Monday, September 25th, 2017

Clariphonic DSP Review

By Nick LucasJune 4, 2013

NEW PRODUCT REVIEW

nick_lucas_bio2Nick Lucas
Hi, I’m Nick and I’m a Pro Tools columnist at Audio Times.  I started out producing music when I was 15, and now work under the pseudonym ‘Veranova’.  Having released various records, produced for up and coming artists such as Lewis Mokler, and composed for companies such as Morphsuits; I took an interest in teaching.  So I started Production Bytes, a source of video tutorials and products for music production; now my main business.  Thanks to the success of this I also took an interest in writing and have settled into a columnist role with Audio Times.  Which brings us to now.  Enjoy!

Kush Audio are hardly a ubiquitous name, however their brand of processors are fast becoming well known.  Probably in no small part because of their high quality Native DSP plugins, which compliment their hardware lineup.

The latest in their line of plugins, is ‘Clariphonic DSP‘.
‘Clariphonic’ is the name of their parallel EQ rack unit, and the DSP version brings the same power to your DAW, in the form of a plugin which is available in 32Bit VST (Mac & PC), RTAS (Mac only for now), and AU formats.
clariphonic

Parallel EQ

Those new to parallel EQ, may be able to guess what it entails.
Much like a parallel compression, the incoming signal is split in to multiple audio streams, which are processed differently and combined at the output.  In the case of Clariphonic DSP, there are 3 audio streams.  The first is untouched, the second has the Focus section applied to it, and the third has the Clarity section applied.  All 3 streams are then combined at the output.

The advantages of parallel processing for EQ are arguable, so whether it sounds better is up to you to decide.

Clariphonic DSP, Introduction

Clariphonic DSP is purely additive EQ, based on 2 filters.
It’s a very simple interface, that even a newbie could use to get a great sound from.
Each section (Focus & Clarity) corresponds to each filter, and you select the filter frequency and
shape using the switches.

‘Focus’ has a combination of filter shapes and filter frequencies which are selected by its switches.
‘Clarity’ is a high self filter, where the switches dictate the root frequency.

The switches are helpfully labelled after the sound they can help achieve, and the filter gain control is also a simple knob with no dB markings.

By not tying you in to the specifics of frequencies or dBs, it frees up your mind to use your ears more creatively.  Just turn up the gain, flick the switches until it’s boosting the sound in a nice way, and then balance the level to sound good.
It’s very easy to push this way too far too, as the boost can sound very ‘nice’.  Kush Audio even recommend in their manual that you should “do what sounds good and then half it”.

Clariphonic DSP also has a central bypass (“Engage”) switch, it switches it on & off.

Testing

Attached to this article are some audio examples of the Clariphonic DSP in action.  Have a listen and pass your own judgement, but these are my thoughts.

Vocals : Usually when I’m processing vocals, I like to try and coax out the crispness in the top end.  The 2 main problems you can come across when doing this, are inadvertently boosting sibilance, and bringing out a harsh ringing which most vocalists have, especially when close miked, between 3-6kHz.  In this case the vocals already had a weak ring around 3khz, which I found impossible to avoid boosting using most EQ’s, and would have to put a surgical cut in to remove it.  However Clariphonic DSP just avoided worsening this straight off, after flicking a few switches to dodge the ringing.  The result of adding Clariphonic DSP, was a very crisp and clear sound, where the added high end reinforced the bottom end and richness in the mids, in a very natural and characterful way.

I’ve found with standard EQ that this kind of boost can make the top end feel a little detached from the low frequencies, possible due to the small phase shift of adding EQ.  However Clariphonic DSP really shined in this scenario.

Drums : I also tried the plugin on a rather low end heavy acoustics drum loop I found.  I wasn’t quite so impressed here, as anything more than an insignificant boost resulted in a pretty thin drum sound.  On the other hand, the frequency switches worked a charm for dodging around elements such as the snare’s 2kHz presence, or specifically selecting it.

I can’t imagine a scenario where I would want to EQ a drum bus in this way though, or even individual drum channels.  It’s often considered better practice to cut out nasty frequencies in drums than to boost ranges.  Plus, adding boosts (especially in the high end) can result in a thinner sound, which could explain my results here.

Bass Guitar : My final test was some clean Bass Guitar.  Much like with the previous tests, I found it very easy to duck and dive around nasty frequencies, just boosting what I want to hear more of; although I had less options than previously, as only a few of the switches can reach frequencies below 2 or 3kHz where most of the Bass’ tone was.  The Bass part did suffer from the start with some nasty resonance around 140Hz, so I cut this with a standard EQ.  By the time I was done I had a very rich, and warm, sounding Bass part; where the boosts to the top end reinforced the bottom end, instead of eclipsing it.

My only criticism which I found during testing, was although the plugin is over-all very stable, there is one small bug.  This is when I was applying boosts.  Disabling/enabling the plugin would cause a pop, which was quite loud with extreme boosts.  This will hopefully be fixed in future updates, and it’s a relatively small issue.

Conclusions

I would liken the sound of Clariphonic DSP to a frequency exciter, however with a much cleaner sound, as there’s no harmonic distortion involved.  Additionally, unlike an exciter, every boost reinforced every other frequency, instead of feeling detached.  This worked incredibly well on musical content such as vocals or bass, but not so well on percussion.
Clariphonic DSP clearly shines in certain situations, and although it can be a bit of a beast if you use it too heavily, once tamed it will give you a rich, characterful, and natural sound, which you don’t tend to hear from standard EQ.

Pros:
Rich, Characterful, and Natural sound.
The harmonic reinforcement I’ve mentioned needs to be heard to be believed.
Great interface, my grandma could use it.

Cons:
iLok required.
A little bug, where bypassing while boosts are applied will cause a pop.  This is v1.0 though.

Final words
I wanted to hate it.  It’s “another EQ” in a crowded marketplace. But this one is different!
Clariphonic DSP is available for $149 (~£100) from Kush Audio’s website: http://www.thehouseofkush.com

Nick Lucas
April 2013

Audio Samples

http://www.audio-times.com/vox1.mp3  Vox Dry

http://www.audio-times.com/vox2.mp3  Vox Standard EQ

http://www.audio-times.com/vox3.mp3  Vox Clariphonic

http://www.audio-times.com/vox4.mp3  Vox ThrillseekerXTC

http://www.audio-times.com/drums1.mp3  Drums Dry

http://www.audio-times.com/drums2.mp3  Drums Standard EQ

http://www.audio-times.com/drums3.mp3  Drums Clariphonic

http://www.audio-times.com/drums4.mp3  Drums ThrillseekerXTC

http://www.audio-times.com/bass1.mp3  Bass Dry

http://www.audio-times.com/bass2.mp3  Bass Standard EQ

http://www.audio-times.com/bass3.mp3  Bass Clariphonic with 140Hz cut

http://www.audio-times.com/bass4.mp3  Bass Clariphonic, no 140Hz cut

http://www.audio-times.com/bass5.mp3  Bass ThrillseekerXTC

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