Echoes from the archives of audio oblivion – eq for bass and drums
I think you know by now how irritated I get by the Gearslutz misinformation propagated about analogue gear.
I had the wonderful advantage that I started putting together my own recording rig in the late 1980s when I was stony broke (having been fleeced by a certain Mister Branson and his bevy of lawyers) so every piece I added to my four and then eight track systems had to justify their existence and I got to know them intimately. As the accident that is called Funky Junk grew exponentially (another strange tale, but it started as a means to acquire a few personal bits and pieces) I got my hands on more and more bits of gear and so drew my own conclusions as to which justified their space in my racks and which didn’t, and it was never about kudos, profile, cost or rarity – all I cared about was results and which tools delivered the most satisfying result. I often went through the knee-trembling phase of hearing about mythical beasts, becoming covetous and then being lucky enough to put them to the test, and what surprised me most was how often I was disappointed; often the ‘unsung heroes’ I’d picked up for peanuts proved far more effective than their overhyped high profile brethren. Indeed, as you know I ended up with a professional multitrack studio containing most people’s wish-list of gear but when I was contemplating putting a writing/recording rig together in my house, I went back to my early demos (which I thought sounded so much more open and ‘organic’ than my later twenty four track stuff) and deliberately picked up some bits and pieces that I’d used during my impecunious beginnings.
It’s not about the price, it’s about the results.
So here are a few golden nuggets of eq I personally rate extremely highly…
MOOG GRAPHIC AND PARAMETRIC EQ
Bob Moog designed a couple of active eqs that seem to work differently from anything else I’ve ever used.
I first bought an eleven band graphic (for £40) and have used it for years particularly to tailor kick drum and bass guitar. (I also use an ancient seven band passive Altec graphic eq given to me by Mark Linnet). Now, most graphics are pretty weedy things but the Moog is a beast. Sure, graphics are as unfashionable as my haircut amongst the Gearslutz generation but to my way of thinking, a well-designed graphic eq (with inductors rather than resistors) enables an engineer to really dig into a specific frequency and cut or boost to dip out a troublesome resonance or frequency or accentuate a particular sound. For example, there’s no better way of bringing out the attack on a kick drum or ducking a troublesome cymbal (or equing out spill) than the subtle use of a graphic and somehow the Moog functions in an extremely musical way, without the harshness or ‘woodenness’ often associated with graphics.
The Moog parametric is an unassuming 2U box that really delivered powerful sound shaping, albeit on a broader spectrum than the graphic. It is great on electric guitars, bass and keyboards but a good all-rounder, and again, it’s unusually forgiving and musical.
I think my antipathy to Gearslutz is well illustrated by this thread…
Where half the posters say the Moog eq is a pile of poo and the other half (those who’ve actually used a Moog I suspect) rave about it, particularly for bass. How anyone can dismiss this great little unit so utterly is beyond me, unless (of course) they’re doing the usual troll thing of basing their comments on second hand info. They’ll dismiss the cost (£500-£600) of the Moog as far too high while gladly lashing out gazillions on some US Boutique pile of nuts and bolts that is the audio equivalent of chucking a wet blanket over a mix but has a dozen high profile endorsements (usually guys who’ve been given a unit and immediately sold it on eBay)
UREI MODEL 545 PARAMETRIC EQ
Most pieces of outboard with ‘Urei’ on the front are gobbled up by audiophiles, but for some reason, the 545 parametric tends to get overlooked (maybe because it gets confused with the larger and less interesting 565 ‘Filter Bank’ designed to filter out specific frequencies for post-production).
The 545 is a three band parametric with an extra band that can be assigned to any of the other three, allowing incredible ‘tuning’ into frequencies that need addressing. It’s rich and warm (I’m not sure if it’s discrete but it has the sonic footprint of a discrete unit) and is capable of delivering a thunderous bottom end.
As with the Moog, what I like about the Urei is the lack of ‘flap’ or ‘wooliness’. Both units are tight and upfront, so essential for modern recording, and enable (say) a bass guitar to sit in a track but at the same time be solid, full and fat, but not overpowering. Just why this beautiful beast hasn’t acquired the legendary status of the 1176 compressor is beyond me.
For once, there is agreement amongst the handful of Gearslutz who know what this is
Those who know me are well aware of my endearing love of Pultec equalisers, my forever friends for sweetening vocals, acoustic guitars and strings. There really isn’t anything else that comes close. Or is there?
I’ve owned a pair of LANG PEQ2 equalisers for over twenty years and couldn’t live without them. Discrete rather than tube, the Langs have similar massive output transformers and inductors, but are more positive and defined than their tube counterparts. Indeed, my old engineer in my Wood Green studio, Mike ‘Drumdrops’ Pelanconi, used to keep a pair over the mix, saying that the tracks stepped forwards into the room when the Langs were strapped in. Certainly, I’ve rescued many a drum or brass mix by running through a pair of Langs and bringing them back to thunderous life.
My pair came from the old Utopia mastering suite, and having once erroneously posted that Lang was from the Langevin stable, a longstanding US engineer corrected me by explaining that Lang was an eq brand introduced in the 1960s by an audio mastering room supplier who couldn’t get access to Pultec, which was distributed by a competitor. So Lang eqs came out as a direct competitor, if not a substitute, for Pultec. That explains a lot.
The broadcast version of the legendary 1081, these three band eq include what is to my ears, the most musical mic pre I’ve ever used. The eq is powerful – maybe a bit too powerful for many vocals and acoustic instruments (where the Pultec is unrivalled) and the knees de la beez for electric guitars and drums. I was given a pair when I was building up my first modest rig in 1990 and still have them (along with a complete vintage desk full of them,). I’ve never thought for one moment of having any other kind of desk.
There are other goodies lurking in the bargain bins of the audio suite, so maybe I’ll look at some of these in coming blathers…