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Some EQs are more equal than others

With the release of Auto-Tune Vocal EQ, Antares Audio Technologies has strengthened its flagship vocal production software bundle, Auto-Tune Unlimited. As the only dynamic vocal equalizer with Auto-Tune pitch technology built in, Auto-Tune Vocal EQ works seamlessly with your Auto-Tune workflow making it easier to find just the right mix.

Auto-Tune Vocal EQ Features:

PITCH METERING 
Watch a vocalist’s pitch move across the frequency spectrum in real-time to visualize range and thresholds.
PITCH TRACKING 
Lock an EQ band to a vocalist’s pitch to focus on fundamental pitch or harmonics.
VOCAL LEARNING
Automatically highlight the average vocal range (alto, tenor, soprano) for a quick start to EQing.

How these three strengths work together is where the magic comes in. Let’s check out some details.

While Auto-Tune Vocal EQ can be effectively used on any input signal, features like the Air Band, Adjustable Tilt, Pitch Tracking, and Dynamic EQ bands make the Auto-Tune Vocal EQ the best tool to shape lead, harmony, and background vocals.

Producer, engineer, and vocal coach J Chris Griffin (Madonna, John Legend, Kelly Clarkson, Kanye West) got his talented hands-on Auto-Tune Vocal EQ, learned its ins-and-outs, and put together a great tutorial to get you started off on the right note.

Hello everyone! I’m excited to have the Auto-Tune Vocal EQ plug-in because it contains all the features I’ve been looking at across several different products. Let’s dive in!

First Look:

Upon instantiation, the EQ presents a wide range of controls. But don’t be intimidated–it works like other equalizers you may be familiar with. Simply click on a frequency band in the user interface and move. Everything moves and sounds like it should. The Air Band sounds amazing, the Low- and High-Pass Filters are essential, and Tilt is going to be well-utilized in my workflow. You can also see an indication of fundamental pitch from the Auto-Tune Pitch Meter. More about that in a bit.

Bands 1 – 6, Basic:

When you click on a band indicator, the display shows a myriad of controls for the band. If you’re new to equalization, all that matters is this section: Frequency, Gain, and Bandwidth. This is like any other good equalizer you’ll see, and as you get used to the plug-in you can stick with these features and still be ahead of the game as you equalize a vocal. Also, Soloing a band helps isolate frequencies as you adjust.

Low-Pass and High-Pass Bands:

High-Pass Filters are essential for professional vocals. You don’t want plosives and microphone movement interrupting bass balance. Like other bands, double-clicking on the control activates the filter, and option/alt-clicking changes the slope. I like to bring it up to where it just affects the low end, then back it off, being mindful of the slope that occurs as a result. Sometimes 6 or 12 dBs is just not enough to reduce rumble, especially when starting at lower frequencies, so it’s OK to increase the slope in these cases.

The Low-Pass Filter works the same way. There’s not as much call for a Low-Pass Filter in-studio vocals, but it’s here as part of a complete toolset. It can be helpful especially when you use the EQ on other sources or when you are working with live sound.

Air Band:

The Air Band is a high-frequency shelf that can go past the range of human hearing to enhance the very highest harmonics in a vocal. These types of harmonics are associated with expensive recording techniques and equipment through history. It’s a valuable control for increasing the air around a vocal or polishing it to “shine” through a mix without becoming crispy or harsh.

Tilt Control:

Adjustable Tilt is another unique feature of Auto-Tune Vocal EQ. It takes the combination of the whole EQ and raises or lowers frequencies as a group. You have a center frequency that acts as a fulcrum of a seesaw and a Tilt control for gain. This is a great way to raise or lower overall high or low frequencies while keeping original bands relative to each other.

Spectrum Analyzer:

The Spectrum Analyzer makes it easy to identify where the energy of a signal is concentrated. There’s even a piano keyboard on the interface to help identify octaves and pitches. You can see the original signal, your altered signal in real-time, or it can be turned off completely.

Bands 1-6 – Advanced:

Let’s uncover the real power of this EQ and show why it should be in your arsenal not only for vocals but for any instrument.

 

  • Dynamic EQ Bands
    Bands 1-6 include a dynamics section for band gain. It has typical compressor controls and operates accordingly. Simply set the threshold as you normally would for a compressor and adjust the range–either up or down. This is especially helpful if you have a vocalist that moved too much on the mic during recording, causing low frequencies build-up on some phrases and not others, or making high frequencies harsh on some words but not others.This is also much different than a multiband compressor. In our case, there are no phase-inducing crossover networks involved. It’s all just gain on an EQ band that’s automatically controlled, minimizing EQ phase distortion and eliminating additional filters. As a result, your mix will be bigger and vocals will spring to life, even with processing. That’s not marketing jargon; reducing equalizer phase-shift results in a larger, clearer signal that sits in a mix effortlessly.
  • Fundamental Pitch Tracking
    The Auto-Tune Vocal EQ tracks pitch in real-time using the Auto-Tune tracking algorithm, which is why you should set the input type appropriately as you set it up.  Clicking ‘Track’ on any band from 1-6 switches over from the previous frequency to whatever the fundamental pitch of the signal is at any given moment–it moves in sync with the signal so it’s not a set frequency anymore. You can still see the Band button and set gain with it, but the frequency is locked into the pitch at this point. Moving the button from side to side no longer affects anything.Notice that the dynamics section is active, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s two independent systems working at the same time. Furthermore, notice the Frequency knob has changed to a knob marked ‘Harmonics.’ This follows the fundamental, at one, the second harmonic at two, third at three, and so on up to 10. You could set up a harmonic series EQ to track everything in sync with a signal as it moves–like with a modular synth or other bright sound that changes over time–but doesn’t necessarily stay in expected octaves. For our purpose, we’ll set Band 2 to follow the fundamental and Band 3 to follow the 2nd harmonic for a nice scoop that follows (her) pitch.
  •  External Sidechain
    We could also trigger the dynamics section of a band with an external sidechain–something no other EQ does. We could build the ultimate 808 bass that triggers from an additional kick drum, adding impact to the sine wave when the kick hits, then tracking the pitch of the sine wave to work around the kick as well. So cool!

  • Dry/Wet Control
    Normally there isn’t a need for a Dry/Wet Control on an EQ, but because of the dynamics processing and pitch tracking features, it’s a thoughtful addition for parallel processing. Dry/Wet is internally phase compensated for whatever EQ boosts are happening at the moment, so use it as you wish to add some original, unprocessed signal to the output of the EQ.

Is a vocal track getting lost in the percussion? Need that chorus to rise out of the string section with more clarity? With Auto-Tune Vocal EQ, you can isolate and accentuate precise frequencies to make vocals sound smoother and shine in the mix!