Devil Gurl and MAutoEqualizer

I’ve just published Devil Gurl – a harder electro-rock from MEGALOVE. This is the fourth in this series, and the first with live drums (performed by our drummer who plays at our gigs).

This is the first project that I’ve started to include MAutoEqualizer in my mastering workflow. Basically this is an EQ that analyses some reference material along with your own track, and then applies appropriate equalisation to make your track have the same tonal balance as the reference material. Unlike some other similar plugins, MAutoEqualizer uses Fast Furier Transform for analysis only – the actual signal processing is performed using parametric equalisation (minimum phase and linear phase algorithms are both available).

I was initially sceptical about this approach – surely tonal balance is a matter of judgement and creative direction? Well, in mixing it is. Mixing is a creative endeavour. My approach to EQ in mastering though, is to adjust the tonal balance of the audio so that it favourably compares with my commercial references. While this requires considerable skill, it does not require a great deal of creativity.

The idea of having software algorithms do this task for me is actually quite enticing. Regardless of whatever mastering skill I’ve developed, I still find it to be a chore – boring and tedious – precisely because it is not very creative. Having said that, MAutoEqualizer doesn’t perform miracles. Getting a good result requires two things:

1) A good mix. Automatic equalisation isn’t a magic fix-it. All it does is adjust the overall tonal balance. Mastering EQ is extremely limited in its ability to change the balance between instruments or to change the tonal characteristics of individual instruments.

2) Generous and appropriate analysis material. I find the best results require giving MAutoAnalyser several different songs to analyse for reference. This ensures the target tonal balance is more “average” and doesn’t contain any idiosyncratic irregularities specific to a single song. As has been my practice for years, I choose 3-4 reference songs in a similar style, but from different artists and albums. I just line them up on a track one after the other and let MAutoEqualizer listen to them in one pass. Similarly, it’s important for MAutoEqualizer to analyse the whole of the song being mastered.

-Kim.

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