Does newer tech just make our jobs easier or can it offer something new to throw into the mix? Liam O’Mullane finds out.
This pitch-detecting EQ reflects its name in terms of describing the behaviour of the pitch detection: it fluidly rides the source material’s changes in pitch over time. All of this happens in real time, adjusting your EQ settings in a musical manner. An immediately obvious application would be to boost/cut a particular frequency or harmonic in an audio source which would, of course, change with the song as it plays – great for that troublesome bottom end.
Normally, this would require either a broad EQ setting that would alter all of the notes in a performance, or individual/automated adjustments for each instance of the note. The first two methods are broad strokes, and the automation approach is a huge time-taker (not to mention the potential automation tangles you could get into). SurferEQ, then, is the solution that Sound Radix is offering to make life easier in day-to-day EQ’ing.
Learning To Surf
The primary GUI is quite traditional at first glance. High- and low-pass filters sandwich the five fully parametric bands between, each of which has a range of +/-20dB (plenty for surgical subtraction or for adding a resonant pitch to any source). High- and low-shelf modes are also available for two of these bands, and all bands have a non-restrictive frequency range of 20Hz–20kHz. One thing we did miss, though, was the option of using a super-narrow parametric width for getting those truly ringing effects. We think this would be an interesting creative option when coupled with pitch tracking.
A surf icon in the centre of each frequency dial can be clicked to enable the pitch-tracking function per band. Turning this surf dial enables you to clock in to a specific harmonic of the detected pitch. To keep things visually musical you can switch the band’s frequency point to be represented as note names if desired.
An unexpected bonus on top of the fact that this is a tracking EQ is the inclusion of what Sound Radix refers to as a ‘Harmonic Filter’ mode for the central band. This has four states to choose from and is apparently designed to generate new sounds, the like of which have never been heard before…
We threw a lot of different sound sources and tempos at SurferEQ and its performance impressed us. Tempo-wise it coped fine with an arpeggiated synth part we created that had several octaves’ range for good measure. Running at 16ths it kept up until around 200BPM. At this speed you might need to tweak the controls for fine-tuning the pitch tracking, though these are strangely hidden from view and can be accessed only via automation.
The tracking in general was more predictable with monophonic sources such as bass guitar, vocals, harmonica and so on. Certain guitar chords and instruments with overlapping loud decays threw it off a little from time to time, but overall it performed well with most sources.
The sound of the EQ is clean but slightly smoothed, so it’s good for use on static material as well. We found it very hard to get too much edge or brittleness out of it, even when applying the highest gain settings.
The sound of a pitch-tracked EQ treatment brings focus and new energy to a source, making static EQ sometimes sound flat. Choosing between static or tracked EQ has become a mixing decision for us.
Pitch-tracking works well across various sources
Also works as normal EQ
Easy to understand
WALK ON BY
Hidden pitch-tracking parameters in automation
No link for each harmonic interval once set
A new and effective way of changing the shape of a sound with EQ.
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