Adventures In Audio

The EQ unwanted resonance trick - Is it wrong?

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If you visit YouTube you will know that there are many, many videos in the category of 'I'm right, everyone else is wrong, do it my way'. I could add to that, 'Or you'll suffer the consequences'.

It's the old 'my way or the highway' argument.

So I was directed to a YouTube video by one of my Audio Masterclass students, and I found something interesting.

The video was commenting on the time-tested technique for finding unwanted resonances and fixing them with EQ. I say 'resonances' but really it's just any band of frequencies that would sound better if lowered in level.

The technique is this... Set a midrange boost with a highish Q, say 5 but that doesn't have to be precise. Then sweep the centre frequency up and down and find where things sound worse. Hey, you've found your problem frequency band so you can set a cut at that frequency, and reset the Q to taste.

I remember how excited I was many years ago when a) I first used an analogue mixing console that actually had a sweepable EQ - which was a novel idea back then, and b) I happened to come upon this method purely by random chance, not any degree of cleverness I stress. Remember, we didn't have internet decades ago to learn these things and continuously sweepable EQ, rather than switched, was a new thing. So it really needed sweepable EQ to make it possible and the internet to spread the word.

The reason this works, and it does work, is that the ear is very much more sensitive to EQ boosts than to EQ cuts. So if you suspect there might be a problem band of frequencies then you could set a cut and sweep that. But it's harder to hear. Setting a boost makes things so clear that you can get things done and dusted in seconds.

Now, back to the YouTube naysayer who's telling everyone that this technique is no good. He has a plausible reason...

The reason is that your room has resonances. When you perform your boosted sweep the room resonances will kick off and you'll think there is a problem in your recording when the problem is actually in your room.

The thing is he's not wrong. The EQ will kick off room resonances.

But...

You knew there was a 'but' coming, didn't you?

But... You're experiencing these room resonances all the way through your recording and mixing process. They are either affecting the decisions you're making all the way through, or you've 'learnt your room'. By 'learnt your room' I mean that you have spent long sessions listening to successful commercial releases that are compatible with your genre of music. You know how things should sound in your room, and you're making your own music sound like that, at least frequency balance-wise.

This shouldn't be something you're thinking about moment-to-moment. It should be something that has sunk deep into your subconscious, where a lot of life's decisions are made without any effort.

So when you make your boosted frequency sweep, you'll already take room resonances into account.

Or...

Listen on headphones as well.

And...

Be aware that what you hear in your sweep is only a guide. You're perfectly free to ignore the results if they don't work to the benefit of your mix.

So I'm not going to say this guy is wrong in what he's doing. If it suits him then that's fine. But if he's telling us that what works for many people doesn't have any value then that's not cool. Not cool at all.

Takeaway?

When anyone says 'It's my way or the highway' then listen to what they're saying because they just might be right. But decide for yourself what's right for you.

Image: Flickr.com opengridscheduler (public domain)

Thursday June 23, 2022

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David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

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