Kush Audio UBK Clariphonic Parallel Equalizer
By Phil O'Keefe |
500 series parallel high frequency equalizer
Many recording enthusiasts will no doubt be familiar with the concept of parallel compression; using busses to route the signal through a compressor and an aux return channel on the mixer to return that compressed sound into the mix where it can be blended with the unprocessed signal to give you more impact and consistency and all of the other sonic benefits of compression without over-squashing the sound. Now imagine doing the same thing, but with equalization. Now take that idea even further and imagine a hardware equalizer that allows you to do mid and high frequency parallel shelving equalization simultaneously, but without many of the patching and routing hassles. You've just envisioned the basic concept behind the Kush Audio UBK Clariphonic Parallel Equalizer.
What You Need To Know
- The hardware version of the Clariphonic was previously available only as a 2-channel single rackspace unit (a plugin version is also available), but now the Kush Audio UBK Clariphonic Parallel Equalizer is also available as a mono 500 series module for use in API 500-series compatible racks. I tested the review unit in my trusty Radial Engineering SixPack 500 series rack, and it worked perfectly with it.
- The Clariphonic Parallel Equalizer takes the incoming audio signal and splits it into three parallel paths. First is a unaltered full frequency signal that is fed straight to an internal summing bus. Each of the other two paths has its own dedicated EQ circuit, which Kush Audio call Focus and Clarity. These two parallel shelving equalizers have extremely gentle slopes and exceptional smoothness. The Focus and Clarity knobs on the Clariphonic's front panel control how much of each is blended in with the unprocessed full frequency signal.
- The Clariphonic is a bit of a specialist - it's not a full-frequency range general-purpose equalizer; rather, it's designed to work in the midrange, and especially in the high frequencies, adding definition and detail, brightness and clarity.
- The Focus EQ section of the Clariphonic has a single knob and one three-position toggle switch. The three settings on the switch are Lift, Out and Open. The switch's center (Out) setting bypasses the Focus section of the Clariphonic.
- When the Lift setting is selected, a high shelf-type equalizer that kicks in at around 800Hz is activated, with the frequencies above that being lifted and accentuated as you turn up the Focus knob, giving the sound more midrange attack and impact, as well as general brightening. Have a weak snare that keeps getting lost in the mix? Hit it with some of this for a more aggressive punch that will make it crack like a baseball bat and pop right out. It's also great for adding note definition and detail to electric bass.
- When using the Open setting on the switch the upper mids and highs above 3kHz are emphasized. As with the Lift setting, the amount of added mids and highs is controlled by the Focus knob; turning it up adds progressively more, just with a different range of frequencies that are affected.
- The second EQ path feeds the Clariphonic's Clarity section. As with the Focus band, the Clarity knob controls the amount of this band that gets blended in with the full frequency signal. The Clarity section has three switches. The middle switch is a three-position toggle. The center position is labeled Out and bypasses the Clarity section. Toggled down it activates the Sheen / Presence selection switch, and when toggled up it activates the Silk / Shimmer switch. These allow you to set what range of frequencies the Clarity section will boost.
- When selected, the Presence switch operates in the 3.8kHz and above region, so it will have some effect on the timbre of some sound sources, as well as the harmonics. It's very useful when you want to help a track cut through a busy mix without raising its level a lot or making drastic changes to its basic tone. It's really nice on vocals and acoustic guitars, or anything you want to add edge and bite and detail to.
- Sheen affects frequencies above about 9kHz; adding Sheen is similar to using a traditional 10kHz "treble" control, although I've never heard another shelving EQ that has quite the same magic as the Clariphonic. It's not an enhancer or exciter, but it certainly "enhances" the sound, and in a way that is far more natural and effortless sounding than those types of processors.
- Shimmer is in the 18kHz range, which Kush Audio describe as "electricity." It's less obvious than the Presence and Sheen settings, but it can add considerable intimacy and openness to the high frequencies of your tracks. Breathiness. Sweetness. And it sounds spine-tinglingly good.
- Silk works in the true "air" regions - around 34kHz. Wait - can you really hear the effect of something that high? Yes, assuming your monitors are up to the task, you can. It's more subtle than the other options, but it can definitely add that ultra-high "fairy dust" to your tracks and mixes if they need it.
- How does it sound? On mixes the Clariphonic adds incredible detail and sheen without being shrill or harsh. While it's awesome as a mix buss processor, it's equally well suited for use on individual tracks and submixes. While it may not be the first application you think of for a "high frequency EQ", it adds a ton of definition to electric bass, and it's exceptional for processing background vocals to give them shimmering presence, air and sheen. Need to bring out the breathiness and detail of a intimate vocal? You're going to love the Clariphonic. It's also wonderful on drums (check out the UBK videos below for some examples), where it imparts definition and impact. Do you have a dull and lifeless sounding acoustic guitar track? The Clariphonic can give it more depth, dimension and detail than you may have thought possible.
- At this time there's no similar product that makes it equally easy to dial up stellar sounding lows. Hint hint Kush…
- There are no LED indicators for the Clarity and Focus bands to indicate when they're active or bypassed. You'll need to look at the switches instead, which is really not a big deal, but LED indicators would be a nice addition.
This is a really cool equalizer that does something that pretty much everyone who records and mixes audio will appreciate, and it's not priced like unobtanium either. The 500 series Clariphonic module is less than half the price of the two channel 1RU Clariphonic, and considering just how "professional" this EQ sounds and the improvement it can make in your tracks and mixes, it's really hard to quibble at all with the price.
Let me make this as clear as I can (which coincidentally, is pretty much exactly what the Clariphonic does): Dull, muddy and flat-sounding tracks and mixes have met their match! The Kush Audio UBK Clariphonic Parallel Equalizer is an exceptionally useful 500-series EQ module that adds sensually sweet sounding air, presence and detail to your audio and makes just about anything you run through it sound better. Yes, if you lack taste and push it too far you can wind up with too much of it for the situation at hand, but unlike many shelving equalizers it never sounds harsh or "bad", even with considerable brightening applied. When used appropriately, it's almost magical in the way it improves the upper mids and high frequencies, and it's all as easy as hitting a few switches and twirling a couple of knobs until you like what you're hearing. And odds are you're really going to like what you're hearing from the Clariphonic. I was literally shocked the first time I heard it in action, and after using one for a while I remain just as impressed with what it can do and how easy it makes it to get super sweet, effortless, detailed and open sounding highs. If you fight to give you tracks and mixes that high-end high end, check out the Clariphonic. It could very well be just the solution you're looking for. Every so often someone comes up with a box that really does make just about anything you run through it sound better. This is one of those boxes. Very highly recommended.
Kush Audio UBK Clariphonic 500-series Parallel Equalizer ($749 MSRP, $679 "street")
Kush Audio product web page
Kush Audio Clariphonic EQ demo video
Clariphonic EQ on Drums