Tokyo Dawn Labs Nova GE 2.0 by Sound-Guy
Tokyo Dawn Labs Nova GE 2.0
Tokyo Dawn Records & Labs (TDR) have released a significant update to Nova GE (and to the free Nova version), moving to version 2.0. While Nova is not a new product, version 2.0 may be considered a major update and adds some significant new features . . . and if you already own the GE edition, it is a free upgrade! And of course the non-GE version is always free if you are strapped for cash. Nova GE was last reviewed here in 2015, three years ago, and garnered five stars, so what have TDR done to make it even better?
What is It?
If you don’t already use Nova or Nova GE, they are parallel dynamic EQs, which means they can act like a multiband compressor as well as a static EQ. The free version lacks several features that I find necessary in many mix projects, namely it can only “compress”, not “expand”, has only four bands (but includes the LP and HP filters), has only an “above” threshold adjustment, and lacks the Smart Operation mode. Smart Ops is a very powerful feature that helps make Nova GE an effective problem solver as well as general dynamics processor.
Nova GE 2 with static EQ bands
NOVA GE has six EQ bands, and they are extremely flexible, being able to act as static parametric EQ bands or dynamic EQ controls. Not only can each band act like a traditional multiband compressor band, clamping level excursions in a frequency range with ratios from 1:1 to ∞:1 (the infinity to one ratio was just added in this release), but can also act act as an expander, increasing levels when the input exceeds a set value by using ratios below 1:1, down to 0.5:1 at which point the output increases twice as much as the input level increase.
In addition, though not new, there are high pass and low pass filters with a wide range of cutoff slopes, from 6 dB/octave to an astounding 120 dB/octave. And there is more in this new version - for one, a new threshold mode that vastly expands sonic control possibilities. In addition to a normal threshold mode that applies gain control as the signal level exceeds the threshold level, Nova GE includes an inverted mode, that applies the gain control when the signal level is below the threshold and backs off the control as the signal level increases over the threshold level. Combined with ratios that can compress (> 1:1) and ratios that can expand (<1:1) you can attain normal downward compression, upward expansion (signal level increases with increased input level), and upward compression and downward expansion!
This may all sound complicated, but as with the original Nova and Nova GE, controls are quite intuitive and with a little experimentation you will find uses for all these modes. There is also a Preset window and TDR have added some new presets for a total of 20. And of course you can create your own processing configurations and save them as your own presets. And as with any good plug-in, all settings in Nova GE (as well as the free Nova version) will be recalled when a saved project is reopened.
Keep in mind that each of the six bands in Nova GE can use a different mode as well as a different threshold, different gain, different ratio, different frequency, different attack and different release times. And you can also use Nova for wideband compression or expansion.
Nova GE 2 with dynamic EQ in action. Note expansion is being used at 100 Hz and compression at 2 kHz.
Also the HP filter is active with a slope of 48 dB/octave, as you can see in the lower left.
In addition to these new dynamic functions, Nova GE adds some new process modes, including a “surgical” setting that preserves the Q of a filter with any frequency/gain setting (the traditional Nova GE processing mode is now called “musical” and may vary the effective filter Q (steepness) when various combinations of frequency, gain and proximity to other bands occur). Also, in addition to Eco, Precise and Insane processing modes, there are now two variations of Precise and Insane modes. The new default mode is linear processing with internal bandwidths of 200 kHz and 400 kHz respectively, and there are legacy modes (denoted Precise+ and Insane+) which incur some internal nonlinearity. However, all modes, including the most efficient Eco mode provide excellent audio fidelity, and I doubt anyone could hear the difference between Precise and Insane, or even Eco and Insane (Eco uses an internal bandwidth of 100 kHz). There is a lot of processing going on and you likely will find an instance of Nova GE using a percent or two of your CPU resources, but you are unlikely to need one on every channel.
There are more new features and improvements including performance improvements, minor bug fixes, three sizes for the Nova window, a lookahead option (fixed at 0.5 msec, but works very nicely for extremely fast impulse sounds), a flat sidechain mode (along with the older filtered mode), and maybe most important, the new Smart Operations function that replaces the former Learn mode.
Smart Operations have added a couple controls that really expand its usefulness - a frequency range adjustment with separate lower and upper frequency limits, and a Range dial that is very flexible. The default Range setting is +30% and any curve computed in Smart Ops provides a nominal estimate for correction at this setting. If you dial this up to +60% it doubles the correction so that a +3 dB curve is increased to +6 dB and a -4 dB curve is dropped to -8 dB. A 90% Range triples the correction, while 0% effectively cancels any correction. And negative values reverse the curves so that a -60% setting changes a +3 dB peak to a -6 dB dip and a -4 dB dip turns into a +8 dB peak.
Smart Ops window open with a sample curve in the Learn window and resulting Deresonate curve in the main Nova window.
There are six Operations in the Smart Ops window, static and dynamic Match, static and dynamic Deresonate, Multiband generation and automatic low pass/high pass filter settings. In addition, using the Generate Starting Point button will set all band gains to zero, and will set frequencies to values it found of interest during the learn process so you can use your own judgment to adjust the gains. Of course, even after using a match or deresonate operation, you can tweak any parameter of any band back on the main Nova window.
Is it Better or Just Louder?
As with some other Tokyo Dawn processors, Nova GE has an “equal loudness” function. There are actually two of them. The EQ Gain control enables/disables automatic gain compensation for Nova’s filters, but only for static EQ. While this is useful, you likely will use Nova’s dynamic processing, and there are a pair of buttons, EL Trim and EL Bypass, that provide automatic gain adjustment and instant comparison of dynamically processed signals with the unprocessed sound. This is a very welcome feature as even a very small increase in audio level is “always” perceived as sounding better - my own tests a few years ago found a 0.5 dB difference of the very same audio stream creates loudness bias.
Conclusions - The Ultimate Multiband Compressor/Expander?
Nova GE 2 is a an amazing tool at a very fair price that delivers extreme flexibility, some unique automated functions, and excellent audio quality. If you haven’t tried Nova at all, at least give the free Nova a test drive. Then consider what additional functions the GE version provides and open your PayPal account! For me Nova GE, and now version 2.0, is an indispensable tool in my studio.
Extremely flexible dynamic processor, compressor, expander, and parametric EQ.
Can mix and match static parametric EQ with dynamic bands.
Extremely wide range of slopes for low pass and high pass filters, from 6 dB/octave up to an astounding 120 dB/octave.
Equal loudness functions eliminate loudness bias in comparing signals before and after processing.
New Surgical setting provides constant Q with any frequency/gain setting.
New Lookahead function tames very fast transients.
Three Nova window sizes available.
Smart Operations provides a number of very useful automated correction functions.
Excellent sound quality even with Precise and Eco processing levels.
Very reasonable price.
Moderate to high CPU use, especially in Insane mode on older systems. But no one really needs the Insane mode!
Not just a simple EQ or compressor, but the presets can help understand what various settings can do.
See TDR Nova – Gentleman's Edition | Tokyo Dawn Records