Goodhertz MidSide by PB+J
Plugin: MidSide imaging processor
Formats: Mac OSX AU and AAX 64 bit
DRM: Registration via Goodhertz account
Price: $79, discount available if bought with two other Goodhertz plugins
Try and Buy: Two week full feature demo
So if you are like me you’ve always found mid/side processing a little daunting. In my previous experience using Mid side processing tools it’s been very easy to screw a mix up and make it sound over processed and artificial, or make it a disaster in mono. Most M/S tools have a lot of complex controls (Mathew Lane DrMS), or reduce MS processing to a very simple point (Voxengo MSED). Goodhertz has made spatial positioning of elements in a mix easy and intuitive, without sacrificing range or sophistication.
Goodhertz makes stuff that is “analog rooted” but not a straight-up imitation of any particular gear. Their plugins all have some common features. They use a clean, flat design that doesn’t do any imitation of buttons or rack screws or spinning reels. They also tend not to have a lot of metering, arguing that you should use your ears more than your eyes. Most Goodhertz plugins have a kind of “cartoon” meter or graph that shows you what you are doing in a broad way but doesn’t aim for precision. They license via registration at the website, over the internet. They have a brilliant system in which presets generate a web page with details of the setting: copying that URL and pasting it into the plugin recreates those settings. So you can easily share settings.
At this writing they are only available for Mac OS X, but they keep hinting they may expand to Windows if there is enough interest.
Marvelous for “polishing” a mix, for getting everything to sit right. It sounds like what you put into it, but keep in mind it’s very easy to overdo it with this plugin. You can go nuts with widening and shifting: it’s important to check your mix in mono to make sure it will still be effective. You will sometimes notice that, say, the horn solo moves from mid to side as it plays if you go too far. You need to use it with taste.
The main screen offers multiple widening “modes” of attaining stereo space. Goodhertz claims to have combined “all they know of the psychoacoustics of space” to make these settings. There’s a setting called “width” that maximizes width, a setting called “natural;” and there are three Blumlein “shuffling” modes that alter the stereo field in different ways. They might be described as “harder” or softer or more or less “natural” sounding. I generally find myself using the one they label “natural” which is likely some combination of the others. I will typically set up a stereo image I like, and then switch through the different modes to see if one sounds better. The more extreme settings sound a little forced to me: they might be fine for music, like say, EDM, that doesn’t put a premium on “naturalness.” What this plugin lets you do, really easily, is place your mix elements exactly where you want them, and move them around easily. Really easily.
Midside has the typical Goodhertz look: an initial “main” screen and a second “advanced” screen. You could be very happy never touching the advanced screen. The top row of “sliders” controls mid gain, mid tilt, side tilt, side gain. Here I want to say this is where design matters. Voxengo’s excellent free MSED plugin, for example lets you adjust mid and side gain and tilt. In the Goodhertz plugin, in typical Goodhertz style, the “meter” for the level is “under” the slider’s virtual track (see picture.) So as you work you see the relative mid and side level. And also in typical Goodhertz style, there is a small and simple graph which is also a goniomter if you click on it. Both are aimed at providing a quick visual reference rather than precise metering. You can adjust the overall mid or side gain: the magic happens in the tilt control, where you can tilt mid and side like you would in a tilt eq. This is a really great way to bring an element in place: tilt the side and the horns you’ve panned to one side come forward or back: tilt the mid and you can bring up a vocal or bring down a guitar. You can solo or mute both the mid and the side. There’s an overall stereo wideness slider that adjust the wideness of the stereo field.
Other plugins can do this—the freeware MSED, for example—but Goodhertz also offers a unique “mono below” feature. You adjust a slider from “off” to “mono,” raising frequency as you go. If you set it to 100hz, all frequencies below 100 will be mono. There’s an adjustment for the relative “strength” of this effect and an adjustment to make up any gain lost on the process of sending the low frequencies to mono. This is a remarkable feature—you can quickly and easily put the kick dead center, while the rest of the kit is spread left and right. You could accomplish this with DMG Audio’s admirable Dualism plugin, or with the “imager” in Ozone, but neither of those is easy or straightforward in comparison to Midside, which has reduced this function to a simple, effective slider. You can solo the mono bass feature, so you hear only what’s being “mono’ed.” As far as I know this is unique.
On the “advanced” side you can adjust the range of frequencies at which mid tilt and side tilt occur. A slider lets you tilt only the frequencies between 200 and 100, for example. And you can set it so it only tilts the lower frequencies or only tilts the treble, while leaving the opposite side untouched, so that the tilt can function as a boost. Or you can set it to be overall gain compensated, so tilting does not increase volume, or to operate without gain compensation. These adjustments are fairly subtle, and I find that most of the time I don’t need to go to the advanced screen.
Of course you can also automate it, so the whole field or different element change place with the chorus, say. Goodhertz stresses this in their demos, arguing fully silent automation it can add drama and impact to, say, have the mix broaden for the big pop chorus and narrow down for the verse
Ease of Use
This is where the Goodhertz plugin really shines. Compare it to Dualism, a typical DMG Audio plugin in that it offers fully professional control of every aspect of the stereo field, for a significantly higher price. Goodhertz has made it easy and intuitive: you don’t have to be an expert. It doesn’t shout its own expertise either: I love DMG Audio’s plugins but often feel vaguely like “I’m not worthy” because it offers controls that are at the edge of my expertise. Goodhertz is more about the idea that “simple is better.” The “sliders” are completely comfortable to use with a mouse or touchpad, no pseudo “twisting” of small knobs, no faux lighting or squinty text labels. The clean interface maximizes usability rather than “analog authenticity.” The “mono below” feature is really wonderful and as far as I know unique: it lets you anchor the mix solidly in the center without sacrificing spaciousness. Compare it to a plugin like Mathew Lane “DrMS:” Goodhertz has reduced the controls to the minimum needed to be thoroughly effective, without clutter or confusion, and they have added a unique twist. The presets are great and quickly give you a starting point while demonstrating what it can do. The manual is extremely clear and offers an excellent description of what the plugin is doing. I was amazed at how easy it was to get a mix that had a combination of fullness and spaciousness, clarity.
Bang for the Buck
It’s very reasonably priced. There are cheaper alternatives—Voxengo MSED is free—and there are much more pricey alternatives, which I’ve found do the similar things in more complicated ways. It’s got a unique blend of useful features and ease of use, and so it’s a very good value. I have not found myself longing for any missing features, and I have not yet found a mix that isn’t improved by judicious use of Midside. If you buy it along with two other Goodhertz plugins, you get a %15 discount, which makes it a very good buy indeed.
Anyone who wants to put the final levels of polish on a mix, who wants to get that sense of spaciousness and clarity you hear in a good mix without going through all the step by step processing that’s typically required. Anyone who wants to get good results without committing to full technical knowledge will find this easy and effective. If you want to use MS processing to give a song more impact, you could use this to bring up the chorus or drop the bass without your listeners knowing why the song just tore their heads off. I was just amazed by this plugin and how well and simply it works. It’s an amazingly easy way to “place” the elements of your mix
Recommend highly: I don’t see any downsides to it.