Monthly Archives: June 2013

How to describe the sound of a plugin?

First, check this very cool article:

[Psychology of a Mix Engineer: Chris Carter]

And this is the most interesting (for me) part of it:

Q: What’s your go to digital compressor and what are you listening for when you use it?

Chris: There’s a few that I use very frequently but the one that I go to the most is probably the freeware guy called the “Molot”. It’s made by this Russian dude and I frigging love the thing. It’s got two modes and they are supposed to mimic a Neve 33609 and a Fairchild 670. I don’t really think either one is convincing but I don’t really give a rats ass how accurate it is [laughs]. I pretty much just use it in the “Fairchild 670″ mode. I don’t know what the heck is up with that guy but he understands attack and release characteristics really well. It’s almost damn near impossible to get that thing to sound bad, I swear to God. That’s my generic utility compressor because I like Optical Compression a lot.

Now, let’s talk about the thing that bothering me. After 2 years from Molot release, I think that mention of “Fairchild 670” and “Neve 33609” compressors in the description of Molot sound was not a good idea.

Imagine, I did Molot and now I should describe, how does it sound?
“The most accurate emulation of…?” No, it’s not emulation of anything.
“The most transparent sound?” No, it’s not transparent.
“Bus compressor?” No, it wasn’t designed in such way.
“Track compressor?” No, it’s too heavy to use on each track (at least 2 years ago).
“Mastering?” No again.
“Tube compressor?” No, I didn’t implement any kind of tube emulation.
“Opto compressor?” No, it doesn’t mimic opto-cell behavior (it has fixed attack/release times and feed-forward compression).
“Powerful?” No.
“Flexible?” No.
…and so on…

My initial description of Molot had words about “aggressive hammering sound” (don’t forget “Molot” is a “hammer” in Russian), “suits well for rock drums”, etc. I think, this kind of description is not correct, because I tell you where you should use this compressor and where you should not, e.g. I limit your creativity.

I already forgot the details but it was told, the compressor sounds like Fairchild in alpha mode and like 33609 in sigma mode. I never heard either real Fairchild or Neve. Also I didn’t try to emulate their sound. But in my opinion this description was better so I used it. Now why I’m so unhappy with it? It’s like “What kind of music does your band play?” question. “It’s like Children of Bodom”, that’s the answer. “Well, you band mimics CoB sound then.” And finally it looks a bit like the sound was stolen…

Current version of Molot page doesn’t try to convince you to get this plugin. Instead, it contains reasons why you shouldn’t do it! Freeware plugin can afford this 🙂 Really, I don’t want to change this. And I think, it’s cool! What is my final definition of Molot sound then? Check this out. It’s a dynamic tool to add a character to the track. It tends to make your sound “fat” and adds some feel of old guitar amp.


I also like the free Molot for smooth color. I use in on the 2buss after hardware comp just cause I like the sort of soft cushion or sag it gives.
Sort of like rectifier tubes in a gtr amp.

Yeah, yeah! That’s about it!

So what? In some future I will have the same problem to describe the sound of a new plugin. And I think, I’m ready for it!

IIR based EQ and distortions

“IIR” stands for Infinite Impulse Response. This is one of possible ways to implement digital EQ. This way is very CPU lightweight. But it’s impossible to make linear-phase EQ using IIR. So the most digital min-phase equalizers are IIR.

Let’s get cookbook peaking filter formula and make simple EQ. We’ve got such a nice curve:


Next, move frequency up to 10 kHz (we’re on 44.1 sample rate) and see that:


You can see now, the perfect symmetric shape of “bell” is distorted and not symmetric now. How does it sound? Such non-symmetric curve has harsh, sharp, “digital” (in bad meaning of word) sound. But bell shape of true analog EQ doesn’t distort here. I think, symmetric curves sound more natural to our brain and thus leads to better sound perception.

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Additive and not-additive EQ designs

I’m working on new EQ project and I’m really interested in the differences between different equalizer types and does it really analog EQ can be better than digital one?

Imagine, you have to cut 2 frequencies from your track and you found 2 sweet spots for peaking cut filters.


What does your final frequency response should like? Most equalizers just sum your curves and you’ll have the result. Also don’t forget that for min-phase equalizers case the phase response of both curves also affects the result.


Green line is your final response. It is not what you’re expected! You spent a lot of time to find 2 sweet spots but as you can see that blue curve distorts red curve and vice versa and your sweet spots were shifted in frequency and in gain value. You should adjust red and blue curves again to return to your initial sweet spots, which is not good. This is how most min-phase equalizers work.

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