The Gullfoss EQ plugin by Soundtheory promises to be a better-maker. The adaptive EQ, which does not rely on AI but rather a new form of technology altogether, serves to balance your mixes in the most pleasing way possible. If it sounds like snake oil your skepticism is justified, but Soundtheory is truly paving the way for the future of intelligent audio software.
Soundtheory is a newcomer to the plugin game; they introduced themselves in 2016 after 14 years of preliminary research and released Gullfoss in 2018. Icelander Andreas Tell invented the tech behind this intelligent software, so the Gullfoss EQ plugin naturally shares its name with one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland.
It isn’t just a quaint name, however; while developing the fundamental theory behind their emerging technology, Soundtheory developers asked themselves what makes a waterfall so pleasing to the human ear. The answer is that it resembles pink noise, which maximizes the amount of information your brain perceives in a very pleasant way. Similarly, the Gullfoss plugin seeks to maximize and organize all of the frequency information in a signal in a way that simply makes things sound their best.
What is Gullfoss EQ?
Gullfoss is an intelligent EQ. It ‘listens’ to an individual signal, a group, or a mix, and determines how to treat the audio so that your brain can take in the most information from it. Gullfoss uses realtime analysis, but it is not a traditional form of artificial intelligence found in other ‘automatic’ plugins—nor does it rely on psychoacoustics, even. Instead, Soundtheory developed an algorithm based on math and quantum physics to understand which frequencies and elements are fighting for your ears’ attention. It then allows for quick edits that would normally take a significant amount of time and experience to solve.
Gullfoss’s patent-pending technology processes the signal and can change the frequency response over 300 times per second—all without introducing artifacts. As it stands, the Gullfoss EQ plugin is truly one-of-a-kind.
Gullfoss EQ Plugin in Practice
Soundtheory did an impressive job of creating a simple user interface, even though what’s going on inside the plugin is unfathomably complex. The window consists of five main parameters, set to their default values at the top of the interface, along with a large realtime spectrum analyzer.
The five parameters are:
Out of those five, the main two which affect the signal the most are Recover and Tame. The pair works in tandem to increase the clarity of an instrument or mix, either by unmasking buried frequencies by turning them up, or by turning overbearing frequencies down. Recover will increase the intensity of buried information, while Tame will gently reduce overly prominent frequencies.
As you begin to dial these parameters in to taste, the plugin takes over 300 snapshots of the signal per second so accuracy is assured. Recover and Tame also boost or cut different parts of the spectrum, which preserves the original dynamic content and perceived loudness of the signal.
Gullfoss EQ plugin’s secondary parameters are Bias and Brighten. As the EQ starts to work and analyze the signal, it must also decide where to split the frequency range into recovery sections or sections that should be tamed. The Bias value determines how much space is dedicated to either primary parameter. From there, Brighten tells Recover or Tame to prefer either a higher or a lower frequency. It ultimately adjusts the perceived brightness of the instrument or mix.
Finally, the Gullfoss EQ plugin makes use of a Boost function at the end of the chain. This is not a makeup gain feature, but rather another frequency balancing parameter which adjusts the overall perception of frequencies. Driving up Boost increase the low end and decrease the midrange. Perceived loudness does not change—just frequency balance.
Gullfoss EQ Mastering
Gullfoss is capable of balancing individual tracks, subgroups, but most impressively, whole mixes. When used for mastering, the plugin is able to balance the entire frequency spectrum of a mix so that it translates better across different playback systems.
It’s perhaps most at home in this role, where it can do a tremendous amount of lifting in seconds.
By now you’re probably asking, does the Gullfoss EQ plugin work? In short, yes, it does! It does a brilliant job of applying the pleasant amount of gloss and clarity that it promises. It’s comparable to other ‘better-makers’ like Oeksound’s Soothe, but with a magic all its own. Used tastefully, there’s no way you could really ruin a mix with Gullfoss.