Today we’re going to be covering the Soundtheory Gulfoss Intelligent EQ. Watch as Dylan reviews and demonstrates this new plugin.
Hello everyone. This is Dylan with Musician on a Mission, here with a new plug-in review and tutorial for you.
Today, we’re going to be covering the sound theory Gullfoss Intelligent EQ. Now, I’ve heard of this plug-in through the grapevine from some friends and some co-workers. Honestly, didn’t really get the hype, I didn’t understand what it was.
I finally got a chance to check it out at NAMM, and spoiler alert for the review, I was extremely impressed. It honestly feels like – I like to use this word to describe some plug-ins, it feels like an instant good-er-izer. Like whatever I put it on, it just makes it seem a little bit better. It just makes it sound a little bit clearer.
So a lot of people don’t understand what the Gullfoss Intelligent EQ is, because it’s an entirely new piece of technology. It’s basically an instant balancer. It improves clarity and definition, and it even gives depth and cohesion to sounds, but it does it all automatically.
You’re going to be tweaking a few knobs but the system is actually going to be balancing the frequencies by itself. It’s a pretty amazing piece of technology.
So how it works is it figures out which elements of the frequency spectrum are competing for the attention of the human brain. It then uses some kind of rocket science to balance all of these elements of the frequency spectrum. And when I say rocket science, I really mean it.
It was made by physicists who were studying quantum theory. They found some theoretical physics algorithm that they realized could be used to rethink how humans perceive different frequencies. And being musicians themselves, they decided to go off on their own and create a plug-in company which is Soundtheory.
That means that this is a brand new approach to EQ. It’s a uniquely new piece of technology. There’s not really anything that’s existed in the last 60 years like it. And after using it for a while, I have to admit, I’m sold on it. There’s a lot of different applications for this plug-in, but whatever I use it on, it seems to take a blanket off of the sound.
There’s a few different ways that you can use this plug-in. So let’s dive into a quick tutorial, so that whenever you get it for yourself, you really know what you’re doing.
There are only five parameters to mess with on this plug-in. There is Recover, Tame, Bias, Brighten, and Boost. There’s also gain and a few extra little knobs and bells and whistles, but that’s the main five that you will be messing with.
So Recover finds out which parts of the frequency spectrum are being masked and it brings those parts out. It does pretty much exactly what it says. It recovers lost things.
So Tame does the opposite of Recover. It finds parts of the frequency spectrum that are too prominent and it tames them, it brings them down. They both have their own unique blend of boosting and cutting.
I usually like to think of the two parameters like this: Recover is going to add to the sound, Tame is going to take away from the sound. And depending on what that particular sound needs you might want to lean more towards one or the other. Sometimes you might want a little bit of both. Honestly, I use a little bit of both on just about everything.
So Bias is the next parameter that you can tweak. The algorithm behind Gullfoss sometimes struggles to determine whether a frequency deserves to be recovered or tamed. Now honestly, I don’t have that much of a problem with this, but there are times when I’m kind of listening to the sound and I’m like, ah. It feels like it’s gravitating towards one sound or a different sound, it’s not really as clear as I want it to be.
So in that situation, you’re going to want to use the Bias control. If you turn it up in percentage, it starts to lean more towards Recover. If you turn it down in percentage, it starts to lean more towards Tame.
So when the system is confused about whether a particular frequency needs to be tamed or recovered, the Bias control is what’s going to tell it which to lean on.
If you’re wanting a more exciting sound, you’re probably going to want to lean towards recovery, because you’re going to want those sounds that are too quiet, that are being masked to get brought out.
But if you want a more controlled sound, you’re probably going to want to lean more towards Tame.
So the next knob that we can fiddle with is Brighten. Now, Brighten is pretty much exactly what you would think it would be. You can either brighten the sound or you can darken the sound a little bit.
It’s basically an intelligent high shelf. So I can turn this up, I can increase the top end and it subtly decreases the low end a little bit. Or I can bring it down and do the opposite, I can subtly bring up the low end and decrease some of the top end.
This is great if you’re wanting to shape the tone of the sound. So most everything else, Recover, Tame and Bias, that more deals with just balancing the sound, that’s just the algorithm doing its thing.
Brighten is you saying, I want this to be brighter, I want this to be more quiet, I want to change the tone.
Boost is going to do the same thing but for the low end. So if I turn this up, it’s going to be adding some low end, but it’s also going to be decreasing some of the mids; whereas if I decrease it, it’s going to cut some of the low end and a little bit of the top end and it’s also going to increase the mids.
It’s basically going to help to give you a control over the low end in the same way that’s Brighten gives you control over the high end. But it also will allow you to get a little bit of that smiley curve where it’s got a bit of a boost in the lows, a bit of a boost in the highs, and a bit of a cut in the mids. That’s that classic sound you heard in records for 50-60 years.
Other than that, you’ve got a little gain right here if you need to turn the overall sound up and down. You also have these little filters right here.
So as I bring these filters down, any frequencies that are behind the filters don’t get affected by the processing. This is really, really helpful if for some reason Gullfoss is hearing a sound and it thinks, oh this doesn’t have any low-end, I should add more low-end.
But in fact, it’s electric guitar, it’s not supposed to have any low end, so I might go in and say, hey, I don’t really want to add anything underneath 133 hertz we’ll say.
You also can push them farther out past each other and make it to where only this area is not being processed. So the low end and the high end are processed but the middles, the mids are not. That’s really, really helpful as well.
So now that you understand what every part of the Gullfoss system does, let’s actually get into techniques in using it. Let’s get into the meat of this tutorial.
So let’s start with instruments. It’s really, really good just on your individual instrument tone, just keeping it nice and balanced, keeping it nice and forward, adding a little bit of depth to it.
Let’s see what this sounds like with an acoustic guitar.
[Music Being Played 00:07:06]
So right now you can already hear that it’s kind of – it’s a little bit too full, it doesn’t really have any low end, it’s a little bit too booming. So let’s see what this does to it.
[Music Being Played 00:07:50]
Pretty impressive, right? So let’s listen to it before and after. So this is before – we will hit little bypass button here.
[Music Being Played 00:08:00]
And this is after…
[Music Being Played 00:08:07]
[Music Being Played 00:08:10]
[Music Being Played 00:08:15]
So you can see it’s cutting a little bit of the low-mids down here and it’s adding a lot of mids and highs. And I had even said beforehand, this feels too boomy, it doesn’t feel like it has enough of a top end.
And that really solved that problem, but not only solved the problem just with an overall EQ curve, but solved that problem second by second.
It’s truly changing the EQ curve every single microsecond that this particular instrument is happening, and that helps to keep the tone very consistent over the course of the entire song rather than one note being too bright or one note being too dark in comparison to the rest of the notes around it. It’s really nice.
So let’s see what this sounds like on an electric guitar. We’ll just bring this up here.
[Music Being Played 00:09:10]
Don’t really want any of this low end.
[Music Being Played 00:09:15]
Top end is a little bit much too.
[Music Being Played 00:09:50]
So take a look at this, you can really see each note that’s happening, it’s turning stuff down, it’s turning stuff up. It’s reacting to what’s specifically being played in that moment.
So let’s do it before and after.
[Music Being Played 00:10:06]
A lot of mids, not a lot of hives, not a lot of upper mids. And after…
[Music Being Played 00:10:12]
It’s a much more balanced sound now. Before…
[Music Being Played 00:10:20]
[Music Being Played 00:10:22]
Doesn’t just sound like a blanket has been taken off of the electric guitar. Let’s see what it sounds like on drums. All right.
So real boomy drum set, great tone though, real boomy.
[Music Being Played 00:11:20]
So you see how that takes out a lot of that boom in the lows and the lower mids, but emphasizes a lot of the highs? But not only that, it helps to balance the snares and the kick. You can actually see how – I’ll play it again.
[Music Being Played 00:11:37]
You see how the EQ changes depending on whether or not the kick is happening or the snare is happening? The nice part about an Intelligent EQ let Gullfoss is that any EQ that I would be doing on the drum bus would be applied to both the kick and the snare, which means that if I wanted to boost the lows on my drum bus, I’d be boosting the lows of the snare as well.
Whereas with this, it’s basically balancing the entire thing, so it understands that the EQ needs of the kick are much different than the EQ needs of the snare.
So another thing that the Gullfoss can do is it can actually help with phase issues that you have with stereo files for an acoustic guitar, for an electric guitar, for drums. Anything that was recorded with more than one microphone, it’s likely to have some phasing issues.
So Gullfoss has been very, very helpful with fixing those issues. So let’s listen to this in particular.
[Music Being Played 00:12:38]
Really cool guitar part, nice Indie Rock guitar part. But you can hear kind of like that [ooo] sound in it, that warbliness, the resonances that are happening in it, because of some phasing issues.
So let’s see what Gullfoss can do for this.
[Music Being Played 00:13:33]
So let’s listen to the difference between these two. Before…
[Music Being Played 00:13:40]
[Music Being Played 00:13:44]
You hear, how it sounds a lot more balanced overall? There’s that whiny mids resonance tone that’s in there that you’re not really hearing.
I want to show you what this sounds like when it’s been summed to mono, because that’s going to show you even more what this plug-in is doing for these phasing issues.
So let’s turn this on mono. Get you back up here and we’ll bypass it.
[Music Being Played 00:14:07]
So really phasing into mono.
[Music Being Played 00:14:13]
And now it’s pretty much regular.
[Music Being Played 00:14:31]
Now it still has some work that needs to be done on it, some processing, but it’s starting to get there. So let’s move on to our next example of what this plug-in can do.
So I like using it for resonance issues as well. So resonances are certain frequencies that get caught in an instrument.
For an acoustic guitar, it might be a frequency that’s been caught inside of the body of the guitar which is making an extra loud.
For a drum set, it might be a room note – a note that’s, for whatever reason, being amplified by the room itself. And it’s just extra loud, it’s very, very annoying. So I love to use Gullfoss to fix this, or rather, I love to use Gullfoss to find where the problem is and then use an EQ to fix it.
So let’s look at what I’m talking about here.
[Music Being Played 00:15:27]
So you can hear that one resonant frequency. It’s kind of in the mids, like [boo-boo-boo] that’s happening.
[Music Being Played 00:15:37]
So I want to go in and find that. So this is going to be pretty much entirely Tame. I’m not trying to recover anything. I’m just trying to figure out where the problem is.
[Music Being Played 00:15:53]
So you can hear, as I’m taming it, it’s not necessarily getting rid of the problem, but there are little areas that are getting dipped more than others, and I want to figure out where those are.
[Music Being Played 00:16:03]
So right here, if I click down, I can actually see where my cursor is on the plug-in, which is really nice. So let’s look right here.
[Music Being Played 00:16:17]
So about 500 hertz. Now I’m going to bring up – let’s bypass this, get rid of it, I’m going to bring up an EQ. And we’re going to check around 500 hertz and see if that’s the offending area.
[Music Being Played 00:16:36]
Yep, that’s it, all right.
[Music Being Played 00:16:43]
And boom, we’re done. That would usually take me 5-10 minutes to really figure out exactly where that frequency is, and I just did it in 30 seconds.
Let’s listen to before and after. So before…
[Music Being Played 00:16:57]
[Music Being Played 00:17:00]
Totally clears it up.
[Music Being Played 00:17:09]
So the next thing that it can do is it can actually be used as a de-esser on a harsh vocal. So let’s check this one out right here.
So I really, really like this vocal, but it does need some de-essing. I want to bring this up here.
And the way we’re going to do this is we are actually going to cut the entire low end out of Gullfoss, we’re going to make sure that this whole section, the lows, the low mids, the mids are not being processed. We really only want to have this area be tamed.
And once again, we are going to just be using Tame for this. This isn’t going to be a Recover section, just Tame.
[Music Being Played 00:17:50]
So you can hear that [ss-ss] with some really bad sibilance.
[Music Being Played 00:18:20]
So let’s listen before and after.
[Music Being Played 00:18:32]
Not bad, right? So the way that Gullfoss works as a de-esser is it’s primarily getting the top end of that S sound, it can’t really work as a broadband de-esser.
So for me personally, I do prefer to use broadband de-essers. A lot of people prefer using only top-shelf de-essers. But if you don’t have a de-esser preference or you do prefer top end de-essers, this is going to be a perfect solution for you.
So let’s see what this sounds like in context of the instrumental, and I’m going to take it out first.
[Music Being Played 00:19:17]
Okay, now let’s listen to it with the de-essing in.
[Music Being Played 00:19:26]
Much less noticeable.
[Music Being Played 00:19:33]
It sounds a lot more like it’s just, that’s a regular S that’s in the context of the song.
So one final thing you can use Gullfoss for, and this is actually what it’s made for primarily, is to use it on an entire mix.
So I am going to be using it on just the instrumental because I personally like how this sounds on the instrumental of this particular mix and not quite as much on the vocals of this particular mix.
But you’ll see what it sounds like whenever it’s been mixed together. So it does a fantastic job of creating that depth that I was talking about, that cohesion between all of the different instruments, as well as just making it.
So this mix will be more accurate in any speaker that you listen to it. That’s one of the biggest problems with new mixers is that their mix sounds so good in their headphones or their mix sounds so good in their own personal rooms, like they put hours and hours of work into it, and then they go and listen to it in their cars and they hate it, because it just sounds so bad.
This is really going to help with that. This is really going to help to keep it to where it sounds the same in your headphones as it will sound on the radio in a restaurant.
[Music Being Played 00:21:21]
So let’s listen before and after and really pay attention to how all of the instruments interact with each other, how the mix seems to go from being almost two-dimensional to three-dimensional.
[Music Being Played 00:21:41]
[Music Being Played 00:21:50]
[Music Being Played 00:21:54]
[Music Being Played 00:22:07]
Not bad, if I do say so myself. So let’s listen to what this entire mix is going to sound like with the sibilance fixed and with the instrumental balanced overall.
[Music Being Played 00:22:32]
And if I was to take them off…
[Music Being Played 00:22:43]
So immediately, much more balanced.
[Music Being Played 00:22:54]
Some pretty impressive stuff from the guys at Soundtheory. I’m really impressed with how this has been made.
I expect a lot of great things out of this company. You guys should be checking them out as well.
So definitely check out the Gullfoss Intelligent EQ. I’m going to start using it on pretty much every mix I have if I’m being honest with you. It is, as I said at the beginning, an instant good-er-izer.
So this has been Dylan with Musician on a Mission. Hope you guys enjoyed this quick tutorial, quick review. Definitely check this plug-in out.
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