RescueAE is a free VST stereo-imaging plugin that packs a punch. It has a more specific application than most regular plugins and as such is probably best suited to slightly more advanced users.
The plugin works on a stereo channel, but instead of treating the left and right channels independently like you might expect, it encodes them to give a ‘middle’ and a ‘side’ channel. The middle channel is the mono part of the audio, everything that is identical on the left and right channels and sits in the middle of the stereo image. The side channel contains the rest of the audio, everything that is not in the center of the stereo image.
Dividing a stereo channel into ‘middle’ and ‘side’ like this gives you very precise control of the stereo image, which is useful, but RescueAE has a few more tricks up its sleeve to take it from being just useful, to a must-have plugin.
The main two sections of RescueAE are the middle (‘Mid’) and side panels. They both have independent gain controls and can be muted independently, so you can hear clearly the changes made to one section at a time.
The Side panel has a width control which can collapse the stereo image down to mono, or make image up to twice as wide. The ‘limit’ dial is a basic limiter which is specific to the side signal, and has a separate clip indicator. This is a really nice addition to the plugin, as it’s one that we haven’t found anywhere else. By using the Side limiter, you to put more focus on the transients in the Mid channel.
The Mid panel is where the RescueAE plugin really stands out. Pushing up the punch dial is basically the whole point of this plugin, because it only applies to the Mid signal and will bring out the attack in the snare and kick drums for example, without making cymbal and tom hits obtrusive. If you want the middle of the stereo image to be soft and smooth, you can actually take the punch out of the middle by setting the dial to 0.
As added extras to the plugin we also have a limiter button, an analogue button and an overall volume control. The limiter isn’t brutal and will just add a bit of grit to the bigger transients which, again, is really nice on drums. The analogue modelling button adds a warm tone, which sounds pleasant even on a complete mix. If you are looking for a nice clean sound then switch the analogue option off, as the plugin is still really useful and sounds good without it.
The amount of control that you have over transients in the middle and side independently, gives the impression that RescueAE is designed to be at it’s best on drums, and it really is. Being able to bring out the transients in the middle of the stereo image is a really easy way to add some attack to the kick and snare drums. It also sounds fantastic on acoustic guitar, especially if you use the m/s recording technique for acoustic guitar.
This isn’t a plugin for beginners, not because it’s difficult but because it does require you to know what to listen for in setting up a decent stereo image. It can also be tempting to push the punch dial up all the time, but be careful as this can sound unnatural and forced if you go overboard with it.
RescueAE is an excellent plugin, and if you’re working on your drum sound – try it out, it is free after all and downloadable here.