Soothe2 – How To Instantly Clean Up A Muddy Mix ⌛

soothe 2 plugin

If you’re struggling with muddy mixes, Soothe2 might be your savior.

In a nutshell, Soothe2 identifies problematic resonances and applies gain reduction automatically.

Need to give your vocals more clarity? Too much muddiness in your bass? This is what Soothe2 was made for!

Although it might sound complex, the process is surprisingly straightforward. In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • What dynamic resonance suppression is
  • How Soothe2 works under the hood
  • The main parameters of Soothe2
  • My favorite application of Soothe2 👀

So let’s get started!

Note: dynamic resonance control is quite an advanced topic. So if you’re just getting started with production, this might not be the guide for you. 😅 However, I have tried to make it as digestible as possible. Before diving in, ensure you are familiar with the concepts of EQ’ing, stereo imaging, and ADSR.

11 unique sounds, courtesy of soothe2 🫧

Download our soothe2 Sample Pack containing 11 creative FX sounds, from artefact-laden drums, to retro-style synths, and more 👇

 

What is Soothe2? 🤔

So, what is Soothe2?

Soothe2 is a dynamic resonance suppressor.

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk, any questions? 😅 All jokes aside, let’s break down what this means.

The soothe2 interface
The soothe2 interface
  • Dynamic means that changes happen in real time based on the input. Think of it as the opposite of your standard EQ. When you make a low-cut, it stays there for the entire track. Soothe2 reacts in real time based on the frequencies it detects.
  • Resonance is a buildup in amplitude at a given frequency. The resulting sound is often unpleasant. You will often find multiple resonance points in any sound:
Example of a resonant frequency
Example of a resonant frequency
  • Suppressor means that the resonances are… suppressed! Of course, Soothe2 lets your dial in how much suppression occurs.

So there you have it. Soothe2 detects in real-time any frequency buildups and reduces them when they become too loud.

This makes Soothe2 a bit of a magic wand. Wave it at any sound, and it will detect any unpleasant frequencies and tame them.

Pad with no soothing
Pad with soothing

But there’s much more to Soothe2 than that. So let’s explore 👇

A Quick Reminder on Resonances and EQ 👂🏻

Before we dive further into Soothe2, let’s do a quick recap on EQ’ing and its importance.

At its core, EQ, short for equalization, lets you change the volume of specific frequencies of a sound.

Example of EQ'ing with FabFilter Pro-Q 3
Example of EQ’ing with FabFilter Pro-Q 3

EQ’ing is a fundamental tool of music production – for mixing but also creative sound design.

Resonances happen when there is a buildup at a specific frequency.

This can be due to the nature of the instrument or sound design choices. In any case, this can result in an unpleasant humming, hissing, ringing, or harshness.

Yeah, that ringing is unpleasant

Although standard EQ’ing can help remove certain resonances, it does present an issue.

An EQ plugin changes the sound in a static way. This means that a boost or a cut will apply for the whole time the sound plays, without changing:

Cutting a resonance at 200Hz
Cutting a resonance at 200Hz

However, resonances are a dynamic process. They appear and disappear based on the notes you play.

So with a standard EQ, you might end up removing frequencies when there is no resonance issue!

This is where a plugin like Soothe2 comes in. With dynamic processing, you can remove harsh frequencies only when they build up . This means you are not cutting out frequencies when they aren’t causing problems.

The Main Parameters of Soothe2 🎛️

Now, let’s look at the main parameters behind Soothe2:

The soothe2 interface
The soothe2 interface

1. Depth, Sharpness and Selectivity

Firstly, let’s take a look at our main control: depth. It’s the biggest knob, so it’s probably important 😅

Depth controls how much processing happens.

Add more depth, and you will get more resonance suppression. Add less depth, and you’ll get less resonance suppression:

Depth set at 5.2 with soothe2
Depth set at 5.2
Depth set at 14.2 with soothe2
Depth set at 14.2

The frequencies that are being suppressed are shown in grey.

Sharpness acts a bit like a q-value of EQ band. Increase the sharpness, and you will get deeper and narrower cuts:

Boosting the sharpness to 8.4 with soothe2
Boosting the sharpness to 8.4

Finally, selectivity lets you control how many cuts Soothe2 makes.

Increase the selectivity, and Soothe2 becomes more… selective. And vice-versa:

High selectivity: only the most prevalent resonances are suppressed with soothe2
High selectivity: only the most prevalent resonances are suppressed
Low selectivity: less prevalent resonances are suppressed with soothe2
Low selectivity: less prevalent resonances are suppressed

Let’s listen to an example:

Piano loop with soothe2 bypassed
And with soothe2 activated

The change might sound subtle, but mixing is a subtle art.

When you have 20 different tracks playing at the same time, unpleasant frequencies stack up one by one. That’s why it’s so important to take care of resonances.

Wanna dive deeper in the world of EQ’ing? Check out this video from Aden:

2. Frequency Bands of Soothe2

Next, let’s look at the main graphic window of Soothe2:

Soothe2 frequency graph
Soothe2 frequency graph

Although this looks like an EQ curve, it’s actually the opposite!

By boosting certain frequency regions, we are telling Soothe2 to add more soothing, i.e. suppress resonances. Have a look:

Frequency band of Soothe 2 set at 1.9 dB
Frequency band set at 1.9 dB
Frequency band of soothe 2 set at 9.7 dB
Frequency band set at 9.7 dB

In my opinion, this is what makes Soothe2 truly special.

At first, the resonance detection works automatically. But you then have a great amount of manual control on specific frequency regions. Is too much suppression happening in the highs? No problem, just grab a high-shelf band:

Adding a high-shelf to reduce the amount of resonance suppression
Adding a high-shelf to reduce the amount of resonance suppression

In my opinion, this gives Soothe2 a great balance between “automatic processing” and “manual control”.

11 unique sounds, courtesy of soothe2 🫧

Download our soothe2 Sample Pack containing 11 creative FX sounds, from artefact-laden drums, to retro-style synths, and more 👇

 

3. Attack and Release

If you’ve played with any dynamics plugins such as compressors and transient shapers, these settings will be familiar:

  • Attack dictates how quickly Soothe2 reacts to resonances. A low attack value means resonances will be suppressed almost instantly.
  • Release determines how quickly the processor stops acting on resonating frequencies. Setting a low release time means Soothe2 will immediately stop cutting frequencies once a resonance has disappeared
Example of a fast attack and slow release time in soothe 2
Example of a fast attack and slow release time

Be mindful of the source sound you are processing.

Setting fast attack and release times can mess with the transients and introduce artifacts. This is especially true on vocals:

Raw vocal
Soothe2 set to very fast attack and release

Notice how the vocal now sounds almost bitcrushed? This is the result of setting your attack and release times too low. This is even more prevalent when setting a high sharpness:

Combining a high sharpness with fast attack and release almost always results in audio issues in soothe 2
Combining a high sharpness with fast attack and release almost always results in audio issues

The more notches Soothe2 creates, the more artifacts have the potential to appear.

4. Stereo Controls

Moving on to the more advanced section of Soothe2, we have the stereo controls:

stereo controls of soothe 2

This lets you decide which parts of the stereo field are processed. You have two modes available:

  • Left – Right: this lets you apply Soothe2 to the left or right channel, or anything in between
  • Mid-Side: processing will be applied to the mid or side channels or anything in between

If this sounds a bit confusing, make sure to check out our article on stereo imaging 🔥

Here are a few examples:

Processing applies only to the mid-channel
Processing applies only to the mid-channel
Processing applies to the right channel and 50% on the left channel
Processing applies to the right channel and 50% on the left channel

Setting the “link” control at 100% means Soothe2 will sum both channels and apply the same processing to both. Conversely, a 0% “link” means Soothe2 treats both channels independently.

Let’s say you have a bus track with elements panned hard right and left.

With Soothe2 on the bus track, decrease the link percentage. This will let the processing act on the L and R channels in isolation.

5. Quality and Sidechain

The quality section of Soothe2 lets you control oversampling and resolution settings.

Without getting too technical, higher oversampling and resolution will demand more CPU. But they will result in higher quality and precision.

One cool feature is the ability to set a different “offline” quality:

oversampling and resolution controls of soothe 2

This means that any rendering you do will pick the “offline” settings, i.e. the higher quality.

The sidechain section lets you choose an external input for resonance detection. But more on that one later… 😉

6. Output

Finally, the output section determines what you actually hear through your speakers:

The Output section of soothe2
The Output section of soothe2

In order, we have:

  • mix” acts as your standard dry/wet knob
  • trim” lets you compensate for any loss in volume
  • delta” will let you hear what Soothe2 is actually removing
  • bypass” lets you… bypass the plugin entirely 😁

Here are 2 cool ways to use these features:

Enable “bypass” and boost any band with a narrow bell shape. Then scan for unpleasant frequencies:

sweeping in bypass mode to find problematic frequencies in soothe 2

Once you find any harsh frequencies, reduce the bell sensitivity and disable “bypass”.

Another trick is to use the “trim” level for A/B testing.

Because Soothe2 is removing frequencies, the end result will always be quieter. To properly check your processing, set the B side of Soothe2 to the preset “Flat start”:

a/b testing in soothe 2

When you are done processing (on the A side), boost the “trim” value of the A-side. The goal is that both A and B have matching dB levels. Now you can properly check if you’ve done a good job 👍

My Favorite Way to Use Soothe2 🤗

Of course, you could simply slap Soothe2 on any instrument to make it sound better. But you already knew that 😅

So let’s explore my favorite application of Soothe2: sidechaining for vocal clarity.

using sidechain mode in soothe 2
Turning on “sidechain”

Using Soothe2 as a sidechain device could be your new secret weapon. Especially when it comes to vocals…

With a busy instrumental, it can be hard to make the vocal stand out. Switching Soothe2 to “sidechain” mode, we can use one input to affect the resonances of another input.

In our case, we want to control the resonances of our instrumental based on our vocals.

To do this in FL Studio, group your instruments into a bus and add Soothe2:

All my instruments are routed to a bus track, where I've loaded Soothe2
All my instruments are routed to a bus track, where I’ve loaded Soothe2

Next, select your vocal track and sidechain it to the bus track. Lastly, open up Soothe2, navigate to the VST Wrapper Settings and select the vocal as the sidechain input:

Using our vocal as the sidechain input
Using our vocal as the sidechain input

Nice! The vocal is actually now triggering the frequencies that are suppressed from the instruments.

To do this in Ableton Live, drop Soothe2 onto your instrument bus. Then, select your vocals under the Sidechain input:

enabling a sidechain input in soothe 2

To make sure everything is routed correctly, enable “sidechain” in Soothe2 and click on the headphones:

Listening to the sidechain input in soothe 2
Listening to the sidechain input

You should only hear the vocal playing, i.e. the sidechain input.

The result should be a clearer, more present vocal:

No sidechaining
With sidechaining

In this example, I’ve boosted the Depth to exaggerate the effect. You’ll notice that a lot of the highs in the drums are being suppressed. This is because they are clashing with the vocal.

This technique works great to make a vocal cut through the mix.

But you can use it to highlight any element of your mix you want!

3 More Reasons Why I Love Soothe2 ❤

If you haven’t been convinced yet, let me give you 3 more reasons.

Firstly, their amazing interactive tutorials. You can learn everything you need to know within the plugin itself:

Soothe 2 has an integrated tutorial interface
Soothe2 has an integrated tutorial interface

This makes it extremely fast and easy to learn how to use Soothe2.

Secondly, let’s talk about the preset library.

Not only is it extensive (100+ available) and well categorized (drum, acoustic guitar, mastering, vocals…). But the names are amazing. “Annoying shaker – go away” or “So, you messed up the vocal recording…” are two of my favorites:

The preset library of Soothe 2
The preset library of Soothe2

Finally, the interface is extremely intuitive. For such a complex plugin under the hood, the interface is surprisingly user-friendly. In a matter of minutes, you can get started, and you quickly know what knobs to reach for.

11 unique sounds, courtesy of soothe2 🫧

Download our soothe2 Sample Pack containing 11 creative FX sounds, from artefact-laden drums, to retro-style synths, and more 👇

 

Alternatives to Soothe2

Now, maybe soothe2 isn’t for you. Or maybe the price point is just a bit too high for you.

If that’s the case, here are some more alternatives for you.

DSEQ3 by TBProAudio

DSEQ3 is a dynamic processor that removes harshness in real-time. For this, it uses self-adjusting frequency bands (much like Soothe2):

DSEQ3 interface
DSEQ3 interface

The interface is definitely less intuitive than Soothe2. The main window displays the gain reduction at specific frequencies. The dynamic EQ controls such as selectivity and threshold are situated on the left-hand side.

DSEQ works great for:

  • de-essing vocals
  • removing digital harshness
  • balancing the mix

Finally, DSEQ3 features a really handy AI tool. First, select a desired AI learn mode, then press play. Hit the learn button, and the plugin sets the optimal slope and parameters based on the input!

Check out DSEQ3 here (USD 79)

Gullfoss by Soundtheory

Another popular alternative to soothe2 is Gullfoss:

Gullfoss by Soundtheory
Gullfoss by Soundtheory

Gullfoss is an intelligent equalizer that adjusts its settings at every moment to improve the clarity of the input.

You’ll immediately see that the layout is a lot simpler than Soothe2.

However, this comes with a tradeoff: you have less controls. Practically, Gullfoss with two main controls:

  • Recover: brings out masked frequencies
  • Tame: dulls harsh or prominent frequencies

By using these 2 controls in tandem, you can bring out clarity to any instrument or mix. However, you also have two more controls.

When set to a positive value, Bias gives Recover more space. Practically, this means that there is en emphasis on frequencies that need to be unmasked. If Bias is set to a negative value, then the Taming gets favoured. Finally, Brightness lets you control the effect of Recover and Tame on either low or high frequencies.

Finally, you also have 2 band limits that you can set. These will determine the frequency range where Gullfoss will be applied.

Check out Gullfoss here (USD 185)

Smooth Operator by Baby Audio

Finally, let’s take a look at Smooth Operator:

Smooth Operator
Smooth Operator

This is a cheaper alternative to Soothe2, with albeit a lot less controls.

Smooth Operator is an intelligent plugin that automatically tames harsh resonances. This brings out more clarity in a mix or bus group.

You’ve got 4 nodes that help you decide which range of frequencies need to be tamed. However, unlike Soothe2, bring down a node will create more taming, not less.

Then, you’ve got a Focus slider. This lets you control how precise Smooth Operator needs to be. At a lower percentage, you’ll get a broader response, and vice versa. For a more natural and musical result, make sure the focus isn’t too high.

Finally, just like Soothe2, you’ve got a sidechain mode. This lets you duck your signal with the frequency content of another track in your mix. This removes any potential frequency clashes between elements.

Check out Smooth Operator here (USD 79)

That’s it For This Guide! 🙏

That’s it for this guide! I hope you found it useful and learned something new. Make sure to check Oeksound’s website if you’re interested by Soothe2 or their other plugins.

Did I miss out on anything? Want a guide on a specific topic? Let me know over at [email protected]

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