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In this installment of the Foundations of Audio series, author Brian Lee White shows producers and audio engineers how to properly apply equalization (EQ) and improve the sound of their mixes. The course covers the use of parametric and graphic EQs—and filters such as the high/low pass filters and shelf filters—in a variety of musical settings. These principles can be applied to any digital audio workstation platform, including Logic and Pro Tools, as well as analog workflows.
Now that we understand the different types of filters commonly found in both hardware and software equalizers, it's worth mentioning that many EQs will incorporate multiple filter types into a single processor. This is often referred to as a multiband EQ. Multiband EQs generally feature one or more parametric bands in addition to high- and low-shelving filters and high- and low-pass filters at each end of the frequency spectrum. Many multiband EQs will also feature input and output gain controls that can be used to raise or lower the entire level of the signal.
They usually have a phase or polarity invert button also. The phase flip switch allows you to invert the waveform's amplitude, swapping the pushes for pulls and the pulls for pushes shown here in the graph. This switch is often used to compensate for phase offsets created in multi-mic recording scenarios. For instance, if you mic a snare drum with a mic on the top head and the bottom head, those two signals might not reach the listener at the same time and will thus be out of phase, potentially canceling out, or in the least, sounding not quite right.
Flipping the polarity of one of the signals can alleviate this problem. This SSL console I'm sitting at, like many analog and digital recording consoles, feature a channel EQ that incorporates a high-pass filter, shelving filters for both high and low frequencies, and two parametric filters with sweepable Q. Most standard DAWs feature built-in multiband EQs, like the ProTools EQ3 and Logic's Channel EQ.
Certain plug-ins, like the Waves' Q series EQs, allow each band to function independently as any filter type, offering up to ten bands of whatever you need. During recording and mixing, a multiband EQ is ideal because most EQ tasks require a combination of filters, with varying degrees of boost and cut. For example, to EQ a vocal track, I might start by engaging the high-pass filter to remove any low-frequency rumble below the vocal's fundamental, or lowest note.
Then I might notch out some of the low-mid resonance in the vocal's harmonics to increase clarity and remove mud. After that, I'll use another parametric band to increase presence and intelligibility. To top it all off, I might strap on a high shelf add a bit of the top-end air and sheen. (music playing) While EQs can certainly be used in a single-band capacity, you'll often find yourself using multiband EQs for many of your basic EQ tasks.
Don't let the additional controls scare you, and don't feel like you need to use every band of a multiband EQ just because it's there. A multiband EQ is just a bunch of filters bundled into one convenient package, so if you can understand and use a single band of EQ, you can certainly use and understand a multiband EQ.
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