Fabrice Gabriel has risen to fame within the audio world as the technical powerhouse behind Slate Digital plugins, like the VCC and VTM. He’s now making news with his own company, Eiosis, and it’s first plugin, the “AirEQ“. Below, you can read the interview I did with Fabrice about his work.
Hi Fabrice. 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 and the same goals when it comes to audio plugins and digital processing. We believed that we could create something interesting, hoped to improve the sound of what plugins could do!
Give the success of Slate Digital’s plugins, why did you feel the need make your own EQ, instead of solely focusing Slate’s emulations?
I created Eiosis before Slate Digital, and it was my company that led to my meeting with Steven. We’ve been quiet with Eiosis for some business-related issues, but I wanted to bring back the brand, as well as some ideas that I really wanted to develop. “AirEQ” is the first of these!
Many engineers and mixers already have their go-to EQ plugins for their work. How will “AirEQ” be able to attract the attention of the audio world when it has so much competition?
Well, we should never feel too confident that a plugin is going to attract attention, but I’m very glad to already have so much positive feedback about “AirEQ”, and many people are telling me that it’s became their go to EQ against other very well-established plugins that have been around for years.
We did everything we could with the Eiosis team to make sure that “AirEQ” would turn out as good as possible, with the most perfect technical aspects, the best workflow possible, and the most musical sound we could offer. But we have still a lot to do in terms of educating people about how to use “AirEQ”, and we intend to make new updates available that will improve the plugin, as well as add many new features too.
Was “AirEQ” modeled off any analog gear?
Not at all. Of course I was inspired from some analog EQs, because I wanted the curves to sound exactly as some analog units that I love, but otherwise, regarding the curves, everything is from original designs that I adjusted by ear myself.
(Above: Fabrice Gabriel)
“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 for those curves a long time ago, and when I started designing them, I wanted also to give an evocative name to them. Because we had already used “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, and natural. whilst “Fire” is dynamic, focused and hits without being resonant.
“Water” is useful for everything which requires you to smooth out the resonances, like vocals, tight basses and smooth highs, whilst “Fire” is useful for snappy drum mids, focused and tight bass adjustments and removing high sibilants.
“Earth” and “Air” are the shelving bands. How do these differ from shelves on other EQ plugins?
Both “Air” and “Earth” may look like shelf filters, but they are not, technically speaking. 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 have 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.
To what extent does “AirEQ” tax your computer’s CPU?
“AirEQ” is very light on CPU, with a zero delay and absolutely perfect curve behavior. It was a big challenge to get the CPU-usage so low, even when 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. For mastering, it’s suitable because it offers you the absolute best sonic quality possible.
How long has it taken you to create “AirEQ”, and what were the biggest challenges?
The process ran for about three years, alongside product development for other plugins. The biggest challenge for me was to adjust every character, gain and Q combination by ear, and to make these artistic decisions with strong technical constraints. I had to redo the “Water” and “Fire” curve sets times, and this was a real struggle at one point because I wanted to get those perfect, but at the same time I wanted to finally release the product (laughs).
I’ve seen you at music conferences like AES and NAMM, 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 to it.
What kind of end result are you hoping for, with regards to “AirEQ”? Is there a certain amount of copies you’d like it to sell?
As you’ve said, it’s a very crowded market, and I guess it’s going to take a lot of time before “AirEQ” reaches the 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” will stay around for a long time because it has such a different approach to a plugin, and is based on such a different philosophy and technology. Also, as I mentioned before, we plan to release a lot of updates.
What’s next for you and Eiosis? Are there any plans for additional plugins?
Of course. We plan to release a lot of other tools that are in the same league as “AirEQ”, which will be innovate and help our users to create a good sound for their music.