Still wrapping my head around this equalizer

I opened up Cristina’s wasteland track from the old contest and dumped it on 12 different tracks just to see what it did. I was so amazed at what this thing did to the sound compared to a normal equalizer that I opened up the manuals and tried to figure out why it seems so easy to draw colorful exaggerated curves without adding nasty artifacts when making extreme boosts. I get that the bands run in parallel…but I’m pretty confused about how it differs from any other EQ. Does anyone know anything about this thing? Why does it sound so dang unique??

Anyway…here’s a track that I know a good number of you are familiar with after about 30 minutes of knob twiddling with a Massive Passive on every channel. I really love what it did to the piano and to the room mic.

I’ve never used the hardware, but native instruments (softube) has a plugin version. I can say that when you are using more than one band, it does all sorts of funky stuff to the EQ curve that a normal EQ would not do, even in standard parallel setup. Boosting and cutting multiple bands on this thing will definitely give you a different eq shape than other EQs will give you.

I think there’s a lot of magic in knobs not doing what you think they are supposed to be doing. It’s what forces you to use your ears instead of your instincts. I think most people’s instincts on how to use EQ are wrong, which is why we tend to like EQs that don’t do what we think they are doing.


These things (particularly the hardware versions) are really popular with film composer and film mixer guys. It doesn’t do a whole lot of good to simply ask why because the explanation won’t mean much without context (as Eric was talking about in the other thread). But I wanted to know, hence the reason I started researching the unit and experimenting with it.

I like how this unit is doing stuff differently, but I feel like I need a better grasp on why its different to make better choices on where and how to use it in the context of an actual mix. When I use it to add top, it sounds way different (and better in some cases) than the Millenia and Curve Bender which were my go-to’s for air…besides the Clariphonic. Or if I reach for an EQ to control 200-600 in a vocal instead of a C6 MBC, some background knowledge here seems like it would help me make a more informed choice as to which tool to grab.

Hands down, I just need to keep working with this thing, but I guess I was pretty thrown (I started playing with it last night) at how different it was.

I demoed a massive passive at the same time as I demoed my Manley Vari mu. I absolutely loved it. I felt I would get more impact out of having more hardware compressors than eq’s. In fact, I am perfectly happy using all ITB eq’s. I do use my console eq’s but I can easily live without them. I am not able to listen to the track right now but I will later. I ended up not buying the Massive passive and buying the vari mu plus a couple disstressors (which I later sold for 1176’s) and some other compressors. It is a very unique and cool eq that I would love to have and I can’t justify it in my current work flow.

Don’t sweat it…its nothing special. And keep in mind, that’s a test experiment…not a real mix lol.

I wasn’t really thinking hardware vs plugins…I was more just fascinated by concept of the design either way…and what it does to the sound!

I usually only ever see one of these on a studio outboard rack, and that’s likely because of the price. Alan Meyerson has 3 (which gives him 6 channels)…I’m guessing they’re patched to insert points on his 5.1 surround bus.

I can’t justify it period. I’m not spending $3.5k (used) on an 2 channel EQ. At one point I contemplated an SSL G bus comp or a Pultec or a MP infront of the Dangerous summing mixer but that’s about as far as I’d ever take an outboard chain. I thought about having a few compressor options going into the DAW…maybe an distressor or an 1176…at one point I considered a CL-1B. But I’ve gotta stick with my biz plan here and spend my resources keeping the facility focused on the film and video game audio industry…which means when I track bands I’m calling and renting a studio thats much better equipped for this than I want to be.

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I think the whole point of an EQ like this is that it’s too complex to understand. When you boost the high shelf, it changes the way the mid bell boosts. Boosting the highs and boosting the mids might give you a cut at a frequency in between those two boosts.

The EQ itself doesn’t have any magical powers. It uses the same concept of phase shifting that every EQ in the world uses. It just provides a different way to get there. It’s just the kind of thing where you have to decide if its quirks make your life easier or harder.

Do you have Waves Q-Clone? If so, see what happens if you clone the curve. If you can clone it and it sounds the same, then you can get that sound with literally any EQ. The only difference is that you know how to get that sound on this EQ, but you don’t know how to get it on another EQ.

If Q-Clone doesn’t sound the same, then the distortion in the unit provides a significant portion of the sound, and then it becomes a more complicated question.

I know next to nothing about electronics on this level. There are six tubes in this box. 2x 12AX7’s and 4x 6414’s. Are the tubes adding harmonics? Are they affecting phase/artifacts? Are they making the output sound clearer? What is the typical roll of an array of tubes in an equalizer?

The other thing I’m not sure how to gauge is what the Q clone really tells us. Don’t the Q clone just take a snapshot of the curve? …if that’s the case it wouldn’t tell us anything about how the curve changes as you narrow and widen the Q or how it interacts with other bands…correct? If all we’re doing is taking a digital snapshot doesn’t that evade the question of why it sounds different? I don’t understand.

I noticed that on some plugins like the stock Logic vintage EQ, the ‘tube modeling’ doesn’t do squat. When UAD models a tube device as a plugin, they make dang sure the tube qualities are more distinct than the hardware emulators that Yamaha and Behringer model.

I’ve had waves q-clone for years. I barely ever use it now but I can tell you that IMO it is scary how much of an eq’s sound copying the curve does. This really “demystified” hardware eq’s for me. Copying my API hardware curve in Q-clone sounded better than the waves API plugin to me. Maybe I was playing tricks on myself. I can’t remember if I copied the hardware and software curves to compare them or not.

Q-Clone copies the frequency and phase response of an EQ. I’m almost positive that it doesn’t capture any distortion characteristics though. That’s why if Q-Clone sounds the same, then the distortion in the hardware isn’t adding much. If Q-Clone sounds different, then the HW is doing more than just EQ, and it’s adding other distortion in an audible way.

Yes, this is correct. You dial in the settings on the hardware to where you want it, then you capture it with Q-Clone. If you want to make any changes, then you have to start over.

But Q-Clone should capture whatever the EQ is doing in any given state. If Q-Clone sounds the same as the hardware it’s copying

No? I don’t think it’s evading any question. I was the one who asked if it sounded different. If it sounds different, then the HW is doing something other than EQ. If it sounds the same, then what the HW is doing can be achieved with any fully featured parametric EQ. I don’t have Q-Clone nor the hardware, so I can’t answer the question. But like I said before, it’s not about what the EQ can and can’t do. It’s about what it does do without telling you that it’s doing it.

As an extreme example, imagine you have an EQ that has a high shelf. Without telling you, the high shelf not only boosts the high end, but it also slightly takes out some 350Hz. You notice that this high shelf sounds different from your other high shelf filters, but you can’t put your finger on why. Sometimes this high shelf sounds is exactly what your track needs. You decide there must be something special that the EQ is doing in the high end. But it’s not. You could use any EQ to get the same results if you knew the real reason why it sounded different. But you don’t. All you know is that it sounds different, and that it speeds up your workflow. If the filter sounds better and makes you mix faster, does it really matter how it does it?


Aaaaaaah! Gotchya. Sorry you had to explain that twice. Thanks.

Understanding the anatomy of the design has helped. When I understood what API felt made the 2500 compressor unique, I had a better grasp of when to reach for it and when not to. I’m all about the combination of observation/experimentation and concept. Like…I wouldn’t slap a Mongoose on a track and go “That sounds cool. Yay”…I’d be more like “I have LF phase problems, therefore Mongoose”. Knowing what to reach for when is sometimes helped by understanding what it was designed to do.

It’s really an interesting unit, to say the least. I’ve used it for years in both hardware and software. When UAD came out with it, to ME the difference wasn’t big enough to hold on to the hardware any longer. Not only that, but it gave me the ability to use several at once instead of one.

I’ll best to explain my experience with it, as far as what I believe it does. In my beta testing and developing roles these days with Fractal Audio, I’ve learned so much more about what makes things tick. In certain situatuons on certain EQ"s, their behavior changes. Meaning, sometimes when you lower a treble or high end frequency, it is raising or lowering something else at the same time. I believe this is what we are experiencing with this unit. It’s not just removing or adding one thing, it’s doing a few.

What remains a total mystery to me is, even when used to the extreme, it’s rare you can wreck the sound of the instruments you are processing with it. These days I use it as a specialty eq as I don’t need much in the sessions I do today. I’ve focused so hard on getting the sounds right for my own stuff as well as my clients, the stuff mixes itself. But this is definitely one of the most different eq’s I’ve ever used. The Massive Passive Mastering eq is just as mysterious. Another tool in the box. :slight_smile:

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That was my experience with that EQ also. I found myself holding back because it seemed so extreme. I still fall victim to visual mixing :roll_eyes:

Massive Passive (hardware) component wise, works more like a speaker crossover (in each band) in something like an NS10 than a typical active Eq. Obviously you then also need to make up the gain with such signal loss with a nice stereo amp (in this case a tube one).

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Never really thought about it like that, but you’re right!

What do you mean? Like…in what way?

Im not an expert in Pultec eq design by any means.

It was a very simplistic analogy to describe inductor/capacitor/resistor high pass and low pass filtering in passive eq circuits.

Next up: FMV (Fender, Marshall, Vox) tone stacks :sleeping:

Ya know, I don’t get where the name comes from. What part of this is passive?

Just think of it a bit like a compressor with a ‘make up’ gain. The ‘compression’ part clearly can only reduce the volume, then you get the option to bring it back up. Passive discreet components need a ‘make up gain’ in a similar way.

Active parametric type eq’s usually have a frequency and gain control (it even says so on the faceplate). The gain stage is integral to the eq doing what it does, whether it’s boost or cut.