Having this precedent established, let’s investigate Blue Cat Audio’s LinyEQ Pack to determine if it upholds that bar of excellence.
Blue Cat's Liny EQ is a 9-band linear phase equalizer. That’s right! A genuine, classic GRAPHIC-styled EQ. It is visually striking with an elegant, curb side appeal. It processes audio signals without the usual phase distortions that many classical digital EQs introduce. LinyEQ is customizable and offers a wide range of frequency gain adjustment (from +/-10 dB to +/- 40 dB per band), making it suitable for any sound-sculpting task – including subtle, final-mix equalization duties.
LinyEQ (standard) is available by itself at the affordable price point of only 69€ or $89(USD). For less than twice the price, the LinyEQ Pack furnishes an engineer with two additional plug-ins; feature-rich Mid/Side processing along with dedicated stereo processing that grants exacting control over each channel individually. It is the LinyEQ Pack that we are evaluating at this time.
In brief, the Blue Cat Audio, Liny EQ Pack features may be bulleted as follows:
- Stereo Mid / Side Linear phase equalizer (NO phase distortion).
- The equalizer can precisely place a source anywhere in the stereo field.
- Separate Center/Sides equalizing for customized stereo widening and narrowing effects.
- Customizable dB range. (10 db, 20 dB, and 40 dB +/-)
- Two EQ shapes available (Symmetric and Notch).
- Automatic gain compensation.
- Very small latency: 2.9 ms (128 samples at 44.1 kHz).
- Channel link modes.
- Window opacity management: make the plugin window transparent.
Installation & Setup:
Blue Cat Audio plug-ins install quickly and easily with clear, easily-understood configuration options. These plug-ins can be installed as both DirectX and 2.x VST plug-ins. The user is prompted to either accept the default install locations, or browse for a user-defined directory to contain the VST ‘dll’ files and the required ‘data’ folders.
Near the end of the installation process, a dialogue box pops up, displaying input fields for the assigned username and serial code. The licensing/authorizing information is electronically delivered to your email inbox shortly after purchase. I would politely suggest that a user back-up his/her registration information and keep it safely archived on removable media, CD, etcetera.
I am also pleased to report to you that the licensing method is serial code protection rather than resource-consuming, bothersome C/R or dongle protection. I will now also make mention that quality developers such as Blue Cat Audio deserve to be supported. There are nefarious audio-software piracy sites on the internet that can potentially inflict great harm to the hard-working programming personnel who make these fine-quality products available to us. Instead of having to buy expensive outboard gear costing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, we are offered extensive DSP options for a fraction of the price. I encourage all my readers to support developers honourably and honestly.
The default Blue Cat graphics-style and color theme is one of my favourite schemas of any plug-in GUI design. The ‘chassis’ of these VSTs are depicted with a rich, blue-black “anodized” facsimile and alluring, royal-blue accents. The plug-in(s) are most nearly photo-realistic in appearance and exude a classy, elegant charm; replete with 3D-like ‘rack mount’ handles. One need not be shy to have these gallant plug-ins displayed on a monitor while working with a studio client. Optionally, the GUI skin can be set to any one of the three included skins. These being: the default, a “blue” skin, and lastly, a “button” skin. There is even an opacity slider allowing the user to set the visual transparency threshold.
As per Blue Cat’s refined, elegant design, the anti-aliased labels are easily seen in white, sans serif font against the attractive, dark backgrounds. It appears to me that there has been as much care and attention-to-detail put into the graphical elements as there was to the underlying, native DSP code itself. These plug-ins are first class; in both visual-design and sound-quality.
The user’s manual is conveniently accessed by clicking on the question marked “help” button located in the upper right corner. Right-clicking on any empty space in the main GUI reveals a popup menu for the plug-in configuration options. Items such as skins, presets, global settings, and the user’s manual are all readily accessible from this popup menu. Right-clicking on any slider or knob instantly resets the control to default parameters. This is an especially useful feature. I encourage all of my developer friends to incorporate this user-friendly feature into their plug-ins.
The only niggle that I have concerning the visual design of these plug-ins is that they are a little bit small for today’s high resolution monitors. Perhaps Blue Cat could consider adding a ‘resizing’ feature, or release the plug-ins in a larger size. For example, famed freeware developer, Bootsie (Variety of Sound), followed this track with VOS’s “Baxter EQ”.
Blue Cat’s ‘standard’ Liny EQ controls both the left and right channels equally. If, for example, you adjust the 3k band, then both stereo channels are affected by the same amount, simultaneously. The quality of stereo separation and isolation is extremely good thus maintaining very accurate stereo-imaging.
Blue Cat’s “Widening Liny EQ” apportions tremendous, ear-pleasing stereo width and enhancement. Having just completed my in-depth review of Voxengo’s stellar “Polysquasher 2” compression plug-in, I like to think that my discernment of M/S processing is somewhat heightened. The “Widening Liny EQ” certainly does not disappoint. It lavishes your auditory senses with luxuriant spacious-sounding signal processing; without introducing unwanted artefacts or obvious phasing anomalies.
There is a “Center” slider that supersedes a typical L/R balance control, like those found on many stereo devices. This slider allows the engineer to set the ‘center’ of the signal: it lets you control where you want the equalization to take place within the stereo field.
There is full automation support provided by this plugin offering a zipper-free, real-time and continuous change of parameters. If you wish to use this plug-in as a simple equalizer, you can choose to link the mid and side faders. While linked, the Widening EQ works similarly to the standard Liny EQ. If you want a typical Left side/Right side equalizer, just set the ‘center’ all the way to the Right. The 'Mid' controls will become left channel parameters and the 'Side' controls manipulate the Right channel.
The clean, digital processing quality of the Liny EQ plug-ins is to be gratefully welcomed into any serious engineer’s mix and mastering drawer. In this present age of 4x oversampling (or greater) it is most gratifying to use a Class A equalization plug-in that doesn’t introduce lag and heavy CPU consumption and the need for CPU-intensive oversampling. As I stated in the beginning of this article, Blue Cat Audio’s programming efforts are concentrated on producing exceptionally high quality plug-ins that are feature-rich *and reliable. All sample rates are supported. These plug-ins seems to handle each sample rate with the same relative ease.
Liny EQ (and its stereo & M/S brethren) is a tone-shaping EQ – not a ‘character’ enhancing device. There are plenty of so-called virtual ‘analogue’ EQ’s on the market, but pristine, tone-shaping plug-ins are an entirely different matter. This plug-in very aptly fits into the latter category. That being said, Liny EQ produces very precise, uncoloured results well suited to audio sculpting and surgical needs.
I actually found that I had to “work” at making these EQ plug-ins distort. I’ve reviewed some EQ products which do not share this coveted accolade. Clean, ‘transparent’ plug-ins are very important to engineers who work within the jazz, Gospel, country and folk music genres. If the user is mixing audio material comprised of glitchy additive synthesized sounds or heavily distorted electric guitars, then crystalline, sonic purity is not necessarily obvious. As long as the levels are not exceeding 0 dB on the master channel, then strains of unwanted THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) may go unnoticed. Even yet, they may be desirable.
In a good set of studio headphones or decent quality reference monitors, the quality of Liny EQ is quickly apparent. Of particular interest, is the fact that Blue Cat’s exemplary programming allows Liny EQ to apply moderate cuts/boosts to lower frequency bands without resulting in ugly, phased distortion. 5 Stars for Blue Cat Audio!
Effects & Features:
Many of Liny EQs features have already been focused on throughout this article so I will now highlight a few that haven’t yet been touched on.
No CPU Load on Idle: When the plugin is fed with silence, the processing smoothly shuts down, to optimize the CPU usage of your Digital Audio Workstation.
Noiseless True Bypass: Smooth Bypass allows the user to activate/deactivate the plugin with absolutely no noise bursts. I have demoed some rather expensive plug-ins that are difficult to use with automation for this very reason.
Multiple Undo/Redo: You read it here first folks! This illustrious set of EQs all feature Blue Cat’s admirable Undo/Redo functionality. No need to rely on a DAW to accomplish this. It’s convenient to be able to block-restore a previous setting, but Blue Cat’s Undo/Redo implementation once again displays this company’s commitment to quality and attention to details. If you move any slider, knob or switch, each *individual* change is temporarily held in memory to readily facilitate incremental restoration of parameter settings.
Powerful Preset Management: Not only is a user free to create and save as many presets as desired, but he/she can also import/export in a Host independent format. Each of the three EQs included in the Liny EQ pack have a factory default “Flat” preset. This preset resets all parameters to perfectly flat, zeroed values.
* Gentle sigh of relief. Liny EQs are refreshingly light on CPU, allowing an engineer to insert many simultaneous instances across a project. This is a very, very noteworthy feature, considering that this is a Linear Phase EQ. At those times when multiple instances of Liny EQ are in use, Blue Cat’s proprietary “No CPU Load on Idle” is a fortuitous bonus.
Blue Cat Audio’s products are of stellar quality and functionality. These EQs are capable of achieving fantastic tone-shaping results with minimal effort. The feature-set is well implemented and powerful.
Although the Liny EQ pack is not “cheap”, I would not necessarily assess it as being over priced. The more that I examined this bundle and scrutinized the features, I realized its great value. I don’t mean to infer value as being “inexpensive”, I mean value as in having great merit. Any small studio owner or serious home producer will want to carefully demo these exquisite, ‘black tie’ products.
SPECIAL TECHNICAL MENTION:
Blue Cat Audio’s products are developed on Blue Cat's own platform and entirely coded in C++. Blue Cat Audio is not using standard linear phase filters but rather, a custom transform. That's what lets them optimize their DSP kernel for such low latency.
- Commercial-grade M/S and Stereo processing.
- Attractive, professional-looking GUI.
- High quality, studio-grade results with minimal effort.
- BEST-in-CLASS performance level for a Linear Phase EQ(s)
- Optimized, native programming code.
- Exceptional reliability.
- Well-written user’s manual.
- Convenient, built-in preset manager.
- No dongles, call/response challenges, nor invasive piracy protection overhead.
- Experienced, well-established audio-software developer of distinction.
- Available for 32 bit & 64 bit systems. MAC & PC. (AAX, AU, VST)
- In this reviewer’s subjective opinion, Liny EQ is a ‘tad’ expensive.
- GUI is a little too small for modern, high resolution monitors.
Visit the Blue Cat Audio website for this, and many other goodies.
Blue Cat Audio
Intellectual Copyright - 2013 - All rights Reserved. This review may not be copied or reproduced in whole, nor in part, without express written permission from the author.
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