Sound Bites: Pultec

Sound Bites: Pultec

When it comes to the mix or mastering, passive equalizers with a tube make up gain stage can add a touch of magic, and vintage Pultec EQs of the 50s/60s are some of the most sought after units for that purpose in audio production circles.

Born to proud parents Gene Schenk and Ollie Summerlin on a bench in a New York Garage in 1953, the Pulse Technologies EQP-1 Programme Equaliser was instantly identified as “something special”. Clair Krepps, Chief Engineer at MGM studios at the time and other golden ears in that age of big bands and character vocals agreed and demand, production and sales gathered pace. Production of the more compact Pultec EQH-2 (my personal favourite across the 2 bus), followed in 1956 and the upgraded EQP-1A in 1960.

Pultec EQH-2 Tube Program EQ Photos:

 

By the 1970s, however, solid state transistor based alternatives were cheaper to produce and in demand; Pultec’s solid state EQ1-A3SS released towards the end of that decade being the companies answer to its competitors and the changing times. The last original tube Pultecs were manufactured in 1981 after which Gene Schenk retired and in an alternative reality that could have been the end of the Pultec story…

However, in the decades that have followed, demand for tube Pultec EQs has been resurgent. They have been much emulated (with varying degrees of success), in both hardware and software forms but never equalled in my opinion. That’s because those that have heard original tube Pultec EQs instantly recognise and yearn for the magic they impart; their wide, smooth curves and transformer and subtle tube characteristics map sublimely to program material – adding low end punch, brushing the mud out of mids and breathing air and sparkle into the top end of a mix or master. Cutting and boosting frequencies simultaneously with a Pultec EQ creates space for the different elements within a mix to coexist harmoniously like nothing else; they’re the audio equivalent of a mild caffeine colonic without the intrusion of the hosepipe. In this digital, surface mounted, impulse-responsed age, where we have the power to engineer zeroes and ones into oblivion at our fingertips, Pultec EQs remain relevant based on their sound and the fact that they’re simple to set up, have chunky knobs, massive power supplies and jewel lamps.

Pultec EQP-1A3 Tube EQ Photos:

So, what’s not to love? Well, perhaps the fact that originals are ageing, rare and therefore costly, may have been poorly modified over the years or might be in need of serious repair or require extremely hard to find replacement parts. The good news, and the latest chapter in the Pultec story, is that Pultec EQs are back in production in the USA. Manufactured by Steve Jackson’s Pulse Techniques and faithfully recreated with the support and collaboration of Gene Schenk, they are widely acknowledged as authentic Pultec EQs with all the sonic goodness that the name implies. If you’ve ever or never heard an original tube Pultec; these modern day reissues are very worthy of your attention.

Oher Pultec Products Include…

Pultec EQH-3:

Pultec MEQ-5 Tube EQ:

Pultec HLF-3C EQ:

 


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