Freebie of the Month: MSpectralPan from MeldaProduction
Never heard of a spectral pan affect? Well, neither had we until this nifty (and free!) plug-in came along.
by David Baer, Nov. 2017
The ever-innovative and always-prolific MeldaProduction has added yet another small gem to its free plug-in collection, MFreeFXBundle. MSpectralPan offers a way to set the panorama of a mono or stereo signal using very finely spaced frequency ranges. The placement of these narrow bands is accomplished with a graph specification. Modulating the panorama of the bands is possible as well, but limited in the free version (more on this shortly).
The granularity of the frequency bands is controlled by the Buffer Size control. Its default value is 2048, which provides for bands about 10.8 Hz wide starting at 10.8 Hz and going up to 22.5 KHz. Note that the band widths are linear throughout that range, not logarithmic. That means that for lowest frequencies, adjacent notes will share a band. At higher frequencies, adjacent notes will be several bands apart.
In any case, we are dealing with something here that is vastly more fine-grained than what could be accomplished with even a well-equipped EQ plug-in.
So, what can we do with this sort of module? Quite a bit, it turns out. As a mixing effect, it can be used to carve space in the frequency range where conflicts exist. If we have a singer and a piano both in the soundstage middle, you could move those frequencies in conflict to one side for the instrument, but keep the lows and highs centered. This plug-in also provides a very effective way to fake a stereo signal from a mono one (that is not degraded if collapsed back to mono).
And then there are creative possibilities of limitless variety. For example: got a whooshy pad? Make it even whooshier with some gently modulated movement delicately panning many narrow frequency ranges with different placements and speeds of movement.
This brings us to the one “gotcha” with the free version of this plug-in. The MFreeFXBundle has nearly three dozen modules. Many of them are of a utility or analysis nature. But a decent number of them can be used for creative purposes that benefit from modulation. However, the free bundle versions are hobbled in several ways. For one thing, you may not save presets. For another, in the case of the plug-ins that would benefit from modulation capabilities, modulation is only available where it was programmed in a factory preset. You may not set up modulation yourself.
You may not, that is, unless you purchase the upgrade to the commercial version of the free bundle. Now, the cost of upgrading is nominal: just €49 EUR. If you wait for the right sale, which in the past has happened several times a year, you can get it for one-half of that price, putting the upgrade squarely in no-brainer territory in my opinion. And it seems to me that MSpectralPan makes by far the most compelling case for purchasing the upgrade that we have seen yet. And once you buy the upgrade, any additional freebie modules that come along (like MSpectralPan just did) will be yours at no cost.
But assuming you don’t want to spend the money, even as a modulation-deficient version, this plug-in is well worth having on hand. There are several presets that can be put to good use. Apart from the limitations on saving presets (and this is most important), an MSpectralPan instance will have its state remembered between uses in a DAW project. So, even if you may not create and save a preset, your clever configurations will not be lost between DAW project editing sessions.
One word of advice: to use MSpectralPan effectively, you must absolutely understand how to work with the MeldaProduction graph editor. It’s deeply powerful and far from intuitive. Fortunately there is a most enlightening ten-minute video tutorial that can be found here:
Once you know how to efficiently construct complex graphs, you will be able to put this plug-in to work in no time at all.
To illustrate, I will demonstrate a mono-to-fake-stereo configuration I put together in well under one minute. There are already some mono-to-stereo factory presets included, but I don’t like them because they (lazily) apply frequency spreading to all frequencies, including the low ones which are better left centered. Instead, I constructed the graph seen below, and was able to do it in just about half a minute (well, OK, I practiced at it a few times first, but still … ).
The application of this to a mono track can be heard in the following clip. We hear first the mono version and then the simulated stereo. You will hear the difference better if you listen on headphones, but then, you probably don’t need to be advised of that.
MSpectralPan – you almost certainly never even knew you needed it, but now …
Download the MFreeFXBundle from the URL just below. You must acquire the universal installer program that includes everything MeldaProduction. When run, you may selectively choose which of the modules to install (including which modules within the MFreeFXBundle to install). The format installation choices are VST, VST 3, AU and AAX for 32-bit or 64-bit hosts, PC or Mac.