A harmonic exciter (or 'enhancer') is often applied to a track during
the mastering process to help add that final piece of 'sparkle' to a mix. By
applying this type of processing, the overall resolution of the music can be
artificially increased, resulting in a sonically brighter final product.
The primary function of a harmonic exciter is to restore or replace
any frequencies that may have been compromised or left out altogether during the
mixing stage. This can often be attributed to other processing which has been
applied to the various tracks, consequently dulling many of the transients due
to various changes in phase. One way an enhancer can resolve this issue is to
realign the phase of the transients, which helps to restore their definition and
therefore increases the general clarity of the music.
Another way that exciters can improve the brightness of sound is to
introduce reasonably small amounts of harmonic distortion. Particular
frequencies can be targeted by adjusting the controls, and the exciter will
treat the sound by subjecting it to second and third order harmonic distortion.
This distortion is then mixed back in with the original signal, resulting in a
much cleaner and brighter sound.
Many modern harmonic exciter plugins are multi band, which allows the
user to apply different amounts of enhancement to different frequencies bands.
As the aim of an exciter is to artificially increase the brightness of the high
frequencies, and the density of the medium to low frequencies, it is important
that these can be treated separately. Multi band variants are therefore very
flexible in these situations.
It is important to use enhancers diligently, especially if applied
across the whole mastering bus. Overuse of this type of processing can often
result in a fatiguing and overtly unnatural sound which is unpleasant to the
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