Recently Native Instruments released a FREE (for a limited time) plug-in called SUPERCHARGER. Native Instruments boasts that “Supercharger” is dripping with high-octane attitude of a one-of-a-kind tube compressor.
Thanks to Modern Mixing subscriber Ben Busack for giving me the heads up on this cool plug-in so I can share it with you.
I’ve been able to get my hands the Supercharger and test it out and I like that its super simple to use. It’s definitely one of the easier compressors to set up and begin working with.
Anyone from a beginner to an expert can use it and get a lot of mileage out of it. No need to fiddle with attack, release and ratio settings because this compressor allows you to focus on the tone and character while the Supercharger handles the rest. That makes this compressor very intuitive and should fit very easily into any workflow.
Some of the Key Features of the SUPERCHARGER
Harmonic rich sound of pure tube compression
One knob design for fast results
Create effects that are subtly warm or brutally crushed
My Thoughts From Testing Out the SUPERCHARGER
With any new plug-in I get these days it comes down to three things that eventually make me take the leap:
It sounds good
Is easy to understand
It can be added to my workflow seamlessly
Of course I’m not including price in there and it is important to consider but when it’s FREE, than it’s usually a pretty simple decision.
But not everything for free is actually good. I’ve tried and scrapped a lot of Free plug-ins in my time but their is definitely something cool about the Supercharger. For example I love how it can bring a bass sound to life without making it sound overly obvious that some distortion was added; it just seems to colour the original sound naturally.
Another thing to mention is the makeup gain aspect of the Supercharger. As long as the input LED is lighting up green (sweet spot) then you can add compression without having to adjust any make up gain. Pretty Cool!
I can already see myself using the Supercharger more on Drums, Bass, Vocals, Pianos and even Guitars.
Another handy tool that this compressor comes equipped with is an easy to set up side chain compression function. You can do anything from light ducking to heavy pumping.
A Breakdown of The SUPERCHARGER
This photo was taken from the NI Supercharger Manual
1. Input Indicator – When it is solid green it mean that the input is at the optimal level for compression2. Input Trim Knob – This knob is used to adjust the input level into the compressor. The goal is to get the input LED indicator to light up green. If it’s too low the left arrow will light up and if its too hot the right arrow will light up.
3. Side Chain LED Indicator – When activated the yellow LED is illuminated. This will allow the compressors input to be fed from another source other than its own input. One common use would be to feed a kick drum into the input of the compressor which is being used on a bass guitar track.
4. Gain Reduction Level Meter – Displays the gain reduction in dB’s
5. Compress knob – The more the knob is turned to the right, the more compression that’s being added to the signal. If the input level is being set correctly than the overall level will remain at an even loudness.
6. Output Level Meter – displays the output level in dB
7. Dirt LED Indicator – When activated this illuminates yellow and indicates that the compressor will add some saturation to the input.
8. Punch LED Indicator – when activated this will illuminate yellow indicating that the compressor will now use a slower attack the transients alone and will result in a punchier sound
9. Output knob – Allows adjustment of the output volume
10. Mix Knob – Allows you to adjust the amount of compressed signal you want to blend with the original sound. If it’s all the way to the left (wet) you’ll hear the compressed signal and if it’s all the way to the right (dry) you’ll hear the original sound. Of course anything in between is a mixture of the compressed and uncompressed sound.
Examples of the SUPERCHARGER on BASS
Here is a simple bass track that I manipulated in a few different ways using the Supercharger, let’s check it out.
This first audio example is how the Bass originally sounded
Bass Example #1
Below are the settings that I used. Everything is left stock except I engaged the Dirt Mode which gave the bass a little more grit and presence
Bass Example #2
For this example I have the Dirt Mode engaged and then cranked the compression all the way up. Surprisingly the bass didn’t collapse and it seemed to focus the mid range.
Bass Example #3
I decided to take an unconventional route with this example.
I engaged the Dirt Mode again because it definitely adds something to the bass that I like but instead of reaching for the Compression knob I decided to over drive the input until it was hitting the saturation pretty hard.
It collapsed the bass a little too much so I used the Wet/Dry knob to bring back a little bit of the original sound which worked really well.
Examples of the SUPERCHARGER on DRUMS
Then I decided to check out the SUPERCHARGER of a simple drum loop to see how it would perform, here’s how it sounded.
This first audio example is how the Drum Loop originally sounded
Drum Loop Example #1
Everything is left stock except I engaged the Dirt Mode which gave the Drum Loop a bit more meat and presence.
Drum Loop Example #2
I this example I only have the “Dirt” mode engaged but I turned the compression knob from left all the way to the right. I wanted to show how the compression sounds as it gets more and more aggressive.
Drum Loop Example #3
For Example 3 I have both the Dirt and the Punch mode engaged and have the compression set to about half way. This may not be the most practical use of the compressor but it gives a good idea of how the compressor sounds when its pushed pretty hard.
Drum Loop Example #4
Now for this last example, I wanted to give a more realistic approach to how this compressor could be used in a session.
So I have both the Dirt and Punch modes engaged and a fairly hard compression setting. The biggest difference here, that makes it more realistic is that I used a pretty modest Mix/Wet ratio to incorporate a lot of the original sound and some of the compressed sound. Basically a parallel compression technique.
Like any other plug-in, you should really try it out and experiment with it to see if it works into your workflow.
With Native Instruments plug-ins I feel like for me it’s either a hit or a miss but this one is definitely a hit. There’s no doubt that there is something special about the sound of this little guy and it’s so ridiculously easy to use that I don’t even have to think when I’m using it – I love that.
Did I mention it was FREE? Well not exactly. The Supercharger is free until December 31st, 2013 and at that point it will cost $49. But I actually am willing to stick my neck out and say it’s a fair price (actually more than fair) as I can see myself already using it for vocals, drums and bass.