Question about the "cut don't boost EQ" idea

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deeplink
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Post 14 Oct 2020

Another one of the tropes a person will find all of the interwebs.

What is the deal with it?

If I have a sound that I want boost the level of the bass, why should I simply not boost the bass in eq, instead of descreasing the high and turning the overall level up?

Billy
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Post 14 Oct 2020

deeplink wrote:
14 Oct 2020

If I have a sound that I want boost the level of the bass, why should I simply not boost the bass in eq, instead of descreasing the high and turning the overall level up?
Think of it like a room with a limited amount of space.
If you always add something your going to fill up the space, were as if you remove what you don't need you will end up with more space to fill with what you want in it.
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Djstarski
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Post 14 Oct 2020

Billy wrote:
14 Oct 2020
deeplink wrote:
14 Oct 2020

If I have a sound that I want boost the level of the bass, why should I simply not boost the bass in eq, instead of descreasing the high and turning the overall level up?
Think of it like a room with a limited amount of space.
If you always add something your going to fill up the space, were as if you remove what you don't need you will end up with more space to fill with what you want in it.
I was about to use the same analogy .+1

Billy
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Post 14 Oct 2020

Djstarski wrote:
14 Oct 2020
Billy wrote:
14 Oct 2020


Think of it like a room with a limited amount of space.
If you always add something your going to fill up the space, were as if you remove what you don't need you will end up with more space to fill with what you want in it.
I was about to use the same analogy .+1
Well I'm glad I'm not the only one. ;)
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guitfnky
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Post 14 Oct 2020

it’s a myth. whatever sounds good *is* good. if you couldn’t improve a sound by boosting EQ bands, there wouldn’t be EQs with the ability to boost.

of course if you boost something too much it’s going to sound bad. just like if you cut too much.

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guitfnky
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Post 14 Oct 2020



this guy puts it right into focus as his first point in the vid.

Billy
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Post 14 Oct 2020

It's still about what you want in that room, if your bass doesn't sound right and boosting it using an EQ makes it sound right "to you" as in how you want it to sound, then it's correct. But boosting everything is still going to fill your room and leave less space for other stuff you might want.
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guitfnky
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Post 14 Oct 2020

for sure--boosting that much amounts to just turning up the volume, anyway. I think the point he's getting at is that you shouldn't avoid drastic settings just for the sake of some arbitrary rule. most half-decent mixers already know they're not going to be boosting all the time, just as they know they're not going to be cutting all the time. some frequencies need cutting, and others need boosting--it's all about finding the right balance, and most importantly, what sounds right.

enossified
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Post 14 Oct 2020

deeplink wrote:
14 Oct 2020
What is the deal with it?

If I have a sound that I want boost the level of the bass, why should I simply not boost the bass in eq, instead of descreasing the high and turning the overall level up?
You have it backwards. The idea is to find another track in the mix that has too much low end and is obscuring the bass track. Then reduce the bass on that track. If you just boost in multiple EQ bands, the overall level of the mix increases.

The way to achieve a mix where everything is heard clearly is avoiding tracks competing in the same frequency spectrum. You can do this many ways, EQ is just one option.

Yonatan
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Post 14 Oct 2020

From what I understand this rule of thumb, is more to be aware of the tendency to think "it lacks bass, I increase", then "oh, I need to boost the high" etc. I see it more like a "beginners caution". The mindset of trying to balance the mix by cutting some areas, is a good way to understand that every little move you make, adding or subtracting, on any track, will result in a new overall sound. But its a sculpting process where both boosting and cutting away is needed to get to a compelling mix. The art is to have the experience combined with being a blank paper on what might be needed to cut or boost in each project.

When it comes to the advice "don´t mix in solo", I think that rule is too harsh. I think it is necessary to be able to hear things isolated, but one have to resist the temptation to carve out each channel in isolation, thinking it will be a masterpiece when put together. I would love to have a 3rd button on the mixer called "focus", which would let me listen to a channel while all else is lowered in volume as long as that is pushed. It would be like the "Dim"-button that lowers everything with say 20 db, but the track in focus remains its original volume. So best would probably be to have a function where whenever "Dim" -20db is being pushed on master section (maybe together with a simple focus switch), then all "solo" on the channels will automatically stay at original level, but all not in solo will be -20db. Then there would not be any need for a focus-button on every channel, just a smart extra funktion of the ordinary solo-function. I believe that would be really handy. I have written long ago to Prop about that after watching a Recording Revolution video about the advice of not mixing in solo.
Last edited by Yonatan on 14 Oct 2020, edited 1 time in total.

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guitfnky
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Post 14 Oct 2020

enossified wrote:
14 Oct 2020
deeplink wrote:
14 Oct 2020
What is the deal with it?

If I have a sound that I want boost the level of the bass, why should I simply not boost the bass in eq, instead of descreasing the high and turning the overall level up?
You have it backwards. The idea is to find another track in the mix that has too much low end and is obscuring the bass track. Then reduce the bass on that track. If you just boost in multiple EQ bands, the overall level of the mix increases.

The way to achieve a mix where everything is heard clearly is avoiding tracks competing in the same frequency spectrum. You can do this many ways, EQ is just one option.
yes, but sometimes you need to actually boost the bass on a track you're working on. if you have a synth line recorded that isn't as bass heavy as it needs to be (i.e. the synth's higher frequencies are louder than they should be, relative to the lower frequencies), you need to find a way to get those frequencies sitting the way you want. cutting the bass in another track doesn't give extra oomph to your synth track--it just reduces any masking that may be going on between the two in that frequency range.

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guitfnky
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Post 14 Oct 2020

Yonatan wrote:
14 Oct 2020
From what I understand this rule of thumb, is more to be aware of the tendency to think "it lacks bass, I increase", then "oh, I need to boost the high" etc. I see it more like a "beginners caution". The mindset of trying to balance the mix by cutting some areas, is a good way to understand that every little move you make, adding or subtracting, will result in a new sound picture. But being too clinical with this approach, wont take one to any great heights with the mix. Its a sculpting process where both boosting and cutting away is needed to get things interesting. The art is to have the experience but always be a blank paper on what might be needed in each project.

When it comes to the advice "don´t mix in solo", I think that rule is too harsh. I think it is necessary to be able to hear things isolated, but one have to resist the temptation to carve out each channel in isolation, thinking it will be a masterpiece when put together. I would love to have a 3rd button on the mixer called "focus", which would let me listen to a channel while all else is lowered in volume as long as that is pushed. It would be like the "Dim"-button that lowers everything with say 20 db, but the track in focus remains its original volume. So best would probably be to have a function where whenever "Dim" -20db is being pushed on master section (maybe together with a simple focus switch), then all "solo" on the channels will automatically stay at original level, but all not in solo will be -20db. Then there would not be any need for a focus-button on every channel, just a smart extra funktion of the ordinary solo-function.
this is a good way of looking at it, I think. and I agree, it shouldn't be 'don't mix in solo', it should be 'don't ONLY mix in solo'. soloing a track and making EQ moves is a great way to hear what you're doing, but you should always be making your final judgment in context with the rest of what's going on.

and I love the idea of a solo dim mode. that would be pretty awesome, honestly. 👍

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selig
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Post 14 Oct 2020

I agree it's a myth, but one born in "fact". In analog consoles you have a limited amount of head room. If you boost a lot with EQ you will raise the overall level and risk clipping the channel or summing stage or output.

Yet there is nothing inherently wrong or "less quality" about a boost vs a cut, and in floating point systems you have so much headroom it's a non issue.
Still, I always recommend compensation when adding processing such that the output = input with regards to level (peak levels specifically).
To that end, doing an equal amount of cut and boost is ideal (whenever possible) since it will keep the overall level consistent.

The only time cut and boost are different is when using asymmetrical EQ types. Otherwise, with most modern symmetrical EQs you can "remove" a cut with a boost and vice versa. Meaning, you can run two EQs in a row, one with a boost and the other with exactly the opposite cut, and they will literally cancel each other out.
Try this: take two SSL EQs and insert them one after another in a Parallel Channel. On one EQ crank the LMF gain to max (+20dB) and on the other to min (-20dB). Do the same with the HMF band. Use the Polarity Invert button on either channel and you'll hear total silence. That means boosts and cuts are perfect opposites, again, with symmetrical EQ shapes (which is most modern EQs).
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PhillipOrdonez
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Post 14 Oct 2020

Cut and boost at ease. I reckon it is all fair game as long as there is a clear intention behind each move.

chaosroyale
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Post 16 Oct 2020

As usual Selig explains it well. There is no qualitative difference AT ALL between boosting and cutting in a (symmetrical) modern EQ. The only important thing, as some other posters have pointed out, is how the "psychology" of it affects your workflow. If you find yourself getting into a kind of EQ-boosting "arms-race" where each track spirals into more and more gain, then it can help you to consciously pay attention to cutting with EQ. As long as you are conscious of the interplay of all the tracks, and learn how to notice where you can cut from one or boost another, you will be fine.

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Kalm
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Post 16 Oct 2020

As been stated but to further the subject. Think of an EQ as a tone balancer. Like chaosroyale stated, there are no qualitative differences between a boost or a cut. A boost in one place vs a cut in all the places EXCEPT where you initially did the boost results in the same tone (in the most ideal scenario). Therefore the only difference is that an EQ is simply a gain control per frequency band/range. Logic's EQ shows a perfect example of this. Raising gain is simply raising the level of ALL frequencies. Reducing gain is just reducing the level of ALL frequencies. Everything in between is what we do to shape the tone so it doesn't make a difference.

That being said you have a ceiling and a noise floor. the thing with audio systems and humans is we like things loud. Therefore we tend to raise our level close to the ceiling rather than turn things down close to the noise floor of a system. So while you are EQing, you have to be mindful that no matter what, you are closer to the maximum level you can push signals in a system. We're usually 20 dBs away from the ceiling but about 100 dBs away from the noise floor. This is why subtractive EQ is recommended.

Also, as stated, workflow and psychology matters too. If you want to balance a signal and get rid of a frequency, would you rather cut that one frequency or somehow boost all the other frequencies but the problematic one? So short story shorter, any frequency that needs to be removed or there is too much of, cut. Anything you want to enhance, boost.
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Kalm
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Post 16 Oct 2020

Yonatan wrote:
14 Oct 2020
From what I understand this rule of thumb, is more to be aware of the tendency to think "it lacks bass, I increase", then "oh, I need to boost the high" etc. I see it more like a "beginners caution". The mindset of trying to balance the mix by cutting some areas, is a good way to understand that every little move you make, adding or subtracting, on any track, will result in a new overall sound. But its a sculpting process where both boosting and cutting away is needed to get to a compelling mix. The art is to have the experience combined with being a blank paper on what might be needed to cut or boost in each project.

When it comes to the advice "don´t mix in solo", I think that rule is too harsh. I think it is necessary to be able to hear things isolated, but one have to resist the temptation to carve out each channel in isolation, thinking it will be a masterpiece when put together. I would love to have a 3rd button on the mixer called "focus", which would let me listen to a channel while all else is lowered in volume as long as that is pushed. It would be like the "Dim"-button that lowers everything with say 20 db, but the track in focus remains its original volume. So best would probably be to have a function where whenever "Dim" -20db is being pushed on master section (maybe together with a simple focus switch), then all "solo" on the channels will automatically stay at original level, but all not in solo will be -20db. Then there would not be any need for a focus-button on every channel, just a smart extra funktion of the ordinary solo-function. I believe that would be really handy. I have written long ago to Prop about that after watching a Recording Revolution video about the advice of not mixing in solo.
Some live consoles have this feature and the SSL Duality I believe has this as well. It's Solo-In-Front if I recall. Does exactly as you described.
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Yonatan
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Post 22 Oct 2020

Kalm wrote:
16 Oct 2020
Some live consoles have this feature and the SSL Duality I believe has this as well. It's Solo-In-Front if I recall. Does exactly as you described.
Ah, wonderful. I would really love to have this in Reason as well. Crossing my fingers.

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Boombastix
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Post 22 Oct 2020

Often you cut with a high Q and add with a small Q setting. But as already stated, no rules, just keep A/B what you do, solo and in mix, to make sure you improve the sound and not butcher it.
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selig
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Post 22 Oct 2020

Kalm wrote:
16 Oct 2020
We're usually 20 dBs away from the ceiling but about 100 dBs away from the noise floor. This is why subtractive EQ is recommended.
That's the old reason to recommend cut and not boost. That was before you had 1500 dB (or more) dynamic range to work with. This means the "ceiling" is roughly 750 dB away and the noise floor on a 24 bit signal generated in a computer is roughly 144 dB away. And with EQ we're not talking about lots of level changes for the most part.

Secondly, unlike with analog you can add a gain stage after the EQ and correct any level imbalance caused by the EQ. Or just use an EQ that already has an output level control. ;)
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Kalm
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Post 22 Oct 2020

selig wrote:
22 Oct 2020
Kalm wrote:
16 Oct 2020
We're usually 20 dBs away from the ceiling but about 100 dBs away from the noise floor. This is why subtractive EQ is recommended.
That's the old reason to recommend cut and not boost. That was before you had 1500 dB (or more) dynamic range to work with. This means the "ceiling" is roughly 750 dB away and the noise floor on a 24 bit signal generated in a computer is roughly 144 dB away. And with EQ we're not talking about lots of level changes for the most part.

Secondly, unlike with analog you can add a gain stage after the EQ and correct any level imbalance caused by the EQ. Or just use an EQ that already has an output level control. ;)
Yes but your converters don’t hear 32 but audio. It wouldn’t be a problem with small gain changes. For example, an export in Reason is only 24 bit unless you bounce mix channels. The ceiling is extremely high in 32 bit processing but then that’s when my other reason comes into play
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boomer
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Post 23 Oct 2020

I think part of your mystery is understanding the difference between “electrical boost and cut” vs “acoustical boost and cut”. Electrical is pretty straight forward. You can simply do either, provided you don’t run out of headroom. But an electrical boost may not result in and acoustical boost. Cuts always track however.

I think the most common place you’ll see this is when people do a mix in a space that is too physically small to achieve much very low end. They keep boosting and boosting the bass with little or no effect. Then they play their mix back in a bigger room and pow, the low end has gotten huge.

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selig
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Post 23 Oct 2020

Kalm wrote:
22 Oct 2020
Yes but your converters don’t hear 32 but audio. It wouldn’t be a problem with small gain changes. For example, an export in Reason is only 24 bit unless you bounce mix channels. The ceiling is extremely high in 32 bit processing but then that’s when my other reason comes into play
And I'll repeat that with digital there are many places to get back any lost headroom - adding a gain stage in digital is transparent, as opposed to analog. So boost, then reduce.
And same for cuts, you need to restore the level after a cut just like when you compress and use makeup gain. 24 dB gives you a lot of room to work with, which is why I always suggest building in headroom below clipping - so that you CAN cut or boost. Why? Because EQ every situation cannot be solved with a cut!
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Kalm
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Post 23 Oct 2020

selig wrote:
23 Oct 2020
Kalm wrote:
22 Oct 2020
Yes but your converters don’t hear 32 but audio. It wouldn’t be a problem with small gain changes. For example, an export in Reason is only 24 bit unless you bounce mix channels. The ceiling is extremely high in 32 bit processing but then that’s when my other reason comes into play
And I'll repeat that with digital there are many places to get back any lost headroom - adding a gain stage in digital is transparent, as opposed to analog. So boost, then reduce.
And same for cuts, you need to restore the level after a cut just like when you compress and use makeup gain. 24 dB gives you a lot of room to work with, which is why I always suggest building in headroom below clipping - so that you CAN cut or boost. Why? Because EQ every situation cannot be solved with a cut!
Of course not. But how many people who start off mixing know to adjust for level when they make tons changes. Reason why I spoke of people to look at Logics EQ as a fine example of what happens with an EQ
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DaveyG
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Post 23 Oct 2020

I can tell there are no proper studio engineers in this thread.
Cutting is always preferable to boosting, because boosting also increases the unwanted background noise, even in a "clean" digital system. That's not to say that you should absolutely never boost. It's just that boosting should be the exception rather than the norm.

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