Freebie of the Month – MUtility from Melda Production
Here’s another priceless plug-in gem from Melda Production that has innumerable practical uses – and we literally mean “priceless”.
by David Baer, Nov. 2016
MUtility is a Swiss Army knife of mixing utility functions. It does a number of highly useful things and a number of things you’d only need in the most limited of circumstances. But those things in the “highly useful” category are functions that you might use to advantage in virtually every mix.
The full UI is shown at the top of this article, but let’s take a closer look at the main action that happens on the left part of the window. Bear in mind that all the sub-functions in the screenshot are enabled in order for them to be visible. There’s no real-life situation for which that would need to happen.
Let’s just walk through the sub windows one by one to see what this plug-in can do, starting with the Basic controls. Here we have Volume (self-explanatory) and Gain (also self-explanatory). But, you say, don’t these overlap? Yes, they do. But Volume spans Silence to 0 dB. Gain spans -24 to +24 dB. Use which ever one is most pertinent but using both at the same time makes little sense.
Panorama has its normal function. But Panorama Law, Panorama Left and Panorama Right let you do something very useful and do it in a completely straightforward manner. Say you have a piano in your mix in which the stereo spread of low to high notes is extreme. You’d like to retain some stereo, but limit it to, say, just 25% of the soundstage width. Easy: Panorama left positions the left channel and Right the right channel. The Pan Law can be selected to taste, but leaving it at default will probably make you satisfied with the resulting balance. It should probably be obvious that you would not mix the use of Panorama with the three controls just discussed.
Lastly we have some switches, most functions of which are self-evident. The Invert controls flip the phase and Swap Left and Right, again, does just that. The two Silence switches may have a use for someone somewhere, but I can’t think what that might be.
Next is the DC Blocker. If your signal has an unwanted DC component (and when would you ever actually want a DC component?), this will remove it.
To the right we have Delay, the amount of which can be dialed in using either samples or milliseconds. This can be useful if your track has a phase or timing problem in relation to other tracks. But what if your stereo signal has a timing mismatch between right and left? That can be handled as well, but we must take a detour to see how. In the very upper right in the UI (to the right of the meters) is a button that defaults to L+R, meaning leave the stereo input as is for subsequent processing.
But there are other useful options, the full list of which can be seen to the right. In particular, if we select either Left or Right, then that channel is subject to processing while the other is left untouched. The Mid+Side option converts the input to M/S for processing within the plug-in (and the output automatically gets converted back). Selecting Mid or Side is similar to Left or Right. Only the selected part of the signal is subject to processing while the other part is left untouched. The mode options are available in most of Melda’s plug-ins where the options might be used more frequently. They are probably infrequently needed in MUtility.
But back to delay, if we need to offset one channel from the other in time, do that with a mode of Left or Right, causing delay to be applied only to the selected channel.
Next we have the RMS and Envelope functions. Together they can transform the input signal into an envelope follower, possibly for use as the sidechain input of an effect on another track – probably not something you need too often. Just as an aside: Utility is also a module inside of Melda’s uber-effect, MXXX. Here this envelope follower capability truly comes into its own.
The next group of functions are Math and Expression and they are somewhat related. They can transform the input, sample by sample, using mathematical manipulation. These capabilities might be of interest to a mixing engineer with mad-scientist aspirations, but they will probably be of very limited value to the rest of us.
Finally, we have the Coder function. When disabled, the output is just a stereo signal. When enabled, the options can be seen to the right. In that menu, “Mono” means “Mid” and “Stereo” means “Side” – I’m not sure why the alternate words were chosen because to me they muddy the waters.
In any event, Left+Right -> Mono+Stereo directs MUtility to convert the output to M/S (mid/side) mode. Left+Right -> Mono directs MUtility to convert the output to M/S and then silence the S part of the signal. In other words, take your stereo input and output the L and R averaged signals on both channels – or more simply stated, just remove all stereo.
The Coder conversions have two uses. One is to actually convert signals for subsequent processing. Say you have a compressor with independent channel settings but no M/S mode. Put an instance of MUtility before the compressor using the Coder set to Left+Right -> Mono+Stereo and another after it using Mono+Stereo -> Left+Right. Voila, you now have a compressor with M/S capabilities.
The other use of the Coder function is to just temporarily audition something in another mode for evaluation purposes. Don’t overlook the benefits of this latter use.
The Coder should not be mixed up with the Mode control mentioned earlier. Mode and Coder operate independently. Coder does its thing to the output signal at the very end of the processing chain.
To the right on the main UI is a metering section that will be familiar to users of other Melda plug-ins but will have self-evident meaning to those new to Melda. Sometimes you might want metering inside a chain of plug-ins in your DAW. MUtility can be used to advantage here, even if you’re not asking it to actually do any signal transformation. But wait … there’s more.
The meter window can be directed to float independently, and as a floating window, it can be resized. That’s not of much use when displaying the default bar meters, but there’s a second mode where the signal can be viewed with a time-based display as in the image below.
This is some pretty robust metering for a free plug-in, but it’s standard fare within Melda plug-ins and par for the course.
So, there you have it. Pick up MUtility here:
It’s my guess that the more you discover all the things MUtility can do, the more you’ll find yourself reaching for it in all kinds of situations. There are other free plug-ins that duplicate some of the functions, but none of them (of which I am aware, at least) do it better or have more versatility. Since you need to download the Melda universal installer to get it, there’s a number of other free treats you could grab and install at the same time.
The free bundle can be upgraded to the professional version. The advantages of doing so are listed on the download page. The cost of the upgrade is € 49 EUR, but it can be had for a considerable discount if you wait for a sale (one of which, Black Friday, should be on within a few days of the publication of this article).
Update on s(M)exoscope
In our July issue earlier this year, we looked at a brilliant freebie called s(M)exoscope that does a marvelous job of displaying audio waveforms (http://soundbytesmag.net/freebie-month-july-2016/ ). We pointed out that unfortunately it was only available as 32-bit software. Well, great news. A 64-bit version has just come available. Details here: