Available for download, the Slate Digital FG-X is a dynamics processor designed for the mastering process. It can be quite helpful in achieving quick reference-level masters to send to clients, or it can be used as a dynamics processor in a professional mastering context. The process is intended to achieve loud masters without compromising transient material, so that the mix doesn't feel overly squashed unless that is what you want.
The FG-X is comprised of a compressor, a leveler (analogous to a limiter), and a meter. The compressor is transparent, capable of taming the peaks in a mix without imparting character. Attack, release, ratio, and threshold controls are on hand, as is a prominent VU-style meter that displays input, output, or gain reduction.
As with most limiters, the leveler can be used to raise the apparent loudness of a song while largely protecting you from digital overs. What differentiates the leveler from many of its peers is the transient section, which allows you to retain transient heft and detail.
Of additional use are the Dynamic Perception knob and ITP slider. The knob can add a feeling of dynamism to a mix otherwise lacking in movement. The slider changes the saturation curve of the entire process. Raising the slider lends your transients a harder sound, while lowering the slider renders a more smooth sound. The former setting is more geared toward rock, while the latter is better suited for bass-heavy material.
Bar-graph meters are on display to show you the RMS of your mix, as well as peak values and any overs you might incur. An extra pair of VU meters also shows RMS values for the left and right channel. You can change under-the-hood metering settings by clicking the Settings button. Compressor settings and leveler settings are also accessible via dedicated Settings buttons, allowing you to change the compressor's ratio and threshold ranges, apply dithering, and change the output ceiling.
The FG-X is compatible with Mac and Windows platforms. It can operate in VST, AU, and AAX formats. Please note that it is not a true peak limiter, and should not be pushed as such. An iLok 2 or 3 is required for operation, and is available separately.
Leveler Operations Explained
Press the Constant Gain Monitoring button, which ensures that you will not hear any increase in loudness, no matter how much gain you apply. Apply gain until you hear obvious distortion, then back off a little. Play with the Lo-Punch and Detail knobs until you hear the exact balance of low-end punch and midrange detail you'd like to preserve.
Manipulate the Dynamic Perception knob until the mix feels as though it's neither overly squashed, nor undertreated. Move the ITP slider in one direction or the other, keeping an ear on the low end and transients. Please note, it is also possible to automate any of these parameters throughout the mix, so if one section is bassier than another, you can automate the ITP slider to best suit that section.
Finally, press the Constant Gain Monitoring button again, so the mix plays back at commercial levels.