Refinement is essentially a mastering tool for smoothing over any harshness in mixes, by adding tube like saturation and EQ to soften any frequencies that are particularly standing out and painful to the ears! And of course, being a Brainworx plug, it has mid/side capabilities. If you’re not sure about mid/side techniques - this article is great for starters:
The GUI is the usual Brainworx sexy black affair - although this time there is a flickering image of a tube filament in the middle, which lets you know with it’s flickering whenever it’s in action.
A large knob on the left hand side of the GUI is in charge of damping those pesky frequencies. It seems that the frequencies in question are in the upper mids, and the damping knob is essentially a fixed frequency EQ, centered around the areas that tend to cause the harsh sound. How they decided where to center that comes down to the years and years of combined experience, but it sounds like the 2-4 Khz. There are two character types of filtering - soft and hard, or second order and fourth order, which I think might be like the shape of the EQ bell (kind of like the difference between a 6DB filter and 24DB filter). Either way, it affects the way the damping interacts with the source material, and gives you a couple of options. There is a handy solo button just below it, which gives you the exact audio information that you’re filtering out, when pressed.
The damping can be offset by saturation and presence. They’re not really character-type effects, but more just adding smooth highs, and analog type warmth to offset any dullness caused by the damping. They are both excellent sounding, and really bring life to the mix
The damping can also be modulated, with a dynamic range section that limits the damping to peak levels, with options to control the amount of damping, and the speed at which the dynamic reduction kicks in.
As is essential with Brainworx plugs, there is a Mid/Side button, which enables you to choose whether to affect the sound just in the Mid channel, or to use it on both. For the refinement process it seems that the majority of the time, you’re going to want to remove those harsh frequencies across the stereo space.
There’s also a mix knob, which gives you more control over how much you want Refinement to affect the entire mix.
This is the one section of the plugin that I couldn’t really understand the point of - it has a “what else can we add to this plugin” feel to it. It is possible to use it as a subtle creative effect, like a tremolo vibe. However, for use as a side-chain pumping type effect, I would want more control over how it pumps, to get it flowing better rhythmically. It seems that it’s only a sine wave shape that’s available for the oscillation, which compared to other ‘side chain’ style lfo plugins just doesn’t cut it. There needs to be more options.
I found refinement to be a useful tool. I found that it worked best on Drum Buss, Synth Buss and 2 Buss. It does what it says on the tin, gently dulling down the digital edginess of some audio, while at the same time lifting the air and life back out of the sound with the saturation and presence knobs. It’s definitely a subtle operator, and the ‘less is more’ adage works best with this effect.
here’s a great video demoing the plugin:
There is no doubt that refinement is excellent at what it’s designed for. I think it’s most useful at the mastering end of the chain, and can subtly but powerfully change the mix for the better. It strikes me as a sort of 'Waves One Knob’-esque sort of plugin. I think it would be possible do everything that Refinement does, with a lot more in-depth control, with 5 separate plugins. Refinement shines because it’s all there in one plugin. If you have an irritating harshness to a mix or a track, it could really save a lot of time over opening an EQ, then a saturation, then an exciter, then a compressor, etc. I would heartily recommend this plugin as a massive time-saver over being anything groundbreaking and fresh.
- Few tweaks really can smooth the sound
- Simple and quick workflow
- This is quite a specific plugin. Unless you're looking for something that can quickly smooth out harsh sounds in tracks, you're unlikely to really need it. Having said that, there's nothing else quite like it out there
- Not much depth to parameter control