Friday, February 05, 2016

Soo's Dynamic EQ rack for Ableton Live

Soo's Dynamic EQ rack for Ableton Live

A Dynamic EQ is an EQ that can automatically adjust to the threshold of an adjustable band of frequencies within a sound.  Think of it as a surgical multiband compressor that can focus on minute frequencies with less impact to the surrounding frequencies.  It can also be a way to apply boosts to your signal while easing it back when certain frequencies hit.  

Having seen the Ozone 7 Dynamic EQ in action, I wanted to see if I could recreate the plugin using strictly Ableton stock plugins.

Dynamic EQs are best used for mastering purposes where certain problematic frequencies can be removed without effecting the signal when those frequencies aren't playing.  They are also useful when working with samples consisting of full tracks.

I'm offering this plugin for free, but if you'd like to offer anything in exchange, please feel free to donate anything if you'd like.

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Download the rack here.

Note:  You must have Max for Live installed in order to run this rack.  The Envelope Follower is part of the Max for Live Essentials bundle which can be downloaded from

Manual after the break


This Dynamic EQ rack is split into 4 sections - as well as some additional "under the hood" stuff that some may find useful for tweaking and analysis.  It is essentially an EQ8 with 4 standard filters and 4 dynamic nodes that can be used in conjunction with each other.

Top Level Controls:

The first Macro controls are the top-level controls.  This controls the frequency for each of the 4 nodes, as well as the decibel threshold for activating the dynamic nodes.  The frequency nodes have a range of 30 Hz to 19.9k Hz.

Node Selector:

The second set of controls focus on the controls for the ducking effects produced by the nodes.  Each node has a set of 4 controls that adjust the labeled nodes.  To select a node, simply click on the labeled rack.  The macro controls are identical for each node and colour-coded for ease of navigation.

Note that the racks have the audio turned off - this is because the rack is strictly used to analyze the signal rather than being used to directly affect the audio.

The controls are:

Amount:  amount of attenuation for the frequency band.
Width:  controls the width of the frequency isolator, the larger the percentage, the narrower the frequency isolator.
Attack:  The time it takes for the ducking effect to happen.
Release: The time it takes for the ducking effect to stop.


Lastly, the EQ section is your standard EQ8, with 4 of the frequency bands reserved to function as the dynamic nodes.  

Use the Q controls on the dynamic frequency bands to adjust the narrowness or focus of the dynamic nodes.

You can also adjust the filter type, but in the case of a dynamic EQ, a bell or shelf filter are the most functional.


I'll delve into a few things you can do by going under the hood a bit more before getting into some tricks that can be done with this rack.

Each node consists of three plugins working in series:

A Frequency Isolator rack, a Gate, and a Max4Live Envelope Follower 

Frequency Isolator

The Frequency Isolator consists a phase-canceled notch filter to pinpoint a small sliver of a frequency range.  You can change up slope or filter type, but I find a phase-cancelled 12 dB notch filter while using the mapped Width knob to change the Resonance to be the most precise. 

The isolator is created by using two parallel effect chains in a rack: one is empty, the other contains an Auto Filter plugin set to a tight Notch Filter followed by a Utility plugin with the phase inverted.  This essentially cancels out the frequencies other than the ones within the notch filter.

Gate and Envelope Follower

The Gate is what determines what volume the isolated sound needs to pass to trigger audio which is then translated to the Envelope Follower.  The Envelope Follower is then inversely mapped to the gain on an EQ band in the EQ8.

Attack, Return, Hold, Release, Floor, and Lookahead can be adjusted to taste on the Gate.  The Flip function can be used to invert the dynamic EQ node which will be explained below.

On the Envelope Follower, the delay for the triggering of the envelope can be adjusted as can the minimum and maximum levels of the envelope.


When to use the Dynamic EQ:

Ideally, Dynamic EQs are generally used for mastering purposes.  The idea is that any offending frequencies in a tune can be subtly reduced without affecting too many other sounds within that frequency spectrum.  If you have access to the full track in the mixing phase, it's almost always better to fix those issues in the mix via EQ, sidechaining, or a multitude of techniques.  That said, this plugin works nicely when dealing with samples of full tracks or loops where access to stems are not available.

Isolating Frequencies:

To hear any of the isolated bands on their own, solo the node rack.  This can be used to fine tune your EQ frequencies, threshold, and gate settings.  Remember that in Ableton, holding the Command (mac) or CTRL (PC) can allow you to fine-tune control over the parameters.

Creating a Dynamic Boost:

To create a boost in your EQ that reduces in volume when a certain sound within that boost plays, you'll want to use both a standard EQ filter in the EQ8 and then a dynamic node simultaneously.

First, identify the frequencies that you want to boost and use one of the 4 remaining standard EQ filters like you would any boost.

Then, isolate the frequency you want to trigger the ducking within that frequency range you have boosted.  Adjust threshold, amount, and Q of the dynamic node so that the ducking only reduces the boost slightly rather than cutting a tight band.

Inverting the Dynamic Node:

To invert the behaviour of the node (make it expand rather than duck), there are two things that need to be adjusted.

First, you'll want to invert the Gate controls by clicking the Flip button so that it opens when something plays below the threshold rather than above.

Then you'll want to open the Macro Controls on the EQ Rack, and click on the Map button.

In the Macro Mappings editor, change the Gain macro you want to invert from a max of -15 dB

 to +15 dB

I wish there was an easier way to invert the node, but this is unfortunately the only way I've figured out how to do it.

Thanks for checking out my Dynamic EQ rack - happy producing!