MeldaProduction Dynamic Equalizers: MDynamicEQ – Part 3

Return to Part 2

 

 

Using MDynamicEQ #4: Pumping on Purpose

Yet another variation on the sidechain technique, this one’s more for fun than for remedial effect.

For many genres, compressor pumping is to be avoided. For others it’s an important effect that helps define the genre. One of the advantages of a dynamic equalizer is that it usually doesn’t pump. But MDynamicEQ gives you enough control to make it possible if that’s the effect you’re after.

Traditionally, pumping is achieved by ducking the entire mix from the kick. I’m going to show you an alternate method using the dynamic equalizer. What makes this different is that we’re going to just pump the mid-frequencies rather than the entire spectrum. This will give us a different effect from what we’re accustomed to hearing, but one that’s still rhythmically-pleasing. Basically, low frequencies won’t pump but everything else will.

Place the equalizer on a bus that carries all instruments except the drums (and optionally with lead instruments also excluded), and then route the kick drum to its sidechain input. Place a wide band-shelf filter at around 1.5 KHz and drive it from the sidechain. Set the filter’s attack to 1 ms, release to 80 ms, and dynamic range to -12 dB. Increase the release time to exaggerate the effect, up to a quarter-note’s duration (500 milliseconds at 120 BPM, for example). Increase the dynamic range to further enhance the effect.

Whenever the kick hits, all of the midrange frequencies will be reduced in volume. A long release makes the effect last a little longer than the kick sound itself, so that there is a noticeable gap and ramp-up after each hit. Time the release just right and it sounds as though the entire band is breathing on the off-beat.

Experiment with changing the width of the filter and the release time. The broader the filter and the longer the release time, the more extreme the effect will be. Don’t be afraid to try less-extreme settings in musical genres where heavy pumping would not normally be expected, such as funk, jazz/rock fusion, classic rock and even metal. Yeah, no kidding. Subliminal pumping can add rhythm and excitement to almost any popular genre that’s got a drum track.

 

Using MDynamicEQ #5: De-essing

OK, enough fun. Back to mundane, everyday chores such as de-essing.

Dedicated de-essers are commonplace, but in reality de-essing can be accomplished with any compressor that offers a filtered sidechain. This works because vocals are monophonic (“monophonic” in the sense of one note at a time), so it’s OK to pull down the entire spectrum to soften “S”s, “T”s and “K”s.

But what if you’re dealing with multiple voices on one track, or a vocal and instrument sharing one track? This can complicate de-essing, and filtering in general. With a dynamic equalizer you can dial in just the offending frequencies and thus apply gain reduction that won’t affect whatever else is sharing the track.

When using a dedicated de-esser or a multiband compressor, you’re usually expected to zero in on a fairly narrow band of frequencies. That works fine – if your problem happens to be confined entirely to said narrow band of frequencies.

But “essiness” is an acoustical problem, or more specifically, a microphone problem. Exactly which frequencies are involved depends on resonances within the microphone, and it isn’t always a single tidy center frequency. Sometimes it’s two or three separate and unrelated frequencies, some of which are broader than others, and they may not all be active at the same time.

This is where a dynamic equalizer saves the day. Start with the Sonogram view, pausing it on a few representative “S”s (or “T”s or “K”s). This will tell you which frequencies are causing problems and let you precisely position one, two or three filters over them. Just drag the node’s vertical dynamics arm downward until you start to hear a lisp-like effect, then back it off until the vocal sounds natural again.

 

Using MDynamicEQ #6: Adding Thump to a Kick

Several plugins for beefing up kick drums have appeared over the past couple of years. Some of them work well, while others are merely cleverly disguised equalizers.  A couple of them even use dynamic equalization. But why buy a separate one-trick pony when you’ve already got MDynamicEQ?

Giving more body to a kick drum can sometimes be as simple as a band-pass filter, especially if you’re using unvarying samples. And frankly, if you’re using an 808-style gated sine wave as your “kick” you don’t need this procedure at all. But if you’re dealing with real acoustic drums played by a real human, and especially if you’re working with just a full stereo drum mix, then dynamic EQ is just the ticket.

The procedure is simple: enable a single filter, give it a narrow bandwidth, boost it and sweep it around until you find the right frequency that makes the kick cut through. That might be as low as 50 Hz or as high as 150 Hz, depending on what other frequencies its’ competing against.

Once you’ve found the ideal frequency, bring the filter node back down to the center line and drag the vertical arm upward. This turns the filter into an expander. Now, you’ll get a boost that’s dependent upon the signal level. Quiet hits will get the greatest boost, while big hits get less.

This even works on a full drum mix because you’ve dialed in a specific frequency, so the expansion won’t affect the snare, hi-hat or cymbals – just the kick (and potentially toms, if they extend down into the same frequency range).

 

Using MDynamicEQ #7: Artificial Double-track

This technique makes use of two unique features of MDynamicEQ, the harmonic filter and the invert button, to artificially create a sense of width in a track. This is accomplished by applying complementary filter settings to two copies of the same track.

Insert an instance of MDynamicEQ on a rhythm acoustic guitar track. Activate one filter node and set its frequency in the midrange of the instrument. Open the filter settings and enable the harmonic filter by pushing the Depth slider up to 80% or higher. Give the filter a fairly narrow Q of 4 or higher and a gain reduction of 12 dB or more. Use the sonogram to find the second harmonic of the guitar and position the filter over it. The guitar will be sounding a little strange now, because we’re effectively applying a comb filter.

Next, clone the track and the MDynamicEQ plugin, but on the clone click the equalizer’s Invert button. Pan the original and clone hard left and right, respectively, and level-match them. Now you’ve got two identical tracks but with complementary filters that create a spectral difference between them. Combined, they still represent the full spectrum, but your ears will register two different-sounding tracks and create an illusion of width.

For an even stronger effect, use two filters, one reducing gain and the other increasing gain. Offset them from one another frequency-wise.


Tip: with the above setup, try changing the harmonic intervals via the “Semitones” setting. Depending on the track, you may get more dramatic results with either smaller or greater intervals.

Using MDynamicEQ #8: Master Bus Enhancer

This one’s fun and easy. Just insert MDynamicEQ on the master bus and enable between 3 and 5 gently-overlapping filters. Leave them all on the center 0 dB line but pull the dynamic grab handles upward for each of them. Start with a 6 dB boost and tweak to taste.

What this does is boost each band whenever the level for that band is low. The amount of boost is proportional to the signal level for that band.

Note that it will raise the overall level, so you’ll likely have to adjust the output gain downward to compensate. Once you’ve got clearly-audible stuff happening, use the Dry/Wet control to back it off until it’s just enough that you can hear the difference when you bypass it.

But Wait, There’s More!

MDynamicEQ has even more tricks up its digital sleeve than are immediately apparent. Here are a few of the more notable features that haven’t been mentioned yet.

Resizable GUI

It’s incredible that in 2014 a truly resizable GUI is still considered a notable feature. But VST plugins have historically been limited to fixed-size GUIs due to bitmap-based graphical elements that cannot be easily resized. The vast majority of effect plugins are still fixed-size.

The entire MeldaProduction product line, however, features resizable GUIs (except for the freebies, but they can be upgraded to get resizable GUIs too). As an old guy with old eyes, this is a feature I really appreciate. I’ve set my default size to 160%.

Customizable GUI

If you prefer knobs over sliders, there is an option to use knobs. Personally, I like knobs because it’s easier to see where things are at a glance. The downside is they take up more screen space.

Some colors are configurable, and you can change the default value for any parameter. Click on the main Settings button in the upper-right corner and select “Style”. Go ahead and play around with it; you can always revert to the factory defaults via Settings -> Reset default editor size and style. 

In addition to the built-in adjustments, there is also a separate (free) style editor for Mac and PC that can be used with all MeldaProduction products. Beware, though; it’s notoriously complicated. Maybe I’ll do a write-up on it someday, assuming I ever figure it out myself.

Easy Mode

Impatient? Turn off the big editor by clicking on the “Edit” button at the top and go to a simplified quick-start view. You’ll see a list of presets, and the meters. Choose a preset and four controls will appear that actually adjust multiple parameters at once. It’s a fun way to dive in right away. Of course, if you find a nice preset that’s close to what you want, just click on the Edit button to tweak it.

Mid/Side Processing

MDynamicEQ has a Mid/Side mode that lets you apply dynamic equalization to just the Mid, just the Side or both, configurable separately for each filter. This can be helpful for surgical corrections at the mastering stage, or as a widening technique.

GPU Acceleration

We’ve only seen this from a few leading-edge developers so far, because it’s technically tricky to implement properly. FabFilter started doing it last year, and MeldaProduction started this year with the version 8 release.

GPU Acceleration is enabled by default, and the setting is global to all MeldaProduction plugins. If for some reason your video adapter has a problem with it, as some older cards might, you might need to disable it.

Sidebar: Disabling GPU Acceleration Outside the Plugin

 

What if the GPU Acceleration feature causes you video adapter to go nuts to the point where you can’t even get to the setting to turn it off? Here’s how to disable GPU Acceleration outside of the plugin.

 

Create a one-line text file with the following text in it:

 

                    <GPU Enable=”0″/>

 

Name the file GPU.XLS and save it in the same folder where the MeldaProduction presets are. For Windows 7/8, that will be c:\users\{user_name}\AppData\Roaming\MeldaProduction. You may need to reboot your computer.


Limiter

New in version 8 is an optional safety limiter, with a fixed limit of 0 dB. It’s disabled by default, and is usually not needed.

AGC

Automatic gain control (AGC) is a feature that, when engaged, adjusts the output volume to automatically match the input volume. This is an actual loudness correction based EBU loudness specifications, not a simple level adjustment.

AGC is off by default, and I only recommend using it when you’re applying extreme EQ settings, to help avoid the phenomenon wherein a change seems to make it sound better when in fact it’s just making it louder.  Don’t bother with AGC if you’re making gentle mastering corrections, or when using the plugin for ducking. It can get confused if you have wildly-varying levels such as an instrument with a prominent tremolo, or if you’re using very long attack and release settings.

Morphing

There are eight quick-preset slots where you can store settings for fast access, either to manually invoke them or to automate switching between them via MIDI CC events. Up to four of them can be switched or morphed.

Featured in several MeldaProduction products, the ability to morph between configurations is a novel creative tool. “Morphing” means a gradual change from one to the next, as opposed to an abrupt switch.

Morphing can be done via an XY pad, so you can blend any combination of the four morph-able presets to create a new combination, which can then be saved as a separate preset.

Oversampling

Up to 4x oversampling is provided, although this should only be necessary if you’re using very fast attack times that might cause distortion at low frequencies.

As a general rule, equalizers don’t need oversampling because they don’t generate harmonic distortion. However, dynamic equalizers could theoretically do so under the right circumstances. I have tested MDyamicEQ for aliasing, and was unable to detect any with even the most unrealistic of extreme settings and no oversampling.

Soft Saturation

A common feature across many MeldaProduction plugins, this allows you to add in some subtle saturation. In this context, “saturation” means adding a small amount of level-dependent harmonic distortion. The effect is subtle, even at 100%, unless the input is driven very hard.

The Dry/Wet Control

The Dry/Wet slider is not a true wet/dry mix control in the conventional sense, like you’d see on a compressor. Such a control on an equalizer would be prone to undesirable comb filtering due to the unavoidable phase shifts in a minimum-phase equalizer, which is why you rarely see a wet/dry mix control on EQs.

Instead, the dry/wet slider modulates the intensity of the filters. You don’t use it to blend the dry and effected signals like you would for parallel compression, but rather as a convenient way to globally moderate the plugin’s effect.

I usually set up the filters such that their actions are clearly audible and obvious, and then use the wet/dry slider to back off the overall effect until it becomes suitably transparent for the application. Initially over-emphasizing the effect makes it easier and quicker to set up, but then you’ll subsequently make those settings more subtle so that they melt into the mix.

The dry/wet parameter can also be automated, if you want to gradually bring the effect in or out for different parts of the track. For instance, if you’re using MDynamicEQ to beef up the kick drum, you might elect to back the effect off during the verse and bring it in on the chorus.

Inversion

The “Invert” button reverses the static gain settings of all filters. With this you can clone an instance of the plugin from one track to another and make them mirror one another. Why would you do this? One common application is to create artificial width from cloned parts that weren’t actually double-tracked.

Advanced Filter Settings

This last bit is for the tech-heads only. For most users most of the time, level transformation isn’t something you’ll need to know about. For most of us, it’s enough to just know it exists, just in case.

“Level Transformation” refers to the way in which signal levels are modified, either to increase or decrease them based on the input levels. Click on the “Advanced” button to get to the controls that let you customize the level transformation algorithm.

First, there is a “Shape” selection. This is a pretty obscure setting even for tech-heads, so I’ll just give you the short version and refer you to the user manual for further information. The bottom line is this: leave it at the default value (“Squared”) and you’ll be OK, but try the linear mode on tracks that have some very large peak events but are otherwise fairly level.

 We also have the ability to customize the transfer function. This is a relatively rare feature among dynamics processors in general and even rarer among dynamic equalizers. It’s not a feature you’ll use every day (or maybe never), but worth becoming acquainted with.

I mentioned earlier that there is no “ratio” parameter in the dynamics section. Normally, it would be superfluous. But when the plugin was initially in beta, many early users were critical of the lack of a ratio control. If you’re among them and feel that you do need to alter the compression characteristics you can, via the Level Transformation screen.

A transfer function describes the ratio of input to output. In other words, how a dynamic filter will respond to different input levels. Typically, a compressor’s transfer function is displayed in a graph that looks something like this.

This shows an input-to-output ratio that’s 1:1 up to -24 dB, after which gain is reduced. Most compressors also let you adjust the abruptness of the transition (the “knee”), but that’s all the control you normally get.

But suppose, for example, that we wanted to use a filter as more of a limiter than a compressor alone, applying more extreme gain reduction on the loudest notes and gentle compression to the rest.

iZotope Ozone’s multi-band compressor provides a good example of such a two-stage transfer curve, if you’re familiar with that plugin. MDynamicEQ takes that concept further, not limiting you to a two-stage curve but letting you define as complex a curve as you like.

Note that you’ll need to click on the Enable button before you can edit the transfer function’s shape. For a bit of fun, try loading in some of the presets, which range from sensible to bizarre.

Double-click to create a new point on the graph. Use the mouse wheel to smooth a point. To delete a point, click on it and press the Delete key on your keyboard.

The Shift slider moves the whole graph up and down, increasing or decreasing the dynamic gain. The Scale slider scales the whole graph in and out, but beware: this isn’t just a visual effect but actually scales the transfer function.

Finally, we have an optional band-pass filter that can be applied to the input signal before its level is evaluated. Which frequencies are evaluated is normally determined by the Mode setting, but that assumes the same band as the filter. If we need to narrow it more precisely, this additional band-pass filter may be added into the chain. For example, if you wanted to reduce hi-hat bleed in a snare mike, you could zero in on the hi-hat frequency this way.

In Summation…

MDynamicEQ initially earned a place in my toolbox as a specialty fix-it utility. But I kept finding new places where it worked better than a conventional equalizer. After a few months it had graduated from “specialty” to “essential” status. Then, somewhat to my surprise, it eventually became my default go-to equalizer for just about everything.

It can be surgical or it can be broad. It’s at home on any track or bus, including the master. It can be a conventional EQ, a problem solver, or both at the same time. For example, you can level a vocal, shape its tone, and apply de-essing – all in one plugin instance! Or duck a bass over the kick and enhance its transients at the same time.

Yes, it’s probably deeper than any EQ you’ve ever used. There is a learning curve, for sure. But don’t be intimidated; the payoff is worth the effort.

 

Next Up: MAutoDynamicEQ

MAutoDynamicEQ is MDynamicEQ’s big brother. It’s similar in appearance and offers all the same features, but adds some tricks. It has seven bands instead of five, for example, and some additional controls on the main screen.

But the big difference is the automatic configuration feature, which allows you to quickly and conveniently set up complex equalization curves based on a reference. That reference can be a track within the same project, an external reference, or a hand-drawn spectral curve.

Because spectrum-matching is a big subject in itself, MAutoDynamicEQ will get its own installment in this series, which you’ll find in the July issue of SoundBytes Magazine.

And After That, MSpectralDynamics

MSpectralDynamics shares a common algorithmic heritage with its cousins MDynamicEQ and MAutoDynamicEQ, but approaches dynamic equalization from a different angle. When used as a broadband leveler, instead of you telling it what to fix, MSpectralDynamics pretty much figures that out for you. All you have to do is tell it how aggressive to be about it. It’s a sophisticated, next-generation intelligent plugin and I like it a lot, so I’m looking forward to telling you all about it in Part Three of this series.

 

Investigating Further

As you’ve no doubt figured out by now, this plugin is deep! Too deep to cover every feature here. If this review has piqued your interest, I recommend downloading the user manual and the demo and having some fun with it.

MeldaProduction offers a 15-day trial period for all their products, fully functional with no restrictions and no audio blanking or noise bursts. The developer, Vojtech Meluzin, is extremely helpful and responsive. He’ll usually answer questions quickly via email or the KVR support forum linked below.

Oh, and while you’re visiting the MeldaProduction website, be sure to grab the free bundle. It’s the most useful collection of freebies around.  

MDyamicEQ product page: http://www.meldaproduction.com/plugins/product.php?id=MDynamicEq

MAutoDynamicEQ : http://www.meldaproduction.com/plugins/product.php?id=MAutoDynamicEq

MSpectralDynamics: http://www.meldaproduction.com/plugins/product.php?id=MSpectralDynamics

YouTube overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07Df5kDC9xY&feature=youtu.be (Note: at the time of this writing, this video had not yet been updated for version 8, so some features look a little different now.)

Get the manual here: http://www.meldaproduction.com/download/mdynamiceq_documentation.pdf

Get the plugin here: http://www.meldaproduction.com/download.php?plugin=MDynamicEq

Support forum on KVR: http://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=138

Tutorials: http://www.meldaproduction.com/audiotutorials/equalizers.php

You may also be interested in

SoundBytes mailing list

Browse SB articles
SoundBytes

Welcome to SoundBytes Magazine, a free online magazine devoted to the subject of computer sound and music production.

 

If you share these interests, you’ve come to the right place for gear reviews, developer interviews, tips and techniques and other music related articles. But first and foremost, SoundBytes is about “gear” in the form of music and audio processing software. .

 

We hope you'll enjoy reading what you find here and visit this site on a regular basis.


Hit Counter provided by technology news