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Virsonix BBE Sonic Maximiser


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Virsonix BBE Sonic Maximiser

Category:  Products / music software / software effects

Added: 06-Feb-02  |  Author: admin

New price: discontinued - was $129  |   S/H price: Not listed

Virsonix BBE Sonic Maximiser

There are so many software effects & processing plugins out there on the market now that some would say we reached saturation a long time ago... Every month seems to spawn yet another indie s/w plugin effects company bringing us their angle on the range of 'traditional' effects such as gates & compressors, delays & reverbs etc... or sometimes they release unique effects that no-one else creates in software or in hardware.. The various vocal 'autotune' softwares is one good example of software originating a process which then becomes adopted to a hardware unit....

Occaisionaly one see's a plugin effect derived from it's hardware equivilent... but rarely... mostly we see 'software copies' of vintage synths, brought to us anew in software form with a few added touches that weren't in the original.... Where software plugin versions of hardware effects DO exist, they tend to be for hi-end systems using DSP based plugin cards such as Pro-Tools.

I was quite interested therefore to see a software non-platform dependent plugin version of the famous BBE MAXIMISER hardware rack... not only because s/w plugin versions of established hardware are so rare as noted, but also because we happen to have a real BBE 322 in the rack!!... aha!.. a perfect opportunity for a direct A-B comparison!...

VIRSONIX is the company bringing us the BBE software plugin & it claims to be a perfect software copy of the famous hardware version BBE processor... For the uninitiated, the BBE MAXIMISER processor is an INSERT type rack effect one can use patched either across a final stereo mix or subgroup/buss, or one can insert it into a mixer channel to process just one mono or stereo sound... The hardware BBE comes in two main models.. A more expensive dual model with independent L/R processing which can be linked for stereo operation or used to process two mono channels... and they do the 322, (the one we have in our hardware rack here), which is the cheaper 'fixed stereo' model with just a single set of front-panel controls...

The VIRSONIX BBE 'Sonic-Maximiser' software version is a copy of the 322, being fixed stereo with a common set of controls... however as with the hardware BBE 322, one can use this s/w plugin version on mono channels as an insert process as well as for stereo channels or final stereo outputs etc... On the hardware version one does this by simply utilising only one side of the rear pair of IN/OUT sockets... the VIRSONIX s/w version needs nothing to be done other than inserting it into a channel... Stereo OR mono it just get's on and does the job... but er... I'm interested Mr Lightyear!... what does a 'Space-Ranger'... I mean... 'Sonic Maximiser' actualy do??...


Well, it's a bit hard to say 'factualy'... The original hardware company blurb for the BBE claims something like: That it splits the signal into 3 different bands which would be roughly 'treble/mid/bass' frequency bands, then 're-aligns' the delivery time of the 3 bands by fractionaly delaying some of the bands so that the 3 frequency bands all 'line-up' in terms of their 'movement'... The idea seems to be proposed by BBE ('Barcus Berry Electronics'), that the frequency bands contained within say a kik-drum or bassline sample should all should all attack and decay etc at exactly the same time, but they don't, so the BBE process attempt's to 're-align' their attack times so the sound is more 'Punchy' & 'Defined'...

Well.. that's what the BBE booklet says that came with the 322 hardware rack... but I've also read a few tech bot's dismissing this as total phooey!!.. I've seen it claimed that the BBE is like other 'psycho-acoustic' enhancers, in that it simply grabs certain harmonic's from the signal, boosts them and ad's them back into the original signal to create a more defined or punchy or 'enhanced' sound....

Well... I guess no-one will ever know... but frankly... do I care??... nope!!... all I'm concerned about is:

'Does it make the mix sound better!' - and the answer to that, like all psycho-acoustic enhancers is: 'Yes, as long as you don't overdo it!' -

Basicaly, add the BBE inserted across a stereo mix, or inserted into a bassline or kik-drum channel etc (either in the studio or especialy live), and it add's MORE 'punch' & 'prescence' to the sound.... You get two controls only -

'DEFINITION' on the Hardware unit - (called: 'PROCESS' on the Virsonix software version) - is the main control which defined how much or little 'process' is applied to the signal passing thru the BBE... As you add more of this control the signal becomes more 'prescent' & punchy, but also more treble-y.... add too much, and eventualy you get a too-harsh signal with treble overload...

'LO-CONTOUR' on the Hardware unit - (called the same on the Virsonix software version) is like a bass boost, but is also effected by the DEFINITION/PROCESS control... so you can define the bass amount with the 'LO-CONTOUR' control, then how much this is driven by the main 'DEFINITION'/'PROCESS' control....

Using the two controls is intuitive and you arrive at the sound you want by ear for the particular task... Generaly, the default 12 o'clock '0' setting for both controls is fine for stereo mix enhancement....

So that's what the BBE Sonic Maximiser does.... It is a VERY VERY good processor in hardware I would NEVER part with, and frankly it's the ONLY processor of this 'enhancer' type i'd give the time of day to personaly... I don't really like many enhancers I've tried over the years.. well, not enuff to spend cash on them anyways, but the BBE (for me) is the exception to this... It is moron-proof to setup, and INSTANTLY ad's defintion & real PUNCH to your mix...

So that leaves just one question... Is this VIRSONIX software plugin version any good or just trading off the BBE name??.... Does it 'do the biz!!'...

TESTING ...1...2...3...

For the purpose of this test, I took a pre-recorded manufactured cassette of De La Soul - I deliberately used a cassette, as the overall sound would be not too well defined and thus show up the BBE process more....

Hardware BBE 322
I ran a stereo lead from the cassette deck to the Hardware BBE 322 rack IN L/R, then took the L/R output from that & recorded it direct into WAVELAB via the PC rack to get my HARDWARE processed version of the De La Soul tape.

Virsonix Software BBE plugin
I ran a stereo lead from the cassette deck direct to the Pc rack Input's and recorded it to wavelab using the same leads... Then processed the BBE effect in software to the recorded file....

Means Test

I wasn't expecting both s/w & h/ware BBE's to be exactly the same...

For the HARDWARE version I set the controls to default 12 o'clock '0' setting for both the DEFINITION & LO-CONTOUR controls....

For the VIRSONIX software version I found that at the same 12 o'clock ('5' on the Virsonix) settings it had a bit MORE bass/'Lo-Contour' than the hardware version & a tad less 'definition/process'...

So I set the Virsonix Software BBE so as to sound as close as I could to the hardware unit's sound at default, which meant rolling OFF the LO-CONTOUR control a notch to '4', and slightly increasing the PROCESS (Definition) to about '6'...

So this is how the Virsonix Software BBE was set for this comparison recording test...

I did this to make both files have the same overall TONE because obviously adding more LO-CONTOUR makes it more 'bass-y' and adding more PROCESS (definition) makes the sound more 'trebley' as well as 'defined' the more you increase it....

Anyways, that was the test... what's the conclusions!!?....


VERY pleasantly surprised.... in a word.. EXCELLENT!!! - I actualy found the software processor to have MORE a bit more range than the hardware version although this doesn't necessarily equate to 'better', as you CANNOT overdo these BBE type processors (or any 'enhancer' type processor) without the sound becoming a mess...

Overall the Virsonix Software BBE is spot-on!! - Once you get used to the old BBE you'll know & learn your favourite 'sweet spot' for the controls and tend to leave it that way with slight adjustment to suit but generaly they sound best when set nominaly.. the additional travel of the controls would be best used for special effects such as monsterous sub-bass enhancement etc....

So... at last!.. I can have my beloved BBE maximiser on my mixes without having to process thru a rack and putting the mix into the analog domain!! -


Well now... this processor doesn't have lot's of bells & whistles.. it only has two controls!! (plus a make-up gain)... Some might see that as being something not to spend money on, but it is SUCH useful little processor... it'll add real definition & thump to your mixes...

The difference is staggering when you play your final mix that you thought sounded 'great' thru the BBE... then switch it out... Doh!!.. the mix just sounds dull & flat without it!!... I'd say 100% that the BBE process is the most useful of all the processors of this 'enhancer' type for dancemusic & clubsounds - it's great to tighten up drums & other loops lifted from old vinyl or tapes, to add earth-shattering bass-end to your junglist/garage or drum & bass sounds etc, or just to spruce up old tired mixes!!... It add's extra punch & definition as well as a more defined crispy top-end... A great little unit, and the Virsonix Software BBE is as close as you'd want... in fact i don't think anyone could tell which was software & which was hardware in a direct A/B comparison!!...

So... You can see for yourself!!... I've added the full-blown stereo .wav file to this page so you can download and listen to the difference yourselves...There's also a hi-fi mp3 file added now too!

The attached demonstration file starts with a section recorded WITHOUT the BBE process added.. straight from the tape... Then after the small 2 second gap comes the BBE 322 Hardware processed version of the same section of tape.... then after the next small 2 second gap comes the Virsonix BBE software processed version of the same section of tape... take a listen and see!!... it's spot-on & as good as the real hardware, but... cheaper!!... (oooh!.. we love that word 'cheaper' at Dancetech!!)

All in all it's a great little plugin that'll really tweak-up your mixes like no other... It's a must-have for all dance music creators - 10/10 !!

here's the test .wav stereo file - it's a big file d/l at 8mb, but it shows 100% the pure A-B for any pro users who want to hear a direct full-on wav comparison...

I've also now added a hi-fi (256kb/sec 44.1 stereo) .mp3 file which you can grab from the 'AUDIO DEMO' speaker-icon link below - (stream or d/load according to connection)...


The file was prepared in Wavelab - The first audio segment is untreated, the second is through the BBB 322 hardware, the 3rd is Virsonix software BBE - enjoy!

update - Now the BBE plugin comes as a Mac format VST effect too.

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User Comments

Product:  Virsonix - BBE Sonic Maximiser
Name: sitar
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: part-timer
Date: 06-Feb-02

I've been using the BBE Maximizer for a few months. The results are dramatic for sure. It's easy to overdo it and easy to max out your levels, so have your cursor near the gain knob. It's easy to use and definately adds bass punch and overall presence to a mix. I don't have the original hardware unit it's modeled after so it was reassuring for me to read the review. I downloaded it from cakewalk.com when they were running an introductory special on it :) I have come to trust Cakewalk and their recommendations. It uses a fair amount of processing power but not too much. Less than your standard reverb for sure. I've had the BBE Maximizer plugged into 3 or 4 tracks at a time along with a few other fx plugins and everything still runs smoothly in Sonar. I'm using a PIII 850 with 512 RAM and a 7200 rpm 36 gb hd. At the end of the day it's nice to fire the BBE up and without much futzing with it, hear my mix go from sounding descent to sounding like it's being played in a club. But buyer beware, as original reviewer says..."play your final mix that you thought sounded 'great' thru the BBE... then switch it out... Doh!!.. the mix just sounds dull & flat without it!!" Not a bad complaint to have to deal with is it? :)

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Product:  Virsonix - BBE Sonic Maximiser
Name: k
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: Professional
Date: 08-Feb-02

wow!.. that good eh!!!! :)

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Product:  Virsonix - BBE Sonic Maximiser
Name: x
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: Hobby-ist
Date: 12-Feb-02

Censoring now, are we ?

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Last added comment

Product:  Virsonix - BBE Sonic Maximiser
Name: Kylx
Email: Email supplied but hidden
Activity: Hobby-ist
Date: 26-Feb-02

it's the best way to masterize

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