Test Drive: Wave Arts’ Dialog Processor

EQ AND COMPRESSION

The center and right sections of Dialog are home to the Equalizer and the Compressor, and these are winners.

The Equalizer is a multi-band affair that allows up to ten different frequency bands, each of which can take one of eleven different shapes (shelving, parametric, bandpass, notch, low- and high-pass, and variations of these). Bands can be added by clicking the Add button or by double-clicking in the display. Deleting bands works in a similar fashion, either with the Delete button or by control-clicking an existing band’s handle (command-click on a Mac). A pre/post button determines whether the EQ is before or after the compressor, so you can EQ your compressed sound or compress your EQ’d sound.

EQ boost and cut span 48 dB -- 24 dB boost and -24 dB cut, which is more than enough. The width (also known as Q or contour) goes from wide (5 octaves) to very narrow (0.01 octaves), allowing some serious surgery to various frequencies. The shelving shapes are offered in “resonant mode”, which is what most EQs provide, and a “vintage mode” in which the overshoot is limited and asymmetrical, modeling some SSL and Neve EQs and giving a slightly warmer sound. There’s not a lot more to say here... the EQ is flexible and sounds quite good.

The same can be said for the Compressor, which does its job well. Again, the Ratio control is a bit silly, going from 1:1 up to 50:1, which as mentioned goes well past where a compressor becomes a limiter and is of limited use. Otherwise, it’s a nice tool with little or no coloration when used sanely (sorry, but a 50:1 ratio does not fall within my definition of “sane”.)

A large output meter and master gain knob round out the Output section, to which is added a Limiter button. This was a curiosity, because it has no controls whatsoever. It’s in or it’s out. It turns out that the limiter clamps the output level at 0.1 dB (allegedly). As far as I’m concerned it does no particular good in its current configuration for any application I can imagine, be it radio or TV VO, movie dialog, or videogame dialog. Nothing coming out of my shop is slammed to a tenth of a dB before 0 dBFS, but maybe I’m missing something.

STACKING UP SOME DIALOG

Dialog’s documentation comes as a 53-page PDF as is the case with most products today. The good news is that there’s both a table of contents and an index. The bad news is that none of the listed pages in either the TOC or the index is linked to the page so you can’t click to go there, at least on the Mac. But it is complete, well-written, and informative.

As mentioned earlier, Dialog is a remarkably stable plug considering its youth, and I like it. There are a couple of clinkers in there, like De-Hum and the superfluous Limiter. I’d also like a side chain input for the compressor so I could build a ducker. But the things I actually need for recording and processing dialog -- brickwall filters, de-esser and -ploder, a good EQ and a good compressor -- are all in there and work well. Things I don’t need like a gate, pitch correction, a funny voice generator and a freekin’ reverb, are not in there. Add to that Dialog’s modest CPU cycle usage, and the fact that all formats are covered on both computer platforms, and I’m a happy camper. I’d like to see the other things fixed or improved, but I’m quite willing to work with what I have today and wait for the Wave Arts boffins to turn another version. Steve sez check it out.

Wave Arts’ Dialog carries a suggested US retail price of $249.95. For more information worldwide, visit www.wavearts.com/products/plugins/dialog.

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