Sunday, August 12, 2012


Hello and welcome to this week's tutorial!
Today we're going to talk about Harmonic Exciters / Harmonic Enhancers.
First off let's explain what we are talking about: harmonics are multiples of the same frequency (x2, x3, x4...), so harmonics of 50hz are 100hz, 150hz, 200hz...
We could say that an Harmonic  Exciter is a tone shaping tool similiar to an Equalizer that adds or boost multiples of a given frequency or frequency range, in order to make it sparkle more.

Usually Harmonic Exciters are used in the Mastering Phase, similarly and alternatively to Tape Saturation tools, in order to enhance certain frequencies, and are used mainly to excite the lower frequencies, and the highs, but we can as well use these processors (like the Tube Saturation plugins) on single guitars tracks or some drum part too.
Clean guitars and drums can benefit a lot from a bit of harmonic excitement: it helps the higher frequencies to cut through more, without the need to modify the tone too heavily with the eq, and preserving the original tonal structure, without making it too dirty as a Tube Saturator would.

Harmonic Exciters often features different bands control, in order to manually select the amount of processing to assign do the lows and to the highs separately, for example.
The best Harmonic  Exciters, such as Izotope Ozone, even lets you manually pick the frequencies to process and which band to bypass, instead of giving fixed bands.
The interesting thing about this kind of processing is that, in order to enhance the lower harmonics for example, these processors will raise their multiples even in the mids and in part of the highs; this is the main difference from a regual Equalizer, and that is why these tools are used mainly to give sparkle to certain higher frequencies, and some thump to the lows. Beware though, for it is very easy to overdo, and to have a harsh, out of control final result, a good suggestion would be to blend this effect through the Wet/Dry control.

There are different type of Harmonic Excitements, given by Tubes, by Tape, Aural Exciters (a transistor type of processing used in the mid '70s) and other types, and their result is pretty different in terms of eq.
The most important thing to remember is just to not exaggerate with the lower frequencies control, and just to give a small sparkle with the highs control, remembering also that these excitements will raise the level of the track, so compensate by lowering the Master Volume.
Sometimes there is a Bass Delay control too, which is a short Delay used to thicken the lower frequencies, but it must be used very carefully to not mess up the lower spectrum of your track, so when in doubt, avoid using it.

There are many Free Harmonic Exciters / Enhancers Vst available around, here is a selection of the most used:

Harmonic Enhancer by HgSounds

Exciter, an emulation of the Aphex Aural Exciter

X-Cita, inspired by the BBE Sonic Maximizer

Exciter, by Christian Budde

Antress Modern Exciter

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1 comment:

  1. Important subject, thank you.
    I am really digging this mastering concept with Melda multiband saturation:



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