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Slate Digital FG-X Virtual Mastering Processor: A Review




If you are looking for a plugin that can help you master your mixes with ease and precision, you might want to check out the Slate Digital FG-X Virtual Mastering Processor. This plugin is designed to combine an ultra-transparent compressor, a loudness enhancer, and a comprehensive metering panel in one powerful package. In this article, we will review the features and benefits of the FG-X plugin, as well as some of the drawbacks and alternatives.


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Features and Benefits




The FG-X plugin has two main modules: FG-Comp and FG-Level. FG-Comp is a compressor that aims to preserve the original punch and transients of your mix, while FG-Level is a loudness enhancer that uses a proprietary algorithm called Intelligent Transient Preservation (ITP) to optimize the saturation curve based on the frequency content of your track. Together, these modules can help you achieve a loud and balanced master without compromising the dynamics or the tonal balance of your mix.


Some of the features and benefits of the FG-X plugin are:


  • It has four different modes for limiting: Transparent, Loud, Punchy, and Dynamic. Each mode has a different saturation curve and character that can suit different genres and preferences.



  • It has a Dynamic Perception control that can simulate more dynamics in your mix by adding subtle harmonic distortion and transient enhancement.



  • It has a Lo Punch and Detail control that can adjust the level of low-end and high-end punch in your master, respectively.



  • It has a comprehensive metering panel that shows you the input level, output level, gain reduction, RMS level, peak level, dynamic range, and loudness units (LUFS) of your master.



  • It has an Easy view and an Advanced view that can cater to different levels of users. The Easy view has only the essential controls for a quick and simple mastering process, while the Advanced view has more parameters for fine-tuning your master.



Drawbacks and Alternatives




While the FG-X plugin is a powerful and versatile mastering tool, it also has some drawbacks and limitations that you should be aware of. Some of them are:


  • It requires an iLok USB dongle for copy protection, which can be inconvenient for some users who prefer a software-based authorization system.



  • It can be CPU-intensive, especially when using the Dynamic mode or the Advanced view. You might need to increase your buffer size or freeze some tracks to avoid glitches or dropouts.



  • It can be prone to clipping or distortion if you push it too hard or use inappropriate settings. You should always monitor your levels carefully and use your ears to judge the quality of your master.



  • It can be expensive compared to some other mastering plugins on the market. The FG-X plugin costs $129 at Slate Digital's website, which might be out of reach for some users who are on a tight budget.



If you are looking for some alternatives to the FG-X plugin, you might want to consider these options:


  • Ozone 9 by iZotope: This is a comprehensive mastering suite that offers a variety of modules and features, such as EQ, dynamics, exciter, imager, limiter, spectral shaper, vintage tape, vintage EQ, vintage compressor, vintage limiter, master rebalance, low end focus, match EQ, tonal balance control, reference tracks, master assistant, and more. Ozone 9 also has an AI-powered feature called Mastering Assistant that can analyze your track and suggest settings based on your genre and target loudness. Ozone 9 costs $249 for the Standard edition and $499 for the Advanced edition at iZotope's website.



  • Loudness Penalty by MeterPlugs: This is a simple but useful plugin that shows you how much your master will be turned down by various streaming services, such as Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, Tidal, Pandora, and Deezer. This can help you avoid over-compressing or over-limiting your master and ensure that it sounds consistent across different platforms. Loudness Penalty costs $49 at MeterPlugs' website.



  • Limiter No6 by Vladg/Sound: This is a free limiter plugin that offers five modules: peak limiter, high-frequency limiter, clipper, true peak limiter, and protection brickwall limiter. It also has a dithering option and a mid/side processing option. Limiter No6 can help you achieve loud and clean masters with minimal artifacts or distortion. You can download Limiter No6 for free at Vladg/Sound's website.



Conclusion




The Slate Digital FG-X Virtual Mastering Processor is a plugin that can help you master your mixes with ease and precision. It combines an ultra-transparent compressor, a loudness enhancer, and a comprehensive metering panel in one powerful package. It can make your mixes louder without altering the dynamics, removing punch, or skewing your mix balances. However, it also has some drawbacks and limitations, such as requiring an iLok USB dongle, being CPU-intensive, being prone to clipping or distortion, and being expensive. You might want to consider some alternatives to the FG-X plugin, such as Ozone 9, Loudness Penalty, or Limiter No6, depending on your needs and preferences.


If you are interested in trying out the FG-X plugin, you can get a free trial for a month at Slate Digital's website. You can also watch some videos and tutorials on how to use the FG-X plugin on Slate Digital's YouTube channel. Happy mastering! How to Use the FG-X Plugin




Now that you have learned about the features and benefits of the FG-X plugin, you might be wondering how to use it in your mastering workflow. Here are some steps and tips on how to use the FG-X plugin effectively:


  • Load the FG-X plugin on your master bus as the last plugin in your chain. Make sure you have a good mix balance and a reasonable headroom before applying any mastering processing.



  • Choose a mode for limiting from the four options: Transparent, Loud, Punchy, or Dynamic. You can switch between them and listen to how they affect your master. Generally, Transparent mode is the most natural and subtle, Loud mode is the most aggressive and loud, Punchy mode is somewhere in between, and Dynamic mode is the most adaptive and flexible.



  • Adjust the Gain knob to increase or decrease the input level of your master. You can use the metering panel to monitor your levels and aim for a target loudness that suits your genre and platform. For example, Spotify recommends a loudness of -14 LUFS for streaming. You can also use the Loudness Penalty plugin to see how much your master will be turned down by different streaming services.



  • Adjust the Dynamic Perception knob to add more perceived dynamics to your master. This knob can make your master sound more lively and exciting by adding subtle harmonic distortion and transient enhancement. Be careful not to overdo it, as it can also introduce unwanted artifacts or noise.



  • Adjust the Lo Punch and Detail knobs to fine-tune the low-end and high-end punch of your master, respectively. These knobs can help you enhance or reduce the impact of the bass and treble frequencies in your master. You can use them to correct any tonal imbalances or add some flavor to your master.



  • If you want more control over your master, you can switch to the Advanced view and tweak some additional parameters, such as Attack, Release, Knee, Ceiling, Dither, Mid/Side, and more. You can also use the Solo buttons to isolate each module and hear how they affect your master individually.



  • Compare your master with your original mix by using the Bypass button or the A/B button. You can also compare your master with some reference tracks by using the Reference button. You can load up to four reference tracks in the FG-X plugin and switch between them easily.



  • Export your master as a WAV or MP3 file by using the Export button. You can choose the sample rate, bit depth, format, quality, and file name of your exported file. You can also add some metadata, such as artist name, song title, album name, genre, year, etc.



These are some basic steps and tips on how to use the FG-X plugin for mastering. Of course, you can experiment with different settings and modes to find what works best for your music and style. The FG-X plugin is a powerful and versatile tool that can help you achieve professional-sounding masters with ease and precision. Some Tips and Tricks for Mastering with the FG-X Plugin




Mastering is an art and a science that requires a lot of practice and experience. However, there are some tips and tricks that can help you improve your mastering skills and get the most out of the FG-X plugin. Here are some of them:


  • Use a good pair of headphones or monitors to listen to your master. Make sure they are flat and accurate, and that you are in a quiet and treated room. Avoid using consumer-grade speakers or earbuds, as they can color your sound and mislead your ears.



  • Use reference tracks to compare your master with other professional-sounding masters in your genre. You can use the Reference button in the FG-X plugin to load up to four reference tracks and switch between them easily. Try to match the loudness, tonal balance, dynamics, and overall vibe of your reference tracks.



  • Use a spectrum analyzer and a loudness meter to visualize your master and check for any issues or imbalances. You can use the metering panel in the FG-X plugin to see the input level, output level, gain reduction, RMS level, peak level, dynamic range, and loudness units (LUFS) of your master. You can also use some third-party plugins, such as Voxengo SPAN or Youlean Loudness Meter, to see more details about your master.



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