Sonible smart:EQ 3 (Quicker Review)
❌ iLok authenticated. Minor issue, but iLok is always just a ball ache. We emailed and this is an optional iLok authentication. You can use PACE instead, if you are a Sonible user.
✅ smart:filter makes scarily good decisions and works across multiple genres of music.
✅ Cross channel processing and group mode are a god send, and make the clarity of mixes not only much better, but the speed of getting one quicker.
✅ Standard EQ setting is great. Lots of option for different cuts, boosts, etc.
✅ Mid/Side, Linear Phase & Constant Q modes. These are all great for making specific mixing decisions.
✅ Spectral analyser is amazing. You can see the spectrum from multiple channels with smart:EQ 3 loaded on them, making more accurate mixing decisions much easier to make.
✅ Fantastic re-sizeable user interface
✅ Free 30 day trial
Are AI powered tools becoming more powerful than human choice? Sonible might be gunning for your engineer job with the new smart:EQ 3.
In this article we're going to review the smart:EQ 3, and put it to the test to really find out whether it's worth your hard earned music mooolaah baby!
We liked Sonible's smart:EQ 3 so much that we included it in our list of best VST plugins.
What Is Sonible smart:EQ 3?
Smart EQ 3 is an intelligent AI powered equalization plugin, that can analyze your audio and make surgical decisions for you. It can help soothe disruptive resonances and overall enhance the balance of your tracks.
The smart:EQ 3 is Sonible's latest update to their Smart range of plugins. If you haven't yet heard of Sonible – first of all: how? Second of all, they make some of the best AI powered tools for mixing and mastering available in today's market.
The coolest thing about the Smart EQ is it dynamically reacts to your audio.
It does this by using something called spectral matching, which pretty much just analyzes your signal, and alters the EQ settings based on how it changes.
Unlike other AI EQ's, it doesn't force an EQ curve on your music, but rather evolves to fit the profile of your chosen genre. It can be used on anything from Rock, to Pop, to Classical. You name it Smart EQ can do it.
I can do it too with Smart EQ! (Anyone remeber the Kandoo advert?)
How Does It Sound?
While we can tell you the features are great, and all the reasons you should get smart:EQ 3, we always think it's better to trust your ears, so we've left a couple examples of presets below on the sounds that smart:EQ says they should be on.
We also included a full mix example using the new groups hierarchy feature, with before and after testing.
Really nicely cleans up the sub information and resonant frequencies you don't want. Maybe a bit overkill on the sub bass, but I make electronic music, so of course I would say that. Give me more bass!!
Adds a lot of crunch and sizzle to these lofi drums, and they need it. Definitely a decision I would have personally made in the mixing process. smart:EQ 3 did it for me in seconds.
Set this as the lead element in the groups/cross channel processing. Really brightens it up and doesn't allow much to interfere with it. Very nice presence added, and that's just EQ processing!
Cleans up a lot of unwanted resonance. Maybe thins the piano out a bit too much, but in context of the track it really works.
Whole Track Using Cross Channel Processing
Adds a great deal of clarity, cleans up the mix exceptionally well, and makes everything sound very, very professional pretty quickly. Things sound great together, and EQ desicions are very accurate.
smart:EQ 3 Features
There are a tonne of great features included inside Sonible's AI powered mixing assistant, here we'll cover them all, with examples of use, whether they're good or not, and then run you through the new stuff included.
smart:EQ 3 Features Quick List
Compatibility: 64-bit, Windows, Mac, VST, VST3, AU, AAX, 44.1kHz – 192kHZ.
- Incredibly precise AI powered EQ that makes surprisingly good decisions.
- Up to six channels using cross channel processing, in the group mode.
- Group mode, choosing up to six channels and changing their hierarchy of importance, allowing for quick mixing magic.
- Dynamic adaption, adjusting the EQ's curve in response to your audio.
- Fully customisable smart:filter with added splitting feature. Split into 2 separate smart:filter bands.
- Up to 8 instances of smart:EQ 3 for A/B testing between profiles.
- 16 smart:filter factory profiles to choose from.
- Mid/side processing, linear phase, & constant Q modes
The smart:filter is really the main attraction of the smart:EQ 3. This is the big green band you see in the picture above, and is where you'll be controlling most of what smart:EQ does.
You can use this to control different areas of the spectrum. Using the smart:filter, you're applying a certain percentage of what the algorithm is suggesting you do the the curve.
That means you have full control over the decisions it's going to make. You can add a bit, or you can do the complete opposite of what it's suggesting.
You can change the scope of where smart:EQ 3 is affecting the signal, using the different, but intuitive controls provided.
Unlike an EQ curve, you won't be changing decibel amount or Q factor.
- Strength – controls the amount by which you want the smart:EQ 3's suggestions to be applied to your audio. You can alter this how you like to even go against what it suggests in an attempt to rise against the machine in true anarchist fashion.
- The width tool – changes the width of the affected area by the smart:filter. You can change it between 0 & 100%.
- The dynamic setting – is used to tell the smart:filter to apply dynamic EQ. This is extremely useful in certain scenarios, as the “Learn” button only listens to a small section of audio. So, if you have an element that changes over time with automation of some kind, this mode will come in handy/
- Hz – changes the Hz range as you'd expect it to.
You also have a new addition to split the smart:filter into 2 separate bands. This gives you the ability to affect 2 separate areas independently.
With smart:filter, you can also change the slope of the low and high curves.
There's also a green button at the top-mid-left of the plugin, which is linked to the smart:filter.
Pressing this “Learn” button will analyze a short section of the track and then apply processing based on the spectral analysis.
This is also link to the Factory Profiles, from which you can choose a number of profiles depending on the sound. If you have drums, you can use the drums preset for instance. Or, if you want to create a completely unique smart:filter, use the universal mode.
You can also save any profiles of your own here.
Personally we think the width & slope options could have all just been put under 1 control to improve workflow, but this allows smart:EQ 3 to be more precise, which is great for mixing purposes.
Cross Channel Processing & Groups
Sonible have included a new “groups” feature, which also has the ability to perform intelligent cross channel processing, across six channels.
But what does that mumbo jumbo all mean?
The groups allow you to add your multiple instances of Smart EQ together in one area, and order them in order of sonic importance.
You have 3 different levels to order your tracks in:
- Level 1 – Leads, Vocals, and anything you want to be in the front of the mix. Smart EQ will ensure that these elements stay in the forefront and don't clash or get clouded by other elements.
- Level 2 – These are your supporting instruments/channels. Things like Piano chord lines, and drums work very well here.
- Level 3 – Here you'll place all the background elements. This can work well for FX, backing vocals, pads, and layers you want to build up the underlying sonic body of your mix, rather than to be in the spotlight.
When testing this feature out, Sonible has done a surprising job of getting it right. Most of the time when testing on our own tracks, Smart EQ was making decisions we would have already made, or showed us new ones we wouldn't have previously thought of.
It rapidly cleared up resonances, and made everything sound a lot cleaner. We made a few more adjustments to the EQ's already great suggestion and the mix was pretty much there in a matter of minutes.
It's scarily good.
With this groups mode, you can also listen to all tracks, change their profiles, and you can see each of the individual track's spectral information. This is really good for making those surgical cuts, and being able to hone in on what frequencies are causing issues is your mixes.
Unfortunately there's no ability to switch between the instrument channel in one group, but maybe I'm asking for too much…
One thing that was missing from the original was the option to use multiple smart:filters to alter the curves of your spectrum individually.
Now you can split the smart:filter in two, which is extremely useful if you want to affect only the lows and the highs for instance.
Unfortunately, you can't split this into any more smart:filters, but hopefully with updates this will change.
Another new feature of Sonible smart:EQ 3 is Dynamic Adaption. This tells smart:EQ 3 to react dynamically to your audio, over a longer period of time. Before in smart:EQ 2, you only had the option to listen to a section of your track, and the smart:EQ would make decisions based on that short section.
But what if you have something that changes over time?
Well, in the olden days of music we'd use pesky automation. Now with the smart:EQ 3, you don't have to. It will make those dynamic changes for you, and does it really well.
Of course there are some instances where you're not going to like what the smart:EQ 3 does to your channel, so automation will still come in handy, or multiple instances adjusting different things.
Right now, the smart:EQ is an amazing spectral assistant. Ultimately you will have the final say, but more often than not, you won't need to change the spectral balance of your mix – smart:EQ 3 get's it right pretty much every time.
Drop It Like It's Hot With Multiple Instances
Inside smart:EQ 3, you'll also notice the new ability to add multiple EQ settings inside one plugin instance. This is extremely useful for testing out different curve settings for your audio. It can also act as an A/B for you to see what difference the smart:EQ 3 is actually making to your audio signal.
You can test multiple factory profiles, or you could test multiple curves of your own to see which one best fits your track.
Is It Gonna Kill My CPU?
Smart:EQ 3, like most AI tools can become pretty CPU heavy, especially when using the new groups feature and loading multiple instances.
If you have below an intel i5 processor or it's equivalent, you're not gonna have the juice to run it smoothly. From specs section on smart:EQ's website.
It definitely bogged down our system a bit, and we have an AMD Ryzen 5, 6 core processor with 3.4GHz & 16GB RAM.
If you're using a couple instances, you'll mostly be fine, but beyond 3 is where it gets kinda slow.
We did email about this and were told you can use OpenGL disabled to solve this problem. Having tested it, it seemed to sort it out ok, but still a little slow. It's very nice to have this feature and can make running multiple instances much smoother!
Smart:EQ 3 is a powerful AI mixing assistant, so it's going to need the power to run it. Check the system requirements before making a decision on the software. You can also try it for 30 days over on their website.
Give it a whirl and see if your system can handle it.
Personally we would only use this when mixing with just audio files. If you're in a sound design session or heavy music production session, we'd opt for something lightweight, like Fabfilter Pro Q 3.
Does AI EQ Reaalllly Work Though?
smart:EQ 3's decisions were scarily accurate. They really opened up some sounds, and provided extra clarity to mixes with just a few clicks.
Some instances worked better than others, but that was mainly when using the factory profile settings over just the universal mode.
It worked exceptionally well in groups mode, removing unwanted resonances, and providing clarity for the most important elements. smart:EQ 3 didn't work too well on master channels, and didn't seem to affect sub bass that well. From our testing, we couldn't find anything else where smart:EQ didn't make an incredibly precise & accurate decision.
Definitely a tool we'd personally use for the mixing process.
You should use it as more of an assistant for your mixing. Of course it's not going to replace your audio expertise and decisions, but it's getting pretty damn close to it.
It will massively improve your workflow, and, if nothing else, is still an absolute delight of a spectrum analyzer & EQ to use.
Sonible smart:EQ 3 (Quicker Review)
Sonible's smart:EQ 3 has everything you'd need in a mixing effect. With the new, intelligent, cross channel processing, introduction of groups, and an improve smart:filter + engine, this is really worth considering.
It's an incredible workflow tool, that makes very accurate and precise decisions for you. It can also act as a great, interactive learning tool for someone looking to get into the audio world.
Along with the ease of use, beautiful interface and fully functioning parametric EQ, that's similar to Fabfilter's Pro Q 3, smart:EQ 3 is a mixing powerhouse.
With over 8 years of hands-on experience in the music industry, Harry has run successful raves, played alongside industry heavyweights such as Max Chapman, DJ EZ, DJ Zinc and more (pictured below), had music played on national radio, DJ'd on live radio, produced until he hated every song, mixed until his ears bled, created sample packs from scratch using just a Zoom H1n and some sound design skills… and pretty much anything related to music production – he's done it, tested it, tried it.