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Sound Radix SurferEQ2

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Sound Radix SurferEQ2
 Sound Radix SurferEQ2 
More than an update, Sound Radix has basically reinvented SurferEQ its pitch-tracking equalizer I first reviewed in 2012. SurferEQ2 is for Mac & PCs DAWS and supports RTAS, AAX, VST and AU plug-in formats. SurferEQ2 is backward compatible with the original version so all your saved presets will load normally in this brand new version.

The goal of SurferEQ2 is to track or "surf" to the pitch of monophonic music sources nearly instantaneously--basses, soloists, solo guitars, synthesizer melodies--and apply a desired EQ setting. Static EQs are set as compromises--the mixer weighs the "cost/benefit" of applying a tonal change that "works" most of the time but usually less so at other moments.

For example in mixing, lead vocals are often separated out on different tracks so an EQ setting can be dialed in most appropriately for the verse vocal (maybe in a lower singing register) and then on another track for the chorus vocal when the singing register is much higher. SurferEQ can be set to equalize the fundamental and/or the partials of harmonic series shown in the GUI.

SurferEQ2 has the same pitch-tracking accuracy as the original version for its seven EQ bands but there is more and better control over its behavior using a brand new GUI. SurferEQ2 adds controls for refining pitch tracking that can engender many ideas for special effects. There is also the new Spectral Gate feature. (More Later)

SurferEQ2 has both high-pass and low-pass filter sections with a choice of -6, -12, -18, and -24dB/octave slopes and 20Hz to 20kHz ranges--in fact while in non-surf mode, all seven sections are full range: 20Hz to 20kHz equalizers and filters.

The central five bell-shaped (peaking) EQ sections each have four Q (bandwidth) choices. The lowest and highest frequency bands are switchable to shelf mode and the center band is switchable to one of eight different Harmonic Filter modes that enable equalization of the harmonic series of the selected pitch or surfed pitch.

The new Live mode switches to zero-latency monitoring for using SurferEQ in live sound; however pitch detection takes processing time so surfing EQ sections will be 20-milliseconds late.

SurferEQ2 adds extensive MIDI control for using it has a musical instrument where the source input acts like an oscillator whose pitch is controlled by MIDI. You may also over-rule automatic note detection at any time with MIDI note on/off messages or surf EQ by MIDI note or use MIDI to control bypass of any band(s).

No matter what pitch is sung or produced, being able to dynamically track the fundamental frequency and its partials as shown on the GUI opens up many opportunities for extensive timbral editing. You can maintain natural harmonic balance relative to the notes being played, use tracking for specific enhancements, fix problems or accomplish special filter effects easily with SurferEQ2.

The seven EQ bands can be used conventionally or in surf mode all at the same time to cover the most "rangy" instruments or vocals while keeping the harmonic balance natural sounding or perhaps not! With SurferEQ2, the five peaking EQs sections are capable of surfing frequencies--musical pitches from 20Hz to 3.772Hz. Set to surf mode, the HPF and LPF sections surf the spectral beach between 20Hz and 330Hz for the HPF and 659Hz to 3.772kHz for the LPF section.

Besides their frequencies indicated, there is also the actual note pitch relative to A4=440Hz shown within the EQ frequency controls--you may type in a desired frequency or MIDI note. At the top of the GUI is also a master pitch readout that includes frequency (Hz) and MIDI note with +/- cents variance.

Spectral Gate

Spectral Gate allows setting a threshold fader on the input side of the GUI so surfing EQ sections only kick in when the input signal crosses a certain threshold level. Each section can be toggled individually for this action or reverse--where a section goes into bypass when threshold is crossed. This immediately solves the problem when boosting a bright EQ on a vocal that may work in a quiet section but becomes too much when the vocal gets louder.

I set up a high frequency filter dynamically to roll-off track noise gently (hi-gain guitar amp hiss) whenever the guitar track was not playing. Like noise gating except not as on/off, chopped sounding--so more natural. High frequency cymbal wash bleed on tom-tom tracks drum could be minimized with SurferEQ2 and it will sound more natural than editing it out in your DAW--also it will take you only seconds to call up a preset.

Surfing And Side-Chaining with SurferEQ2

Another new feature is side-chain. The pitch from a monophonic track is used in the side-chain of SurferEQ2 placed on a polyphonic audio track. I used a female lead vocal track to control the EQ of the backing vocal stack also sung by the same lead vocalist. Being polyphonic with harmonies and octaves, the many background tracks were very big and lush but I was looking to "carve" a slot with a slightly different timbral quality in them for fitting in the lead vocal track.

This is not like amplitude modulating the background vocal bus with a side-chained compressor or like a dynamic equalizer. I reduced the dominant frequencies of the lead singer in the backing vocals' stereo bus stem. I found with this method the lead vocal stood out with its own character and without being over-powering loud as I had previously done. I used a very fast recovery time (23ms) and I found I could have a fatter backing vocal sound with more low frequencies pumped in via SurferEQ2. I also reduced a unique problem when the lead vocal and the backing vocals all sang the melody together at certain moments and produced a tremendous build-up.

Harmonic Filter

I used the Harmonic Filter feature on a fretless bass track. This is awesome! The harmonics can be boosted and tracked the note slides of this interesting bass part. By using high Qs and adjusting Surf Time (the time it takes SurferEQ to glide from one detected pitch to another), I was able to exaggerate (amazingly) the player's portamento playing style. The eight harmonic filter sets run from subtle comb filter effects to radical narrow notch synth filter styles.

I'm just starting to utilize the new SurferEQ2 plug-in in my mixes and the improved pitch tracking, more musical interface, MIDI and intuitive operation make it a wonderful addition to any plug-in collection!

So big thumbs up for SurferEQ2! Right now it is available for $199 with upgrades from Version 1 only $49. Check out:

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