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Tokyo Dawn Labs Nova (Free and Gentleman's Edition)
4.75 4.75 out of 5, based on 1 Review

Nova is a freeware dynamic EQ. Nova Gentleman's Edition (GE) is it's commercial bigger brother.

1st December 2015

Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Nova by Funkybot

Tokyo Dawn Labs Nova (Free and Gentleman's Edition)

· Product: Nova GE (Gentleman’s Edition)
· Developer: Tokyo Dawn Records
· Formats: VST, AU, AAX, Win/Mac 32-64
· Price: € 40.00
· DRM: Keyfile
· Website: TDR Nova – Gentleman’s Edition | Tokyo Dawn Records

Tokyo Dawn Labs Nova (Free and Gentleman's Edition)-imgext-2-.png


Equalization, at a fundamental level, is about 1) tone-shaping, 2) problem solving, or 3) both. Is this bass track too bright? Are the low frequencies of the bass masking the kick? Are the bass frequencies masking the kick, and does it also need to be less bright? In this regard, EQ is very much the hammer in the audio engineer’s toolbox. But like there are certain jobs around the home where a hammer won’t always be the appropriate tool, sometimes an EQ alone isn’t going to work to solve all of your track’s problems. You may need a compressor to level out the overall track’s dynamics, or a de-esser to help out with a sibilant vocal, or a way to carve some mud out of a vocal without thinning out the entire vocal.

So why make the tool metaphor in the first place? Because if an EQ is a hammer, than Nova may be a Swiss Army Knife in the number of jobs it’s able to perform. At its most basic, Nova is an EQ with individual dynamic processors built into the sidechain of each frequency band. This means Nova can be as simple as a standard parametric EQ, a basic single band compressor, or dig a little deeper and it can suddenly become a dynamic EQ, a de-esser, a gate, a frequency-dependant expander, etc. In a very short period of time, it’s become my go-to plugin for problem solving (but it does tone shaping too).

Parameters and Specs

Tokyo Dawn Records (TDR) seem to have an interesting philosophy when it comes to their free versus commercial versions of plugins and features: the free versions contain more than enough features to make these plugins feel like complete versions, while offering a few extra features that are designed to entice you into upgrading to the commercial version. The framework for TDR plugins is very complete, these look and feel head and shoulders above most freeware. The commercial versions are priced intentionally low to make the upgrade a no-brainer for most (even if you don’t necessarily need the extra features, you want to upgrade just to offer some support - it’s all part of their ingenious plan).

Standard (Free) Edition:
HP & LP Filters with adjustable slopes (6db, 12db, 24db)
4 EQ bands with adjustable filter types (hi/low shelves, bell)
Per band control for Q, frequency, band gain, threshold, wide/split band, ratio (compression ratios only), attack, release
Gain Reduction Delta
External Sidechain
Analyzer (with different metering options)
Internal preset management
XML-based preset system
Tool-Tip help system

Gentleman’s Edition (Commercial) Features:
All of the Standard Edition features, plus…
Two additional bands
Expansion ratios
HP & LP filter options for 48db, 72db, 96db, 120db slopes
Support for Equal Loudness workflows
“Insane” quality mode

The Sound

So what’s working with Nova actually like? I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a fan of multi-band compression and just gave up on using it all together several years ago. I could never make it work the way I wanted it to. Nova, on the other hand, works exactly how I want it to, and it allows me to work quickly.

My first task with Nova: simple de-essing. I have a simple test project with two acoustic guitars and a vocal. The vocal has some strident “ess” sounds that I’d generally use Fabfilter’s Pro-DS to correct. A few seconds with Nova around 5k, and I was able to isolate and quickly eliminate the “esses.” Next I decided to take the acoustic guitars in the same track, and see if I could mellow out some of the pick noise. In a few seconds, the pick noise was appropriately mellowed out, which really allowed the guitar to come to life in this particular mix. Hint: when doing “corrective” work like this, holding Ctrl+Shift allows you to listen to the active band only, so once solo’d, get a nice sharp Q, boost and sweep until you find the problem frequency, then correct the gain, engage the compression and adjust the threshold: problem solved.

Another task was trying to tame some pitch shifter artifacts on an electric guitar in a different project. The guitar was pitch shifted an octave up after the fact to create a whammy like effect (think Radiohead’s My Iron Lung), but the artifacts were really quite ugly. Using the same process as earlier, Nova was able to quickly dial down these artifacts, taking a harsh and unpleasant effect, and taming it to the point of not only being usable, but actually sounding cool.

I’ve continued to experiment with Nova, and find myself using it less as a tone-shaping EQ, which it’s perfectly capable of, but more as a problem solver. I had a bass track with one note that would just pop out, and Nova fixed it. Another vocal that sounded a bit muddy, Nova took care of it in a second. I haven’t had the practical need to use the expansive ratios of the GE version yet, but in testing these features out, I’m confident that when the need arises, Nova will do the job.

Sound Quality - 5/5: I’m not sure what, if anything, could be done to improve upon the sound quality in Nova (and how often do you get to say that and mean it).

Ease of Use - 4/5: Nova’s UI does a great job in making it easy and fast to work with, but there’s some room for improvement here. For instance, it may be my particular mouse, but I find adjusting the Q for each band with the mousewheel to be an unpleasant experience (lots of mousewheel clicks yields too small a change in Q). I’d rather just hold down Ctrl or Alt while clicking and dragging up or down as is commonly implemented on other WYSIWYG EQ’s.

Features - 5/5: As my feature section indicates, there’s not a whole lot missing here. Maybe a resizable UI? But honestly, I don’t have any trouble viewing Nova on my 1080p monitor.

Bang for Buck - 5/5: There’s a very well featured free version, and the Gentleman’s Edition, which adds some very nice features costs about as much as a night at the pub. This is one of those companies that understands value.

Final Thoughts

I won’t say Nova is perfect (there’s always room for improvement), but it’s truly an excellent product with very little not to like. Not only is the company behind it regularly releasing excellent products, and giving them away, they’ve managed to find the right balance between putting out great freeware and incentivizing users to upgrade to the full versions of their products. Nova has only been out a few weeks, but there’ve been a steady stream of updates to squash bugs and introduce new features, so the support is top-class too. I’d have no hesitation recommending the GE version to anyone looking for a dynamic EQ, and think the free standard edition belongs in everyone’s plugin folder.

Click below for screenshots of both free and GE versions.

Attached Thumbnails
Tokyo Dawn Labs Nova (Free and Gentleman's Edition)-imgext-1-.png   Tokyo Dawn Labs Nova (Free and Gentleman's Edition)-imgext-2-.png  
Last edited by Funkybot; 1st December 2015 at 05:38 PM..

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