Crave DSP Crave EQ 2 by Sound-Guy
Crave EQ 2 from Crave DSP
And now another excellent EQ from Crave DSP!
Keith Wood, the brains behind Crave DSP has been working the past year on enhancements to his Crave EQ, reviewed in 2019 and just before Christmas 2020 he released Crave EQ 2 to many positive comments on various forums (including Gearslutz). Being rather busy (in overload, actually) I’m tardy in getting a review posted, so here it is!
Basic Crave EQ 2 GUI with spectrum display showing input (green) and output (orange) with normal log frequency scale.
What is it?
The Crave EQ 2 (EQ2) provides up to 32 bands of EQ with 8 different filter types: peaking, low cut, low shelf, high cut, high shelf, tilt shelf, band pass and notch. Most types have six slopes available, from 6 dB/oct to 48 dB/oct, while peaking, band pass and notch have four slopes from 12 dB/oct to 48 dB/oct. All filters also have adjustable Q from 0.025 to 40 (which is from a very wide -3dB bandwidth of 10.6 octaves down to a very narrow 0.036 octaves). Peaking filters and shelf types have a gain range of +/-30 dB and as in the original Crave EQ there are four different filter implementations available – two minimum phase models (analog and digital), a linear phase design that creates no phase shift, and the unique “transparent phase” design that optimizes phase shift and latency.
As before Crave EQ 2 is a “straight” EQ, not a dynamic or “smart” EQ, and not a saturation/distortion processor (by choice – Keith has stated, “Saturation, or any other type of distortion, is completely contrary to the philosophy of Crave EQ – to provide the cleanest, most accurate models possible for a given phase model while minimising undesirable artefacts“). Butterworth filters, usually considered the most “musically friendly”, are implemented. These provide a very flat frequency response in the pass band and more linear phase shift characteristics than other filter designs. For information on this, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterworth_filter
The Digital model has zero latency, not a single sample, while the Analog model has 48 samples of latency (1 msec at a 48 kHz sample rate); both of these filters are minimum phase designs. The difference between them, other than the 48 sample latency of the analog model, is the digital model produces slightly different phase characteristics at high frequencies which are measurable (using a program like Room EQ Wizard), but only of scholastic note and not audibly detectable.
The Linear Phase model has a selection of latency times with six settings from 75 msec to 1,000 msec – times are fixed and independent of DAW sample rate. The higher latency you use, the more accurate the EQ shape is at low frequencies, but phase shift is always zero, and any small difference in EQ shape from an ideal filter decreases above a few hundred Hertz.
The unique Transparent Phase model provides analog modeling at low frequencies and shifts to a linear phase-type model at higher frequencies, with six latency times adjustable from 1.25 msec to 50 msec – again, times are fixed and independent of DAW sample rate. This equates to “crossover” frequencies from 3.2 kHz down to 80 Hz and enables optimizing results based on the filter frequency settings and the signals involved. You can use this filter model for tracking at its lower latency settings (1.25 msec to 5 msec).
Crave EQ 2 “cleans up“ the previous GUI somewhat, adds useful features and changes implementation of a few features. Added features include a piano keyboard display on the x-axis that, when used to change frequencies by moving the dot on the keyboard, will jump to each note frequency (A=440 Hz), which is very handy, or you can change the frequency continuously with the EQ plot control. The spectrum analyzer has been improved with faster response and can display Mid, Sides, Left, Right or stereo (combined L/R channels) of the input and output signals which provides a lot of flexibility in viewing signal content, even without applying any EQ. This analyzer view, as before, can be zoomed-in, up to 4x, and the frequency display can be switched from normal logarithmic spaced frequency lines to “linear” spaced. This “linear” mode is actually a simple geometric series (20, 40, 80, 160 Hz etc.) which provides an alternate scale to read frequencies without actually changing the frequency plot. Another new feature is the “Guides” can be turned on and off (they were always on before) – these display frequency and gain of an EQ curve and have a neat new feature that locks them to a displayed EQ curve when the mouse cursor is placed anywhere on the curve. I found this handy when modeling specific functions like RIAA and Fletcher-Munson curves.
One very useful GUI improvement is that the control window for an active band is no longer hiding a portion of the graphic display – it is now in a lower pane of its own, always in the same place (the former design often flipped it from the left to right or vice versa as you made adjustments, which could be a little distracting).
And there are now far more automation controls (229 in total!), seven each for the 32 bands (frequency, gain, Q, slope, Mid-Sides control, Left-Right control, and enable/disable band) and five global automation controls (EQ 1 had only three controls per band and only 59 total).
But more noteworthy is what Crave term “Stereo Positioning (or Directional EQ)”. Peaking and shelving filters can be positioned in the stereo field, per band, using a couple new controls, the M/S and L/R knobs. The Mid/Sides control enables adjusting the focus of the EQ’d frequencies so that, for instance the lower octaves can be boosted in the center relative to higher octaves and/or higher octaves boosted in the sides, a technique that focuses bass sounds and provides more “air” to sides signals such as reverb. The Left/Right controls enable panning the filtered sounds, again helping modify the image in a sound field. There is a graphic “direction bar” around each band’s “handle” indicating the type and amount of focus and direction from these controls.
Peaking filter with Left-Right positioning control boosting right channel EQ – spectral display shows left channel in green, right in pink-orange.
Doing It Solo
You can still mute or solo any band and soloing is a complex action which depends on the filter type being soloed (and not really explained in the user manual). It does not just bypass all the other bands, but in addition processes sound only in a band shown in the EQ graph as a shaded area between two vertical lines, bypassing both other band settings and the dry input signal. In the screen view below you can see the effect of soloing a peaking filter (the orange trace line). Soloing makes the filter act as a pure filter cutting off all frequencies below and above the center frequency rather than adding its effect to the full bandwidth signal (shown as the green trace line).
Peaking filter in solo mode – note output (orange plot) falls off continuously outside the pass band.
With low shelf filters, soloing will pass the shelf frequency portion and cut the frequencies above. With high shelf filtering soloing will pass the shelf frequency portion and cut the frequencies below. In each case, using solo you can hear just what you are enhancing or diminishing with the shelf filter.
Low shelf solo mode “plays” the shelf frequency range below the set frequency and cuts above the set frequency (orange plot). High shelf solo mode does the opposite.
Solo mode for low cut and high cut filters is different – it plays the “cut” frequency range rather than the pass band you hear in normal operation. In these cases you will see the cut frequency span highlighted, and that’s what you’ll hear. This is handy to check that frequencies you don’t want passed are in the cut region.
Low cut solo mode “plays” the frequency range below the cut frequency and cuts frequencies above the set frequency (orange plot), the opposite of normal low cut filter action.
Soloing the tilt shelf filter will simply bypass any other band you have set up since the tilt shelf filter itself passes the whole frequency range, just with some gain change over the spectrum. The notch filter is somewhat like high/low cut filters in that soloing a notch cuts everything outside the notch, so you hear what is being “notched” out, just the opposite of what a notch filter normally does. And the band pass filter does a similar thing, cutting the frequency span of the band pass – so you hear frequencies below and above the band pass range, and not frequencies in the band pass range. BTW, the band pass solo mode has a minor issue on the spectral plot that may be resolved before you read this – in the initial release, when you solo, the vertical lines are correct, but it shows a shaded area between the lines rather than on the left and right of them which is actually the frequencies you will hear. This confused me briefly, but I understand this is a known issue and will be changed so that all solo modes have the same shaded area guide to what frequency range will be heard.
Band pass solo mode – note that the pass band is cut (orange plot) while lower and higher frequencies are passed, the opposite of normal operation.
On the Level
All three level meter scales are no longer continuously variable, and this was due to user requests since it was hard to set the scale precisely. The EQ scale on the far left now has seven settings, from +/- 3 dB to +/- 30 dB. The spectrum analyzer scale directly right of the main display window has eight settings with 60, 90 and 120 dB total range, and two selections of the scale maximum for the 90 dB range and three for the 60 dB range. The right-most scale is for input and output, and similar to the analyzer scale, with seven settings from a wide 90 dB range to a 10 dB range, all with 0 dBFS as the maximum scale reading. You can toggle the input meter display on or off, or turn off the right hand display altogether. The level meter graphics are now much clearer than those of the original Crave EQ.
Note that both the input/output meter scales show peak readings, not RMS or LUFS, and the highest momentary peak level is held by a small bar for 3 seconds. You can push these readings to above 0 dBFS without clipping the output signal of EQ 2, but you should consider the downstream affect on subsequent plug-ins, especially dynamics and saturation devices. If you use 24 bit audio files, you can run your signal peaks a good 10 dB to even 20 dB below full scale with no loss of signal-to-noise performance – and if you are still using 16 bit audio, you should upgrade your DAW and/or computer!
Note that if you already bought Crave EQ, EQ 2 is a free update – and is not just an update! It’s a fully new plug-in that can be used alongside the original version, which is a fine feature. Any old project with “EQ 1” can be loaded and will work as before, and you can swap out any “EQ 1” for the new EQ 2 if you want to use the new features, and re-save your project. And EQ 2 can use presets from EQ 1 so you don’t need to recreate them.
How Does It Sound?
Enough tech details – if an EQ doesn’t sound “musical”, all the features don’t matter. And as many have attested, Crave EQs sound excellent. One aspect is the Butterworth filter itself – look it up. Pretty much considered the most musical sounding filter design around. Another facet of this is that Crave software creates no distortion, no harmonics and no aliasing. And this is not achieved through oversampling like many plug-ins use. It just doesn’t occur with the methods used by Crave, which are original software implementations of the Butterworth filter design.
I noticed some minor omissions compared to version one – and I understand these will be addressed in an update. The EQ bands are not numbered in the band control window making it sometimes a little difficult to tell which band you are controlling if bands are very close together. Also missing compared to the original Crave EQ is an indication of the crossover frequency when using the Transparent mode. Otherwise I found no ‘bugs’, had no crashes or glitches.
I used REAPER and Studio One for testing in a PC Audio Labs Rok Box PC (Windows 7 64 Bit, 4-Core Intel i7-4770K, 3.5 GHz, and 16 GB RAM). To estimate CPU load I used REAPER’s Performance Meter: a single instance of Crave EQ with from one to 32 bands (far more than I’d ever need!) of the analog or digital models used, at most, about 0.05% CPU resource. The Transparent model used from 0.05% to 0.1% depending on latency setting. As expected, the Linear phase mode creates the highest CPU load, from 0.08% at 75 msec latency, up to 0.18% at 1,000 msec latency. However, I doubt anyone really needs that setting – I found the 75 and 125 msec settings in the linear phase mode to work fine. The number of bands used didn’t greatly affect CPU use.
Crave EQ 2 is another excellent audio tool from Keith Wood at a very reasonable price with excellent sound and unique features, including its unique transparent mode. It is a free upgrade for current Crave EQ users and can exist along with the previous version for no disruption of any older projects. It is easy to install and authorize unlike a number of programs I’ve used the past year. An excellent EQ and an excellent buy. Highly recommended.
Very fine sounding ”clean” EQ, with an excellent emulation of the classic Butterworth filter response.
The linear phase mode has six different latency settings available, from a full second for those who ‘crave’ a perfect linear filter response down to 75 msec for more normal use.
Unique transparent phase mode works well, limiting both latency and pre-ringing of a linear phase design, while enabling lower phase shift than an analog or digital design.
No aliasing and no need to use oversampling.
Low CPU load.
The creator, Keith Woods, is very responsive to inputs from users and has in the past added features and fixed issues very quickly.
I found no ‘bugs’, had no crashes. Very stable.
Very reasonably priced.
None I can identify – as I noted, it is intended to be a clean EQ, so no saturation modes and no “tricks” like dynamic EQ. As a result, it runs with a small footprint and very little CPU load.