Fabrice Gabriel has risen to fame within the audio world as an essential part of Steven Slate's team. As the technical powerhouse behind Slate Digital plugins, like the VCC and VTM, his programming skills have given us a number of acclaimed emulations of analog gear over the years.However, his own endeavor isn't about emulating anything. AirEQ, the first plugin to be released by Gabriel's own company, Eiosis, has created it's own buzz as a digital EQ that strives to be all you need for your cutting and boosting needs. Below, you can read the interview I did with Fabrice about his work.
Can you tell me about how got your start in pro audio? Were you always a software designer?
I was originally a computer science engineer, and also a mixing engineer. Very early, I was interested in algorithm analysis, and studying audio processing.
Most people know you from the tutorial videos and newsletters that are published through Slate Digital. How did you come to work with Steven Slate on his plugins?
Steven and I founded Slate Digital together after meeting at a convention. We shared the same views, the same passions, and the same goals when it comes to audio plugins and digital processing. We believed that we could bring something interesting, and we hope to improve the sound of what plugins could do !
With the success that has come from Slate Digital's plugins, why did you feel the need to turn your attention to your own EQ, instead of solely focusing Slate's analog emulations?
I created Eiosis before Slate Digital, and that was also how we met with Steven and how I started to make plugins.
We’ve been quiet with Eiosis for some business-related issues, and I wanted to bring back the brand as well as some ideas that are very personal and that I really wanted to develop. AirEQ Premium is the first of these ideas !
As I'm sure you know, EQ plugins are to the audio world what sand is to the beach : overflowing. In addition to that, many engineers and mixers already have their go-to plugins for their work. Did you feel confident that AirEQ would be able to attract the attention of the audio world despite such challenges?
Well, we should never feel too confident about the fact that a plugin is gonna drive attention. But already, I’m very glad to have so much positive feedback about AirEQ, and many people telling me that AirEQ became their go to EQ against other very well established EQ plugins that have been around for years !
We did everything we could with the Eiosis team to be sure that AirEQ would be the best possible, with the most perfect technical aspects, the best workflow possible, and the most artistic and musical sound we could. Also, we have still a lot to do in our goal of educating people about how to use AirEQ, and of course a lot of features to add in order to keep making it what we want to achieve. We intend to make available lot of updates to improve AirEQ, and to add a lot of features too.
Was AirEQ modeled off any analog gear?
Not at all ! Of course I was inspired from some analog EQ, because I wanted the curves to sound exactly as some analog EQ that I love, but otherwise, regarding the curves, everything is from original designs that I adjusted by ear myself.
AirEQ has different labels on it's GUI, like "Fire" and "Water". Can you distinguish these two from each other? What would each one be useful for?
I had the idea of those curves a long time ago, and when I started designing them, I wanted also to give an evocative name to them. Because we already had the “Air”, I thought that it would be interesting to stay in the same vocabulary environment. Also, the names fit pretty well to the sonic sensation that you have : Water is smooth, transparent, natural, flowing, and Fire is powerful, dynamic, focused, hitting without being resonant.
"Water" is useful for everything which requires you to smooth out the resonances, like vocals, tight bass, smooth highs, and "Fire" is useful for snappy drum mids, focused and tight bass adjustments, removing high sibilants precisely without ringing.
"Earth" and "Air" are another one, which seem to be shelving bands. How do these differ from normal shelves?
Both Air and Earth may look like shelf filters, but they are not, technically.
First, the "Air" frequency response is precisely tuned by ear, so it’s always smooth and reacts very specifically to the Air amount; it’s not just a simple gain. This provides some natural and very musical results.
"Earth", even if it may look like a shelf filter, has a very different phase response. The phase/impulse responses has been tweaked in order to get flat phase down to around 50Hz, even at maximum values, which provides a very tight and non-boomy sound.
Can you talk about to what extent AirEQ taxes your computer's CPU?
AirEQ is very light in CPU, with a zero delay and absolutely perfect curve behavior. It was a big challenge to get the CPU so low, even when updating/automating the plugin's parameters. That’s why it’s both a mixing and mastering EQ. It's zero delay and low CPU usage allows you to put AirEQ on every single one of your tracks, which you'd do during mixing. For mastering, it's suitable because it offers you the absolute best sonic quality possible, all the time.
How long has it taken you to create AirEQ, and what were the biggest challenges during this time?
AirEQ development ran for about 3 years, along other product developments of course. The biggest challenge for me was to adjust every Character/Gain/Q combination by ear, and to make these artistic decisions with strong technical constraints. I had to redo the Water and Fire curve sets several times, and this was a real struggle at some point because I wanted to get those perfect but at the same time I wanted to release the product so badly!
I've seen you at music conferences like AES and NAMM over the past year or so, talking about AirEQ. What's the been the reception among the public?
Very good so far. We are still presenting AirEQ at conventions because it still needs exposure, and I’m amazed to see the reaction of people discovering the plugin for the first time. As I said, we still have a lot of education to do about AirEQ, and this is great for showing people our philosophy, as well as seeing how receptive people are about this philosophy.
Given the time, effort and money that you've invested into AirEQ, what kind of end result are you looking for? Is there a certain amount of copies you'd like it to sell, or certain studios and users you want to use it?
As you've said, it's a very crowded market, and I guess that’s it’s gonna take a lot of time before AirEQ reaches a status I'm aiming for. But I believe it's a very strong product, so despite the fact that we're a new brand, pushing a new product, I think AirEQ is gonna stay around for a long time, because it has such a different approach and is based on such a different philosophy and technology. Also, as I mentioned before, we planned to bring a lot of updates!
What's next for you and your company Eiosis? Are there any plans for additional plugins?
Of course ! We plan to bring a lot of other tools, in the same league than AirEQ. With innovations, and always with the idea of bringing a good sound with more ease of use, more intuitive, to our users !