The Sonnox Inflator plugin has been around for almost two decades. It’s sort of a mysterious desert island tool for many engineers, somewhere in between a compressor and a limiter. The Inflator is able to increase perceived loudness, and it achieves that WITHOUT ruining a track’s dynamics.
What does the Sonnox Inflator do?
The Sonnox Oxford Inflator plugin addresses the loudness wars head-on. We have lots of ways to increase the level, most of which rely on compression and limiting to give an impression of excitement. There’s also saturation, which is capable of increasing perceived loudness while sometimes lowering actual peak values.
The Inflator goes beyond these traditional methods. It has the unique ability to increase the loudness of almost anything, regardless of the remaining dynamic range, or how much compression was previously used. Going a step further, the Inflator can also create some of the character and dynamic excitement of analog systems our ears know and love.
How does it work?
In technical terms, the Sonnox Inflator changes the ‘relative probability of samples in the material such that there is a greater probability of larger values than the original signal.’ It doesn’t use any compression, so there’s no ‘pumping’, dynamic level change, loss of presence, or flattening of transients. Inflator can retain the full dynamic range of the music, despite the increase in average density and level.
Loudness enhancement is the star of the show, but the Inflator can also create harmonics in the signal that not only increase the dynamic impact of an instrument, but also provide some tube-y warmth. Used this way, the Sonnox Inflator can even mimic good tube systems to produce pleasant-sounding material when overdriven. Therefore, it can be a unique artistic tool on individual performances.
In simpler terms, the Inflator is a one-of-a-kind distortion generator that has no impact on dynamic activity over time. The process is static. It gives the impression of loudness by accentuating the harmonic cues we associate with loud and emphasized sounds, increasing the harmonic richness of the material in a way that the human ear finds enjoyable.
Sonnox Inflator Review
The best way to review this plugin at home is to start with some general settings that show off the plugin’s main purpose. For basic loudness enhancement, the procedure is as follows:
- Start with the CLIP 0 dBr function selected to limit the range of the Inflator to normal digital maximum.
- Using the INPUT level control and input meter, set the level such that the red 0 db over indicator flashes occasionally to indicate the presence of max peak sample values.
- Set the OUTPUT level control to maximum initially, so that the input and output meters have similar readings when the music is played.
- Set the CURVE control initially to its mid position (default) and deselect the BAND SPLIT button.
- Start with the EFFECT level control at 100% to obtain the maximum increase in perceived volume without extra peak output level.
What we’ve noticed here at Produce Like A Pro is that the Inflator provides a similar effect as parallel compression. It does exactly what it says, by increasing the perceived level without changing the actual output value. The sound can be very aggressive and exciting, without any of the drawbacks associated with too much compression or very heavy limiting.
- Check out an in-depth video demo of the Sonnox Inflator here!