New Gear/New Toy Review: SoundRadix Powair Compressor Plug-in

Powair is a dual-stage dynamics processor that combines an automatic K-weighted loudness Leveler with an Adaptive Dynamics section that maintains an average compression no matter how hard you push it. The goals are greater transparency and control, the retention of the source's timbre and attack characteristics while also increasing perceived loudness and intensity.

The Leveler section on the left side of Powair (see the GUI at the right) has an integrated loudness measuring system that is ITU-R BS.1770.4 compliant. Both this section and the Output section have LKFS and True-Peak metering. With the Leveler, you may set a LFKS loudness level Target and it will reduce or boost to that target. The Leveler has maximum boost/reduction range of +/- 20LU using the Gain Range control.

The Compressor section is set up separately and includes the familiar controls of Attack, Recovery (release time) and a single main knob sets the amount compression. Threshold is fixed and there are two additional controls that set Powair apart from all other compressors--plug-in or hardware called: Punch and Adaptive Comp.

The Punch parameter sets the level of transients occurring within the attack time period. For example with Leveler switched off, compressing a snare drum is more adjustable by fine-tuning the exact nature of the "hit" or impact sound of the stick hitting the drum. I usually started with Punch set at 20% and adjusted the Attack time to include as much of the stick attack as I required with the rest of the kit playing.

Adjusting the Adaptive Comp control works well for vocals that have big changes in level from quiet verses to loud choruses! I tried Powair on a lead vocalist whose verses were sung quietly in the bottom of her singing range and super loud during choruses at near the top of her range. This is a common recording engineering/production issue: how do I process (mix) her so the verses sound present and clear and then "reset" everything so the choruses will still sound big and as open as possible without over compression?

After high-pass filtering and brightening the vocal with an EQ plug-in inserted before Powair, I found I could get a great upfront sound on the low verses that was compressed nicely and sounding level and clear with all words easily heard. When she sang the choruses they also sounded clear even though the compression knob read 26.1dB and I was seeing gain reductions as much as 18dB! This is magically awesome as the compression artifacts are minimal!

Adaptive was at 60%--increasing it caused the vocal to get louder but in all settings, the amount of compression was nearly constant. Punch was at 30% and increasing it has the effect of a slower compressor attack time with the attacks and breath inhalations at the front of phrases louder. I had the Attack time at 52ms and Recovery synced to the DAW tempo at 1/2-note. I also experimented with the Side-Chain Filter both in band-pass and band-reject modes.

For my first look at SoundRadix' Powair compressor version 1.0, I'm impressed! It has a new level of totally adjustable control that is especially good for dynamically wild vocal tracks. So far, I like Powair for unusual drum processing, transparent stereo bus compression and limiting, and quickly conforming a mix to a specified loudness target.

Additional features are M/S processing with variable stereo-link, an analytical auto-makeup gain algorithm and a variable LU integration time lever. I also thought the colorful spectral output level meter very useful; it shows the frequency spectrum as bars of different widths and colors ranging from red for low frequencies to very thin violet bars for the high frequencies. It's awesome looking too!

SoundRadix Powair sells for $149 and is available for Macs & PCs in VST2/3, AAX and Audio Units formats.

Barry Rudolph is a recording engineer/mixer who has worked on over 30 gold and platinum records. He has recorded and/or mixed Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hall & Oates, Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, the Corrs and more. Barry has his own futuristic music mixing facility and loves teaching audio engineering at Musician’s Institute, Hollywood, CA. He is a lifetime Grammy-voting member of NARAS and a contributing editor for Mix Magazine.