Flux BitterSweet Pro V3 by Diogo C
Product: BitterSweet Pro V3
Formats: AAX DSP and Native, AU,VST and Merging VS3 MassCore/Native Plug-in for Mac (10.7.5+) and Windows (7+)
DRM: iLok (dongle not required)
Demo: Fully functional for 10 days
Price: $199 USD MSRP
The scope: Taking its highly successful freebie transient processor plug-in to the next level, Flux brings us the BitterSweet Pro V3, a highly upgraded version with more than a handful of new features. Based upon the intuitive “BitterSweet” control of its predecessor, “Pro” enables a higher degree of control and tweakability, allowing user to treat transients on many different ways. The original “BitterSweet” plugin had a core concept that by the name of it might ring some bells but let’s recap and go over it again so no one gets left behind: “Bitter” means transients will be enhanced while “Sweet” means they’ll be softened.
The BitterSweet freebie had a simple interface with reduced controls limited to the “Bitter-Sweet” knob, a slow/medium/fast timings switch, main/center(mid)/stereo(side) operation mode, period control and an output gain slider. Besides all of that BitterSweet Pro has a number of extra tricks up its sleeves, the main ones being the fact that it can process only a certain region of the frequency spectrum through a set of variable slope (6-12-24-48 db/octave) HP and LP filters and the fact that it can do deeper manipulations of transients and sustain on each part of the stereo field, which can really can really help on mastering situations when mixing revisions aren’t possible. Along with Fast/Medium/Slow envelopes Bittersweet Pro also includes a lookahead option, which wasn’t present on the freebie. To further the envelope timings there’s also the “Geek” panel, which gives access to attack/hold/release tweaks and also a couple of options for monitoring the signal within the plugin. At the very end of the signal chain there's an optional clipping functional with tube and cubic modes (even and odd harmonics respectively) that will only kick in at very high levels near 0 dBFS, so crank that output knob if you want to hear it.
On the left: 12 “modes” which should be pretty intuitive, except for the one labeled with “Ø”, so here goes a snippet from the user manual: “Ø - Means that Dynamic/Bitter is increasing the Transients and decreasing the Sustain, while Dynamic/Sweet is doing the opposite, increasing the Sustain and decreasing the Transients.” On the right: “geek” submenu for further fine-tuning.
BitterSweet Pro also get the “Flux V3” treatment, with the trademark A-B settings morphing slider which is just lovely, a well-organized preset menu, a utilities menu to enable OSC support, change the frame rate (host request or fixed 15-30-60 fps) and to access the user manual. Overall this is a very polished plugin, which has always been the case with Flux but they have taken things to a higher level now and it seems to me that BitterSweet Pro marks the beginning of a new era at Flux. It’s been awhile since the immensely talented frenchmen at Flux came up with a new design and now it looks like they’re seriously re-entering the game, something that’s very much worth watching!
Sound quality: Easily one of the most natural sounding transient enhancers out there, if not the most! I’m mainly using it to enhance since I’d prefer a well-featured compressor for eating out the most pronounced transients, but on that particular application it’s absolutely a blast, very transparent and transients will poke out of the speakers beautifully. Flux masterfully created an amazing plugin that will do well basically every time some transient work is required and with its smoothness and range of controls it can be of great use when mixing or even mastering - if there wasn’t a so-called “mastering-grade” transient processor out there...now there is.
Ease of use: The controls are quite intuitive and just turning the knobs up or down will get a decent setting running in no time, but it does take a bit of time to get used to the dynamic function and to the operating modes. Most times the “Tr. Main” mode will do the trick but I’d recommend a read of the included documentation to get the best out of it - I should note that it’s a very well written user manual which can be accessed from the plugin itself and Flux also made some good videos to explain some of the features and they’re also very helpful. Interface-wise it’s also very good, everything is well organized with only one sub-menu for the “geek” envelope settings and the new action graph looks great and runs very smooth with the OpenGL implementation, but I missed conventional input and output metering and that kind of hurts the workflow a little bit. Nevertheless, it’s an easy to use plug-in that shouldn’t make for much head scratching - maybe all the transient/sustain and mid/side/stereo modes will be a little daunting at first sight but nothing that should impede their best use. It’s also worth mentioning that it has no latency (unless you’re using lookahead) and the CPU footprint is totally manageable, allowing for many instances to be used on the most crowded DAW sessions.
Features: I’d really welcome automatic volume compensation and proper input and output meters, those are features that would certainly add a lot to the ease of use aspect. A variable clipping level would be another good thing to have it as well, especially since it features two distinct clipping modes. Right now you’d have to push the output levels until it hits the clipping stage at 0 dbfs and then take care of the volume elsewhere with a fader or another plugin down the chain. Having said that, this is a plugin with some clever and interesting features such as the frequency range filter and all mid/side/stereo modes. Those two features are particularly useful and considerably extends BitterSweet Pro’s possibilities.
Bang for buck: BitterSweet Pro V3 is definitely one of the very best transient processor in the market right now and Flux has delivered one excellent plugin that is very effective and totally fulfills its goals. Highly effective, flexible and clean sounding, ease to use, well polished and optimized, it really delivers on all fronts!