by Steve Cunningham

For me, some of the best-sounding effects are discovered more-or-less by accident. Perhaps I’ll apply a seemingly ill-suited plug-in to a VO track, and what comes out is very different, and in a Good Way.

This describes my experience with this month’s plug-ins from Sony, the Inflator and the Transient Modulater. Both are part of Sony’s Oxford series of effects, named after the effects in their Oxford digital consoles.

I’ve had some experience with other Oxford plug-ins, which are available in Pro Tools TDM and RTAS formats for Mac and Windows, as well as for TC Electronic’s Powercore effects systems. The Oxford compressors and equalizers are solid enough, although I have found the EQs to be a bit sterile. But a mastering engineer at USC suggested I’d find the Inflator and Transient Modulator “interesting” for imaging work, and that sent me off to Sony’s website to get a demo version. (I won’t keep you in suspense — I bought ‘em.)

Both these plug-ins are designed for mastering music, and they both essentially make things louder. But Sony has put a spin on them that sets them apart from most compressors and limiters that simply make loud sounds softer, allowing you to raise the overall level of a track. More importantly, they greatly increase presence in VO tracks, and can even add a bit of warmth.


While both plug-ins come in their own CD packaging, you won’t need the disc... all you really need is the postcard-sized note that has your Activate Key printed on it. A trip to register and you’ll soon be downloading and installing the plug-ins — don’t forget to download the PDF manuals as well, as that’s the only way they come. As you’re doing that, Sony will deposit the iLok licenses in your iLok account, assuming you have one. If not, you’ll need to sign up for one and buy an iLok USB dongle. If you’re a Pro Tools user, you probably already have one or more of these little beasties and will have no trouble dealing with it. If not, the process is simple enough, and can walk you through it.

The iLok and other USB dongles are here to stay, especially since Digidesign has now standardized on the iLok for many of its products, including the entry-level m-Powered version of Pro Tools LE. The days of serial numbers and disc authorizations are numbered as more plug manufacturers follow Digi’s lead.

Once you’re done with installation and authorization, and with your iLok firmly planted in a USB port, you’re ready to experiment.