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[mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

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[mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Bob Moose » Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:54 am

Hello

There are digital linear phase equalisers that sound neutral (or close to). On the opposite, analogue equalisers usually colour the sound. Of course both are useful.

Because many colours give many options, some people have 3 or 4 different equalisers, which is very expensive and takes a lot of space.
But is it useful to have a single analogue program equaliser? Not for using on all tracks, of course; but on the tracks mastered using this equaliser, isn't the EQ sound signature too obvious?

Sorry I have no experience of analogue mastering equalisers (only analogue equalisers from mixers, powered speakers and the ones you can make with modular synth filters)

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby James Perrett » Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:07 pm

Mastering equalisers shouldn't really have much of a signature - they just do what they are supposed to do without colouring the sound in unexpected ways. Many mastering engineers use only one equaliser to do just about everything.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Mon Jan 14, 2013 2:43 pm

I am going to politely disagree with James who's opinions I respect. Different eq's have different qualities and as such some shine and can produce subjectively better results than others in different parts of the band. Most eq's I have used be it analogue or digital tend to have a range of frequencies where they work best.

As an example :

I have never heard the upper mid range 'bite' like the API 5500, (and it really does not at all suit some material) or the width of a Massive Passive in the mids or the silky smooth top end like a Sontec in other eq's that those stated or the low end of some of the vintage German EQ's.

I agree you can do a great deal with 1 clean eq, like a basic plug in but I personally find I can achieve 'better' results using a combination of eq's in most jobs.

This is in part due to qualities other than the tonal change (image width, transients etc.) and also the nature of mastering changing a little over the years. People want many different things from their mastering engineer and their end results. A characterful eq can make significant differences to the end results.

Unless you are opting for something with character you may well be better off with a very good plug in.

It is difficult to generalize as every miniscule adjustment affects something else.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Dave Blackman » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:13 pm

Different EQs sound different. Some are very clean, some more coloured. The more of a signature it has, the more specialised it becomes - not used as much but when it's strengths are called for it's amazing. (The same goes for compressors and limiters) For this reason most mastering rooms will have several EQs ranging from clean to coloured for dealing with different jobs and client requests.

Having said that, you can do an awful lot with one well designed EQ.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:42 pm

That makes a lot of sense.

It also depends on how much of an adjustment is required, 1dB can be remarkably transparent on a
supposedly colourful eq and a large change with a 'clean' eq can cause undesired problems. It is relative to the task at hand.
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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Dave Blackman » Mon Jan 14, 2013 9:54 pm

Absolutely. As always, the job will dictate the tool.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Tony O'Shea » Tue Jan 15, 2013 8:41 am

I don't really think anyone is disagreeing with James. A mastering eq, as he says, will normally be expected to have less of a signature than one used more commonly for mixing. As Dave says we, as is common to many mastering engineers, have more than one so that we can vary what signature we are after to suit the project needs.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby James Perrett » Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:46 pm

Thanks Tony,

Yes, I was trying to say that a mastering EQ won't have an obvious sound although, obviously, some are better at some things than others. If people complain that your masters have an obvious sound, it usually won't be down to the hardware used. More likely it will be down to the way you set up the hardware and the sound that you perceive as ideal.

It took me a while to learn that some things shouldn't sound too pretty - many clients for the sort of stuff I do still want to hear the warts.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Jack Ruston » Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:22 pm

James is certainly right from the POV that most of the 'typical' mastering rooms you go into have things like Maselecs rather than a pair of Pultecs or Chandler Tone Controls.
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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Urthlupe » Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:25 pm

I would suggest Bob that yes, it is useful to have a single, 'mastering grade' equaliser, although this may be quite an investment to make in some circumstances.

As for the signature sound - I believe it is commonly human nature to become habituated to using a particular device in a particular way. In my experience it is quite possible that another person will consistently derive a very different result from the same piece of kit. I have personally found those high qualty eq's I have used to be mighty flexible beasts.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Tue Jan 15, 2013 8:07 pm

Ultimately the mastering engineer decides what tools to choose. Then uses his or her judgement as to whether to use an item with a strong sonic signature on case by case basis. The actual Pultec is at the more extreme end for characterful pieces and is less likely to be found in mastering studios. However passive eq is extremely popular amongst all mastering engineers, a dab works wonders on many projects here.

It is actually a very interesting topic.

A clean EQ has a sonic signature, transparency is a sonic character.

There are as many 'character' eq's in worthwhile mastering studios as there are 'clean'.

I like to invest in tools that have the highest chances of being able to perform a job without having to compromise. There comes a point where more 'types' of tool have diminishing benefits vs their cost of ownership. I see investing in equipment as investing in my clients but have a 'middle road' approach to when that value drops off. A balance between under and over investing relative to perception of satisfying my and a clients goals.

The bottom line is you cannot do everything to the subjectively highest possible standard with 1 tool given the same eq settings.
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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Wed Jan 16, 2013 12:42 pm

I was thinking last night, it came to me that a linear phase eq certainly has a character to it as well, one that I avoid for making tonal adjustments. The character of this eq changes transient information due to pre and post ringing. LP is a very technically contrived eq, minimum phase eq can affect transients too but linear phase is one I have personally chosen to avoid (in the main). I have one but have not used it in the last 3-4 years.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Urthlupe » Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:49 pm

SafeandSound Mastering wrote:The bottom line is you cannot do everything to the subjectively highest possible standard with 1 tool given the same eq settings.

Much as I appreciate many of your posts here buddy, to me this one is a confused and slightly non-sensical answer in realtion to the poster's question.

Apologies for not getting it :?

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:42 pm

Eq X and EQ Y

Given a known set of EQ adjustments on both eq's, as an example say 1dB boost at 100Hz, 2dB boost at 1kHz and 3dB high shelf boost at 10kHz.

One eq could sound subjectively better than the other, thats it. (or any combination of EQ's for that matter)

I agree I expressed it somewhat awkwardly.
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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Urthlupe » Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:31 am

Sorry Barry, I was just in a stroppy mood.

But can you see, all that you've said is that, in use, one equaliser doesn't sound like another? Which of course is simply obvious.

Talking 'colour' for eq's feels a bit w*nky to me. Using an eq is to change the particular aspect of sound one might call 'colour'. And yes, if you were to purchase an example of every eq design topolgy and method of implementation out there you'd be a nut, but you could say you'd got the set.

So my answer to Bob would be, don't get hung up on the faux tech-talk of those who say you can only do this with that, or to be real pro you gotta get these. If the expenditure on a beefy eq is appropriate for you, then yes, try some out, a single device could be bloody useful, many of them are very flexible.

Oh dear, still stroppy apparently.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Persian Bit » Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:45 am

I think it depends on who you are and how you're gonna use it:

If you mix and master ONLY your own music and albums, one EQ that you like its tone would be enough. its color will be a part of your 'sound' and character.

but [obviously] if you are a mastering or mixing engineer working for many different people, one device and one tone won't satisfy [and suit] everyone. a claasical piece would need a totally transparent EQ, while a 60's rock music would call for a lot of tone and character.

I read somehwere that some well known mastering engineer said he does the EQ in digital domain and only uses analog compressors\limiters. he believed a top digital graphic EQ plugin has the minimum tone and character.
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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Bob Moose » Thu Jan 17, 2013 3:04 pm

Thanks for your answers, lots of very helpful information.

I am not a specialized mastering engineer, I am a composer / musician who works in a small studio. But I usually do everything from writing the music to sending it to customers. I make all sorts of musics and sounds, so I don't always use the same instruments and studio techniques.

Here the most important side of mastering is making tracks that play back decently on most systems (hi-fi, big concert or cinema speakers, grandmother's mono TV, phones, etc). Making it sound as loud as possible, or "more expensive", "produced", as they say, is not really welcome.

Currently I have software equalisers and they do the job. But I think an analogue one could bring something different, which is always welcome. If I find one that is good for both track and master processing, it will certainly be useful.

I cannot have more than one because of space and money reasons, and I'm not asking for a single one that does everything either.
Passive, Baxandall or parametric, well I have no idea which one is more appropriated. I'm looking for a basic high quality equaliser that you can use everyday if you want, as an alternative to the software equalisers. Stereo channels and settings (either rotary switches on both channels or ganged potentiometers) are mandatory.

To give an idea, the ones I found are the DAV BG3 (with modified gain steps), TFPro P9, TK Audio TK-lizer, Charter Oak PEQ-1, Dangerous Music BAX, API 5500, and the Pultec-style EQs.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Thu Jan 17, 2013 3:50 pm

Urthlupe wrote:Sorry Barry, I was just in a stroppy mood.

But can you see, all that you've said is that, in use, one equaliser doesn't sound like another? Which of course is simply obvious.



No, not only different, better, to some it might appear false, to me it's actual.

If you are 100pct happy with your monitoring situation Bob then a new eq is fine and incidentally what you described as mastering in your own terms is a big part of any mastering engineers job, good translation is rarely variable. Although to a stronger degree perceived volume requirements is. Although that can of course affect translation at either extreme.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Dave Blackman » Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:36 pm

Hi Bob

I have the DAV BG3 here, and have also used the Dangerous BAX and Pultec. Whilst great sounding boxes, they're not the most flexible EQs in the world, and if you're after something for use in tracking, mixing, and mastering, this might be something to bear in mind.

For a first "go to" EQ, I'd look at a parametric, maybe something like the Millennia NSEQ2 or Cranesong Ibis. I've also got a chum who's a great engineer who swears by the Great River MAQ-2NV. I haven't heard the Ted Fletcher box you mention, but I've heard good things about it.

What's your budget?

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Tony O'Shea » Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:16 am

I've been using a GR MAQ 2NV (Mercenary Edition) as one of our mastering hardware EQs for a while. I think it's particulrly nice on the mids.
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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Jack Ruston » Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:41 am

Firstly...I think what you're really after here is great mixes. An eq across the mix is often a useful thing, but it's a task that software can perform well in comparison to compression.

If you DO decide to get a hardware unit I'd personally go for something that you can recall easily so that you can switch between your projects instantly, and that's also useful for tracking. I think the Dangerous Bax is particularly nice. The Charter Oak is beautiful but it's on pots not switches (so harder to recall) and stereo rather than dual mono. The pultec stuff is often great on the mix but again, recall. The DAV is on switches I believe, but I haven't heard it. The API is on switches but in my experience it's wonderful on drums and guitars but not my first choice on the mix just because it's quite 'tough' in the highs, and highs are normally what you're adding across a mix.

On the last project I did I ended up sticking a massenburg MDW across the mix. 20hz filter and 3dBs of high shelf. It worked very well. But I'd take the Bax any day if I had a spare 1500 quid.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:48 pm

I agree API is a pretty extreme character as a stereo EQ. Fairly gritty, great when required in the mix (the bomb in fact), not versatile on a stereo bus or mastering scenario IMO.

These difference between EQ's are very easy to hear for anyone who has the right equipment and only reasonable hearing acuity would be required to hear the differences.

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Goddard » Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:45 am

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Re: [mastering] using a single analogue equaliser

Postby Bob Moose » Mon Mar 25, 2013 8:34 pm

I did not forget this thread and I would like to thank everybody for all these great information.
I am completely re-installing my studio currently, and I keep 4U in my rack for a compressor and an EQ. I'm not sure which models exactly, to be honest I don't have any budget for this at the moment, hopefully later this year

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