The quantum voodoo operating behind Gullfoss’ minimal and intuitive design hasn't been revealed by Soundtheory. You've got just five controls, namely Recover, Tame, Bias, Brighten and Boost. Bias and Brighten don't have any effect if Recover and Tame are set to zero. Recover boosts frequencies that the algorithm feels are missing, while Tame has the opposite effect. Bias pushes the overall emphasis toward the high frequencies at positive settings and low frequencies in the negative range. Brighten, as you may expect, boosts the top end while Boost creates a scooped, hi-fi style curve at positive settings. You can also adjust the bandwidth over which the controls take effect. For instance, you could limit the processing to just the mid-range if you choose. Whatever's happening under the hood, the CPU surely feels it.
Gullfoss works almost like a magic wand. It excels particularly in tricky situations, like mixing a single source recorded with several microphones. Mastering is another strong suit. It's especially useful for keeping your track sounding consistent in different listening scenarios. Soundtheory claims the plug-in has golden ears and it most certainly sounds good in a variety of contexts. But without details on how these golden ears work, it's difficult to understand how to best make use of them. It really pays to spend time tweaking the parameters and trying to understand what's actually happening to the sound. While the AI is impressive, you need to make sure that it's not smoothing out what gives your sound character. In some cases, you're tempted to stop trusting your ears when really, that's what you need most.
Gullfoss nevertheless yields strong results when used sparingly on single tracks or groups. The Boost and Brighten controls are great for improving clarity and crispness in dull sound sources. It can also quickly tame resonances in complex signals—you can even use it as a type of de-esser on vocals and speech.
Soundtheory is a young company so there are some understandable teething issues with Gullfoss. It's currently only available on Mac and requires a stable internet connection to operate. Still, there's no doubt that Gullfoss is an interesting new frontier in the ever-expanding market of smart, automatic plug-ins. You'll need to trust in the mystery surrounding Soundtheory's computational auditory perception model and get over the strange sensation of technology judging your sound through its own technical omniscience. On the other hand, that might be exactly what makes this plug-in a hit.
Ease of use: 4.8
Wed / 28 Mar 2018