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Shelving filters

From: Foundations of Audio: EQ and Filters

Video: Shelving filters

If you've ever used the EQ or tone control in your car stereo, you've most likely experienced a shelving filter. Unlike a parametric filter, a shelving filter is designed to boost or cut the signal at the target frequency and continue that boost or cut into lower or higher frequencies past the target. A shelving filter gets its name from the distinct shelf shape it forms in the EQ's frequency graph. Shelving filters come in two distinct flavors: high shelf and low shelf.

Shelving filters

If you've ever used the EQ or tone control in your car stereo, you've most likely experienced a shelving filter. Unlike a parametric filter, a shelving filter is designed to boost or cut the signal at the target frequency and continue that boost or cut into lower or higher frequencies past the target. A shelving filter gets its name from the distinct shelf shape it forms in the EQ's frequency graph. Shelving filters come in two distinct flavors: high shelf and low shelf.

With high-shelf filters, the frequencies above the target frequency are boosted or cut uniformly through the top end of the EQ. With low-shelf filters, the frequencies below the target frequency are boosted or cut uniformly through the low end of the EQ. Let's hear some shelving filters in action. First, listen to this parametric filter as I boost 6 dB at 6K. (music playing) Now listen as I switch the parametric filter to a high-shelf filter and perform the same 6 dB boost.

(music playing) Notice that the high-shelf filter affects more frequencies than the parametric, resulting in an overall brighter sound as the shelving filter continues to boost frequencies well beyond what the parametric filter covered using a modest Q setting. A shelving filter generally has two controls: frequency, which is used to set the target frequency or starting point of the shelf's cut or boost, and gain, which, like in a parametric EQ, determines the amount of amplitude change over the range of frequencies defined.

Many shelving filters feature an additional Q or quality control that determines how sharp the shape of the shelf's transition will be and whether or not it will have a resonant peak at the target frequency. This is used to tell the filter how quickly it will climb to the amount of gain you've set and if there will be a small bump or resonant peak at the target frequency before settling in for the rest of the shelf. Certain vintage EQs, specifically Neves, are well known and adored for their resonant shelves that peak a little more at the target frequency.

There's a reason that shelving filters are used in most consumer stereos for bass and treble controls, because the goal with the shelf is to shape the overall low end or top end tone of the signal, as opposed to just boosting one single target frequency, like a parametric filter. High-shelf filters work great for bringing out the sheen or air of a signal, especially in the ultra-high frequencies. Or alternatively, they can dull the signal's top end a bit and send it to the back of the mix, similar to how analog tape can soften the high frequencies.

Listen to this acoustic guitar with a high-shelf boost and then a high-shelf cut. (music playing) Notice that the picking is brought out when the shelf is boosting and pulled back when cutting.

Low-shelf filters are great at boosting and strengthening all bass content in a signal below a set frequency, as opposed to a parametric filter, which boosts the signal centered over a specific frequency in that specific pitch. Likewise, a low shelf is a great tool for tapering back some of the low end in a muddy recording, helping make room for other instruments in that range. Listen to this drum loop with a low- shelf boost and then a low-shelf cut.

(music playing) Notice the bump of the kick drum come and go. Shelves are an indispensable tonal shaping tool that work great for manipulating the low- and high-frequency content of an individual signal or a complete mix.

Because they paint with a broad brush across many frequencies, they're generally best to use with lower gain settings under 6 dB, but feel free to use your ears and experiment.

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This video is part of

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Foundations of Audio: EQ and Filters

36 video lessons · 13099 viewers

Brian Lee White
Author

 
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  1. 3m 28s
    1. Welcome
      1m 36s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      35s
    3. Using the exercise files
      58s
    4. Using the "Get In the Mix" Pro Tools and Logic Pro session files
      19s
  2. 15m 46s
    1. What are frequency and amplitude?
      2m 27s
    2. Measuring frequency
      1m 48s
    3. Measuring amplitude
      1m 58s
    4. The perception of frequency and amplitude
      4m 18s
    5. Frequency and pitch
      5m 15s
  3. 36m 10s
    1. What is an equalizer?
      4m 14s
    2. Hardware and software EQ
      1m 58s
    3. Understanding frequency and gain EQ controls
      3m 41s
    4. Using the bandwidth, or Q, EQ control
      5m 35s
    5. Parametric equalizers
      2m 36s
    6. Shelving filters
      5m 11s
    7. High- and low-pass filters
      5m 42s
    8. Putting it all together with multiband EQ
      3m 43s
    9. Using graphic EQ
      3m 30s
  4. 46m 13s
    1. Creating focus
      3m 47s
    2. Get in the Mix: Using EQ to fix problems and place elements in the mix
      8m 30s
    3. Get in the Mix: Creating complementary EQ curves
      9m 7s
    4. Get in the Mix: Creative EQ with the telephone effect
      5m 30s
    5. Get in the Mix: Frequency bracketing with filters
      5m 44s
    6. Get in the Mix: Automating EQ
      6m 18s
    7. Learning to listen
      3m 10s
    8. Balancing expectations from the recording process
      4m 7s
  5. 41m 14s
    1. Get in the Mix: EQing FX returns
      4m 29s
    2. Using common vintage-modeled EQs
      5m 2s
    3. Using frequency analyzers
      3m 44s
    4. Using harmonic generators to excite frequency content
      5m 44s
    5. EQ or compression first?
      3m 3s
    6. EQ and room acoustics: Is your room lying to you?
      6m 15s
    7. Boost or cut? The relative nature of EQ and headroom
      4m 0s
    8. Building healthy EQ strategies
      8m 57s
  6. 19s
    1. What's next and EQ summary
      19s
  7. 5m 51s
    1. A session with Brian Lee White
      5m 51s

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