elysia museq Native Plugin by Diogo C
- Plug-In: Museq Equalizer
- Developer: Elysia/Brainworx
- Formats: Win/Mac AAX, AU, Win/Mac VST 2&3 (32 & 64-bit)
- Price: $249 USD MSRP
Introducing the Museq Plugin
After successfully transposing two acclaimed analog compressors to the digital realms, the Brainworx and Elysia partnership presents us with the Museq plug-in, a virtual recreation of the Elysia's glorious equalizer that not replicates the original hardware but also adds some digital treats. Brainworx and Elysia went deep into the modelling depths and have come up a refined hardware emulation method, with great attention to detail and careful modelling of each component of the signal path, and the partnership is already proven to be successful and has delivered superb quality plug-in versions of Elysia's compressors Mpressor and Alpha, and it’s not different this time around with their flagship equalizer.
The Museq is a five band semi-parametric EQ with three very broad constant-Q bell-type curves and two shelving bands that can be turned into filters with pleasant resonating capabilities. This plugin comes in two versions: a “master version” which is basically identical to the hardware and stripped down “mix” version. The master version is divided in two big sections for L/R or M/S, with the frequency range divided through four partially-overlapping equalization bands and their respective gain knobs. There are buttons on each section to engage cut or boost functions and broad or narrow bandwidth and right in the middle of the interface we have stereo link, M/S mode and on/off buttons. As you don't have to deal with fine bandwidth tweaking operating the Museq is basically about choosing which frequency range you want, choose boost or cut, grab the amplitude knob and adjust to taste. This is a very straight-forward equalizer, and a very classy one at that. Mix version is a one-section does it all unit, with a smaller and extremely convenient to use version with Museq's core features.
Despite the fact that its sonic signature can be described as clean and transparent, Museq's 15 db of amplitude range is able to introduce some big tone changes that will go much further than its apparent gentleness might suggest. Still, this is a rather subtle equalizer when things are not pushed too hard because of it’s rather broad curves. Such large curves makes the Museq an equalizer that greatly welcomes boosts, as you’ll hardly run into bad resonances. Even though its bandwidth only has two options (which are Q = 1.3 and Q = 0.5) and none of them are really very narrow, the Museq still holds a decent degree of accuracy and can be useful for some strategic cuts, but I wouldn't say this is the best way to approach the Museq - there’s a large number of extremely precise equalizers plugins out there that will do narrow cuts much more properly and with the necessary controls of bandwidth. The Museq feels more like a broad stroke than a sharp pencil and it is nearly impossible to make it sound bad.
The resonating filters are also a nice aspect of the Museq. These filters are very gentle, despite what “resonating” may suggest. The top end might get a bit overdone and harsh when pushed too far, but the low cut is amazingly forgiving. Museq's filters will replace the high and low shelving bands, and when the filter mode is engaged the band gain will become a Q adjustment that makes them very flexible. Elysia assembled the filters parallel to the central bands so they don’t overly interact with each other, and even with generous amounts of Q the Museq filter will remain smooth sounding.
One nice variation in the Museq is the Warm mode, which is also present in other Elysia units such as the Alpha Compressor. This function limits the slew rate of the output amps and makes the unit sound more mellow by softening a bit of the transient information and also introducing a bit more of harmonic distortion, but it’s really just a bit: its very subtle and not easily overdone and in fact this can be quite abused in most situations. The warm mode also provided a gently high-frequency attenuation that will sweeten things even further.
Digital goods and interface conundrums
One of the great things about digital technology and plugins is that we can have the luxury of using a bunch of instances of those otherwise very expensive units, and you can easily have many instances of the Museq lined up on the most vital channels of your mix. This is made even easier by stripped-down and quick to use mix version, making the Museq an extremely inviting channel equalizer that works on a very decent range of sources.
Again, this is not your everyday parametric EQ or that ultra-sharp surgical frequency cutter with a ton of features and despite being very transparent. The Museq is more of a character enhancer than a precise sculptor. The broad curves combined with the pleasant resonating filters can be extremely useful in mixing situations where something needs to stand out. This equalizer will certainly shine on mastering applications as well as on buses and channels that need to stand out in a mix. The fact that it can operate in stereo, dual-mono or mid/side adds to Museq's flexibility and range of applications, making it an interesting choice for situations where the regular parametric stock plug isn’t cut it - and that’s quite literally: even though it does nice cuts, the boosts are definitively the most attractive thing this plugin has to offer.
Museq will automatically over-sample anything passing through it, but it will do it in a smart way as it automatically calculates how much oversampling it needs according to the sample rate of your project, ensuring you're always working at high resolution with the finest processing but without any wasted processing. Overall the Museq is very light on resources consumption and with the mix version you can actually have it all across the board without hogging your CPU. I should also say that it was rock-solid and didn't had a single crash on my test system (VST/RTAS/AAX tested on Windows 7-64 bit). Other digital treats includes a A/B system for turning bands on and off, mouse-wheel support with fine tune. The documentation is just like everything else on the Museq plugin: top quality and carefully done - and the same can be said about the customer support provided by Plugin Alliance.
The only thing in the Museq I really miss is the lack of any metering, not even a clipping indicator, and that criticism can be extended to the previous Elysia/Brainworx plugins. The option to literally clone the hardware will eventually impose such limitations, and it's a design choice I'm personally don’t love. Nonetheless this is nicely featured equalizer and most of all, it is a very easy to use tool - but more because of its nature than because of its graphics. This is a very easy to use and intuitive equalizer, despite its less-than-great-looking interface. Such design definitively focus on sound and it seems like having such small and hard to read numbers is an intentional thing, but as potential interface struggles are resolved and design choices are embraced the Museq easily becomes one of the most rewarding equalizers out there.
This is arguably one of the most interesting equalizers to come out in recent years, and the digital version is worth looking into if you’re on the hunt for an equalizer that goes a bit out of the ordinary. A unique design with broad and forgiving curves and the intriguing choice of not having a regular bandwidth control makes the Museq an equalizer that is certainly on a class of its own. Brainworx's excellence in providing a stable, light and well-supported plugin should also be praised, and the digital treats such as the inclusion of a “mix” version adds a lot to the Museq's value, and despite some interface struggles this is a very pleasant to use plugin.
Available in all major formats, the Museq is distributed and supported by the Brainworx-coordinated venture Plugin Alliance and it goes for 249 US dollars (MSRP), which is a substantial amount of money on an equalizer plugin - specially in today’s overpopulated plugin market. Plugin Alliance has some progressive discounts offers in case you buy multiple plugins and they usually have some typical “season” promotions, so there are considerable chances that you get it on a lower price. Nonetheless, the Museq is distinct equalizer with a sonic signature that’s hard to get elsewhere and it's easily worth more than its price tag - especially when you remember that the hardware costs at least 10 times more.
- Sound Quality: 10/10
- Ease of use: 8/10
- Features: 8/10
- Compatibility and stability: 10/10
- Documentation and support: 10/10
- Bang for buck: 8/10
Some interesting graphs - nothing scientific, always to be taken with a pinch of salt:
Interesting and gentle resonating filter - that’s a 8db boost and it's still gentle.
Very little harmonic distortion - and that’s with the warm mode engaged.
Band combination is high in this one: 60k, 920Hz and 5k boosts all with narrow Q, which is an evidence of how broad Museq’s curve are. Notice the steep low pass filter, that’s most likely there because of the oversampling going on internally.
60 Hz and 14 kHz shelves with 8db boosts. Watch out on that top end as the shelf interacts (and drops not-so-subtly) with the default anti-aliasing filter.
Filters at the same frequencies (60 and 14k) with their lowest Gain/Q: