Article sponsored by UVI

The equalizer plug-in landscape is a crowded space, with all sorts of offerings ranging from extremely complex digital designs to emulations of coveted hardware pieces and everything in between. Understandably so, innovation in such a scenario becomes increasingly difficult, and developers who want to bring something truly new to the table will inevitably face a mountain to climb and more often than not will fall short. Perhaps it takes an outsider to solve this riddle, someone with a different perspective to offer a fresh take: enter UVI, a team of highly talented French developers who are widely known for their virtual instruments, and more recently praised for their effects, but still a newcomer when it comes to EQs. Which doesn’t mean that they don’t have something to say about equalizer plug-ins: their first effort was shown in the parametric EQ present on their flagship virtual instrument behemoth Falcon, but with the introduction of Shade they have gone above and beyond to firmly make their mark on the scene.

Two shades of EQ

Shade can be used in many different ways, from subtle to extreme, but most importantly it can work as “regular” and as “modulated” EQ. We’ll look at the regular EQ behaviour first and then talk about the modulation capabilities. Regular EQ behaviour will mostly cover curve shapes, while on the modulation side we’ll go over the creative side but also demonstrate how Shade can be used as a dynamic tool and how the modulators can be used to further enhance its regular equalizer functionality.

Shape the curve

At first glance, Shade looks like an ordinary equalizer plug-in that shares the same features as most of its competitors: there is a graph with a real-time frequency analyzer in the background, so we click to add bands, drag them around, tweak them and hopefully get the sound we were after. It's business-as-usual EQ plug-in behaviour until this point, maybe just a bit on the fancy side but nothing extreme. However, here’s the first bit of magic: the number of filter options is dazzling - to say the leas - it’s easily one of the most comprehensive sets out there, and by filters we mean it in a broad sense of all possible equalization shapes - not just the low pass/high pass filter options that first come to mind. Before we get to the second big twist, here is the list of available filter types:
  • Low Pass: Resonant, Multi-Resonant, Xpander, Sallen Key
  • High Pass: Resonant, Multi-Resonant, Xpander
  • Notch: Resonant, Multi-Resonant
  • Band Pass: Resonant, Multi-Resonant
  • High Shelf: Resonant, EQ-ing
  • Low Shelf: Resonant, EQ-ing
  • Peak: Resonant, EQ-ing
  • Phaser: Classic, Extended, Filtering, Notch Resonant and Multi-Resonant, Band Pass Resonant and Multi-Resonant, Tilt Resonant, Tilt EQ-ing
  • Comb/Flanger: Classic, Notch Resonant and Multi-Resonant, Band Pass Resonant and Multi-Resonant, Tilt Resonant, Tilt EQ-ing
  • Special: Gain, Tilt, Xpander

As seen above, there is some overlap on the filter shapes, so it’s important to assimilate each one to make life easier when using Shade - some quick tips on that front:
  • The EQ-ing shapes present on Peak and High/Low Shelf are the “bread and butter” of mixing and the go-to for most tasks thanks to its flexibility.
  • Resonant shapes will always have a variable slope along with a Q or bandwidth adjustment. Present on Low/High Shelf and Band/Low/High pass, they can boost the sound at the cutoff point whilst taking out most of what’s past beyond that.
  • Multi-resonant will add additional resonance points along with corresponding Width setting when used as notch or bandpass.
  • Xpanders are analog modeled filters with resonance and variable drive control.
  • The Low Pass Sallen Key is quite special, bringing a circuit-modeled nonlinear filter with asymmetrical clipping akin to analog filters found on synthesizers.
  • Comb/Flanger and Phase have very similar filter options, so getting to know one will help with the others.
  • Band Pass and Notch are essentially the polar opposite of each other. Notch takes out a certain frequency whilst Band Pass only a certain range of the spectrum go through.
  • Shade offers a huge variety of slopes for all filters where this parameter is relevant: from 6 to 96/dB per octave and a lot in between (12, 18, 24, 30, 36, 48, 60, 72).
  • The resonant peak is quite a quirky one: it allows for the edges of the band to be spiked up similarly to the resonant peak on a low/high pass filter.

It's also important to note that each filter can operate in stereo, dual mono (independent left and right), Mid/Side or surround. That’s a lot to be explored, and we thoroughly recommend experimentation here. Shade will fit seamlessly in all scenarios where an EQ is required, be it mixing, mastering, post production or sound design, it’s all a matter of dialling it in.

Move that curve

Now that we are acquainted with the filter shapes we can unveil the second big twist: although Shade is a superb “regular” equalizer, it is also much more than that. Not only does it bring dynamic elements to the table but also deep modulation options to enable highly creative effects. It seems like UVI has decided to take a page from their Falcon synthesizer to make a plug-in that delivers a tonne of possibilities and endless creative freedom. If the regular EQ makes for an excellent choice on mixing or mastering jobs, the modulation section will be extremely useful for electronic music/EDM production and sound design, with great possibilities for wobbling a bass line, building sweeping transitions and also sculpting synth sounds in general.

Assigning modulation is as effortless as it gets: right click any parameter and pick your destination. A small handle will be displayed alongside the modulation target, and from there you can click and drag to determine the modulation amount. Each preset can house infinite modulation sources and has a global trigger setting that takes care of setting it all in motion. This setting can be set to trigger modulations from the main audio input, MIDI or Sync with musical intervals. Modulators can be assigned to filters but also to modulate each other - for example, you can use the XY module to tweak parameters in the LFO. The possibilities are vast, so here's a quick breakdown of all the available modulation options:
  • Envelope: DAHD envelope (Delay, Attack, Hold, Decay) controlled by the global trigger setting. Also features adjustable slopes for attack and decay.
  • Figure: a two-dimensional modulator that is similar to a LFO, but with far more complexity and variability, going from simple circular shapes to intricate motion with up to eight vertices.
  • Follower: an envelope-follower that can make Shade work as a full-fledged multiband dynamic tool. Can be triggered from incoming audio, sidechain input or by any desired filter band.
  • LFO: fully-featured low frequency oscillator with variable rate, depth, shape, phase, pulse width, symmetry and swing. It also features a rate multiplier and is controlled by the global trigger setting.
  • Macro: a highly useful aggregator for controls, which is super handy for organizing complex settings or to morph multiple parameters at once. Also useful for further tweaking the EQ by combining parameters.
  • MSEG: perhaps the most complex modulator within Shade, the multi-step envelope generator provides stepped and linear drawing modes for extreme flexibility.
  • Random: a random modulation generator with variable rate and depth, reminiscent of the famous “Sample & Hold” function available on many synths.
  • Spread: used to create dedicated modulation for each sound field channel, including L/R, M/S, or Surround. For example, modulate a frequency band only on the left side.
  • XY: cartesian grid modulator with controllers for the X (horizontal) and Y (vertical) axes.

Wrapping it up

Version 1.0 of Shade presented a very polished product, with a resizable interface, great stability and ease of use. UVI further enhanced the workflow on the version 1.1 update with a few interesting new features, notably an “ear guard” output limiter with variable threshold to keep levels always in check and prevent spiky resonant peaks that might damage your speakers - or your ears! The 1.1 update also unveiled the capability to display the side-chain input in the frequency spectrum analyser, and a “band solo” functionality for all filters, which facilitates zooming into the sound to pinpoint exactly where you need or want each band to be. UVI has also reworked the preferences panel for better usability, added 25 presets (for a total of over a hundred presets) and optimised the inner workings of the plug-in for better overall performance and lighter CPU load.

Give me some Shade!

As demonstrated above, Shade is an insanely versatile plug-in that can tackle basically all equalization tasks while offering an almost endless range of modulation possibilities, making it a fine choice for those looking for something that can take on whatever source material is thrown at it. Be it corrective EQ, dynamic frequency manipulation or modular synth-style modulations, Shade has you covered on all fronts.

Here are a few quick tips to get started with Shade:
  • Want phasers or flangers? Pick your favorite from the appropriate selection, add an LFO module and with a triangular or sine shape that’s it.
  • Need it wider? The Spread module is your friend, it works wonders as a stereo enhancer for widening effects. Another trick is to slightly offset left and right EQs, and Shade allows for dual-mono equalization.
  • More on panning: the Random module can be used to introduce random panning (left-right) variations.
  • For an API-style equalizer, assign Q/width and filter band gain to a Macro in order to simulate the progressive-Q behaviour associated with such EQs.
  • The increasingly popular “flat-top” curves present on some of the latest EQ plug-ins can be easily achieved with Shade: go for the Peak filter, then increase the “Slope” parameter and you’ll get there quickly.
  • Did anyone say dynamic equalization? The follower module is what you want: Follower enables Shade to act as a de-facto dynamic EQ. Can it act as a de-esser? Absolutely, just pick your bands and add the Follower.
UVI has also done a terrific job with the presets, so don’t be shy, make sure to check them out as well - and please share your favourite settings or tips down below.

At a glance
  • UVI Shade Creative Filter and EQ Plug-In
  • Compatible with AAX, AU, VST or VST3 hosts on Mac and Windows
  • Zero latency
  • 200mb disk space require for installation
  • iLok license manager required
  • 3 activations per license on any combination of machines or dongles (cloud activation not available at the time of publication)
  • Internet required for licence activation
  • Price: $129 MSRP (click here to buy)
  • Click here for reviews, discussions and more.