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Clariphonic Equalizer: Hardware vs Software

A while back I posted an article talking about the UBK-1 software compressor and Clariphonic hardware EQ. It was an overview of their use and application, and worth a read.

Kush Audio Clariphonic DSP

Semi-recently, Kush Audio released a Clariphonic software EQ — notable for two reasons:

  1. The hardware is absolutely amazing
  2. Greg Scott, founder and head designer of Kush, notably stated that the Clariphonic’s effect can’t be replicated with regular EQ plugins because they all use standard shelving filters. They had to build new algorithms from scratch to do it.

Obviously my interest was piqued. I downloaded it and have been using it in mixes and trying it against the hardware just to see what it’s all about.

My basic opinion over a few months of using it is that the Clariphonic DSP is fairly different than the hardware. There is a certain quality that is very similar — the bands sound very closely matched and the texture has a similar quality. However, I’ve found the hardware to be a subtle beast — a great way to sneak pop and brightness into a sound without harshness or obvious artifacts. The DSP on the other hand, sounds more forward — I hear the EQ happening.

In application, most of the time I’m preferring the hardware. But things aren’t black and white. There are applications where I actually want a bit more forwardness in the EQ. Pop drums for example, I found the DSP to be bolder and hold up better to bright guitars and synths. Occasionally, I’ll prefer it for vocals as well (maybe 33% of the — particularly in Pop and EDM genres. The hardware really kicks the software’s ass in places where you want to get more overall boost with less noticeable overall change to the sound. Mix buss immediately comes to mind. Synths as well are often forward enough, particularly soft synths. The DSP is almost always too much, but a touch of the hardware seems to add a subtle lift to synths not dissimilar to an exciter, but again without the artifacts. Lastly, and this is a weird one, but reverb and delay return I exclusively prefer the hardware.

Does one substitute for the other? Pretty closely. Reading above you might think there is a massive difference between the two. It’s not so drastic. It’s noticeable, but they’re overall fairly similar. One of my favorite moves for the DSP is to put it on mix buss to mix into it, and then swap it for the hardware at the end. This frees up the hardware for other uses during the mix.

But enough yammering, time to hear the goods!

Below is a quick toss together of drums, bass, and guitar, including:

  • Dry version
  • Pre-treatment version (using UBK-1, some basic EQ, and a phase flip on the bass)
  • Treated version w/ Clariphonic hardware
  • Treated version w/ Clariphonic software on matched settings

The Song

Processed:

Hardware:

Software:

Bass

Bass Settings

Bass UBK and Phase

Dry:

Processed:

Hardware:

Software:

Drums

Drum Settings

Drums UBK

Dry:

Processed:

Hardware:

Hardware set to where I liked it, not matched to the software:

Software:

Guitars

Guitar Settings

Guitar UBK

Dry:

Processed:

Hardware:

Software:

The results are interesting. Obviously, form your own opinion, but to my ear:

  • The bass sounds a bit more focused with the hardware — there’s a little bit more polish — but it’s almost too close to call.
  • The guitars I prefer the hardware, there seems to be more depth and width to the tone.
  • The drums I actually prefer the software overall. The snare moves farther forward in a cool way, with the only trade off being the kick isn’t quite quite as articulated.

Now, if I was really mixing this, I would probably set the hardware differently than the software (I included where I felt the drums sounded good on the hardware just for kicks). And I would also use other processing to compensate for what one or the other wasn’t bringing to the table.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.

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  • bgolden

    interesting. I’ve always wondered about this but I don’t have access to the hardware to do the comparisons myself. thanks.

  • David Prouty

    Interesting. The big question is will we ever hit a point in the near future where it is not arguable that software can give anything that hardware does. I need some software that replaces the Eqs on an old SRP-V110 sony mixer ….. I wont hold my breath for that.

  • jordan

    I thought the difference on the mix buss was glaringly obvious. The bass was more jumpy and weighty. The software did not have this effect and the whole mix felt a little bit “deader.”

    On individual tracks / drum buss, I thought the differences were, for the most part, negligible.

  • Bloke

    On an ipad they all sound identical, i started to think i was being pranked

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