June 06, 2022
When it comes to more advanced mixing techniques, dynamic EQ is a tool not often talked about, but it can be really handy in a variety of situations. From fixing harsh vocal notes to taming boomy notes on a guitar, dynamic EQ can be a lifesaver when traditional EQ, compressors, or even multiband compression falls short.
We’ll talk a little about using dynamic EQ here: what it is, what it isn’t, and situations you might want to try using it.
A dynamic EQ has all the same features of a regular EQ: frequency, gain, and Q. As a reminder, frequency is (not surprisingly) the selection of which frequency range you’re adjusting, gain is how much you’re cutting or boosting, and Q is the bandwidth of the frequencies you’re adjusting. A high Q narrows the bandwidth, meaning you affect fewer frequencies, and a low Q widens the bandwidth. The frequency setting is the center frequency of that band of frequencies.
In a dynamic EQ, all of those settings are the same, with the addition of a compressor section for each frequency band. Controls in this section are the same as any compressor. They include threshold (the level at which the compressor will kick in), ratio (how much to affect the signal), attack (how quickly to kick in), and release (how quickly to return to normal).
So, in a dynamic EQ, you can it tell cut or boost frequencies only if the level in that band reaches the threshold. This is useful when you don’t want to make a change to the entire program. For example, if an acoustic guitar passage sounds fine except on one or two notes which are too boomy. In that case, you could set up a cut in a low-mid area where you notice the boom and have it only cut when the notes reach the threshold. That way, your cut doesn’t affect the other notes and make them sound too thin.
If you’ve read up on multiband compression, you’ll notice dynamic EQ sounds suspiciously similar. However, the two are not the same.
Multiband compressors are compressors first. They split processing into multiple frequency bands by using crossovers. Dynamic EQs, on the other hand, are EQs first. Instead of using crossovers, they allow precise eq control over each frequency band, and then add a compressor to let you determine when and how your EQ adjustments are made.
This difference allows dynamic EQs to give much more accurate control over select frequencies than multiband compressors.
Since most dynamic EQs allow you to turn off the compressor section on a given frequency band, you can use them in any situation you would use a regular EQ. You wouldn’t necessarily want to do this, though – mostly because they’re more CPU intensive.
Dynamic EQs are useful when only a small section of a track has an issue and the fix isn’t great for the whole track.
The above example about a boomy acoustic guitar is one case. In another example, imagine a vocal which sounds great except when the vocalist hits one particular high note. Perhaps that note creates a 3kHz resonance that’s jarring and harsh. But when you make a static EQ cut deep enough to fix that, the rest of the track sounds dull.
That’s a great job for a dynamic EQ. You can set the dynamic EQ to cut that 3k area by several dB, but only when it’s a problem.
You can also boost with dynamic EQ. Perhaps a guitar part has a strum and a slap of the body, and you’d like to emphasize that slap. You can find the frequency that slap sits in, set up a boost, and set the threshold so that the boost is only applied when it’s needed.
Dynamic EQs can also be used as de-essers, to remove pops from vocals, and for any number of extreme creative purposes.
Dynamic EQ is a tool that many mixers never even think about, and certainly many mixes don’t need. But it’s a tool that may just be perfect for fixing a tricky problem.
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