Taming harsh frequencies of live and modulated instruments is a common process in mixing and audio processing. Instruments with a lot of dynamic content, such as modulated pads, can be notoriously difficult to blend in a mix. In many situations, the standard EQ simply does not suffice for this task. However, in recent years, audio processing techniques have become significantly more powerful, and very helpful processing effects are now available to us. In the next tutorial, we’ll show you how to tame the harsh sound elements of your mix by using one of them, the SmartEQ2.

We will start by listening to a previously made sequence in our SoundBridge: DAW. It contains all the elements of a full mix.

Soundbridge sequence for SmartEQ2 processing.
~Full Mix – Unprocessed Pad Sequence

As we can see from the audio example above, the dominant and problematic element in the mix is the pad sequence. It produces a pleasant atmosphere and gives this pattern an overall vibe, but it’s way too harsh. Its mid-frequencies are peaking, and there’s a lack of brilliance in high frequencies. In order to fix this, we will apply the SmartEQ2 by Sonible. Let’s add an instance of it to the channel effect rack of the pad sequence.

SmartEQ2 interface

The SmartEQ2

The key function of this and similar plugins is their ability to achieve a tonal balance. At its core, the SmartEQ2 is a self-learning EQ balancing system. It applies a set of flexible parametric filters that include bell-shaped, shelf, low and high pass, and a “tilt” filter. The latter raises or lowers levels below the frequency setting and does the opposite above it. If we click the Record button in the upper part of the interface and press play, the SmartEQ2 engine will start learning the frequency content of the incoming signal and apply suggested filtering.

Let’s start the learning process and compare how our pad sequence sounds before and after processing with SmartEQ2.

Settings to tame harsh frequencies
~Pad Sequence- Unprocessed
~Pad Sequence- Processed With SmartEQ2

We can hear that the mid-range harshness is substantially reduced, whereas the high-frequency content is slightly enhanced, resulting in a clearer sound image.

Now we have a good starting point from where we can, if needed, move forward and further shape the sound. That said, we can increase or decrease the strength of the applied process within the plugin. This is done by adjusting the Strength and Width parameters in the upper part of the interface, to the right of the Record button. The filter band points can be adjusted as well by dragging them across the spectrum and tweaking classic EQ parameters such as frequency, gain, and Q. This we can see in the lower part of the interface.

These kinds of effects can be useful to tame unwanted frequency content of almost any instrument and give you a good starting point for further processing.

Lastly, let’s listen to our full mix once again, this time with the pad sequence processed with the SmartEQ2. 

~Full Mix – Pad Sequence Processed With Smart EQ2