AI enhanced mixing

Sonible Smart Test

Sonible have released a series of AI-assisted mixing plugins – a compressor, eq, reverb and limiter. These use artificial intelligence to assess your audio and make recommended settings, and will allow these settings to be tweaked, or can adjust tiny details in their settings as your music progresses.

I’ve had these plugins for a while and never really got to grips with them, so I thought I would do an A/B test, using an old track and comparing them with the industry standard Fabfilter plugins. This isn’t strictly a fair fight, as what they do is somewhat different, but they do have the same end goal in mind.

I created a project in Logic Pro using 5 tracks of instruments from the track Gateway To The North. It is quite a simple track – there is one lead arpeggiated synthesizer, two pad synth sounds, a Mellotron choir sample, and a large, phat bass sound.

These were then duplicated so that I could use Fabfilter and Sonible plugins in each case.

Sonible Smart EQ

All volume and panning settings were the same on each of the mix channels. I applied one instance of a compressor and EQ to each instrument channel. I used to autodetect settings for the compressor and EQ on the Sonible channels and just went with the results it gave me.

I replicated these settings as best as I could on the Fabfilter channels – easily done with the compressors, more difficult with the EQ, but a broad approximation was possible.

Each set of tracks was sent to a bus where they went through a final EQ and limiter, to boost them both to a volume level fit for Spotify. I took the same settings from the Sonible Smart Limiter, and put them into Fabfilter Pro L. Levels were then adjusted so that each track was within 0.1 LUFS of each other – i.e. there should be no perceptible difference in volume.

Fabfilter Mix

The mix from the Fabfilter plugins.

Sonible Smart plugins

The mix from the Sonible plugins.

I think you can hear quite a difference between the two mixes. The Sonible mix seems noticeable crisper, yet has a louder, phatter bass. The Fabfilter mix seems quite dull in comparison.

As I mentioned, this isn’t really a fair fight – the Sonible EQ in particular seems to be a far more adaptive, response EQ and offers group mixing prioritisation, where it can communicate with other instances of the plugin within a mix and intelligently mute some frequencies in some instruments to make others seem prominent. This puts the Sonible EQ in place comparable to Izotope Neutron. But the Sonible plugins seem to be far cheaper (or at least on sale more often) than any of their rivals.

It is remarkable at how different the two mixes do sound. I am very, very impressed with the Sonible effects, and I will look at using them in a mix more often.