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Sonnox Oxford Dynamic EQ Review at Audio Producer News

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New World Order

Oxford have always been a pillar – a bastion of the established order of crumbling Pro Tools Illuminati. Or so we thought… Of late, however, there have been some very uncharacteristic utterances from the legendary UK technocrats and the Dynamic EQ seems to be the first manifestation of their Nouveau, New World Order. A kind of softcoded teabagging of the ‘Old Boy Network’, if you will.

Dynamic software EQ’s have gained enormous traction over the last few years and now, what used to be regarded as simply a rarity or ‘curio’ is commonplace in many studios – both pro and otherwise. But what does this actually mean to you and me? Is it really an important addition to the stable and more importantly, what is this new offering from Oxford worth in old money?

User Interface

It’s a handsome son-of-a-b*tch alright. Borrowing equal parts history and future from both it’s revered Oxford lineage and post-modern pace setters such as Fabfilter and DMG. The Oxford DynamicEQ presents a delightful conundrum to those hooked on photo-realistic GUI’s as it actually shows you real info that you really need in a slick and eminently digestible fashion.

What is it, Exactly?

Presumably, most who find themselves here will know why – but as a quick reminder, a dynamic EQ is not really a multiband compressor – even though it can be viewed as such. Technically speaking, the main difference is that your average multi-band compressor uses crossovers and can suffer from static phase distortion (at those crossover points) whilst a dynamic EQ, although working on the same principle, replaces the crossover filters with EQ filter shapes offering unprecedented accuracy without the phase distortion.

Classic Curves 

A huge point of pride for the Sonnox crew comes from the EQ’s classic characteristics – offering the gain / Q dependency of the classic Oxford Type 3 (R3) EQ mythologised by the early ’90s OXF-R3 console, considered by many to be the finest digital console ever made. Any gain changes made using the proportional Q maintain the sweet-spot as you boost or cut.

Musical Q

The DynamicEQ features five bands of R3 goodness. These proportional Q filters are recognisable as, and most commonly associated with, analog hardware – hence them being described as very ‘musical’ by legions of engineers across the globe. Herein lies another inconsistency – because the Sonnox is fast becoming known for its transparency.

Graphic User Interface

Workflow plays a big part with the DynamicEQ and, aside from its musical filters and super-clean GUI it’s biggest attraction to many will be the pure simplicity of that workflow and the accessible nature of it’s well-realised control set.

A sweet bit of detailing becomes apparent when you float the mouse over those famous five dots revealing the preset next and previous buttons, undo and redo arrows and preferences tab. A neat touch that’s indicative of how much effort Sonnox have taken, trying to keep the GUI clean and functional.

So What's the Big Deal?

The Sonnox DynamicEQ has five, mid/side adjustable bands and a choice of only adjustable bell filters or non-adjustable shelves. There are plans to introduce dynamic high and low pass filters but that will be a few revisions down the line when or indeed if it happens. if you click on the colored, numbered ‘Target Gain’ node on the display you’ll see your options below – anything greyed out will not be available in that particular configuration. Target Gain determines the level that particular EQ band will attempt to reach dynamically whilst the inverted triangle behind is known as ‘Offset Gain’.

The ‘Offset Gain’ control is a lot simpler than it sounds. It is essentially the non-dynamic part of the plugin so, wherever you drag it that becomes the default gain of that particular band. The Q value of both Offset and Target Gain can be adjusted with a simple roll of your mouse wheel, which is a very user-friendly touch. The frequency analyzer, whilst appearing a little, (dare I say it?) boring, is actually high resolution, very responsive and extremely useful. Analysis curves should never be underestimated, as that visual feedback is essential to a fast workflow. (Waves take note with the otherwise fantastic F6).

In Use

The DynamicEQ is very easy to use. Generally there’s not much cause to mess with the offset gain. Keep the dynamics section of the plugin pinned on the ‘Peak’ and ‘Above’ options and you can immediately indulge in some band accurate compression or upwards expansion. Flip the script, select ‘Onset’ detection and EXT sidechain and now you can duck just the desired frequencies in say, a sub bass by feeding it with the output from your kick track. Now what is ‘Onset detection’? You might ask. Well this is where compression (upwards or downwards) is triggered by sudden changes in input level or, basically transients – rather than the by the signal  reaching a set ‘Threshold’ before being actuated. The ‘Dynamics’ control is basically a ratio knob.

What's it Good For?

One of the most useful aspects of the DynamicEQ is that you can overlap the bands without suffering any artefacts the way you might with a traditional multiband compressor. This makes it easy to zero in on the offending area without having to think too hard. I found this plugin really excels at knocking nasty resonances from vocals and snare drums. It’s so effective that you often might not realise it’s actually working until you either solo the band(s) or bypass the plugin.

Another solid tip is to grab the static EQ node or ‘Offset Gain’ control and set it a dB or two higher than it’s initial default state when trying to knock out those higher mid resonances. This counteracts any shine that might get removed when using an extreme level of gain reduction. Anything less than extreme levels of reduction and you’ll find the DynamicEQ to be little more than an apparition. Floating elegantly within your documents it delivers startlingly transparent results and for this reason many engineers are already adopting it for mastering duties.

To really hone in on any offending frequencies you can go old school and raise the ‘Offset Gain’ to sweep for it or you can sweep at unity gain with the band solo’d (click on the headphone icon) whilst bands can be switched on and off individually using the EQ button to the left of the headphone icon. The last item of real note relates to the fact that the DynamicEQ can trigger the adjustable sidechain from a different frequency band than the one that’s in focus.

Conclusion

At first I didn’t know what to think of the Sonnox. It was a couple of features short of a full house yet it presents its functionality in such an accessible way that I started using it more and more to try and push it into a place of ugliness, (which is pretty easy with Multiband comps and Dynamic EQ’s). It turned out to be quite hard to do. DynamicEQ does its job with such little fuss that you often end up wondering whether you’ve placebo’d yourself. Until you A/B it. This plugin is so sonically superb it makes you think that you did it on your own. It’s important to understand the market for Sonnox.

They’ve always been a super high-end company – a developer coveted by the old boy network, so to speak. To see them pushing an established and safe brand to the bleeding edge of design and singular functionality in such a cut-throat marketplace is very exciting. It seems they’re in the midst of a Generation Y indoctrination phase. Hopefully this signifies the dawn of a new era for both Sonnox and that slew of attention-span-challenged plugin tweakers. So, what’s it worth in old money, then? Well – that all depends on whether you know the secret handshake or not.

The Low Down

Summary

High quality, well thought out dynamic EQ that will hold its own against any other brands. Again, thoughtful design and ergonomy win the day for Sonnox - though we wish it had a full screen option like Fabfilter.

Positives

  • Sound
  • Excellent Interface
  • Flexibility

Negatives

  • No Mix control
  • No adjustable Q on shelves
  • No dynamic HP/LP filters

Ratings

  • User Interface - 5 of 5
  • Features - 3 of 5
  • Ease of Use - 4 of 5
  • Fitness of Purpose - 5 of 5
  • Value for Money - 4 of 5

Original Source - Audio Producer News

Try before you buy

Download Oxford Dynamic EQ trial version for free!

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