The Aphex Aural Exciter is one of the most recognized exciter effects. Its main job is to add a bit of top-end sheen to a signal while imparting some subtle harmonic distortion as well. Lots of engineers like it on vocals to bring them forward in a mix, though its uses are varied.
History of the Aphex Aural Exciter
The Aphex Aural Exciter was one of the first exciter effects, developed by Aphex Electronics in the mid-70s. The effect adds phase shift and synthesized harmonics to audio signals.
The first units were available in 1975, exclusively on the rental basis of $30 per minute of finished recorded time. The original tube unit traveled from studio to studio on selected sessions. Lots of prominent artists of the era, like Jackson Browne, Neil Diamond, The Four Seasons, Linda Ronstadt, and James Taylor, stated in their liner notes, “This album was recorded using the Aphex Aural Exciter.”
Aphex started selling the units as opposed to renting them, and introduced two affordable models: the Aphex Aural Exciter Type B and Type C. The circuit is now licensed by many manufacturers, including Yamaha, MacKenzie, Gentner, E-mu Systems, and Bogen. The original Aural Exciter came without the “Big Bottom” circuit which they added in 1992.
The Big Bottom adds deep, powerful low-frequency punch, without the unwanted level boost that comes from adding traditional EQ. Deeper, more resonant bass response with tighter articulation helps to extend low frequency power and spectrum without the build-up or driver-damaging tendencies of bass EQ.
Later revisions of the unit included the Model 104 Type C and Type C2 units. Aphex released the Model 204 Aural Exciter and Optical Big Bottom in 2001; another refinement of the original unit. According to Aphex, the Model 204 updates the Aural Exciter and Big Bottom processor blocks with improved circuitry, including an optical gain-control element for the Big Bottom compressor.
For individual instruments or entire mixes, the Exciter intends to bring out detail, clarity, and imaging that improves the sound quality without boosting levels. For vocals and dialogue, it can increase intelligibility by bringing them forward. On individual instruments, it can add punch and presence. And on entire mixes, it can introduce power, presence, and sparkle.
The Exciter is also great for sprucing up MP3s and other lower quality, highly compressed audio files. Along those lines it’s also possible to restore old recordings that have lost some luster over the years.
Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter Plugin
The Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter plugin is modeled on one of the few original tube units ever made. It strives to deliver all the unique character of the rare original hardware unit, with all the modern advantages of software.
Features and Specs:
- Modeled plugin based on the original tube-powered hardware
- Developed in association with Aphex
- Adds brightness, vibrancy, and depth
- Increases presence without raising levels
- Perfect for vocal and instrumental tracks alike
- Mix and AX modes for insert or send configuration
The biggest drawback to the plugin is the fact that it’s based on the original design. It lacks the features Aphex added over the decades to improve flexibility, which many hardware users have found to be desirable improvements. The Big Bottom circuit, for instance, is regarded for adding punchiness to the low-end, but you won’t find it on this vintage emulation.
You’d reach for this plugin when you want to add some air to a sound without using a traditional EQ. For the most part, it works best on individual instruments but can be a little too much on the mix bus.
- SEE ALSO: Make a Mix Sound More Exciting