Snapshot Product Reviews

Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM


Education Guide

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Equalizer Plug-In

The 11-band mono and stereo bx_hybrid 2 ($349) VST/RTAS EQ plug-in from Brainworx combines unique features with traditional tools. As you'd expect, filter choices include low shelving, high shelving, bell, lowpass, highpass and notch, with sweepable bass and presence-shifting EQs that are joystick-controllable. The extras include Auto-Listen modes; M/S stereo width and M/S “Mono Maker” controls; a dual-mono layout for linked and unlinked control of each individual feature; individual bypass switches for every feature; balance and phase correlation meters; and solo'ing capability for left and right channels, which puts the signal from the individual channel into both speakers. A switchable EQ panel with multimode EQ display ties all these fully automatable functions together.

The old-school core of bx_hybrid results from its creators' understanding of the mysteries of M/S. By applying M/S principles internally to a mixing/mastering EQ, brainworx has made this complex technique foolproof and easily accessible for DAW-based production. The Mono Maker control at the top of bx_hybrid's large and attractive interface allows you to change the low end to mono from 0 Hz up to any desired frequency. It creates a mono mixdown low while automatically compensating for any potential loss of overall bass amount in the mix.

When I applied bx_hybrid to the bass, drums, percussion and synth stems of an electronica mix, the benefits of this capability were immediately apparent. I started by making the bass mono at 44 Hz with a stereo width decreased down slightly from 100 percent (you can take it as high as 400 percent), resulting immediately in a nicely tightened, better-focused bass track. From there I introduced the Mono Maker and stereo-width controls, making incremental increases in those parameters for each stem. The result was a startling increase in control for placing each stem in the stereo field and articulating its presence, in a way that would have been either impossible — or at least extremely time-consuming — without the hybrid on hand.

The software's ability to solo the left or right signal in both speakers was invaluable for judging perspective on the mix, and the Auto-Listen modes — while tricky to comprehend at first — become intuitive with practice, allowing even greater insights as to how each band's Q, gain and frequency adjustment impacted the audio.

The only difficulty I encountered was CPU drain: Putting one across each of four stems on my PC (2.26 GHz, 2GB RAM) in Cubase SX3 affected performance, although I solved the problem by freezing tracks. That issue notwithstanding, I was impressed with bx_hybrid's ability to improve workflow and decision-making, which improved the final results in my mixes.

— David Weiss

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