Lab:One Recordings has collated the latest information on some new tutorials to help you get the most from Black Knight 5 band EQ Rack Extension.

  • Dynamic EQ – Why and when to use it
  • Sweeping filters – how to get that ‘before the drop’ frequency sweep effect
  • Removing unwanted frequencies & cleansing your sounds
  • Getting your hands dirty – using the gains with the band controls and setting the saturation feed path

Dynamic EQ – Why and when to use it

“So what’s Dynamic EQ when it’s at home?” we hear you asking.
Dynamic EQ is a very similar process to how a compressor works; to control the level audio signals once you reach a certain loudness threshold. To make things a bit easier,  take the image example below (coming soon) to show you what happens when we compress an audio signal.

Any audio signal that is played through a compressor is analysed by the unit, and if the signal is over a set level (the “threshold”) the compressor begins to work, based on the attack time, release time, and ratio. For more on this we advise visiting the Wiki page on Dynamic range compression

Dynamic EQ uses a similar approach, but instead of compressing the whole audio signal, it would use an EQ gain as the main leveling control, and would be subject to the frequency and resonance (aka “Q”) of the EQ. Black Knight used in tandem with the M-Class Compressor can be used for such a task.

“So when would we use it?”

Well, take a mixdown either you’ve done yourself or a friend / collaborator etc has done, and they would like you to work more on it and, for example’s sake, when you play back the track you find the hi-hats or cymbals are just that bit too loud. Now if you compress the whole signal, the cymbal crash / hi-hat volume make cause the compressor to work in an undesired way, by compressing everything together instead of just the parts you need to correct. EQing alone may ‘slither’ out parts of the audio which need to be there. So we need a happy medium. Manually controlling the frequency gain can be time consuming and/or difficult if hand controlled automation is too slow to respond (hand/eye/ear co-ordination).

Main ingredients for this method of control:

  • 2x Black Knight EQ’s, one for listening, one for dynamic control
  • 1x Spider Audio Merger, for dual splitting of original signal
  • 1x Spider CV Merger/Splitter, for CV split-routings
  • 1x Line 6:2 Mixer, for re-merging audio split signals, and key mode operation
  • 1x M-Class Compressor, for converting listening audio to CV
  • 1x Scope Jnr CV & Audio Oscilloscope, for viewing the CV curve
  • A quiet room
  • Relaxed approach, and some patience

You can do this all within the Rack as inserts to sound modules, or if you prefer (and could be a helpful tool later) you can create the chain in a Combinator as an FX Combi, and you could also load up the FX Combi within an Audio Channel or Mix Channel Combi.

We can begin with the track on an Audio Channel in Reason 7, and we want to split the signal in two, and we can do that using a Spider Audio Merger/Splitter unit; create it within the Audio Channel strip in the Rack, and flip the rack (using the TAB key). Make sure the signal goes from the ‘To Device’ sockets within the Channel strip to the ‘splitting’ side of the Spider Audio Merger unit, so we can use multiple copies of the audio signal.

Now we can shift-create (disables auto-wiring in Reason) a Black Knight EQ, and an M-Class Compressor. Label the Black Knight ‘LISTEN’, and the M-Class Compressor as ‘LISTENING’. Feed from the first ‘split’ outputs into the ‘LISTEN’ Black Knight: this will be your signal ‘finder’/’enhancer’. From the Black Knight take the audio signal out and feed it into the M-Class Compressor. We’re not using the audio from the compressor, we just need the ‘Gain Reduction Output’ CV socket. Set the M-Class Compressor to BYPASS mode and also set the THRESHOLD to 0dB, RATIO to 1:1, and leave attack and release for now – we’ll come to this later.

Add in below the M-Class Compressor a Line 6:2 Mixer. Label the device ‘Listen/Proc’. This will be used not only to merge our audio back together, but also as a ‘listen’/’process’ switcher unit too. Connect the audio from the M-Class Compressor into the first channel pair of inputs on the Line 6:2 Mixer. We can now route the Line 6:2 mixer outputs up to the “From Device” sockets of the channel strip to close the loop. We can now run our audio and using the band gains, frequencies and Q controls we can ‘find’ the signal we want to adjust dynamically in relation to the audio signal ‘triggering’.

Flip the rack to the front. When we play back the audio loop, we hear no difference when all the band gains on Black Knight are left at default settings – try this out for yourself by activating the ‘BYPASS INSERTS’ button on the front of the channel programmer display. Turn ‘BYPASS INSERTS’ button back off.

Flip the rack to the back again. Create a second Black Knight, and label it ‘DYN EQ’. Continuing with the routing, we take a second ‘split’ pair from the Spider Audio Merger/Splitter, and feed into the ‘DYN EQ’ Black Knight. This Black Knight will process the original audio signal that will be affected by the compressor dynamically, via CV control. 

Create a Spider CV Merger/Splitter, as we need more than just one CV signal, as you’ll soon see. Connect the ‘Gain Reduction Output’ CV socket of the ‘LISTENER’ M-Class Compressor to the first SPLIT CV input of the Spider CV Merger/Splitter. Take one of the split outputs (NOT the inverted signal) and connect it to the Band 3 Gain Input CV on the ‘DYN EQ’ Black Knight – this connects up the Compressor signal via the Spider CV splitter and on to the Band 3 gain control. Remember the M-Class Compressor is still bypassed so we won’t hear any effect just yet in regards to the ‘DYN EQ’ Black Knight. Also at this stage, set the ‘INV’ button on Band 3 to ‘ON’. This will ensure that the CV signal is reading in the way we want later.

Create a Scope Jnr CV and Audio Oscilloscope Rack Extensions (see HERE for more), and from the Spider CV Split take a second CV output and feed it into the Scope Jnr CV input.

We can now add our ‘DYN EQ’ Black Knight audio outputs to the ‘Listen/Proc’ Line 6:2 Mixer, into channel 2. We’ve nearly done our routing, but we’ve got a couple more things to do.

Flip the rack to the front, and on the Scope Jnr set the ‘INPUT’ to ‘CV’ so we can see the CV signals. Adjust the SPEED setting to ‘X’ and ZOOM setting to 100% (should be default). Scope Jnr is going ot help us ‘view’ the compression CV curve, which is going to affect our DYN EQ control.

On the Line 6:2 mixer MUTE the ‘DYN EQ’ channel. What we’re going to do first is find the sound that needs the treatment. 

We can now set up the ‘LISTEN’ Black Knight to listen to the source audio in two ways, and this is totally down to your discretion.

  1. Turn on HEAR EQ on the Black Knight and you should not hear any audio at all. This is using Black Knight’s special function so we can hear what the EQ is doing. In this mode we can set the gains to a positive value while in bell mode to create a band pass filter, and we can do this with all 5 bands at the same time.We could also decide to not use all bands for band-passing the audio, but we can use the LP mode of Band 5, which in HEAR EQ mode works as a HP filter, so we can enhance the higher frequencies as well as use the other bands as band pass filters – use the Q settings on the band controls to tighten the frequency, or widen it to accept more signal. NOTE: Gains in HP/LP mode increase the overall volume of output, another added feature of Black Knight.
  2. Using Band 1 set to HP mode, and leaving HEAR EQ off, we can cut away the low end which we do not need, leaving the high end information. We can also use the other bands as ‘extra’ enhancers or attenuators, but for this case we want to get as much of the ‘offending’ signal as possible, to help us later.

Both options above give us the ‘more is better’ approach, especially when we want to get a good clean signal to feed into out M-Class Compressor. Remember, we are only doing this so that we can drive the signal to the compressor, which will eventually feed our dynamic EQ, and the audio from the compressor won’t be heard in the final mix.

Using either of the two methods listed above, concentrate on the areas where the problem lies; in this case the high end signal of the hats and the cymbals are the problem, so that is our focus area.

Once we find the signal, leave the frequency setting, and adjust the Q control, to determine the width of frequencies we want to remove dynamically. Also set the frequency and Q settings on ‘DYN EQ’ Black Knight the same as ‘LISTEN’ Black Knight, but leave the gain at 0dB. Remember we’re only listening to the audio ‘problem’ and not the final mix.

Now we can turn on the ‘LISTENER’ Compressor, taking it out of ‘BYPASS’ mode. Since all the settings have been reduced to zero effect, we’ll still hear no effect. Now what we can do is adjust the RATIO to 2:1 for now, and bring the THRESHOLD down to say -6dB, until we get an LED signal on the GAIN REDUCTION meter. What we should also see is the CV signal from the GAIN REDUCTION meter show up on the Scope Jnr. This is a visual representation of how the compressor is going to work, and how the CV signal will turn down our DYN EQ gain control.

What we are seeing is the attack of the compression, dipping down below the zero line, until it hits a minimum point, for a certain time, then returns back up to the zero line, but only when the high information plays and only when the threshold is exceeded. So how can we interpret this easier? Ok let’s say the centre zero line is 0dB, and the bottom of Scope Jnr display is -18dB. As the display comes down towards -18dB, this ‘curve’ is basically how our gain control will move, towards -18dB then hold for a duration while threshold is still ‘broken’ and once the original high-content-only audio decays back down to below the threshold level, the gain control turns back up. This is how a dynamic control would work. You can play around with the controls on the compressor, remember that you’re still listening to the ‘exaggerated’/’emphasised’ high content only.

Even though we might hear something we’re not liking at this stage (sharp, nasty high-information), this is our processing signal we’re using purely for gain reduction purposes.

Now comes the fun bit. Reset the threshold on the Compressor to 0dB. We can now SOLO the ‘DYN EQ’ channel (NOTE: even though we MUTEd to start with, the SOLOing will mute all other channels, a handy ‘hot-swap’ button, which we can program into the Combinator Programmer). As we play the loop, we can turn the threshold on the compressor down, and each time the compressor is triggered by the cymbal / hi-hats, the compressor reads in audio and turns it into CV, which we’re now using to turn down the GAIN of a set FREQUENCY and set Q dynamically; Band 3 gain ‘turns down’ everytime the cymbal / hi-hat is playing over the threshold level, which means that the DYN EQ Black Knight will do this ONLY when the cymbals / hi-hats level is above the threshold, and doesn’t effect other content, such as the drums/bass/melodies/vocals etc.

With some massaging and adjusting the compressor threshold, input gain, attack and release controls, you can start to tell the EQ dynamically what to do. If the attack and release are set too fast this might introduce ‘pumping’, which is more obvious and could be heard, or you can ease the attack slower, if you hear the tail of the signals still too loud then adjust the release. If too over powering you can dial back the threshold and the input gain, or even the CV trim control on the back of the DYN EQ Black Knight

This approach helps you to get to grips with dynamic equalization, instead of automating the EQ gain controls on each signal’s hit.

An accompanying video will be up shortly to full demonstrate the usefulness of this, and hopefully it can help you develop better mixdowns when you only have a stereo audio file to work with. Also be aware that you are not restricted to high signals, you can use bass signals, kick drums, or even vocals if you so wish.

This is also like how de-essing works, while de-essing primarily deals with the sibilance of vocals (ie the ‘SSSSSSSS’ sounds which can be overpowering and sharp sounding), as well as a basic approach to multi-band processing (such as multi-band compression)

Note: this can only do so much work on the final mix when in stereo stem mode, because other signals may be overlapping (say piano notes or leads or even vocals that register in similar frequency ranges to the playing sounds) – so take this into consideration. You could utilise a MID/SIDE EQ process in the same way, via Red Queen or ReQ·131, so that wide signals (the SIDE information; like high end content) are EQ’d while not affecting the central signals (such as vocals, a common practice that a lead vocalist is always ‘centre’ defined)

We can dive into this later once you get to grips with this sort of control. This is more specialised and aimed at a mastering stage, but can be very handy to know especially during the mixdown stages and to get your own mixdowns right.

If you have any questions on this subject or any others we have on here, by all means contact us at:

tutorials@lab-one-recordings.co.uk

More tutorials coming soon…

  • Sweeping filters – how to get that ‘before the drop’ frequency sweep effect
  • Removing unwanted frequencies & cleansing your sounds
  • Getting your hands dirty – using the gains with the band controls and setting the saturation feed path