The holy grail of mixing audio is having the “good sound” button: press a button, and everything sounds great. And there are some amazing tools out there which can get close to this – certainly in specific areas like curing constant noise, bass management and dynamic range. But because a mix environment is going to have its dynamic range changed on a macro level (at the master fader) most often, getting the actual sonic footprint is critical – especially in the world of dialog. We’ve worked with a lot of plugins that say they do “auto EQ,” but they usually fall short. We’ve also been evangelists for Adobe Audition’s Essential Sound Panel, and we still love using all of its functionality. Accusonus claims their new ERA 5 Auto EQ will do the trick. Let’s see if Auto EQ is worth the monthly fee for the ERA 5 bundle.
At first glance, doing a “smart scan” of an audio segment that results in “balanced audio” should be pretty easy to do. Considering we know well the nature of how the human ear perceives sound – what it likes and doesn’t like. At this point in 2020, it should be a simple code to draft – especially with the capability of machine learning. Somehow, the results don’t really seem to be all that great. We’ve been fooling around with the iZotope automatic EQ/Compression plugins for years (Neutron etc.), but it’s quicker for us to dial in settings our ears tell us to dial. iZotope sort of overthinks the plumbing and stops up the drain. It’s more than just finding a bunch of frequencies that are too loud. You have to take into account exposure of those frequencies, transients, average levels and more. If we could get all of that right it would be amazing. Once this “calculation” was done, a harmonic (not just EQ) adjustment would be a great way to, then, change the contour of the “fixed” frequencies and blend that sound into whatever mix environment it found itself in. It would be as close to that “good sound” button as we could ask.
I was pretty dubious of the Auto EQ. Even the name had me roll my eyes. As with nearly all Accusonus plugins, the “one knob” functionality is plain to see, but in this case, the knob is replaced with a triangular pot where the user can select between three different settings to alter the incoming audio. You can see the review of the ERA 4 plugin tools and ERA 5 plugins here.
But first, the plugin must scan the audio itself. In Adobe Audition, the plugin presents a window asking for playback. Having 5 or more seconds of constant playback helps Auto EQ make a better judgement of the audio. I also recommend you don’t put a short segment on loop. It’s better to have a longer contiguous audio stream.
Once the calculations are done, miraculously, your sound jumps into what I can only suggest is as close to the “good sound button” as I’ve ever heard. Dialog, long-playing sound effects, and to a lesser degree music. What Auto EQ creates as a “good sound” is really quite good.
From there, with this balanced sound, you can slide the triangle control to whatever sonic bias you want. Take a listen to the examples to get a feel for what these settings do to balanced audio:
As you can hear, the difference and balance of the audio is remarkable. And as mentioned, the ease of use of the plugin is completely intuitive. We didn’t even read the manual on this one.
The only down side to this plugin is the Accusonus pricing – which is now monthly for the ERA 5 plugin bundle. The mid and larger bundles have great value – but you’re still paying monthly.
We haven’t started using Auto EQ in our projects formally, but we’re looking to start applying it especially for dialog. We’ll let you know our results on our Instagram and Facebook pages.
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