I know what you’re probably thinking – do we really need another EQ? Aren’t we getting to the point where we are just repeating ourselves? What more can software developers do? Enter Air EQ Premium by Eiosis, bringing some innovation to the table along with unique features and incredible flexibility.
I have been a big fan of software developer Fabrice Gabriel’s work ever since purchasing Slate Digital’s Virtual Console Collection, which emulates five different industry standard consoles, including a Neve, API and SSL desk emulation. I have since bought all of the Slate Digital emulation plugins, including their recently released Virtual Mix Rack. I don’t go through one mix without using some of Fabrice’s incredible programming on my tracks. This man has some golden ears! Air EQ is no exception to the high standard and perfectionism Fabrice stamps on his work.
Main Features Overview
1) Nine multi-faceted frequency bands – 6 of which range from 10Hz-30Khz
2) Mid/Side and Left/Right processing modes – applicable to each band
3) Excellent Frequency Analyzer and etering
4) Strength slider –adjust overall processing between 0% to 150%
5) Character slider – adjust the tone of the entire EQ or separate bands between a transparent, smooth and natural sound (Water), or a tighter, more focused sound (Fire). Awesome tool!
Installation, Authorisation and CPU Hit
iLok 2 is required to authorise Air EQ Premium. The download comes in at around 270mb. Once purchased, you will be sent an email with a download link and serial number, which you will then redeem in the iLok License Manager (which you download from the iLok site). Everything was pretty straightforward. The CPU hit is minimal and there is effectively zero latency, which is uncommon for something of such high quality. There is a 30-day demo available that I highly recommend trying!
Interface & Presets
There is a definite slickness and uniqueness to the Air EQ interface, quite unlike any other EQ on the market. A lot of thought has gone into the design, and there is some wonderful symmetry going on. It certainly stands out with its silver sheen look, and the multi-colored EQ bands certainly help it stand out from the crowd.
The ability to name each band whatever you want right on the plugin interface is pretty neat, and is something I have never seen before. This is useful when you save, say, a snare preset, and want to call one of the bands “snap” or “body”, for example.
There is already a ton of presets for various instruments, complete with self-explanatory names for each band, which is a nice touch. Pull up the Mastering Balance preset and you have descriptions like “Density”, “Presence” and “Clarity” all with a corresponding Frequency, Q and “Character”. Very cool, and a great starting point for even the most advanced engineers.
The frequency analyzer is excellent and can be set as a “fast” or “slow” response. You also get the mean frequency response, which can be adjusted between “infinite”(for however long you analyse the source for) and “10s” (the mean response of the last 10 seconds the source was played for). You can also see the frequency analysis before and after processing – a unique feature I rarely see on EQ’s, and great for mastering.
There is a meter on either side of the interface. The meter on the left is a handy feature: it measures the difference in gain between the input and output signal, providing a visual guide when it comes to matching levels between the plugin’s active and bypassed states. There is an input and output knob on either side of the interface, so you can adjust these to match the level of the processing with the unprocessed signal. The meter on the right provides you with several options for metering, such as dBFS and the Bob Katz metering – K12, K14 and K20. These meters are extremely helpful when A/B-ing the processed and unprocessed signal.
A couple of features that I feel are missing from Air EQ: one is the ability to grab the EQ curves and make adjustments directly on the bands, as is the case with most modern digital EQ’s. Also, there is no indication as to which knobs are controlling a selected band. By default, you would have to click on the frequency knob in order to find out which frequency the knob is affecting. This can be changed in settings so that you can see all parameters such as the gain, Q and frequency without clicking on the individual knobs – I recommend setting it to this.
If you’re like me and tend to grab the EQ bands directly in order to change parameters, then the workflow can take a little bit of getting used to. Altogether though, the interface is quite slick and pleasing to the eyes, which is always a plus in my opinion.
“Fire” & “Water”
The Character slider is definitely the most unique feature of Air EQ. This is where you can fine-tune how you want to emphasize (or de-emphasize) particular frequency bands with total precision. The EQ is set to “Neutral” by default, but can be adjusted to add more “Fire” or “Water”.
“Fire” gives you a tighter, more focused sound. This is for when you want to really emphasize certain frequencies and give some more punch and impact to the source. Great for bringing out the snap of a snare or the attack of a kick drum.
“Water” creates a smooth frequency curve emulating a type of band shelf. This is much more open and organic, and does not over-emphasize a specific frequency. This is definitely the more transparent of the two and great for adding presence to vocals or adding clarity to an acoustic guitar.
What’s great about the Character slider is that you can adjust between “Fire”, “Neutral” and “Water” to taste. This can affect each of the bell bands at once, but will not affect any corrective EQ you may have made with any steep bells you have used. You can also select how much “Fire” or “Water” you want on each individual band, giving you some incredible flexibility, with a simple shift/click on the Q knob of the band you wish to change the character for. The other bands will still be affected by the ‘global’ setting of the character knob, and the one you shift/click, will remain the same.
“Air” & “Earth”
“Air” and “Earth” adjust the high and low frequencies in a unique and special way. There is just one knob for each, with no additional functionality – but it can add something really special to a source or even a full mix.
“Earth” can really bring out the subs from your Kicks and Bass without getting too ‘boomy’. If you do have a sub monitor, you will really feel its effect on your low end. It gets deep within the subs, simply giving you more of what’s already there without overpowering the sound – great for adding depth to those low monotone tension cues.
“Air” breathes life into your high end in the smoothest possible way. Even when boosting and high gains, there is no harshness. This is great for helping an acoustic guitar cut through the mix, or even adding that elusive bit of sparkle on your mix buss.
The “Air” and “Earth” features I can definitely see using a lot in the mastering stage. There is a wonderful subtlety and transparency to the sound that is extremely helpful in getting a clean, modern sound out of your master track.
Steep Bell, Shelf EQ & Low/High Cut
All five inner bands can also be selected as a ‘Steep Bell’. Even though the Q of the default band can get quite narrow, selecting the ‘Steep Bell’ allows you to target exact frequency values – very useful when targeting and diminishing particularly problematic frequencies. If there is a particular note on the guitar that keeps sticking out, you can you set the frequency knob to the “note” function, which can be selected by pressing the note image at the top right corner of the plugin. This will allow you to target specific notes: say you want to take out a little of the high G string because it’s ringing too much, you can target that exact frequency and cut it to taste using the ‘Steep Bell’.
The bands to the left of the High Cut and the right of the Low Cut can both be selected as Shelf EQ’s, and range from 10Hz-30Khz. This can be adjusted between the smooth or resonant settings, using the Q knob and is also affected by the “Character” adjustment. You can really fine tune the type of shelving you are looking for, emulating any type of analogue style EQ curve – it’s incredibly flexible.
The Low and High Cut are also quite flexible, with an option for both a 6db or 12db per octave slope. These bands can also be adjusted by the Q to create a more resonant cut (where the cut point is emphasized), or just a smooth drop off. The cuts are not affected by the “Character” knob, which makes sense, since they are corrective functions.
Mid/Side and Left/Right Processing
At the bottom left corner of Air EQ is the option to select either mid/side or left/right. Depending on this selection, you can then select what you’d like to process for each band. For example, if you have selected mid/side, you may control-click on a band and select “mid”, and that band will only process the middle of the stereo image. You can then solo the mid or the side by highlighting the function at the bottom of the plugin. This applies to all 9 bands.
This is another handy feature that allows you to dial in between 0%-150% of whatever processing you have done over the entire range of settings on the EQ. What’s great about that is that the output gain is never affected, so you always hear the source at the same volume, even all the way up to 150%. You may deselect certain bands so that they are unaffected (such as those where the processing is corrective). This is a particularly great tool to see if you may have gone overboard with the EQ. Start from 0%, close your eyes, and drag the knob upwards until it sounds perfect.
Another great feature is sweeping using Shift+Click while adjusting the frequency knob. This allows you to find a particular frequency by automatically setting the band to the highest Q and to a gain of 6db. However, if you have already set a Q or gain on that frequency, or even a particular “character”, it will revert automatically when you let go. Very cool.
All in all, Air EQ Premium is really a fantastic plugin! Its slick interface, unique features, smooth transparency, and incredible versatility definitely make it a strong contender in the digital EQ realm. At $150 it may be a little on the steep side, but there is a lot to offer here, and you might find yourself unable able to live without it very quickly.
Check out this Air EQ playlist by Eoisis for more info: