Monday, January 28, 2013

Neo GraphicEQ Review - "Thinking Outside the ITB Box"

Famed piano VST creators, SoundMagic, have uniquely designed and coded one of the most inventive EQs to have come across this reviewer's bench in a long time. With all the recent industry buzz of pseudo multiband compressors/Dynamic EQs, this particular graphic EQ design is very welcome as a worthy and refreshing diversion.

How much does this very welcome diversion cost? A vigorous €49.
** More about the current price vs. value later
. . .

I was in contact with Shane, of Sound Magic, the very day that this fabulous new EQ was released. I eagerly told him how impressed I personally was, with a new, somewhat 'reinvented', graphic EQ option now being available. I'm getting pretty close to being called "middle aged". *smirk. I remember when all the cool guys had large wooden stereo speaker cabinets, powerful "silver-faced" receivers/amps, and gentle "s" curves on impressive-looking graphic EQs. Even many "middle-of-the-road" systems proudly included a RadioShack 10 band stereo EQ.

So with my obvious middle-aged sentimentality showing through, I was especially happy to hear about a good ol' fashioned, easy-to-use, noise-free, 16 band graphic EQ that could be had. I suspect that there are others like myself, who enjoy the simplicity of using straight-forward sliders with 0dB center detents and easily-read 2dB adjustment points. Historically, a glaring caveat to this pleasant "graphical" EQing process has been that most nearly all graphic EQs introduced nasty phase distortions of various "color". Whilst "saturation" and "coloring" have become much used buzz-phrases, true audiophiles have always dreaded these unfortunate aural anomalies.

:: Innovative Approach on Traditional Functionality

Enter the time-honored Linkwitz-Riley frequency manipulation technology. Using an innovative frequency "splitting" approach built on Linkwitz-Riley crossover filtering, Neo GraphicEQ's 16 individual frequency bands are separated much more cleanly than traditionally achieved in this type of EQ.

:: Sound Quality

In a word: excellent!

The obvious benefits of Sound Magic's careful implementation of Linkwitz-Riley crossover filter processing are instantly experienced. Smooth, clean, tonal shaping is what this attractive, well-designed, EQ plugin is all about. The listener's ear is titillated with pleasant, uncontaminated frequency shapes that are truly rich and vibrant. Very satisfying EQ curves are easily created with immediate ease. Source sounds are pleasantly manipulated, tweaked, or corrected without introducing unwanted audio anomalies. That is not to say that Neo GraphicEQ is without sonic personality. However, its luxuriant sound quality is not invasive nor "colorful".  The sound quality can be described as . . . well . . . expensive.

:: Visual Design

Like its Neo Mixing/Mastering series brethren, Neo GraphicEQ's interface is truly striking and eye-catching. A well-designed faux 'neo graphite' GUI greets the eye and visually conveys a strong sense of professional quality. The assorted graphical elements are all well-spaced, well laid out, and are readily understood. Crisp, white text contrasted against small, black text boxes keep all labels effortlessly legible. The entire GUI is comfortably sized in the moderate dimensions of approximately 800 pixels high x 464 pixels wide. All controls are exceptionally smooth and responsive to mouse movements.

:: Performance & Functionality

Neo GraphicEQ is easy to use. I mean, Eeee-Zeee!

Hey, it's not rocket surgery or brain science to figure out how a 16 band graphic equalizer works, but this fine quality plugin is genuinely convenient and easy to use. Remember when many of the freeware and payware plugins of this sort, from times past, were finicky little shitzu ponies to contend with? You wanted to make a simple adjustment, and the tiny, unresponsive "sliders" would go anywhere but where you intended . . . . remember?

Not so with SoundMagic's Neo beauty. The GUI on this 'thang' works like it supposed to; maybe even better *wink*. Just the way we like it.

Sound Magic has provided us with 16 individual bands and sweepable frequency centers via the "split" knob on each channel. This affords you the flexibility of a parametric EQ in a graphic EQ design. The strength of the attenuation is variable from subtle to very steep by setting the filter order value; which ranges from 1 all the way up to 64. Please bear in mind that extreme filter ordering will result in phasing distortion. The increment/decrement values are set at maximum of 12dB (+/-).

** While running this EQ on a fast, percussive drum track, there were some peculiar tones emitted. This glitch is pronounced when a filter-order of 3 or higher is selected. On standard musical sources, I didn't readily discern this strange behavior and the EQ may be considered pleasantly effective. I contacted Shane, of Sound Magic, as soon as I 'found' this bug, and apprised him of my findings. He assured me that Sound Magic would be diligently working to remedy the 'bug'. Until this bug is corrected, the plugin can not really be considered usable, and is thus overpriced in its current state. 
CPU Consumption

Nice, light system resource consumption. In these days of demanding ambience algorithms, multiplied oversampling, and linear phase mastering software, a professional-grade EQ plugin that keeps your CPU gently relaxed is greatly appreciated.

:: Worthy of Mention

My interaction with Shane and Sound Magic has been pleasant and amiable. Shane has been professional and courteous with me and has certainly been very accommodating. Good products. Good company. Good product support.

:: Pros

-  Largely free from phase distortion.
-  Attractive, easy-to-use GUI.
-  Clean, expensive-sounding.
-  Personalized license code. No dongles. No Call/Response activation.
-  Works as expected, NO finicky surprises.

-  Coded in C++ so it's light on system resources.
-  Reasonably priced.

:: Cons

It costs some money . . . *grin
-  Unwanted filter glitch on percussive sounds.

Visit the website and find this, and lots more Sound Magic goodies.
Sound Magic Web Site

Brother Charles is a freelance writer, Gospel music artist and minister. Charles had been a professional touring musician during the nineties; working primarily as a lead guitarist in the Canadian country music industry. Brother Charles is also involved with music production and quality home recording.

Intellectual Copyright - 2013 - All rights Reserved. This review may not be copied or reproduced in whole, nor in part, without express written permission from the author.

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