Real-time EQ preview (+ non-destructive EQ adjustment)

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Real-time EQ preview (+ non-destructive EQ adjustment)

Permanent link to this post Posted by LeeJames » Tue Oct 04, 2016 5:26 pm

First, four quick disclaimers:

1. I'm well aware that this has been requested before
2. I know there are good third-party plugin options to achieve this
3. I'm aware that Audacity is already beginning to support some real time functions
4. I like Audacity and do not wish to sound as though I am complaining here!

However, this issue sprang up in another thread where I voiced my strong feelings on it, and someone suggested I voiced my thoughts here. So here I am!

Now the feature I am requesting does not really need explaining, so let me instead state here why I believe it is so important. To do this, I want to use an illustration...

Why EQ matters

Let's suppose you had a photo editing application which had sliders you could drag to adjust the photos' brightness and contrast. But instead of giving you a real-time preview of how it looked, imagine that nothing happened when you dragged these sliders - you just had to guess where you think the sliders should be positioned, then hit "Preview", then the photo would vanish for a few moments and re-appear as a preview with the changes made... Then after a few seconds, the preview would disappear again, leaving you with nothing to look at, and you had to "remember" which version looked better.

Obviously, this would not be a useful photo-editing tool, and certainly not a particularly slick or professional one. If I'm trying to do serious photo editing, working with many photos, then I absolutely to "see what I'm doing" when I'm dragging those sliders around. Because if a photo is even just a tiny bit too light or too dark, the whole photo looks wrong, and I've done a second-rate job of retouching it.

Now let's bring that analogy over to audio...

I don't think it would be unreasonable to say that the audio equivalent of a photo's brightness is without doubt the equalization. Adjusting the EQ has the most profound impact on the way a waveform sounds, making it tonally "brighter" or "darker". If an audio track is not perfectly and precisely EQ'd, it sounds wrong.

Equalization is therefore one of the most critical factors in music production (along with reverb and stereo positioning). To me, these three things are the 'bread and butter' of music production, so any application which wants to be seriously considered for music production must provide competent equalization adjustment. If you're putting a piece of music together, this may involve making hundreds of careful adjustments to the EQ of all the various tracks and sections of the song. You cannot do this "working blind" - you need the application to provide a live preview of how it sounds while you're dragging the curves around, so you can hear what you're doing.

Here are some additional features of what I'm requesting...

No silence
Currently, when you make EQ adjustments, you have to keep clicking the Preview button. This means everything you hear is interrupted by periods of silence, which totally ruins your ability to perceive subtle differences between adjustments. It's really important, therefore, that the EQ does not, ever, interrupt playback. That way you can hear your selection playing looped constantly, and can immediately hear the change jump from "before" to "after" without any silence - allowing you to hear those subtle differences.

Automatic preview
It is also very cumbersome to have to keep moving the mouse over to the Preview button in order to hear changes. I want to hear the changes automatically as I drag the points around with the mouse. This provides a much more efficient way of working, and a much more powerful user experience.

Preview toggle on/off button
It also seems reasonable to have a toggle-able "Preview" button which toggles the changes on and off instantly. This would provide an uninterrupted comparison of before and after, without playback ever stopping or being interrupted.

EQ dialog does not lock out main window
I would also like to request an EQ panel which doesn't lock out the main window. In other words, you can have your EQ panel open all the time, sat in the corner of the screen (or docked?) and you can freely change your selected area, with the EQ panel letting you hear how your selection would sound. You then click "OK" or "Apply" to change it permanently.

Non-destructive adjustment
Well, with all the above feature in mind, here is the natural progression; the big one: non-destructive EQ adjustment. (Again, I'm sure this must have been requested many times, but I want to add my voice to that number.)

So when I talk about non-destructive EQ adjustment in Audacity, what exactly do I have in mind? Well, I guess there are three major implications:

1. You edit tracks not selections
No longer would you select just a portion of a track to adjust. Instead, every track has its own EQ properties which span the entire track. So when you click on any part of a track, you are now adjusting the EQ of the whole track. (If you don't want to edit the enitre length of the track, you can add split points to break it down.)

2. EQ curves are constant, not temporary
With non-destructive EQ, every track retains its EQ curves, so when you click on any point of a track you've previously adjusted, you instantly see the adjusted curves pop up in the EQ panel, ready to change again if desired.

3. No "OK" button
The EQ panel no longer needs an "OK" or "Apply" button, since everything you do is immediately effective to that track.

The benefit of non-destructive EQ is you can drag those curves around all you like, over and over, and the changes will always be based on a copy of the original so you are not losing quality. This frees you up from the fear of adjusting EQ more than once, and allows you much more freedom to make multiple changes, to work more quickly, fearlessly, and creatively.

Another advantage is that previously, if you EQ'd something multiple times, you were EQ-ing on top of EQ-ing, so the graph gave no indication of how the original track had been modified. But with non-destructive you can always see precisely how the original track has been modified, regardless of how many changes you've made.

Thanks for listening :)
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Re: Real-time EQ preview (+ non-destructive EQ adjustment)

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Mon Oct 10, 2016 3:40 pm

No "OK" button.

Mixing OK systems with immediate action systems is to be avoided. That's bad UI.

You also need a way to abandon your changes without manually backing out.

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Re: Real-time EQ preview (+ non-destructive EQ adjustment)

Permanent link to this post Posted by Gale Andrews » Tue Oct 11, 2016 5:40 pm

kozikowski wrote:
No "OK" button.

Mixing OK systems with immediate action systems is to be avoided. That's bad UI.

You also need a way to abandon your changes without manually backing out.

Lots of users want to EQ small sections.

To me this sounds like you want an EQ track, like we have a Time Track, or an EQ tool, like we have an Envelope Tool. Then backing out is easier.


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Re: Real-time EQ preview (+ non-destructive EQ adjustment)

Permanent link to this post Posted by boss96 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 3:14 pm

I don't know if this addresses all the things you mentioned but I use Reapers "real eq" plug in that is available for us. It does not do a "preview" but simply runs on the selected track for as long as you like while adjusting it. Of course you still have to "apply" it when you are satisfied with the results but it is easy to use.
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Re: Real-time EQ preview (+ non-destructive EQ adjustment)

Permanent link to this post Posted by Gale Andrews » Sat Oct 15, 2016 12:10 pm

boss96 wrote:I don't know if this addresses all the things you mentioned but I use Reapers "real eq" plug in that is available for us. It does not do a "preview" but simply runs on the selected track for as long as you like while adjusting it. Of course you still have to "apply" it when you are satisfied with the results but it is easy to use.

LeeJames says at the top of his first post that he knows you can use third-party EQ plugins in Audacity that can adjust while playing.

His interface suggestions for non-destructive built-in EQ go beyond that, of course.

You can use the ReaPlugs plugins in Audacity now that it supports real-time preview.

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Re: Real-time EQ preview (+ non-destructive EQ adjustment)

Permanent link to this post Posted by steve » Sat Oct 15, 2016 5:15 pm

Much of the original post concerns the difference between the two paradigms: "Real time DAW" vs "Sample Editor".

Each of these have pros and cons. For a real time DAW, effects are performed in real time, non-destructively - in other words the audio data is not changed until the project is rendered to the output audio file. For a sample editor, changes are applied immediately (and visibly) to the audio data. Applications such as ProTools, Reaper and Ardour are designed against the "real time DAW" paradigm. Applications such as Audacity, Gold Wave and SoundForge were designed as "destructive" sample editors. Some applications such as Adobe Audition, Logic Pro and Sonar bundle both destructive sample editing and real-time processing into a single product. Some of the pros and cons are discussed in this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_edi ... me_editing

I would not expect Audacity to be converted from one paradigm to the other. Apart from anything else, doing so would probably require rewriting virtually the entire application. If real-time processing is an essential part of the job, then my advice would be to use the right tool for the job (use a real-time DAW).

Having said that, I entirely agree with LeeJames that Equalization is one of the most fundamental requirements for an audio editor, and being able to hear changes to settings as you make those changes has huge importance for usability. So although Audacity is not a real-time DAW (and I expect never will be), "real-time preview" can provide great benefits, particularly for "core" effects such as Equalization. I totally support the view that Audacity should support real-time preview for an included (shipped) Equalization effect.
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Re: Real-time EQ preview (+ non-destructive EQ adjustment)

Permanent link to this post Posted by waxcylinder » Sun Oct 16, 2016 10:11 am

steve wrote: I totally support the view that Audacity should support real-time preview for an included (shipped) Equalization effect.

+1

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Re: Real-time EQ preview (+ non-destructive EQ adjustment)

Permanent link to this post Posted by anahuj » Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:02 am

We need better audio engine under Audacity. Realtime effects goes to audio engine; non-realtime effects to application side.

EQ would run in the audio engine. The control parameters of EQ would be realtime streams as well. Like in Nord Modular.
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Re: Real-time EQ preview (+ non-destructive EQ adjustment)

Permanent link to this post Posted by 123har456 » Wed Nov 16, 2016 3:40 pm

LeeJAmes described why he thinks real-time playback is needed and I have to agree - using the "Preview" feature is better than nothing, but if several values are on offer, you need to listen to them all . . . .

Perhaps after preview you select Control+Preview and it's stored ( a small window appearing with "Preview 1" ) ... this would be added with each preview - so it's up to us to first change the sliders!..... then when reviewing these Saved Previews, I'd suggest an ADDED feature - listen to the Original first and if that's taking too long...listen to 5-Sec. before the Preview, so your ear is tuned to the work-Prior.
I suspect you may also need to bring the changes in over time ( 200mS ? ) so the changes are subtle. THe amount might vary with the amount of change, etc.

Any changes that are no-good can be deleted from the list, so the "best-fix" is given the OK.
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Re: Real-time EQ preview (+ non-destructive EQ adjustment)

Permanent link to this post Posted by Gale Andrews » Thu Nov 17, 2016 3:56 pm

123har456 wrote:Perhaps after preview you select Control+Preview and it's stored ( a small window appearing with "Preview 1" ) ... this would be added with each preview - so it's up to us to first change the sliders!..... then when reviewing these Saved Previews, I'd suggest an ADDED feature - listen to the Original first and if that's taking too long...listen to 5-Sec. before the Preview, so your ear is tuned to the work-Prior.
I suspect you may also need to bring the changes in over time ( 200mS ? ) so the changes are subtle. THe amount might vary with the amount of change, etc.

You know you can save presets in EQ don't you? Admittedly there are steps involved to add and switch presets. I'm guessing it would be better to spend time on updating EQ and making it real time.


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