There is a strong trend in today?s popular music toward producing mixes that max-out on volume without overloading the playback equipment. Compressors and limiters are the most commonly used tools for this, and specialized hardware and software versions of them have been developed. The TC Electronic Finalizer is a multi-band compressor implemented as hardware that has been in use for several years. Software such as the Waves L2 Ultramaximizer and the C4 Multiband Parametric Processor use look-ahead techniques to make this process even more effective. Nevertheless, there are shortcomings with even the best devices. If the material has previously been compressed, there may be no room for further compression and increased loudness. And there can be various undesirable effects such as pumping or breathing, or a dulling of the sound.
Sony?s Inflator, developed as a signal processor for its highly regarded Oxford mixing console, can increase the loudness of almost any audio material, regardless of the level of prior compression or the amount of dynamic range still available. It does this by changing the relative probability of the audio samples so that there?s a greater likelihood of larger sample values than in the original audio. This method does not suffer from the previously mentioned drawbacks. The Inflator not only enhances loudness, but also increases the dynamic impact, and imparts a warmth to the processed sounds ? similar to that of valve-based audio equipment.
The Band Splitting function uses more DSP because it processes low-, mid- and high-frequency bands separately to prevent prominent frequencies in any band interacting with other bands to produce distortion.
I tried out the Inflator on various recordings that I?d transferred from 24-track tape into Pro Tools. Three different drummers were playing on six different recordings. In each Pro Tools session, I routed all the drums into an auxiliary track and inserted the Inflator into this auxiliary. Increasing the Effect parameter fattened the sound of the kits up. Then I boosted the Curve parameter. This added to the hi-hats that had become reduced somewhere along the way. Similar settings worked well with all these drum tracks. I applied the Inflator to the main mix bus, producing a more analogue sound, which mixes organically.
There is no question that Oxford Inflator is a serious audio-signal processor that deserves a place on every professional recording engineer?s kit list.