Ian Shepherd Perception Plugin Review: Perception is an excellent mastering tool for all DAW’s that improves workflow and allows an engineer to make more informed decisions about the effects they apply to the signal chain.
Ian Shepherd, renowned mastering engineer, founder of Dynamic Range Day, and owner and content creator at productionadvice.co.uk, has also now ventured into the world of plugin design. With the years of professional knowledge, musical aptitude, and his opposition to the ‘Loudness War’, Ian has come up with quite a special plugin, something I have found hard now not to open in every mastering project I start. The perception plugin is a ‘Loudness Perception’ plugin that allows you to subjectively monitor your mastering chain with out the pseudo confusion of loudness being ‘better’.
With the loudness war between dynamic content and the obsession of reaching the top of your peak meter, some of us wish to get the most out of our masters. The Perception plugin is an asset to any mastering engineer that aids the focus to the music; not the volume of your tracks. It does not matter how long you have been a mastering engineer, this is something we are all susceptible to. Louder does not always mean better!
The plugin comes in VST/AU and AXX formats and a RTAS version is undergoing tests soon. When your install the plugin, after a simple download from MeterPlugs website, you will see that there are two separate parts to the plugin suite, a Perception Control module and a Perception Source module. Both of the plugins are design well with intuitive controls and interface. Throughout the testing I found zero bugs in the software and functionality of the Perception plugin suite.
In your DAW’s signal chain simply insert the Perception Source plugin module before the FX chain that you want to test, next insert the Perception Controller plugin at the end of the FX chain, and once you have done this you click one button, rather than many, to bypass all FX and sends from your mastering signal chain. This feature alone is worth its weight in gold and has instantly become my go to during ever session I work on. This ,however, isn't the main feature of this plugin. The genius of the plugin is with the Balance and Sync feature. By pressing the balance then the sync switch on the Perception controller, you can match the volume of the FX signal with a split original signal without the effects. Once, now the two signals are matched at the same volume, this mode allows you as mastering engineer to analyse if your compression, EQ and other modules are sculpting the sound in the way you believe that you are, rather than just boosting the RMS of the track. This process works extremely well and is seamless for the duration of its use without any lag or spikes in CPU usage.
As if this plugin wasn't already doing enough for us, the perception plugin controller will also allow you to capture accurate audio snapshots of the tracks levels. This then allows the user to compare different FX levels and monitor levels, another excellent addition that just becomes a part of your work-
Ian Shepherd’s passion for music and mastering has helped him create something quite special here. A simple idea that mastering engineers do themselves everyday is now embedded into an easy to use and intuitive plugin. Does this make you into a top mastering engineer? Of course not, but it will certainly help you on your way. Just using this plugin a few times shows you how much the psychoacoustics of the loudness war can trick your mind into all sorts of problems. The Perception plugin keeps you on track and allows you to get the most out of your mastering tools whilst spending less time determining what is being done to the purity of the signal.
Ian Shepherd’s Perception Plugin suite has completely changed my work flow for mastering and will do the same for you; I’m certain of that. With all things considered, and a price tag of $150, the Perception plugin has earned a five star award from The Pro Audio Web Blog.