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Expert Reviews: PSP Audioware Xenon

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Everyone is trying to make their CDs louder as the competition gets ever more cut-throat.

However, a balance has to be found between loud and pleasingly musical. The optimum tool for the job is a high-quality, full-band limiter - one that can rule musical peaks with an iron fist but also gently pat transients with a velvet glove.

Nearly three years in the making, Xenon is one such tool. The latest release from Poland's PSP Audioware, it slots in perfectly alongside PSP's Neon HR linear phase EQ and MasterComp compression plug-ins to complete a beautifully pure mastering chain.

Xenon is a dual-stage limiter, providing two processing stages. The first is more forgiving, using Infinite Impulse Response filters to apply the initial gain reduction while allowing transients to exceed the 0dBFS ceiling. The second takes a hard line, using Finite Impulse Response filters and acting like a brick-wall limiter. It's good cop, bad cop for mastering audio.

The net result is pristine musical handling of the program material and with 64-bit precision processing at every stage, this quality is maintained throughout.

 

As with most limiters audio comes in from the left and exits to the right, passing through the various sections neatly displayed on Xenon's interface. Logically the controls on the left deal with input; those on the right with output. Numerical read-outs are also provided underneath each one for ultimate precision and recall.

The manual lays out Xenon's functionality in full but for instant gratification, you simply crank up the input to drive the limiter and adjust the transient knob to set the attack time. Next select React or Predict mode for transient processing, adjust the release knob for loudness, set the leveller knob to even out any artefacts and adjust the output dial to your chosen level. It's not exactly a set-and-forget process but it's easy to get good results. Any additional fine-tuning thereafter will make the output sound great.

Xenon also uses the excellent K-System for metering, which measures both average RMS and peak levels. Three scales are available, which vary according to the amount of headroom provided. They are K12 for broadcasting, K-14 for CD production and K-20 for movie production. It's a very good system, keeping you fully informed at a glance, with separate meters for input, output and gain reduction.

We compared Xenon with Waves' L3 and Universal Audio's Precision Limiter - two highly regarded and widely used competitors. All three produced excellent results but Xenon's handling of the material was a particular favourite, exhibiting a warm, naturally enhanced expansion of the sound while preserving the stereo image.

 

There's a lot of very clever stuff at work in Xenon. And it's hard to hear where it could be improved. 5/5

 From ExpertReviews.co.uk

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