Online Review: MaxxBass, Waves





WAVES, the producer of effect plug-in technology for digital audio software (gives extra effect functionality to Digidesign and Deck among others) recently introduces MaxxBass. With MaxxBass you can extend bass response to include frequencies that are two octaves below the original limit. This new technology takes your bass to the maximum regardless of speaker size, no matter what the audio source.

MaxxBass allows the perception of low frequencies to be increased while the actual energy associated with low frequencies is reduced. This makes the speaker more efficient yet extends the bass response. The result is a natural reproduction of the signal over tiny speakers and the effect of a sub woofer over stereophile speakers.

Using MaxxBass on individual tracks while mixing allows for more energy to exist in that track's overall placement in the mix. This makes the low frequencies stand-out without "killing" the crisp sound of other instruments or synthesizer-generated sounds.

Using MaxxBass, you can prepare your audio files for specific reproduction environments. E.g. when your music will be played through second range speaker horns hang up in a tree at a local street festival, you can adjust the bass frequencies in such a way that your bass will come out of those old and many years used speaker horns. For more modern productions, such as for example a multimedia game production, Waves MaxxBass comes with a set of preloads.

We used MaxxBass on a file containing a broad choir with a few lower mail voices mixed down too much, in comparison to the female members of that choir. Quite a difficult problem to solve when you wanna "lift" the volume of the males a bit. Using the bass slider on a mixing table won't help, as you would distort the original timbre of the females as well. This is where MaxxBass comes in. Below you see what the file looks like in the MaxxBass user interface window. The blue line represents the original bass in the file.



By adding extra harmonics (the yellow line) to the file you get -in this case- two results: the lower voices get more harmonics and thus become better proportioned to the female voices. And the second one -in this case the result is meant to be used in a multimedia production- MaxxBass takes care of a better frequency-fit for multimedia use. In fact two stokes at once. Very good.



MaxxBass enables you to temporarily "shut down" the higher frequencies while previewing so you get a better judge on the changes you're aiming at in the bass frequencies. In the example above, all audio is monitored while previewing the result.

What "shutting down the higher frequencies" looks like is shown in the screen shot below. At the lower right, the orange MaxxBass switch is turned on, cutting off higher frequencies while previewing. You only hear the bass part. As you can see, the clip indicator turns red, telling you that you are causing digital distortion by too much input. The green volume indicators however only show you the level of the bass while the MaxxBass switch is on. If you would return to the green Audio switch shown above, you would be able to see that the green indicators indeed are clipping in the red zone. A bit misleading at first view, but is appears to be a powerful tool when you get a closer look at it. Now you can exactly position the bass frequencies where you want them to go. Then return to all audible audio and check if the volume level is still OK. Presto, your file is optimized for whatever kind of medium you desire. In the example below we choose another preset: Aggressive, which makes the bass portion of an audio file sound more aggressive indeed. Good for a booming house mix, for example.



Conclusion.

The conclusion to MaxxBass is that you should use it with care and caution, as goes in fact for any digital audio reshaping tool. If you have little knowledge of audio post production rules and thus do not know exactly what you're doing, a mistake is quickly made thus "killing" a fine audio file on saving. MaxxBass is a very powerful tool in the hands of an audio pro, but can become a sleeping bomb when used by non-audio-specialists! This does not say that the tool cannot be used by the average Mac home recording musician though. Nature gave you good ears to listen with, so use them well.

As written elsewhere in this site, in the country I live in we have school ratings from 1 (very bad) to 10 (excellent). On that scale, I would like to give MaxxBass an 8,5. That sounds a pretty low for such a professional and good tool, but it indicates that the use of MaxxBass is not good for everyone. An average musician, that records his music on the Macs harddisk, probably will not need MaxxBass tomorrow. The Native Power Pack by Waves already gives you enough tools to shape audio right. Combined with standard equalization in software like Deck II, most musicians will do fine. If you are however an audio producer, that has to reshape audio for several media, the MaxxBass tool is an absolute must. It enables you to let your production sound 100% on any kind of media, even the Internet if you play the game right. A master tool, this MaxxBass, in more then one sense if you get what I mean.

On the WAVES-site (http://www.waves.com) more information can be found. There is also the downloadable MaxxBass demo and A/B files available, so you can try the unique effect MaxxBass brings to your digital recording environment.

MaxxBass retail price in the USA is US$ 300. European or elsewhere pricing was not available at daMac publishing time.

This review was written by Peter J. Bloemendaal. All rights reserved.

Additional information:
Waves licenses MaxxBass technology to Motorola. (28-10-98)

Waves will license its patent pending MaxxBass® technology to Motorola. MaxxBass brings high quality bass sounds to low cost, ordinary speakers. MaxxBass will be embedded in Motorola's audio DSPs, the DSP56362 and DSP56364, which was announced last september. (For more information about the DSP56362: www.dspaudio.motorola.com.)

The DSP56362 DSP is a multimode, multichannel audio decoder for consumer applications like Audio/Video (A/V) receivers, surround sound decoders, Digital Versatile Disk (DVD), digital TV, and other audio applications. The DSP56364 is targeted at applications such as analog television, automotive, minisystems and portable applications, which do not require Dolby Digital, DTS or MPEG2 audio decoders.

MaxxBass utilizes pyschoaccoustics, or how one perceives sound, to increase perceived bass output. It is dramatically different than traditional bass boost functions, which seek to simply increase the bass output through audio systems can not support lower frequencies creating undesirable distortions. For OEMs seeking to develop new audio-based consumer products, MaxxBass "transforms" the low-frequency signal to higher frequencies. In doing so, the system only has to cope with the higher frequency range which presents fewer problems.

This principle is true regardless of the specific low-frequency limitation relevant to a specific system. MaxxBass will enhance the cost and performance of both low and high quality systems.


All reviews in AudioMac.net are written by Peter J. Bloemendaal. All rights reserved.

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12-09-99