Next to brushing my teeth, eating, kissing my wife, and checking my email (not necessarily in that order), EQing tracks in Logic Pro X with the venerable Channel EQ is one of the most routine activities I engage in every day.
Logic Pro X's Channel EQ - Become a Power User
My muscle memory and ears seem locked together as I instinctively adjust the parameters while listening. It’s easy to simply grab the nodes and start dragging; its simplicity is one of the beautiful things of working in the Channel EQ. But it’s also all too easy to take for granted all the powerful little shortcuts and workflows available. Here I’ll outline some of my favourite ways of getting the most out of Logic Pro X’s Channel EQ.
Scaling the Channel EQ's Display
Most of the EQing I do is within a range of +/- 12 dB or so. And usually significantly less than that. The Channel EQ range defaults to +/- 24 dB, which of course is necessary since dramatic EQ changes are sometimes called for. But for the 90% of the time I am working within this narrower boost/cut range, I find scaling the vertical resolution of the EQ plot particularly helpful. The same +/-24 dB of gain is still available, but the vertical scaling is non linear. Greater space is allocated to the first 10 dB or so of the gain. This has the added psychological benefit of encouraging restraint. Since modest boosts or cuts take up more vertical space visually, I instinctively hesitate and give greater thought to making more dramatic changes. For the way I like to work, less is generally more when it comes to EQing. So, this scaling suits my mindset.
To adjust the scaling, simply grab the display range on either the left or right side of the Channel EQ window and drag upwards. If the analyzer is active, you must grab and drag from the right side. Scaling the display range on the left side left side will offset the range of the analyzer.
The thing that makes a lot of older hardware analog EQ units so desirable and distinctive is the fact that the changes made to the width and gain of individual bands are not perfectly linear. In other words, the relationship to the width settings and the gain offsets is not perfectly consistent. Digital EQs, being digital EQs, are of course perfectly accurate by default. This is a good thing, it makes them very precise. But a lot of third party EQ plug-ins are designed to emulate the non-linear interaction between the width and gain settings found on these vintage hardware units. This is what gives those hardware units their “sound” that is often very identifiable.
Logic Pro X's Channel EQ, although it doesn’t include sexy emulation based names, includes the functionality to enable these sort of non-linear trajectories for gain and Q settings at different stages in their ranges. Simply press the Q-Couple button in the main interface, and then go to the extended parameters to choose between various Q/Gain non-linear relationships. The asymmetric settings feature a stronger coupling for negative gain values than for positive values, which gives them an interesting quality.
Choose the Q-Coupling setting in the Extended Parameters section:
Separating the Left and Right Sides
Another function found in expensive third party EQ plug-ins is the ability to separate the left and right sides, so they can be EQ’d differently. This is particularly useful not only for creative processing, but also when EQing drum overheads that have been recorded as a stereo pair rather than as two mono tracks (dual mono is my preferred method of recording drum overheads). Place a stereo instance of the Channel EQ on a stereo track, and choose either Left Only or Right Only from the processing pop-up menu. The one limitation of the Channel EQ’s implementation is that you cannot then work with the left and ride sides together in the same window, the way you can with some other EQ plug-ins, like the FabFilter Pro-Q 2 for example.
Traditionally Logic Pro’s inserts work serially, meaning the output of the first plug-in effects the signal being processed by the second, and so on. Not so with the Channel EQ’s decoding and encoding algorithm. It re-combines the left and right sides at the output stage, so that the summed signal is passed on to the next plug-in below. So a simple workaround to working with the left/right sides together is to insert two Channel EQs inline on the same Channel Strip, set one to Left Only, the other to Right Only, and keep both windows open.
Separating the Mid/Side Channels
Like the big boys, Channel EQ also offers Mid/Side decoding. This effectively splits a stereo signal into separate mono and stereo signals. The Mid channel is comprised of the parts of the signal flowing through the Channel Strip that are identical on both the left and right sides. In other words: the mono part of the signal. The Side portion contains only the part of the signal that is unique on each side of the stereo spectrum. Thought of another way, it is like a sum/difference split. The Mid channel contains everything that is the same on each side, the Side channel everything that is different on each side.
Mid/Side processing is effective either on individual tracks, sub groups, or the full mix bus. It is often used to tighten up the low end by focusing it on the center of the mix. One way of achieving this is by taking the side channel, and attenuating (or removing) signal that falls below a user defined frequency value. The high pass filter band is perfectly suited to this task. Either with a gentle slope value, or a steeper one - depending on the specific content it is used on.
Mid and Side channels are accessed from the same Processing menu as the Left/Right channels. And again, due to the nature of how the Channel EQ sums the channels at its output (effectively both decoding and encoding the signal invisibly for us), two instances can be used inline. Set one to process the Mid channel, the other the Side channel, and leave both open if desired.
Making numeric adjustments in the parameter section at the bottom of the window is precise and clean. But I prefer working in the main graphic display. It just feels more intuitive to me. There are couple of useful shortcuts that make editing here particularly effective and precise.
It’s easy to grab a band’s dot and drag to adjust the frequency and gain simultaneously. But more often than not, I want to zero in on one or the other at a time. Hold the Command key while dragging a band’s dot to constrain the movement to either the horizontal or vertical axis. In other words, either frequency, or gain. I’ll often set up a steep boost and then hold the Command key to sweep around in order to find problem frequencies. Then hold the Command key down again to fine tune the amount of gain I want to cut, while preserving the center frequency I want to work with. Hold down Command and Option together to adjust the Q and gain value simultaneously.
The coloured horizontal and vertical lines that accompany each selected band are also useful reference points for making adjustments in the graphic display area. Drag the vertical left or right line horizontally to adjust the Q setting only. Place the cursor right where the vertical and horizontal lines intersect, and drag vertically to adjust the gain and Q together while preserving the center frequency. I’ll often set up a cut or boost of just a couple of dB's, and then use these two functions to experiment with different Q and/or gain values as the music plays. This is really useful in helping me to determine how little or as much of the frequency range surrounding the center value I want effected by the boost or cut I have in place.
Grab where the vertical and horizontal lines intersect and drag vertically to adjust Gain and Q simultaneously, Drag horizontally to adjust Q only:
These are some of the Channel EQ functions I use routinely that help me work quickly and efficiently.
What are some of yours?