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Review: smart:EQ 2 by Sonible

The Austrian-based developer Sonible, known for their intelligent filter plugins, released their newest product smart:EQ 2 last October and it was highlighted at NAMM last month. Artificial Intelligence and smart software have come on strong in recent years and Sonible has carved out a distinct niche in that sector.

sonible smart:EQ 2

smart:EQ 2 is billed as “a state-of-the-art linear phase EQ with a built-in A.I. smart: filter band.” It is designed to achieve a tonal balance quickly and its utility can conceivably benefit users ranging from beginner to professional level.

The application comes with several existing instrumental profiles for what the developers refer to as “content-aware processing.” This includes settings for drums, strings, brass, winds, piano, bass, guitars, etc. In addition, the plugin will learn and adjust filtering based on whatever content you feed it, allowing you to save custom profiles for repetitive EQing tasks.

Its primary function is to quickly detect harsh resonances, allowing the user to have a starting point from which to proceed with corrective equalization. Happily, there is also Mid/Side capability for enhanced width and the plugin works quite well as a traditional EQ. The newly added Tilt filter is a welcome feature as well.

The company clearly is seeking to develop tools that will be useful regardless of the users level of skill or experience. They identify three specific user profiles:

Motivated Beginners just learning about what an “ideal spectral shape and filter response” might look like and those seeking to train their ears.

Ambitious Amateurs working in project studios that need a go-to EQ for detailed EQ carving.

Professionals working in Post or Mastering where time can be saved for repetitive tasks by using custom profiles.

The main strength of the smart:EQ 2 is that it allows the user to create their own personal library of custom made profiles and accommodates personal mixing styles. While the intelligent algorithm attempts to find the “perfect” balance, the developers are keen to stipulate:

With ‘perfect’ we mean ‘most pleasant to our ear’ by psychoacoustic standards. Because that is not always what you need right now for the mix at hand, you can adjust the smart:filter curve exactly to your needs and style. You can even invert the filter curve to enhance the individual character of any audio track.

At the modest price of $146 USD, it seems like a worthy addition to your current EQ array, as it offers some unique features that can definitely speed up your workflow. If you like smart:EQ 2, I would also have a look at Sonible’s other offerings:

smart:EQ LIVE – The adaptive equalizer smart:EQ live analyzes audio signals, interprets them musically and compensates spectral imbalances in real-time.

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entropy:EQ+ – The entropy:EQ+ simplifies the post-production of the harmonic and inharmonic sound components of audio recordings seamlessly and extremely fast.

frei:raum – smart filtering | acoustic zoom | transient shaping

And particularly attractive for correcting poor acoustics and bad recordings:

proximity:EQ+ – Thanks to its adjustable settings for direct sound and reverberation, this plugin lets you retrospectively shape the room’s acoustics, any way you can imagine. This intuitive tool lets you turn fuzzy recordings into crisp statements, diplomatically put an overambitious singer in the back, or give that muffled bass the kick it needs. Thanks to its ability to separate reverberation and direct sound particles, the proximity:EQ+ plugin lets you amplify or silence certain parts of your room acoustics – depending on your vision of the perfect sound in post-production.

Final Thoughts

As intelligent software becomes more and more prevalent, there are some that may lament the disappearance of craft or fear the obsolescence of experience. But as long as we are creating music for human beings, I believe the human element can never be replaced. Try as we might, we will never be able to reliably quantify and predict individual human subjectivity. It can be as fleeting as a mood or a whim, or firmly grounded from a lifetime of unique experience. New tools are only as good as the user, but they can also accelerate the learning process, and that has to be a good thing.


Check out my other articles, reviews, interviews and my video tutorial series, Synthesis 101 available exclusively on The Pro Audio Files.

Follow me on Twitter: @PMantione
Instagram: philipmantione

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Philip Mantione

Philip Mantione

Philip Mantione is a composer, synthesist, guitarist, educator and sound artist active in the LA experimental music scene. His music has been presented in festivals, museums and galleries worldwide. His current project is TriAngular Bent, an electroacoustic trio featuring Don Preston (founding member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention) and circuit bending virtuoso, Jeff Boynton. Details at philipmantione.com

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