NUGEN Audio Monofilter by Diogo C
- Product: Monofilter
- Developer: NUGEN Audio
- Formats: VST, AU, AAX, AudioSuite, RTAS - Win/Mac (64/32-bit where applicable)
- DRM: Online or offline activation with iLok option
- Price: $119
- Demo: Fully functional for 15 days
- Website: Nugen Audio
The Scope: Monofilter is a stereo placement tool that allows the user to narrow certains parts of the frequency spectrum and how they are spread across the stereo field. On paper, that’s not a very new or exciting idea, but that quickly changes once you start playing around with Monofilter. On paper it also calls itself a “bass management” plugin, which it is, but I would say it is much more than that. First thing to note is the interface has a very intuitive layout that can be quickly understood. First there’s the horizontal axis controls which will work on the frequency level: rightmost control on the sets the highest operating frequency, middle control sets the lowest and the leftmost controls is a high-pass filter with fixed 12db/octave width. Then there’s the vertical axis which determines the stereo spread/narrow function, and this where NUGEN came up with a clever implementation that allows the user to set the transitional range of the stereo narrowing/spreading. I can’t really recall any other plugin that allows this sort of processing and the closest thing that might resemble this are the multi-band implementation, which can’t cover this “transitional range” and will just set the stereo spreading across the frequency spectrum through cross-over points. Monofilter does something else entirely: you set the highest operating frequency and stereo spread with the right control and then narrow it down to the left towards mono. It’s important to say that there’s no extra stereo width here, with the max value being 100% for full “vanilla” stereo. Once you’re set with your spread and narrow frequency choices you can raise or lower mid and side signals, choose linear phase with a low end phase adjustment at the cost of some latency and some system load or pick minimum phase without the phase adjustment but without any latency or extra processing spent. Monofilter can also use left, right or stereo signals as its processing source and wrapping up there’s a very precise high-pass filter with a very gentle sound, real-time frequency analysis and outputs modes to monitor mono and stereo signals.
Sound quality: Monofilter is easily one of the best tools you can get in the stereo tweaking department. NUGEN has something very good running under the hood and the filters deployed are incredibly natural and don’t suffer from any noticeable phase artifacts that usually comes with this sort of operation. Both linear and minimum phase modes are extremely good sounding and I had a hard time picking one of them, so I mostly used the minimum phase mode because it’s zero latency and I’ve grown to be a bit overzealous on plugin delay compensation despite my DAW’s best efforts to deal with it. One argument that I found in favor of linear phase is the auto-phase option which works very well and can really help on some occasions. The auto-gain option for mid/side signal gain also works nicely and keeps everything in balance but needless to say this should be turned off if you’re going for not-so-subtle adjustments or if you don't want to delegate any level of control. All around, this is a great tool to make an unruly low end sit tight or to nudge the stereo feeling of low and high frequencies of a mix or instrument to the right direction. I really like how natural it sounds, especially when considering that this is the kind of signal processing with strong tendencies to sound overdone and excessive. Definitely not the case with Monofilter.
Ease of use: This is a reasonably easy to use plugin for those with some ears and most of all, decent monitoring. Nevertheless, be careful to not overdo things and make a mix thin or screw up with low end phase if used indiscriminately. Again, this is the sort of plugin that requires a good speaker setup that can cover the low end in satisfactory manner or at least a very decent pair of headphones that allows for well-informed decisions. One thing that bothers me a bit here is the interface, which I feel like could benefit from better resolution/more area on real time frequency analysis and also on the gain adjustments. Dragging the sliders for adjusting mid and side gain is a bit clunky due to the small area dedicated to such important functions. I’d also welcome a linking feature for the low and high frequency settings, that would make it easier to nudge things when you’re settled for something but would like to give it a little nudge. Overall the interface strikes me as a bit too small, so a slightly wider dimension could solve the issue with frequency display, while a slightly bigger vertical size would help with the input trim. Maybe a second interface size option could do the trick, something like 10 or 15% bigger than what we currently have, but I’m really just nitpicking on everything here as this is a rather easy plugin to use for what it intends to do. Last but not least, Monofilter is very well optimized and can run on basically any modern day system - even with the linear phase mode engaged the processing load is very light, although linear phase adds over three thousand samples of latency which is kind of expected anyway.
Features: The feature set presented here is not only very good but very unique as well. As I've said earlier, I can’t remember any other plugin that works the “transitional range” like this one. The sound source choice, processing modes and the automatic adjustments for input and phase are also worth mentioning. The auto-adjustments are usually subtle but paying close attention to it they actually work pretty well and Monofilter usually nails both volume and phase and it doesn’t add that extra db just to impress. One thing that I was slightly disappointed about was the real time analysis graph, that suffers a bit from the lack of customization on both frequency and amplitude display, not allowing the user to zoom in on the desired areas. Given NUGEN’s expertise on the subject (as seen on their audio analysis plugins) I think Monofilter could benefit from some further options in that area and in that regard a vector scope or goniometer type of display would definitely help here since we’re dealing with stereo things. It should also be said that NUGEN prepared awesome documentation for this plugin, explaining all the functions in a clear way with sufficient detail and also offering some good chunks of real world advice, which is great. Last thing worth mentioning is that NUGEN offers very flexible licensing options which should please basically everyone and I think with pretty much the same can be said about the formats supported.
Bang for buck: At slightly over one hundred dollars, Monofilter delivers a ton of bang and will definitely be a very useful tool if you have to deal with any stereo-related subjects and it delivers very nice value. A solid plugin that is great when used both technically and creatively: it does a great job on making things mono-friendly, also very good at tightening the low end of a problematic mix or element and if the job allows you to experiment it’s also very good on turning the material around to give it some depth that wasn’t there in the first place. I also found it great to deal with hard panned guitars, keeping the energy in the center, and also good to trim the stereo spread of drums overheads. I experimented with the high-pass filter and some narrowing below 80Hz on stereo bus at the mixing stage to great results as well. Needless to say that there are some great applications for it on mastering and on post-production or sound design where low-frequency management and mono-compatibility are a common concerns.
Recommend for: Mixing and mastering engineers, sound designers and producers can all benefit from what Monofilter brings to the table.
Click below for full-resolution screenshot.