The Sonnox Claro equalizer (from their Toolbox range of plug-ins) is a fantastic sounding, intuitive EQ for professionals and beginners alike. Multiple interface options provide visual feedback in addition to traditional EQ functionality. I have never met a Sonnox product that I didn’t think was useful and top notch in terms of audio quality. I frequently use their limiter, compressor, drum gate, EQ and reverb plug-ins. Claro is a deep plug-in, with a high degree of functionality and features, but I am going to do my best to give a quick, solid overview.
Upon opening Claro, the default "Produce" view provides a sliding high-pass filter on one end and a low pass on the other end, both with preset but adjustable slopes. Below are some more “descriptive" terms for how we might talk about audio. From low to high: Rumble|Weight, Warmth|Mud, Definition|Harshness, and Air.
Below on the interface are frequency points on a sliding scale (100 Hz, 1 kHz and 10 kHz). Finally, there are three controls that represent Low/Mid/High that each have five set selectable frequency points one might typically see on EQs. Each chunk of the spectrum is represented by a circle with a center point line where you can increase or decrease each range. In addition, there is a “shelf mode” that ostensibly mimics the old Pultec cut/boost trick. When audio is playing, the source frequency range is represented by a blue spectral analysis graphic. You may want to do cutting or boosting based on this visual in addition to what you are hearing. All this alone would make for a powerful EQ with a ton of options for how to approach EQ’ing, but wait there’s more!
The next view option is called "Tweak." This view provides another, more detailed, look at the audio – laid out against a keyboard at the top – and has additional descriptives – from left to right on the top of interface are Weight, Warmth, Body, Presence, Definition, and Air – to help the user find any problem areas. On the bottom there are more descriptives: Rumble, Boom, Mud, Nasal, Harshness, and Hiss. Zoom in on a specific note on the keyboard and solo just the EQ processing for insight into what is happening with your processing. There are a bunch of other options for stereo usage, splitting bands L/R, mid-side, side only, and on and on.
The third and final view is called “Mix.” This view lets us see all the tracks in a session that are operating with Claro on. I found this to be a fascinating and enlightening visual representation of my mix. You likely have heard the term “masking.” Simply put, masking happens when two or more elements occupy the same frequency areas in a mix, resulting in unwanted build-ups that can decrease the definition of certain elements. If you have sub-par monitors, headphones, or an imperfect or untreated mix room, Mix view can provide insight to your mix. Sonnox recommends placing Claro on all tracks and busses in a mix and then opening a primary focus track such as a lead vocal so you can see how all your mix elements are sitting across the frequency spectrum in relation to this “focus” track. It provides excellent insight, and a great teaching tool and roadmap when trying to hack your way through the frequency jungle that is mixing. Note that all masking is not inherently bad, and there is plenty of it on many great recordings. Use this tool to help identify its presence and then make the call.
I find myself using Claro more and more on my projects. It’s great for simple fixes or one can go as deep as they want with corrective EQ. I can also see it as a tool for helping shape productions, in that it provides feedback on potential instrument and frequency range/register choices and how they interact with one another.
Spectrum analysis is not new. There are great products out there that can help us visualize mixes and do comparisons to your favorite mixes. iZotope and FabFilter are a couple that come to mind that I also use regularly. What Sonnox has done is wrap all these elements together (with multi-view options) into a package with a top-notch sounding EQ and some additional features that will allow upstarts to learn frequencies and how they function in a mix situation. I wish everyone could mix with their ears, but we live in a world where people are seeing the mix as much as they are hearing it. Claro is a great tool for both listening and seeing your mix. I encourage everyone to check out the demo of Claro to see what it can do for your projects.