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> Mastering And Eq, general use of eq in mastering
Saoirse O'Shea
post Jun 12 2010, 06:50 PM
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Of the various different processors that an ME may use EQ is probably the one used most often.

EQ in mastering is perhaps done a little bit differently than in tracking and mixing so it's probably wroth commenting on it for anyone interested in how it's done.

In mastering eq is generally performed on a finished mix and so will affect many instruments/vocals rather than just one. For the most part eq in mastering might be though of as corrective surgery and it needs to be performed with care to avoid adversely affecting the mix. MEs tend to cut, or attenuate, eq much more often then we increase it and we also tend to apply it in much smaller dB increments: attenuation of a frequency is often less than 3dB and may be less than 1dB.

MEs make use several different types of eq. These can be divided broadly in to analogue and digital.

Analogue eqs are hardware parametric eqs (plus a number of software emulations).
Analogue EQs can be considered as two different types - transparent/surgical eqs and colour eqs - and MEs tend tol have at least one of both. The former are often used to make precise, narrow eq adjustments whilst the latter are often used for broader adjustments and/or to give a mix a particular sound or voice. They are often 3-5 band with an additional high and low cut filter and will cover a frequency range from 20 Hz up to the Nyquist frequency. The 3-5 bands will allow Q adjust from a wide bell to a very narrow and precise peak, the hi and lo will have slope adjustment of -12 and -24 dB per octave and may also include -6dB . Most have detented and stepped controls so that a specific eq can be set for a session and repeated at a later date if necessary. The CraneSong Ibis is a typical transparent analogue eq and the Manley Massive Passive is a typical 'colour' eq.

Digital eq
These include hardware (for instance the Weiss EQ1) and, more commonly plug-in eqs.

They may be considered to differ from an analogue eq because the opamp and transistor circuits in an analogue eq are replaced by mathematical modeling and processing. This can result in a cleaner and more linear signal but analogue eqs may often be considered as more 'musical' than digital eqs (think tube versus transistor guitar amps). Rather like analogue eqs digital mastering eqs are parametric, usually with 4 or more filters plus hi and low cut. Many also include a FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) frequency spectrum display and/or a M/S matrix. The former lets you see the incoming signal spectrum and the latter allows you to make eq adjustment to the entire mix, or the mid channel or side channels only. As such you can make an eq adjustment to a backing vocal on the side channel whilst leaving the main vocal in the mid channel alone.

[Perhaps ironically and in common with most MEs that I know I tend to disable any FFT display. IMHO people spend too much time watching meters and graphs and not enough time listening; you should master with your ears and not your eyes.]

The digital software has two main formats - minimal phase (MP) and linear phase (LP). MP attempt to mirror analogue colour eq, particularly the subjective 'musicality', and may include some emulation. LP tend to aim at transparency and offer precise, surgical control over frequencies. With analogue and digital MP eq any adjustment of a frequency will result in a phase shift of that frequency and its related harmonics - and this can be particularly noticeable on transients. Instead of a crisp sounding transient, MP eq adjustments can result in a smeared or muddy sound because the harmonics end up slightly out of sync.

LP however produces a phase shift proportional to the frequency that is adjusted - ie it gets bigger with increasing pitch and results in a constant phase delay across the entire spectrum. Constant phase delay thus provides a signal without phase smearing. However, LP tends to require complicated mathematical operations and as such LP eqs tend to be very processor hungry and can induce considerable latency in to a DAW. (Whilst latency and processor usage may not be an issue for an ME it generally is for a tracking or mix engineer.) Furthermore although LP produces a constant phase delay it does so at a cost - it can suffer from pre-ringing in the time domain because the adjusted frequency suffers from some time delay that can be particularly noticeable on bass frequencies. As a consequence MEs tend to have and use both software MP and LP eqs for different, specific purposes. The Flux Pure EQ is a typical MP EQ and the Algorhymix Red a typical LP EQ.

In short MEs use different types of EQ for very different purposes and part of the science and art of mastering is understanding and knowing your different eqs well enough to know which to use, how to use it and when to use it.

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post Jun 14 2010, 08:59 AM
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Nice read, thanks smile.gif
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Ivan Milenkovic
post Jun 14 2010, 08:16 PM
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great reading tony, thanks a lot smile.gif

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Bogdan Radovic
post Jun 16 2010, 01:44 PM
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Thanks for the article Tony! This helps a lot! smile.gif

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