Sonimus SonEQ 2 by Sound-Guy
SonEQ 2 from Sonimus
Sonimus have announced a new modular EQ/Preamp rack that allows you to use up to sixteen modules in a single plug-in. This is more than an update of SonEQ Pro, and expands its fixed set of EQ modules and preamp to a flexible rack that enables choosing which modules are needed, even two of the same type if you need more complex EQ curves. And at the other extreme you can use just one or two modules as needed to run SonEQ 2 at very low CPU loads.
Basic SonEQ 2 configuration with one of each module type.
This first release includes five modules, as seen in the view of the default configuration above. These are normally ordered starting with a dual-EQ low frequency module which has both a boosting “shelf” filter and a cutting “shelf” filter that share the same frequency setting (four values from 20 Hz to 100 Hz), but do not respond the same. This is similar to the low-shelf boost and cut mode of a Pultec EQ (as well as SonEQ and SonEQ Pro), and the EQ curves are designed so that combining the two somewhat opposing effects can help to clear muddy frequencies while boosting bass at the same time. SonEQ 2 carries out this process very nicely and very musically.
The next two modules both control bell curve EQs, the Low Mid continuously adjustable from 45 Hz to 4 kHz, and the Hi Mid from 400 Hz to 9 kHz. These both provide either boost or cut at the set frequency and also have a “Hi Q” switch to change the bandwidth of the filters from a normally wide shape for gentle tone shaping to a tighter shape for more surgical EQ.
The High frequency module returns to four discrete frequency settings from 6 kHz to 15 kHz with continuous cut or boost levels labeled from -10 to +10. Actually all four EQ modules have cut and boost ranges labeled from -10 to +10, but these are not actually dB values. Since you really should use your ears to set EQ adjustments, precisely scaled controls are not really required, but some digitally modeled EQs do provide closely calibrated controls. This is not one of them, being modeled on analog circuitry that usually had “ear-driven” controls.
The final module is a preamp which includes high pass and low pass filters, each providing a 12 dB/octave slope. The high pass filter has a “cutoff” frequency (nominally -3 dB point, but varies in the -3 to -4 dB range) from 10 Hz to 1 kHz, and the low pass frequencies range from 22 kHz down to 1 kHz (nominally -6dB frequencies but vary in the -5 dB to -6dB range). This preamp stage can be used for gain staging, but the “input” Drive control does not affect the output level – it drives the saturation stage while maintaining a constant output level which is very nice. The Out control is where you adjust signal levels being sent downstream. This module includes a WOOW switch which plays games with phase versus frequency to provide some subtle, but nice spacial enhancement.
The most modules you can see at once in a “rack” is three single-wide and three double-wide, or four double-wide, or nine single-wide or any combination less than or equal to nine single-wide modules. If you need to access more modules you can scroll sideways to see up to 16 modules.
How Does It Do?
As with all Sonimus EQs, all modules are really “sweet” and musical sounding. The boost and cut ranges vary in the different modules. The Low module provides approximately +/- 15 dB of boost or cut at the maximum settings. The Low Mid range is approximately +/- 12 dB with normal Q (about 1.1) and +/- 16 dB with Hi Q (about 7).
The Hi Mid has a range of +/- 8 dB at normal Q (approximately 0.4) and +/- 10.5 dB at hi Q (approximately 0.7). Note how different the Q factor value is between the Low Mid and Hi Mid modules. Since these overlap in frequencies from 400 Hz to 4 kHz there are a lot of possibilities for tonal shaping.
The High module provides a different range of boosts and cuts depending on the set frequency with a shelf shape. The 6 kHz range provides about +/- 8.5 dB at 20 kHz (+/-7.5 dB at 6 kHz) while the 15 kHz range hits +8 dB/-5 dB at 20 kHz.
I found boosting frequencies never to create a harsh result, and there is a real clarity that I believe is due to the phase response of these filters. While not acting like a full linear phase EQ, the phase shift is low at any setting.
The preamp module is very flexible with the Drive control being the star of the show. With an input level near 0 dBFS and the Drive level set at zero, I measured the total harmonic distortion at -223.7 dB, or a 0.00000000065% distortion level – basically the limits of my test system and essentially zero distortion. At the lowest Drive setting of 0.1, the Drive control raised the THD to -76.8 dB, or 0.01% and full on at a setting of 10 the THD measured -46 dB or 0.5% (all these measurements at the old standard input frequency of 1 kHz). Looking at harmonics generated for different input frequencies shows a large variation with the lower frequencies (20 Hz to 1 kHz) creating much higher harmonic levels than mid to high frequencies (1 kHz to 5 kHz). Using a 20 Hz input signal, the THD with Drive level at 10 was nearly 50%! So you can use the Preamp to really add crunch (but “clean” crunch!) to bass sounds. As the Drive level is increased from 0 to 10, there is also a bass boost centered at about 40 Hz that increases from none to 4.2 dB, so again, bass sounds can really be “punched up” nicely.
Note that you can drive the preamp itself harder, using input signal levels above 0 dBFS – with a signal of +20 dBFS the THD at 1 kHz measured -32 dB (2.4%) and I didn’t try pushing a 20 Hz signal up that high for fear of blowing out my studio windows!. You can use levels above 0 dBFS in any reasonable DAW although you need to assure that other plugins are not being driven into creating “bad” distortion. SonEQ 2 distortion is “good” even with inputs at +20 dBFS (although more overdrive than that is pushing your luck!). There is no aliasing even driving the preamp this hard (even with no oversampling used), so “clean” even and odd harmonics are all you hear.
Automation is available for your DAW with every control accessible, 21 controls in the default configuration. And in the upper right of the GUI is an icon to open a control panel that enables adding modules to the rack (also accomplished with a dedicated icon in the left of the upper toolbar), turning digital readout of controls on and off, remapping parameters, setting the GUI size, and specifying the oversampling value. Oversampling can be turned off, resulting in zero latency, while up to 16 x may be used. From my testing I found oversampling to provide no audible improvement because SonEQ 2 is so fine without it. Even with no oversampling used, SonEQ 2 creates no aliasing, none, zilch, nothing, so the benefit of oversampling appears more theoretical than practical.
Available as Audio Unit, VST 2.4, VST 3, and AAX plug-ins in 32 and 64-bit OS on Windows (Win 7 or newer), and 64 bit only on MacOs. (Mac OSX 10.9 or newer).
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 SonEQ 2 with the basic configuration with only EQ modules active used 0.06% CPU resource with no oversampling, and 1.1% with 16X oversampling, which as I’ve indicated, yields no measurable or audible improvement. With the Preamp turned on the CPU load with no-oversampling hit 0.09% and at 16X oversampling rose to 1.53%. Oversampling also increases latency – zero latency with no oversampling and up to 42 samples of latency (still small) at 16X. My suggestion is turn off oversampling and enjoy the excellent EQ and preamp effects with very low CPU load and no latency.
Another very fine emulation of analog EQ and preamp gear with great flexibility from Sonimus. The smooth sound of the EQ sections and the clean harmonics available in the preamp are a joy.
Flexible virtual rack of modules with the ability to re-order and add modules as you wish.
Excellent emulation of analog gear, including “musical” harmonic distortion using the preamp Drive control.
No aliasing under any conditions, even with no oversampling.
Like any good plug-in, settings in projects are remembered, and automation can control any setting.
Very reasonable price for excellent features and audio quality.
None I can complain about. It does what it does beautifully.