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The BitterSweet II plugin from Flux is a freeware dynamics processor that can magnify (aka make “bitter”) or smooth out (aka make “sweet”) the dynamic variations in a signal. I’ve become a real fan of it. 

A good way to understand BitterSweet II would be to start with a typical clap sample, which is a series of short transients clumped together tightly, usually with some kind of reverberant tail. If you make it “bitter,” the transients are amplified and made sharper, bringing out each individual handclap in detail, and the slower reverberant tail is attenuated. If you make it “sweet,” you get the inverse: those same individual transients start to fade away into the background wash of the clap’s early reflections and reverberation decay, which is amplified.

This is really hard to do with a compressor. BitterSweet II’s engine analyzes the dynamic variations in the sound and adjusts gain accordingly. Unlike a compressor which simply adjusts gain in response to input level, this plugin is level-independent and adjusts gain according to the signal’s energy in a fashion that is relative to the signal itself. You’re adjusting the energy balance between the signal regions with high dynamic variation and low dynamic variation.

Adding a touch of “bitter” sounds great on hi-hats, claps, snares, and other percussive content when you want those to cut through the mix and gain definition. Adding a touch of “sweetness” to sounds that have overbearing transients (acoustic or bass guitars, uncompressed drums, etc) will really easily bring out their tone and save you from having to deal with precision adjustments to compressor attack and release times.

Additionally, a nice way to get an interesting stereo effect is to split a hi-hat loop into left and right channels and apply the plugin with different amounts on each channel, sweetening one side and sharpening the other.

It’s definitely a great plugin for the price (free) and it stays true to Flux’s high standards of audio processing quality. This is a no-brainer addition to your DAW.

  • Dblondin

    I recorded some footsteps on dirt and gravel the other day but I put the mic a bit too close. Even cutting the high+low end+adding some reverb it still sounded unnaturally detailed and close. But sending the sounds through Flux allowed me to simulate what happens to sounds texturally over distance. I could dial the sound source forward and back. Bitter=close, Sweet=further out.

    • The Delta Deep

      That’s a good usage. You could sweep the knob towards sweet and apply some high roll-off to get a pretty good emulation of distance.