By Tim Dolbear - www.timdolbear.com
My review for the November issue of Mix, "Three Mastering EQ Plugins", had a lot of extra info I wanted to add, but we did not have room. I wanted to talk about what "sound" is added to you audio when you simply load one of these EQs before you even turn a knob. They are doing something to your sound, so let's dive in!
So…whats going on behind the GUI face plate …
Since the Pultecs, Millenia and Waves RS-56 EQs all tout the full modeling of the hardware counterpart’s analog circuitry; I wanted to share what I was hearing by simply inserting these plug-ins onto a track and not twisting any knobs. What’s being added? Harmonic distortion, noise, extra EQ curve… Since just placing these onto a track changes the sound before you even start moving a knob, its good to know what signature they bring to the signal.
I did this a few ways, first by simply placing a song on 2 adjacent tracks in Sequoia. I then muted the 2nd track which contained the plug-in. Now I can simply hit the Solo button on the muted track to hear this 2nd track, allowing me to switch between them seamlessly and instantly to listen for added tones and distortions. Secondly, with both tracks playing, I flipped the phase button on the mixer to cancel out the entire shared signal and only hear the difference, showing the added EQ curve and distortions that the plug-in was adding.
The Pultec EQP-1A with EQ switched out but the plug-in on, added some low mids warmth. With the EQ switched in, but with the EQ set flat, there is also a nice sheen added to the sound, slightly more highend and even more low mids. But this is not just a frequency boost, but more of a transformer type sparkle or excitement, Hi-fi-esc.
The Pultec MEQ-5 adds a bit of the same sheen as the EQP-1 had with its EQ switched in. But, I do not hear any difference between having the EQ switched in or out on the MEQ-5.
The Pultec HLF-3C with the low cut and High cut set to off, There is no difference to the sound compared to the unprocessed signal since there is no in/out circuit to be modeled. The original HLF-3C does not contain an amplifier or other circuitry outside of the passive EQ cut filters.
The Millennia in Class A Discrete J-Fet delivers a light Hi-Fi sheen to the sound, but it’s very very subtle. In Class-A Vacuum Tube mode, an additional, very subtle silky high end enhancement, you also get a slight bump to the low mids, but again, very subtle.
With the WAVES eq set flat, there is a slight boost to the highs but not a lot of added tone from modeling of tubes and transformers, like you find with the UA Pultec collection. Something entire different was going on. The thing I heard, and easily confirmed through running the null test, there is actually some very fast, tube like compression taking place to the transients.