The trend in audio plug-ins is simple-to-use effects with a minimal number of controls. Waves started this with their One Knob series – a set of equalization, reverb, and compression filters to make audio “brighter,” “phatter,” or “wetter.” In recent years, Accusonus was among the first to expand this concept to audio repair effects in order to de-ess, remove plosives, reduce noise, and so on. Last summer I reviewed their ERA4 bundle. These plug-ins have become part of my go-to toolkit when dealing with audio in Premiere Pro and/or Final Cut Pro X.
Accusonus has now introduced their ERA5 bundles, along with a new pricing and licensing model (more on that later). As before, there’s a Standard and a Pro bundle. The Standard bundle includes the set of single-button filters, while the Pro bundle adds several more advanced, multi-band filters. I’ll skip the single-button filters, since I covered those in my ERA4 review. The Accusonus site features processed samples to hear how each works. However, these filters have been updated for ERA5 and to my ears, tend to sound better than before.
In addition to the single-button filters, both bundles include these new ERA5 effects: Voice AutoEQ, Room Tone Match (only available as an AudioSuite plug-in for Pro Tools), and Voice Deepener. The ERA5 Pro bundle adds Noise Remover Pro, Reverb Remover Pro, and De-Esser Pro.
Voice AutoEQ is an intelligent equalizer that analyzes your vocal track to set a base and then offers controls to adjust the EQ towards more air, clarity, or body. Moving the puck around within the triangle results in complex, multi-frequency equalization using a single control. This filter is designed for single voices in mono or stereo tracks. It won’t work with a multi-channel, broadcast wave file and isn’t effective on a mixed dialogue track with several speakers.
The Voice Deepener filter seems like a gimmick to me. The intent is to add more bottom to a voice and make it sound fuller. Accusonus promotes it as giving the voice that “movie-trailer” effect. While a small touch of it on male voices does work, pushing it to extremes errs on the side of sounding like you are disguising the voice. It sounds downright cartoonish on female voices. Of course, that means you could use it for just such an effect, rather than only enhancement.
The three Pro effects (Noise Remover Pro, Reverb Remover Pro, and De-Esser Pro) are more advanced or multi-band versions of their companion single-button filter. You get both in the Pro bundle, so if the simpler version doesn’t achieve the correct results, use the Pro version instead.
Both bundles now include the Audio Clean-Up Assistant. This is a container that is applied as a single plug-in effect. Within it are five slots to which you can add any combination of the ERA5 processing modules. In operation, that’s a lot like iZotope’s “mothership” approach. Choose from a range of preset configurations or start with an empty container and build up your own configuration. Maybe you have a standard set of effects that you apply to every voice recording. Simply create your own channel strip configuration and save it as a custom preset. Then apply it as a single Audio Clean-Up Assistant effect.
One huge change in this past year is pricing and licensing. In the past, ERA bundles were purchased as perpetual licenses with activation keys for each separate plug-in. Now you can opt for subscription, as well as perpetual. Unfortunately, if you look at the Accusonus website, all promotion points towards subscription. It’s only when you go to the “buy now” page that you see a pulldown revealing the perpetual option. You can also purchase ERA5 Standard or ERA5 Pro through the FxFactory site (perpetual only). However, in both cases, it now appears that you can only purchase or subscribe to the bundle and not individual filters.
If you go through Accusonus, licensing is now handled in a manner similar to Adobe Creative Cloud. You set up an account and sign-in from any of the plug-in panels. When you do so, all ERA5 plug-ins attached to that account are immediately activated. No need to enter individual activation codes. However, you should not sign out. Doing so de-activates the plug-ins until you sign-in again. This may be confusing, because it implies that you have to constantly be connected to the internet. I’ve already seen confusion online about this point and Accusonus does not make it clear in their installation instructions nor on the website.
In fact, as long as you sign-in (and were connected when you signed in) and stay signed in, your plug-ins work. Disconnect from the interact, lose your connection, whatever – the plug-ins are still activated. Adobe CC works in exactly the same manner. The advantage is that you can have the ERA5 bundle installed on multiple computers and easily move your activation around as you go from one machine to the other, simply through this sign-in/sign-out method.
If you already own ERA4, then the new tools may or may not entice you to upgrade. If you don’t own either, then it’s easy to start in a trial mode and decide. The Accusonus ERA5 filters are easy to use and augment the built-in effects bundles of most DAWs and NLEs. They are real-time and don’t require too much fiddling to dial in the sound. ERA5 is a useful set of audio repair tools for video editors, podcasters, and audio engineers alike.
©2020 Oliver Peters