Pros: -Fast, accurate pitch detection, or… -MIDI override option – 7 bands with multiple filter types – Harmonic filter – Easy and fun interface
Cons: – No presets
Surfer EQ from Sound Radix (a software company well-known also for its brilliant and problem-solving plugins like Auto-Align, Drum Leveler and 32 Lives) is a pitch-tracking equalizer plugin that adjusts the frequency of the eq bands according to the incoming pitch of audio/MIDI. This allows for sculpting of timbre and tone of monophonic tonal sounds, in real time, using the ‘Surf’ button for any of the 7 eq bands.
As an eq plugin, this feature is unique. Eqs are usually static, and there are a few eqs that are dynamic; meaning they react to incoming transients/volume. This is why, even though Surfer EQ is definitely not a new product, we decided to feature it on ANR and explain how such a unique plugin could make a useful tool in your sound-design toolbox.
Tracking The pitch tracking of audio on the plugin was surprisingly fast, fast enough to use with most synths and even live vocals! The default mode of the plugin is to use the audio pitch tracking which is overridden by any incoming MIDI notes and I found this very useful and easy to route MIDI when I needed to accommodate for very sonically complex and pitchy synths. I found the audio tracking to be octave correct, and I liked having a real time display of the note, octave and cents detected. Any bands that are set to ‘Surf’ visually move along with the pitch in the parametric equalizer.
Setting equalizations in response to a root note instead of a static frequency requires a different method of controlling the pitch of the eq, so adjustments to the eq bands are made according to the harmonic. A setting of 1.0 harmonic is the fundamental pitch of the note, and 2.0 harmonic is an octave above that. This is a very simple and straightforward method method of mixing, but less experienced users would probably like to see some tutorials on advanced use of mixing with higher harmonics. However, the simple use case of consistently boosting the fundamental while cutting below that frequency is something that every sound engineer would be happy to have.
The bands available are bell curves, high-pass and low-pass filters, high & low shelves, and a proprietary harmonic filter. The harmonic filter looks like a comb-type filter but Sound Radix has designed an effect that sounds more musically relevant than what is normally considered a comb filter. Changing the slope settings of the harmonic filter drastically change the sound, giving a wide range of usable options for sound design.
Neat features One thing I really like about Sound Radix products is that the dialogs for parameters can be entered by typing the value into the box. Click-dragging is an option for the knobs but is not mandatory.
A neat feature on SurferEQ is the ability to type the pitch, (ie. G3, G#3) for non-Surfer equing. SurferEQ also has an A/B feature, with one-click copying to the alternate snapshot.
Adjusting the noise threshold and pitch sensitivity tracking of the audio detection engine is easily found in the settings menu. All of the above features are conceptually simple, but go a long way to contributing to usefulness of the interface, proving that Sound Radix understands plugin users.
Conclusion I found SurferEQ to be a unique, musical EQ and amazing tool for removing noise without diminishing the important harmonics that are the core of those sounds. This allows the perceived loudness to be increased without taking up headroom, contributing to a better mix. Recommended!
Price and Compatibility $199 (a trial version is available) – 32/64bit, AU/VST/AAX/RTAS, Mac/PC (64bit internal processing)
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