Eventide partnered with Newfangled Audio (founded by former Eventide DSP developer Dan Gillespie) in 2017 to launch the Elevate multiband artificial intelligence driven limiter. Following that Newfangled Audio and Eventide released a bundle comprising Elevate and EQuivocate, a highly customisable variable-band EQ with a few unusual features.
It’s worth noting that the two plug-ins are based around the same GUI style and the adoption of the Mel scale system of frequency spacing as the default distribution for the 26 audio bands. For those who haven’t delved into this in detail, the Mel scale it is a set of frequencies that are perceived to be equal distances apart by the listener. Newfangled Audio suggests that splitting bands with these frequency centres will give more natural sounding processing.
EQuivocate has a fairly modern digital look to the GUI, three colour schemes are available from a drop-down menu, however the Modern look seems to be the only one that is easy on the eyes. Input meters on the left show Peak and RMS values and the input can be trimmed using a mouse drag on the numerical value that sits above the meter.
The centre of the plug-in looks more-or-less like a graphic EQ and shows gain for each of the filter bands, each band displaying input and output levels. These are identified by the colours of the toggle switches above the main area and vary with colour scheme. Notably the number of filters can be reduced, bands can be soloed and custom band spacing can be assigned either by typing in frequencies or clicking and dragging the centre frequency displayed at the bottom of each band. EQ curves can be drawn if the Draw Curve button is activated, making the process fairly intuitive but it is worth remembering that bands may not be evenly distributed across the audio spectrum.
The real highlight of EQuivocate is the Match EQ function which allows EQuivocate to listen to a side-chain input and match the EQ curve to replicate a similar spectrum on the programme material. This works quite effectively for vocals that may have been recorded in different rooms or with different microphones, it can be used to tighten up wideband sources to make them fit into a mix. For instance, matching a saxophone solo to a vocal will let it sit nicely in the already established frequency space in your mix.
Newfangled Audio Elevate plugin
Match EQ can be set in the range +/-100%. Negative values may seem counterintuitive but they allow a track to complement another without stepping on frequencies. However in reality Match EQ only gives you a start point and relying too heavily on Match EQ leads to some very strange results. A healthy bank of presets are available, some of which are rather good, particularly the factory preset for Kick Thumper, and several mastering presets.
Elevate looks somewhat similar to EQuivocate, but with an additional gain reduction lane on the output meter; both plugins have an Auto mode that trims the output level to avoid any unwanted gain changes. A Main Parameters page gives quick access to the key functions and four in-depth sub-modules allow for deeper editing. The filter bank module is similar to EQuivocate and defaults to the Mel scale. It’s worth noting that reducing the number of bands is a good way to reduce the CPU usage. This plug-in is very CPU hungry — in fact so much so that running multiple instances in a mix scenario may be impossible — don’t think that this is a plug-in you could run on every track! The next module is the Limiter/EQ which gives a similar EQ control to EQuivocate. Limiter gain can be adjusted to hit the threshold harder and increasing the Adaptive Gain control will effectively separate the linear phase limiter of each frequency band, allowing harder limiting with less linking between bands, hence less pumping.
This signal is then fed into the transient module whereby transients can be enhanced with a graphic EQ style control. Adaptive Transient shaping aims to preserve transients and reduce pumping and dulling artefacts. Finally the clipper module offers a useful visualisation of how the Drive and Clipper Shape are saturating the transients.
How well does this limiter perform in the age of loudness normalisation? Well, it does seem rather unnecessary to aggressively limit these days, but Elevate can certainly help manage your approach to this, offering limiting that maintains selected transients. The plug-in is actually quite effective in a mix context when stripped down to minimal number of frequency bands — but unlike other limiters — the excessive CPU usage needs to be kept in mind when planning a mix. Overall the AI algorithms in these plug-ins may not get you all the way there, but the deep editing facilities certainly offer some useful functionality to fine-tune your processing.
At $199 or $99 (upgrade for EQuivocate owners) the Elevate bundle offers a few unique tools, there is a free demo available so if you are looking for a mastering suite to add to your collection, this is worth a try.