Exonic UK AI Master: What is it?
Mastering is a process open to aural scrutiny and debate, with one person’s perfect mix being another person’s over-baked catastrophe! But what if the process could be fully automated? Would we be happy to surrender our ears to the ’bots?
AI Master is a new mastering plugin which hopes to take all of the mystery out of the mastering process. This concept relies upon the surrendering of control to the AI within the plugin, as it calculates everything that you need within the mastering chain. Featured elements for treatment include adjustment to the dynamic range of the track through compression and limiting, spectral balancing, stereo image/soundstage alteration, and probably more besides.
Once these elements have been adapted automatically, the outputted signal provides levels which are ready for use in the real world. Hence, it could be considered an ideal plugin for preparing tracks for commercial consumption.
Exonic UK AI Master: Performance and verdict
Given that the entire process is automated, operation is minimal. In the first instance, AI Master will require a signal, with the preference being an unprocessed or unmastered track, with -6dB headroom.
There is room for manoeuvre, with listed acceptable input levels ranging from -12dB right up to 0dB, although it stands to reason that in order for basic compression to perform adequately, offering a signal below 0dB is a good idea. According to Exonic UK, offering AI Master anything in excess of 0dB will make it angry, and we didn’t feel brave enough to try poking AI with a stick. We’ll take their word for it!
The ideal is to place the plugin on your master bus, without additional plugins. You then place AI Master in Analyse mode, which is in essence a listing mode, and play your entire track. Once complete, your bespoke master algorithm is created, leaving you to place the plugin into Master mode and hear your mix played back in glorious technicolour.
So how convincing is the output? The one word answer to that is ‘variable’. In our tests, we mastered a number of tracks, which could be considered mixed and ready for mastering, at a level of -6dB.
The tracks that were the most successful, by some margin, were the tracks that adopted a common commercial thread from start to finish. The most obvious result being a relatively heavy increase in volume, with a considerably raised dynamic floor, producing an undeniably commercial and solid overall dynamic output. Where the compression is less obliging is within a track that included dynamic builds and crescendos; a sense of ‘pumping’ was introduced, presumably through compression, which was not welcome or appropriate.
EQ-wise, the high frequency content glistens, with synths and strings sounding bright and elevated, and a good sense of foundation in the bottom end. This also felt over-inflated in all instances, but dynamically solid nonetheless.
The imaging was more difficult to detect; with such a feeling of sharpness across the mix that it was difficult to decipher whether the soundstage had been broadened, or was just brighter generally. Regardless, the focus is definitely sharpened.
The final master
The biggest caveat throughout our AI Master use, is that the entire process allows no access to any of the individual elements within the mastering chain.
It can be exceptionally useful to A/B individual elements, and as there is no capacity to do this, you’re forced to either accept the consequences, disable the plugin or add further plugins to adapt the outcome. In every tested instance, we felt that we wanted to make further adjustment to complement our original track.
There is no doubt that there is a future for this technology, but we feel that our mixes deserve a little more control and nuance. That said, we can’t wait to hear where this plugin goes, as the technology is clearly impressive!
MusicRadar verdict: With no capacity to adapt its parameters, it’s a limited but promising start.
Exonic UK AI Master: Hands-on demos
White Sea Studio
Exonic UK AI Master: Specifications
- Available as 64-bit VST2 and VST3 plugins for Windows, and as AU and VST3 plugin for Mac.
- CONTACT: Exonic UK