You already know that good EQ is essential to a good mix. One problem that's sure to make a mix sound muddy is frequency overlap. If you're a seasoned sound engineer, you probably know the frequency range for common instruments off the top of your head, but for those of us who aren't professional mix engineers, it's important to be able to accurately identify where frequency overlap is happening. (Even seasoned engineers need to analyze frequencies from time to time.) That's where an analyst can be a lifesaver, and Blue Cat Audio's FreqAnalyst Multi is a feature-filled, powerful analyst that fills the bill.
You may be wondering why you should pay for an analyst plugin when your DAW probably comes with one already. (They're sometimes called spectrum analyzers.) The truth is that in-the-box analyzers are often short on features and not of the quality necessary to do precise analysis of frequencies. It's well worth spending the small amount to get a quality analyzer if you're going to do any EQ work. You might be working to EQ some overlapped frequencies. You might want to EQ a mix in order to match a reference mix. You might want to examine and EQ how left and right channels are interacting on a particular track. For any of these tasks, a good quality analyst is going to provide you with much better results than the one included in your DAW.
No matter which DAW you're using or what computer you use it with, there's likely a version of FreqAnalyst Multi that will work for you. You can get it for the Mac (OS X 10.5 and later) in AAX, AU, RTAS and VST. For Windows, you can get it in AAX, DirectX, RTAS and VST. There are 32-bit and 64-bit versions for each operating system. (Remember that you want to install the right version for the DAW you're using. For example, even if your OS is 64-bit, if your DAW is a 32-bit application, you'll want to use the 32-bit version of FreqAnalyst Multi.) Blue Cat Audio strongly recommends that you try out the demo of FreqAnalyst Multi before you buy just to be sure that it works for you and your particular configuration.
What you see above is what you get after you configure FreqAnalyst Multi. I actually have added three instances of FreqAnalyst Multi in Pro Tools in order to get this data. One is on a piano track, another is on a violin track, and a third is on a second violin track. I have configured FreqAnalyst Multi to show me instant analysis of the piano and both violins. I have also configured it to show me the average for the piano track. All of this is configured using the Curves Routing dialog shown below.
The Curves Routing dialog is divided into four sections. One section configures curves for either Left or Mid (depending on whether FreqAnalyst Multi is in Stereo or in Mid-Side mode), one section configures Right or Side, one section configures channel average, and a final section configures channel max. In the figure above, I've configured curve 1 for max instant on the piano track, curve 2 for the max piano peak and curve 3 for piano average. Notice that curves 4 and 5 are not available (they don't appear as buttons) because each of them is being used on my violin tracks.
Once you configure your curve routing, click outside of the Curves Routing box (or click the X in the upper-right) to reach the main FreqAnalyst Multi dialog. This is where the magic happens. Start playing your track and watch your curves in action. The main dialog provides plenty of controls to customize both the appearance and the behavior of FreqAnalyst Multi. (As I'll cover later, all of these controls can be controlled by a MIDI controller.)
Along the bottom, you have controls for controlling how FreqAnalyst Multi's curves react to the input signal from your track. You also have controls for how the curves are displayed. The default settings may be just fine for your needs, but depending on what kind of track you're analyzing, you may want to tweak some of the settings. For example, if you're analyzing a vocal track, you might want to adjust the envelope and increase the attack. You may also want to increase the precision so that FreqAnalyst Multi will give you results you want for the dynamic character of your vocalist.
We found the memory slots feature to be a "must have" feature, and it was only one of many such "must haves" in FreqAnalyst Multi. Blue Cat Audio obviously understands what's important to those of us who work hard to perfect our mixes!
Along the right side of the main dialog is a list of all of your curves. You can simply click on a curve to remove it from the FreqAnalyst Multi display. Clicking it again adds it back. This is a great way to declutter the interface so that you can focus on specific tracks without having to reconfigure complex curve routing.
Even cooler is that each one of your curves comes with four memory slots. You can use memory slots to store the display of a particular curve. When a curve is stored in a memory slot, it appears frozen in the main display. You can use this to see the results of EQing or other modifications. We found the memory slots feature to be a "must have" feature, and it was only one of many such "must haves" in FreqAnalyst Multi. Blue Cat Audio obviously understands what's important to those of us who work hard to perfect our mixes!
You can easily turn off the display of a particular memory slot by clicking one of the Memory Slots boxes at the bottom of the list. This makes it extremely easy to add memory locations for doing comparisons while preventing them from making your display cluttered and cumbersome. The choice is yours, and such choices abound in FreqAnalyst Multi. It's one of the reasons that we really love using this plugin. We can configure the display exactly the way we want it for any circumstance.
Another powerful feature we love in FreqAnalyst Multi is the Diff View. Diff View is a great way to match a reference mix or to precisely see the impact of EQ or other processing on a track. You can also use Diff View to analyze the difference between mid and side channels in a particular track.
Diff View takes a little getting used to because it doesn't work exactly like Spectrum View. In Diff View, you can configure up to four difference curves. Each curve will show the difference between two different spectrums. If the curve is above 0, the first spectrum is higher in that particular frequency than the second spectrum. In the figure shown below, I am reviewing one difference curve that is showing the difference between the spectrums for a piano track and a violin track. The piano is the first spectrum and the violin is the second spectrum. Therefore, when the spectrum is greater than 0, it means that the piano (the first spectrum) is higher in that frequency than the violin. If I wanted to more closely match the piano spectrum to the violin spectrum (something I would not likely want to do), I could use EQ to reduce the level of that spectrum on my piano track.
The flexibility and accuracy of Diff View made it so much easier to EQ our tracks that we can't imagine having to match a reference mix's EQ without it. It's quite simply an indispensable tool if you do this kind of EQ work.
If you want to use Diff View to try and match your EQ to a reference track, my recommendation is that you use it on your master track and make sure that you insert the FreqAnalyst Multi plugin below your EQ plugin in the chain. You can then use another audio track with your reference mix and use FreqAnalyst Multi to analyze the EQ differences between those two tracks. Using this method, you can quickly and accurately match a reference mix. You can use this same technique if you want to make sure that you are EQing an album for consistency. The flexibility and accuracy of Diff View made it so much easier to EQ our tracks that we can't imagine having to match a reference mix's EQ without it. It's quite simply an indispensable tool if you do this kind of EQ work.
We would be remiss without pointing out that all of the controls in FreqAnalyst Multi are available using MIDI automation. You can easily configure any MIDI control surface to control FreqAnalyst Multi using the MIDI Learn feature. In our testing, we were able to use multiple MIDI controllers to easily control FreqAnalyst Multi without any issues.
There are many other great features packed away in this excellent plugin, and we simply don't have the space to cover them all. We encourage you to experiment with them yourself in your own DAW. Simple head on over to Blue Cat Audio's download section and you can download this and other great plugins. We are confident that you will find FreqAnalyst Multi to be as superb as we did, and you're likely to follow in the footsteps of so many others who have made this their "go to" analyst.