Vanilla. I love vanilla. But I don’t want to eat vanilla ice cream all the time. EQs lately have been like vanilla ice cream – you get the same old model over and over and over again. You can get really amazingly accurate models in digital form, enough that you might reasonably skip hardware. But it’s too much of one thing.
The folks at Soundtoys apparently felt the same. And they’re giving us something different.
Now, I’m happy with my Oxford plug-ins and my Pulteqs and so on – don’t get me wrong. Really; I use them all the time personally, and maybe more importantly, so do many many people I know who actually know what they’re doing. And it says something about the original hardware design that often those sound models and the original panel designs will best a more open-ended digital EQ.
But here, we get something that’s a bit more creative. It’s musical, it’s unique, and it adds coloration in ways that you might use as part of sound design and not just as a problem solving tool.
Oh, and its inspiration is German electronics, which usually is a good thing. I’ll let Soundtoys describe the source model, which is the Siemens W295b:
With Sie-Q, Soundtoys engineers meticulously modeled the decidedly musical curves of the W295b, and the pleasing harmonic distortion of its discrete transistor circuitry.
Like the more well-known Neve and API modules, the original W295b was used in the Siemens-Sitral line of analog mixing consoles. Those consoles, though built like tanks, were known for their smooth EQ curves and sonically appealing coloration. The W295b in particular is revered for the space and air created by the high frequency band.
I guess one of the things I love about music signal processing in general is that it doesn’t really have a right and wrong. If you’re using signal processing tools on an oil rig or calibrating machinery, I suspect “appealing coloration” is not something you’re looking for. In the world of music, it’s different.
So if this appeals, you can grab the Sie-Q for free for a limited time – through the 13th of October.
It’s also included in the Soundtoys 5.1 bundle, and if you’ve come across this article after early October 2016, it’ll be sold for US$129.
I gave it a spin and it works as advertised – something to impart a different flavor to a mix and to use when other EQs are failing to inspire.
As with other classic hardware like the Pulteq, you get simplified front panel controls, which themselves already tend to point you in a different direction. And the Drive control means you can crank it for creative purposes.
It came at just the right time, too, as I was finding some other EQs weren’t doing what I wanted on bass drum or in making some high-end space … and this was just the personality I wanted.
I have to say I’m always happy to say nice things about Soundtoys, as they’re one of a handful of brilliant independent developers that wouldn’t exist in any other industry. The company comes from founder Ken Bogdanowicz, who designed the Eventide H3000 and DSP4000 – speaking of the fact that musical signal processing is equal parts art and science. Makers like Soundtoys are the reason serious people use computer plug-ins and not only hardware and enjoy doing it.
More on the plug-in (and a lot of background):