like the Inflator. It is a completely unique signal process. Secondly, using it as a "loudness enhancer" or a limiter is NOT the greatest use for this plugin (it actually sucks in this application IMHO). The Inflator is more about "density" rather than loudness. The best uses for the Inflator are fairly subtle enhancement of audio sources--when "pushed" like a limiter it can sound harsh and 'fake' in some applications.

Oxford Inflator is one of the best-loved, most used, and least talked about plugins in my arsenal. It is NOT a compressor. It is NOT a limiter. The Inflator is exciting because it symbolizes what clever DSP processing can accomplish in a digital world; the process that the Inflator performs can ONLY be done in the digital environment.

To best understand when/how to use the Inflator you have to look at what it does. On the simple side, what the Inflator does is increase the "density" of audio passing through it. It doesn't restrict dynamic range in any way. It is a wholly unique process without parallel in the audio world. The Inflator accomplishes this by examining the audio on a sample level. It gauges the distance in amplitude between the loudest and softest *SAMPLES* of the audio. It increases the volume of the softer samples by an amount set by the user.

Keep in mind, this is on a sample-per-sample basis!

There are a number of features that further sweeten the deal: EFFECT determines the boost of the lower level samples; CURVE determines the character of additional harmonics introduced into the signal (positive values are more "dirty" and tube like, negative values "cleaner" and more class A; in practice positive values are 2nd and 3rd harmonics, negative 2nd harmonics only). CLIP keeps the signal from clipping and creates additional "headrooom" internally (but prevents output clipping only if effect is 100%). BAND SPLIT divides the signal into a low, mid and high band and applies the Inflator process on each band separately, which can be more transparent for signals with more energy in one spectrum. INPUT and OUTPUT are pretty obvious and don't really need any explaining I should think. Additional harmonics can boost the signal level--adjust input/output accordingly!

I hope this sheds some light on one of the most useful, least undestood plugins out there.
Old 29th December 2008
  #21
Lives for gear
 
lord_bunny's Avatar
 

I've used the Inflator at a Pro Tools studio, but use the UAD Maximizer here... what would be the key differences, as I find what they do to be similar, even if the results are not exact.

I find I use the Maximizer primarily on the 2-bus with about 40% of the effect, and bumping the input to clip a db or two into the red.
Old 29th December 2008
  #22
Gear Maniac
 
fader8's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lord_bunny View Post
I've used the Inflator at a Pro Tools studio, but use the UAD Maximizer here... what would be the key differences, as I find what they do to be similar, even if the results are not exact.
Give this article a read. You described it pretty well yourself. They are very similar processes but a different implementation/flavour. I've used both here extensively and sometimes one does the job a bit better than the other. But I wouldn't say one is superior over the other.
Old 29th December 2008
  #23
Lives for gear
 

Great read. I love this plugin. I agree that it should be seen as a DENSITY related plugin. That is...if were talking REAL WORLD applications.

All the techy side of what it does behind its GUI is one thing, I use it to add character that I wouldn't know how to dial in with other plugins. It has a magic touch. Again this isnt the best info on what it does its just how and why I use it again...in real world applications.

As many people say...be careful with it though. Its easily overused. Sometimes I've used it on a entire mix for sparkle...Other times on a Bus i've sent vocals or harmonies to instead of eq'ing them. I haven't realy experimented with its position in the plugin chain but I usually put it at the end on single tracks...or before the Precision limiter on master bus.
Old 30th December 2008
  #24
Gear Nut
 
Phelan Kane's Avatar
 

The Inflator gives me volume without the L1/L2 nasty squash. Reminds me of DUY MAX if you remember that - but more musical.

If ITB 2 bus chain is:

Nice gentle comp
Nice gentle EQ (sometimes)
Inflator

Thats it for demo CDs/the myspace world.

The mix should be mixed with definition/focus/balance etc.

A good mix is a mix that an ME has little to do to.

If it going to an ME then take the inflator off. I always mix without the inflator on. Sometimes gotta recompensate once the inflators enabled as it does change colours abit.

Great plug.

Thanks Paul & Sony!!!
Old 30th December 2008
  #25
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mixerguy's Avatar
the Inflator adds harmonic distortion.
Old 2nd January 2017
  #26
Gear Addict
 

Still using it in 2017
Old 2nd January 2017
  #27
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Lenzo's Avatar
When I use it I usually bring it in until I hear it working and back it off just a tad. I like using it lightly...I think it can be overused and negatively effect the sound. But used sparingly it's a excellent tool.
L.
Old 3rd January 2017
  #28
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lenzo View Post
negatively effect the sound.
What you mean is "affect", not "effect". Sorry to be that guy, but this gets corrected too rarely and too many people get it wrong
Old 3rd January 2017
  #29
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Lenzo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexe View Post
What you mean is "affect", not "effect". Sorry to be that guy, but this gets corrected too rarely and too many people get it wrong
Before you decide to erroneously correct someone you might want to google the definition. effect - Bing ...see"verb". I suppose I should have said it can have a negative effect "on" the sound...but I really hate doing things the way everyone says they should be done, sometimes.
L.

Last edited by Lenzo; 3rd January 2017 at 04:06 AM..
Old 3rd January 2017
  #30
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lenzo View Post
When I use it I usually bring it in until I hear it working and back it off just a tad. I like using it lightly...I think it can be overused and negatively effect the sound. But used sparingly it's a excellent tool.
L.
All these years later and people are still using it - this is great to hear :-) It all seems so long ago.

I have another tip on how I've often used it since we made the Dynamic Spectrum Mapper plugin in todays floating point buss environment.

The fattening effect of the Inflator will pass through the DSM compressor plugin very well (unlike a conventional compressor). So if you put the Inflator prior to the DSM you can use it to produce the fattening sound to get the punch, warmth and loudness and control the eventual peak level with the DSM. This works wonders and I have done this very often.

So to get this happening use the Inflator in bandsplit mode (because it produces less intermodulation), set the effect to maximum always, set the curve to suit the music and effect (start with centre and fiddle with it to suit) and adjust the Inflator input level initially for peaks somewhere below full level - and do NOT use clip.

Set the output control to something less than max but you can allow some overs (times have changed since the fixed point TDM buss - thank goodness) and fiddle with the curve control, input and output levels to get the right effect. Then use the DSM after it to control levels and remove overs, using a spectrum capture of the post Inflator signal to ensure the DSM compresses to the spectrum of the inflated signal.

This set-up has been my 'secret saviour' in several projects :-)

I should quickly add that it's important the the music is NOT heavily compressed before this, because conventional compression will lose the peaks and punch the inflator and DSM are working on.
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