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Thoughts on digital EQs

VST, AU, etc. plug-in Virtual Effects discussion

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Aiynzahev
KVRAF
 
2939 posts since 29 Jun, 2011, from USA

Postby Aiynzahev; Sun Dec 16, 2012 8:41 am Thoughts on digital EQs

Hi guys

For a while now I've been trying to find out more about eqs. In particular to answer some questions, the main one being what is the advantage in buying one digital EQ over another, or buying any digital EQ's at all when you have them in your DAW. Here are some thoughts on it:

Part 1

All digital EQ's do not sound the same.

While in theory they can, they don't. If we have 100 EQs which are all technically capable what would the advantage be of one over the other? The reason is very simple, it's in the curves. People talk about the colour of EQ's, I am not sure what colour is supposed to mean here, we have harmonic distortion and so on, but often it's very subtle.

What I can say is different EQ's definitely bring out different parts of the frequency spectrum, so if your using the same EQ for a while you will begin to notice over time it's "colour" or the general way it brings out those frequencies in your sound. That is to do with the curve and the Q relationship.

So, what I mean is, boosting at 1.5k will sound different with waves API than it will with NI passive or SPL Passeq because of the way the boost interacts with the Q. So when you boost with one it is pulling up frequencies a little differently from another. That difference is thought of as the "sound" of the EQ right?

Then shelves also differ. I was quite surprised when I was the curve of the NI passive when doing a boost on the low shelf.

Image

You are boosting and cutting frequencies you may not have realised at first but it makes sense.

With these different designs then you are buying the knowledge of the designer, it's made more immediately usable to someone who maybe is not that well versed with EQ. Until very recently I'd say EQ was something I really had very little idea how to use properly. I think I am getting there now.

Then there is Part2

All digital EQ's do not reach the ideal.

I will need others to chime in here, but I am sure some EQ's just sound better than others regardless of their settings, some EQ's just always sound nice others always sound bad. An example of some of the best sounding paragraphic EQ's I can think of "Equality" and some of the worst "Cubase Studio EQ".

I am sure that what is shown on the graph when you tweak these is not accurate in every case, and that the actual curves of one is more accurate than the other, making one work musically and the other sound off no matter what you do.

Conclusion

Spending time thinking about EQ has change the way I work and has made a huge difference in my music. I now consider EQ to be the number 1 factory in my mixes whereas before I tended to think of the Compression and Reverb as being the most important parts of the chain.

I have realised that EQ's are not only good with wide Q's like the good old analog classics, but with extremely narrow Q's as well. I've always thought of notches as a way to remove problematic frequencies, especially ones to do with recordings, but with electronic music you don't have these problems. But now I've found that notches can really bring out the right parts of a sound and make them punch, while taking notches out of certain areas can really clean up the mix and make room for other parts, and what you are left with does not sound strange.

So now I am thinking about getting H-EQ for the piano as I am hoping I will be able to make room for certain notes of a part by taking notches out of those "note frequencies" away from some other parts.
Aiynzahev-sounds
Resonance Sound
Sound Designer - Soundsets for Spire, Zebra2, Massive, DIVA, Sylenth and others
Compyfox
KVRAF
 
11237 posts since 18 Oct, 2003, from Berlin, Germany

Postby Compyfox; Sun Dec 16, 2012 9:36 am

First, I have to applaud you, since you pretty much summed up what I preach for months now. While digital EQ's are pretty much "similar" and can be nulled (see rhythminmind blog), they differ greatly in usablity (as you're mentioned yourself). Then there's the thing with phase, etc. But this is a different topic.


EQ's not reaching the ideal, this is purely subjective. I for example can work just as good with Cubase's built in Channel EQ as with Equality. That the analysis can be off lies on a while different ballpark. Which is why I always recommend to check beforehand. I do so myself, especially with so called "emulations" and with crazy advertised tools.

But I wouldn't count the shifted readout while analysis as bad. It's always a matter of setting up visual representations as well. The only problem I have with Cubase's Channel EQ, is the limitation to 4 bands. But this was changed with Cubase 7 (due to the HP/LP) and you can always use third party EQ's. But for most purposes, it's working as it should. Plain and simple.


To me, EQ's are more essential than compression as well. With EQ alone, you can change the whole feeling of a recording, bring out more transients while reducing the muddy frequencies. The compressor is definitely not the weapon for everything.
3ee
KVRAF
 
2775 posts since 8 Mar, 2006

Postby 3ee; Sun Dec 16, 2012 1:53 pm

I agree, adding:

there is this placebo effect sometimes, but you can get rid of it with blind testing.... I mean, for example, null testing with white/pink noize some times is different I guess because of the lack of transient or I don't know (also try with other dynanic track in other words) ... some eqs just sound different even if they appear the same (same shape/q ratio, no phase and saturation)

I've always thought of notches as a way to remove problematic frequencies, especially ones to do with recordings, but with electronic music you don't have these problems


Notches are your best friend when it comes to synthesized instruments in some cases (and not only, reverb, delay, effected sends also) so I consider them just as important as removing acoustic drum resonances for example.


In conclusion, atm, I find similar digital eqs to sound different even if they aim for the same thing is some cases (and almost null each other with noise :? )

One important note to mention is that the differences just doesn't seem to be there in most cases if using higher sample rates like 88.2 or 96k. (again, comparing apples with apples of the same type :D )

I also got the Waves H-EQ and note that it has different latencies when used with progressively higher sample rates. i.e no latency @ 96k. (just saying if you happen to notice any difference with other SR.

,,,also as a disclaimer, I feel that I have more to study about digital filters so opinions can change but ...we gotta keep on objective judgement always when doing these kind of tests and sometimes you can be amazed how much you can like a "cheap" eq VS an expensive one.
hibidy
KVRAF
 
41159 posts since 20 Dec, 2005

Postby hibidy; Sun Dec 16, 2012 2:36 pm

:shrug:

I've bought one eq recently and it's not a surgical eq but a "color" eq apparently. I bought it because with minimal effort it improves everything put it on. Can the same results be achieved with Alloy? Prolly, but the time involved is useless compared to "there it is".

There are aliasing/phase issues with some eq's, I admit though I'm not qualified to discuss that.
heffus
KVRian
 
1049 posts since 3 Aug, 2005, from Chicago

Postby heffus; Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:22 pm

I'm also digging the Maag EQ4 right now. Gonna cry when the demo expires in a few days. I love what a boost at 650 hz and a cut with the shelf at 2.5 kHz does for my lead guitar tracks. I could probably do this with GlissEq, but it's so easy with the Maag. Just turn a couple of knobs.
Compyfox
KVRAF
 
11237 posts since 18 Oct, 2003, from Berlin, Germany

Postby Compyfox; Sun Dec 16, 2012 4:30 pm

This is why I like the ALL-TECH and BritishEQ by Nomad Factory... Not since they are rebuilds of actual hardware, but how they work.

The british EQ for example has locked frequencies and multi switches rather than freely usable knobs for sweeping and .1 detailed volume shifts. The ALL-TECH is a passive, non-powered EQ that "cuts" instead of boosting, but simply lowering everything else, but leaving the selected frequency alone.


I could pull of similar things with other EQ's like Cubase EQ or old Poshifopit. But using the BritishEQ or the ALL-TECH is just more intuitive.

And I think this is why there are so many EQ's existing. They all pretty much do the same thing, just with a different workflow (and different courves).
kylen
KVRAF
 
2028 posts since 18 Sep, 2003, from West Virginia USA

Postby kylen; Sun Dec 16, 2012 5:00 pm

Aiynzahev wrote:I am sure that what is shown on the graph when you tweak these is not accurate in every case, and that the actual curves of one is more accurate than the other, making one work musically and the other sound off no matter what you do.

For the reason you've sited when I get a new EQ I always run some pink noise thru it and watch with SPAN or VST Analyzer. For example, I wanted to believe that GlissEQ could set a bandwidth of .020 and take an accurate -18db peak out. Using that test I can see that it really does. The curve on the plugin matches reality. It doesn't always, especially in the bass, so that's why I like to check. Phase and the prepost ring thing is different, I think I can see it but not always hear it unless its blatant.

Aiynzahev wrote:Spending time thinking about EQ has change the way I work and has made a huge difference in my music. I now consider EQ to be the number 1 factory in my mixes whereas before I tended to think of the Compression and Reverb as being the most important parts of the chain.

Good point, I think I'm with you on this thought also. Without proper EQ my compressors etc. just won't sound right or as good as they could. I guess if I haven't eq'd right I might try to push into another effect and expect it to work too hard performing an unnatural act... :hihi:
hibidy
KVRAF
 
41159 posts since 20 Dec, 2005

Postby hibidy; Sun Dec 16, 2012 5:02 pm

heffus wrote:I'm also digging the Maag EQ4 right now. Gonna cry when the demo expires in a few days. I love what a boost at 650 hz and a cut with the shelf at 2.5 kHz does for my lead guitar tracks. I could probably do this with GlissEq, but it's so easy with the Maag. Just turn a couple of knobs.


Why? It's still on sale right (plug in of the year?)

Good till the 31st.

use the code: maageq4499xmas at checkout


Try that
evo2slo
KVRian
 
593 posts since 17 May, 2011, from Philadelphia

Postby evo2slo; Sun Dec 16, 2012 6:33 pm

Great discussion!

I've been struggling a lot with eq, particularly with trying to reduce muddiness in my mixes. Have never really used notch cuts, so am looking forward to experimenting more with that.

Wondering if anyone would recommend using automation to shift note specific notches along with the music?

Is there any concern about phase issues?

Any other tips regarding notch cuts (how many, how deep, how spread apart) would be appreciated.
@midnight
KVRAF
 
1584 posts since 22 Apr, 2011, from The House of Zaid

Postby @midnight; Sun Dec 16, 2012 6:50 pm

too much thinking not enough plinking

:)
Has anybody ever really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?
User avatar
bmanic
KVRAF
 
7219 posts since 3 Feb, 2003, from Finland, Espoo

Postby bmanic; Sun Dec 16, 2012 7:26 pm

I still think that purely digital EQs are mostly all the same. I use them to shape a sound exactly as I want it. For instance with FabFilter pro-q it's very easy to get the sound you want as you can just keep adding more bands until you get the shape you want, and it's very intuitive to do so. Want a progressive Q when cutting? Add two bands on top of each other.. one with a wide Q and one with a narrow Q. Then drag them both down at the same time. Boom, instant classic progressive Q behavior.

The most interesting EQs are the properly analogue modeled ones because they will depend very much on the interaction of how hard you are hitting them and weather or not you are boosting or cutting with them (as it affects the internal "load" of the various components, thus affecting the harmonic distortion created.. directly proportional to the amount of boost or cut). This is why they are so "musical". Want to boost a snare at 3kHz with 12dB and still not have a nasty transient? Drive the EQ harder before boosting. Want the opposite effect? Drive the EQ less before boosting.

Great example to try is the Native Instruments massive passive EQ.. made by softube. It reacts fairly convincingly in this manner.

Want to simulate this with your digital EQ, like Pro-Q? Add a tube modeling plugin right after the EQ.. something like Studio Devil VTP or SPL Twin Tube. Want it even more dynamic and interesting? Use GlissEQ instead or any other dynamic EQ.

Lastly, I agree with the importance of EQs. They are THE most important tools for mixing right after the volume slider in the DAW and proper microphone placement + mic selection + preamp, in case you are recording live instruments.

A great EQ that I just (re)discovered is the DDMF 6144 eq plugin. It's got a very limited number of bands which forces you to do quick, correct decisions while at the same time sounding absolutely fantastic.

For the best analogue modeled stuff I highly recommend any of the AlexB or www.analogueinthebox.com libraries for Nebula. It'll tax the CPU and memory like nothing else but I've yet to hear any other in the box solutions of this level. They just sound "real" in a way that no other plugins seem to be able to match, while retaining all the positives of digital (no noise and full control of how much harmonic distortion you want).

Cheers!
bManic
"Remember the iLokalypse June 10 - June 22 2013 - Dominus"
@midnight
KVRAF
 
1584 posts since 22 Apr, 2011, from The House of Zaid

Postby @midnight; Sun Dec 16, 2012 9:34 pm

best sounding digital eq of all time is PSP NobleQ
Has anybody ever really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?
hibidy
KVRAF
 
41159 posts since 20 Dec, 2005

Postby hibidy; Sun Dec 16, 2012 9:36 pm

@midnight wrote:best sounding digital eq of all time is PSP NobleQ


I sold mine during one of my "I have too much crap" sales. I think one of those are coming up soon :hihi:
@midnight
KVRAF
 
1584 posts since 22 Apr, 2011, from The House of Zaid

Postby @midnight; Sun Dec 16, 2012 11:04 pm

hibidy wrote:
@midnight wrote:best sounding digital eq of all time is PSP NobleQ


I sold mine during one of my "I have too much crap" sales. I think one of those are coming up soon :hihi:


sorry that you sold your best eq?
Has anybody ever really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?
gavriloP
KVRist
 
175 posts since 3 Feb, 2005

Postby gavriloP; Sun Dec 16, 2012 11:06 pm

+1 to DDMF 6144 eq! I really like it a lot. It is great for making "the important" changes. Also DDMF's LP10 and IIEQ Pro gets lots of use here. To me it comes down to this: if sound needs changing and EQ delivers it without bringing other problems on the table, it is a good one for me :)

I also like some Nebula stuff (those germanos EQs), especially for HF boosts but it is so much hassle that I usually get by without it.
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