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Review: Kush Audio Clariphonic EQ and UBK-1

The Clariphonic Equalizer

Kush Audio Clariphonic Parallel Equalizer

The Clariphonic EQ is a unique twist on EQ. Rather than taking a source, targeting a frequency band, and adjusting that, the Clariphonic takes a source and creates a filtered version which is then blended back in to the original source in parallel. Parallel equalization has sort of been thought of as a novelty process – but if you want to do broad boosts it actually makes a lot of sense. Negative filtering has notably less phase distortion than broad band boosts – as the most prominent artifact is resonance rather than ring and ripple. If the slope is gradual enough and the filter itself is well manufactured, the resonance is almost negligible. It’s one of the reasons people will say “cut, don’t boost” when it comes to EQ. In other words, rather than boosting a single signal and getting the artifacts that produces, you create a second signal with less artifacts and blend that in with the dry signal. Pretty sharp.

Transparency

The Clariphonic focuses on making boosts that are equally as transparent as cuts. And it is arguably one of the most transparent EQs available – certainly the most transparent in my own experience.

Application

In application, the Clariphonic does take a little getting used to. There are a number of reasons for this – the first being that it is supremely transparent. Thus, it’s easy to overdo it. It also relies on a non-linear gain structure. In other words, cranking one of the knobs from 9’o’clock to 10’o’clock will not yield the same amount of frequency boost as cranking the knob from 12’o’clock to 1’o’clock. Now at first this might seem awkward and poor architecture – but once you get used to it, it actually makes a lot of sense.

The first half of the gain knobs are dedicated toward “precision” work. This is good for situations where subtle adjustments can have big results – like EQ’ing the entire mix. The second half is dedicated to large boosts, which is good for applications where you need tons of clean EQ gain.

Knobs

Lastly, the labeling of the controls is a bit odd. Terms like “Focus” and “Shimmer” are very much dependent on what’s already living there. This forces a semi-trial and error approach to getting the settings. This is where the “parallel only” switch can be very useful. by switching to the parallel signal you can hear very very clearly what parts of the source are being emphasized. I highly recommend taking advantage of this knob, because often multiple settings will sound good – and it becomes a matter of which is best – and any perspective that can help that decision is extremely useful.

Conclusion

My end conclusion on this is that not all gear is meant for all things. However, the Clariphonic EQ is one of those pieces of gear that is. The sheer transparency alone makes this piece unique and effective in a multitude of situations – equally as useful in the mix as across the two bus – and for the price point it is more than worth it.

UBK-1 Plug-in

Kush Audio UBK-1

There are many many software compressors available at this point. I asked designer Greg Scott why the world needs another one. His responses went something to the tune of – the world doesn’t need one, but I do! Greg designs his gear the way he wants it to work – rather than specifically emulating previous traditional gear. Hence we get this brilliant mess of a compressor.

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I say mess because there’s a ton of stuff packed into this plug – almost like a really quirky channel strip. But I also say brilliant because the application and coordination of this program works together, each stage corresponding elegantly – making a complicated set of processes fairly simple.

Rhythmic Compression

The advertised intent of the UBK-1 is to use compression to generate “movement.” I feel it lives up to it’s intended purpose. The most compelling aspect of the UBK-1 is the swing of the compression settings, and the degree to which that swing can occur. Each setting has a unique attack and release curve that can be used to either emphasize the push or pull of the sound.

Easy practical applications for this include creating new internal dynamics or drawing attention to ghost notes, or manipulating cymbal decay, reverbs, or delays. Adding drive, bounce, or forward motion is the mission here – rather than simply shaping the envelope of a sound.

Saturation

However, prior to the compression stage is an equally compelling saturation stage. The saturation stage generates some rich harmonics as well as adds it’s own mild compression. The result is a notably colored and “thicker” sound. The trade off is that the sound “softens” a bit – so finding that sweet spot can take a little fine tuning. The degree of coloration can be pretty subtle between each end of the dial, but listening for the proper blend of thickness and color verse softness makes for a good listening marker.

Additionally, I find a very light blend of saturated signal goes a long way. The saturation blended into the compression is extremely useful for giving a sound “thickness”.

Density Setting

Moving along with the idea of thickness – the density control does this in designated frequency areas. It’s a bit allusive but I recommend setting it high and flipping between mid and high – you’ll either like one, the other, or neither – and usually fairly quickly. It’s almost cheating, but if you happen to have the Clariphonic EQ, pushing the mid density up on the UBK-1 and boosting the “Focus” on the “Tight” setting will push a source extremely forward.

Conclusion

The UBK-1 took me about two weeks of experimentation before I began feeling like I really had it down under my belt. But I believe it is more than worth it. Unfortunately, the days of software piracy people may be forgetting that plugins are individual tools and need their own mastery. Taking the time to really explore and master a particular piece of gear really pays off – and the UBK-1 has proven extremely versatile and useful as I continue to utilize it.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com

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