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In this installment of the Foundations of Audio series, author Brian Lee White shows producers and audio engineers how to properly apply equalization (EQ) and improve the sound of their mixes. The course covers the use of parametric and graphic EQs—and filters such as the high/low pass filters and shelf filters—in a variety of musical settings. These principles can be applied to any digital audio workstation platform, including Logic and Pro Tools, as well as analog workflows.
Sometimes I want an EQ that's extremely transparent, almost clinical in its application. This sort of tool is great when I don't want to hear the EQ working on the signal. I just want clean boost or cut without adding any additional character or driving any additional harmonics. Other times, I'm looking to add a little extra something to my signals, in addition to just basic boost or cut of frequencies, and this is when I employ model vintage EQs in my workflow. You have to understand that a DAW's recording and mixing facilities are extremely transparent.
Even the channel strip EQ and compression rarely add any additional artifacts or color to the signal. Personally, I think this is a good thing, because it gives me total control over my sonic aesthetic. When I do want to color a signal, drive the harmonic series, and pick up some extra character, I often use classic EQs in my tracks. With these, I get sort of a two-for-one situation, by utilizing the EQ controls I need to shape my instruments, plus a little something special. Two of my favorite vintage model EQs are the Pultec EQP-1A and the Neve 1073.
Here, I'm using Waves models of these two classics: the PulTec and the VEQ3. The Pultec is a tube EQ well known for its dual boost and attenuate controls, and the ability to dial in a ridiculous amount of gain without getting into trouble. Because of its tube amplifiers, the Pultec is great at driving the harmonic series and fattening up bass signals as their lower fundamentals excite harmonics in a more audible range. Listen to this drum loop with a bit of low-shelf boost.
(music playing) The Pultec actually has three bands of control, but the layout can be confusing to some. The first group has three controls: frequency, boost, and attenuate. In this case, I can simultaneously dial in boost and cut in this band using the separate controls.
This is part of the famous Pultec sound, as dialing in too much boost and pulling it back with the attenuate control can yield uniquely pleasing results. The second band features three parameters: a boost control, bandwidth or Q, and a frequency selector. The third band features only the attenuate and frequency select controls. Because the Pultec is a tube EQ, it'll actually color the signal without any boost or cut applied. So sometimes it's nice to just place it on a track and let it do its thing for a subtle kick of color.
Equally as notable and famous as the Pultec, the Neve 1073 was designed by the Rupert Neve Company in 1970, and the channel module also featured a mic pre-amp. The 1073 has easily been on the desert island list of studio staples for decades, and has been used on most of the hits made in the last 40 years. The 1073's EQ is famous for the unmistakable sheen, clarity, and presence it adds to the signal. The 1073 is a three-band EQ with an additional high-pass filter.
The high shelf is fixed at 12K and can be used to add that signature Neve sound. The waves here can be switched between 10 and 12K. It's just been modified a little bit in the plug-in version. Listen to this vocal as I boost with the high shelf. (music playing) The original 1073 mid-band has six fixed frequency points and no Q control.
The bandwidth automatically gets narrower as you choose higher frequencies. The Waves model I'm using has a few more frequency bands added for flexibility. The high-pass filter has a frequency selector with a slope of 18 dB per octave. Both EQs here are definitely what I would classify as boosting EQs, used more to alter the tone or character of a signal than clinically notching out problem spots. Many times, I'll use two EQs on a signal: one to clean things up or correct and another to apply the character component.
In this scenario, I will pair the Pultec or Neve with a normal channel-strip EQ and use both to achieve the desired result.
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