Canadian Musician - May-June 2022 - Page 24

ROAD TEST

Kush Audio Blyss Master Channel EQ Plug-In

By Drew Robertson

In an ever-crowded marketplace , L . A . -based Kush Audio stands out from the crowd by producing some of the most interesting bespoke hardware and digital plug-ins you can find . The design aesthetic is simple yet robust and often built from uniquely-paired audio circuits . Both its analog hardware and digital software can be best described as ear and eye candy . The Blyss mastering EQ plug-in is no different , and is a wonderful addition to their growing line-up of unique plug-ins .

Overview Blyss can be simply described as a subtle mastering EQ and colour circuit , but the reality is far more interesting and involved . Kush is well known for devising and modelling unique , complex , and intricate circuits that are then summed down into fairly simplistic and straightforward controls . Blyss , in reality , is a three-section Mastering EQ that consists of a six-band EQ , a multistage “ cascading ” saturation circuit , and a simple yet exceptionally effective mastering compressor to cap it off . The controls are simple , however , that is by deliberate design as Kush Audio adheres to a less-is-more design philosophy that really lends to both the function of the software and the overall analog hardware aesthetics .
Interface Although I ’ ve mentioned the simplistic nature of the control interface , don ’ t assume that the controls are in any way lacking . Let us discuss each section , beginning with the actual EQ section itself .
The mastering EQ is divided into six separate bands , with each band having the ability to be adjusted to one of three pre-set frequency positions selected to work in tandem with the rest of the audio circuits . Four of the bands may be boosted or attenuated by a maximum of ± 9dB via the large rotary dials along the top of the interface , which is very reminiscent of some other analog hardware , in particular with hardware dedicated for mastering applications . The large size of the control knobs allows for very fine grain control and gives you the feeling of making sweeping changes , while in fact making subtle enhancements to the sounds instead . The overall experience is very satisfying when dialling in the filters . The low- and highpass filters are limited to simple band selections , which in this type of plug-in is very appropriate . I found both filters to be subtle in their operation with sensibly selected cutoff bands . All six bands can be selectively engaged or disengaged as you desire .
I ’ d describe the Saturation circuit as lush . The complex multi-stage design that goes on behind the scenes has been summed into a single dual-action rotary knob . The inner knob is the master saturation control while the outer dial controls the overall blend between raw unprocessed sound and the saturated sound . Visual feedback is given via the simple uncalibrated meter that ranges from “ subtle ” to “ intense ” — while not scientific , it does provide a decent ata-glance reference of what the saturation circuit is currently doing to the sound it ’ s receiving . The finishing compressor , so called for being both the last element in the audio chain and designed to be as clean and transparent as possible so as to respect the tonality of the audio without adding too much of its own colour , is the final stop on our tour down the interface .
On the left of the interface we find our Timing and Threshold controls . Timing can be selected as either fast or slow depending on your needs / mood . Fast mode has a decentlyquick 3ms response time and average weighted release time between 80-200ms . Slow mode settles back to a statelier 10ms response time and an average weighted release time between 150-500ms . Threshold can be set as you desire from 0dB to a maximum of -50dB .
Sliding to the right is the Gain Reduction meter done in a classic reverse VU-style . Continuing right , we find the final controls for the compressor section with the make-up gain control divided in 0.5dB increments up to a maximum + 10dB and the in / out toggle for the compressor stage . The last piece of the interface is the master input / output control and its accompanying VU meter , which has been calibrated to an ideal analog standard such that 0VU is equal to -18dBFS ; simple and effective . The meter itself shows both pre-control input in green and post-circuit control in red , which allows you to dial in just the right amount of signal . You ’ ll find the included factory preset menu along the bottom , which offers some great starting points to explore from .
My only complaint with the interface is that it can ’ t be resized . The large interface does a great job of capturing the feeling of analog hardware , but in this day and age you should be able to resize the window as needed .
Sound In the words of Kush Audio , Blyss was designed to make busses sound “ pretty ” and it certainly does that , though I think a more appropriate word would be “ luxurious .” The chosen EQ filter bands target areas most common for enhancement and can lend to some brilliant highs and rich lows . The saturation circuit starts off subtle and “ vibey ” but can be cranked to generate some great intensity and grunge , even perhaps too much on the wrong sound , but that is the fun of experimenting with a plug-in such as Blyss . You ’ re encouraged to use it in interesting ways . The compressor section is exceptionally transparent but still has the capacity to crush the sound if you want to use it in a parallel function . It ’ s really up to how you want to use it . I rather liked the smooth sparkle the high frequency filter gave to some test vocals ; it brought a new shine to them with the saturation giving some edge to the sound .
Overall , Kush excels at creating uniquesounding audio circuits and Blyss is another winner in the line-up as far as I ’ m concerned .
Drew Robertson is an audio engineer , live sound tech , and educator based out of London , ON . He can be reached at RobertsonAudioPost @ protonmail . com .
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