What could be better than a Bettermaker? A Bettermaker made better, of course...
I reviewed the original Bettermaker 230P digitally controlled analogue equaliser as recently as January of this year, but the company have already discontinued it and released a revised remote-controllable version. The new 232P also has a 'knobless' sibling called the 232P Remote, which offers a welcome 20 percent cost saving over the standard edition. Both of the new models can be controlled over USB via a DAW plug-in, which is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit VST, RTAS and AU formats.
Visually, the new 232P model is identical to the original, except that it now has a functional USB port, where the original just had a hole! In addition, there's now a dedicated DAW plug-in, which is downloadable from the company web site, the user preset memory has been expanded (from 399 to 999 locations), and the gain structure has been revised to provide an additional 6dB of analogue headroom.
Like the original, the 232P is a dual-channel/stereo equaliser with five separate EQ stages grouped into three sections: a high-pass filter, two parametric stages, and a Pultec-style, inductor-based section. As it's a digitally controlled equaliser, all settings can be stored and recalled — and the unit ships with seven factory presets (see box) — but it can be fully automated via the DAW plug-in interface too. There's also an A-B filter setting comparison function and a hardwired global bypass mode.
While the front-panel controls of the 232P are exactly the same as the original design, the 232P Remote only has the large silver illuminated on-off button and the input clip lights. The rest of the piano-black front panel carries only the Bettermaker logo. I won't describe the controls or the sound of the Bettermaker in depth here, as it is the same as the original model I've already reviewed in considerable depth. Suffice to say that it still sounds extremely musical and enables all forms of EQ to be applied, from gentle tonal shaping to surgically precise corrections (and both at the same time if you need to!). The parametric sections have a distinctly modern, clean and transparent character, while the Pultec-based section is noticeably more old-school, with a subtly warmer tonality and more body.
One thing I commented upon in my original review was that the maximum signal level was only +18dBu, which could cause trouble if you're working with high-end converters which mostly operate at the industry norm of +24dBu for full-scale digital signals. I'm extremely pleased to see that my comments were taken on board, as this new 232P version has a revised gain structure which allows it to cope with +24dBu in and out.
The DAW plug-in looks great — just like the front panel of the standard 232P — and it works perfectly, with easy, precise rotary-control adjustment by vertical mouse scrolling. A nice feature is that the hardware's memory-location window in the bottom right-hand corner is used to provide the numerical value of whatever rotary control is being adjusted. It's also very nice to be able to save individual presets (as well as banks of presets) with meaningful names, and on the computer, as part of a DAW project.
I did find one disappointing aspect of the new model, which was that the review sample exhibited a silly internal wiring error that introduced a polarity reversal in channel 2, both when active and when bypassed. This is a really basic quality-control failure, and I feel it reflects badly on a company who charge as much as they do for the product.
The USP of the EQ232P — aside from its comprehensive and great sounding stereo analogue EQ facilities — continues to be its memory-recall functionality. This has now been improved substantially with the DAW plug-in integration, which not only enables even greater ease of use, but also full DAW-based plug-in automation. I said in my original review that the Bettermaker was "extremely attractive for use in DAW-based work where an analogue character is required, while retaining the ability to access different EQ settings for different instruments or from different production sessions instantly and completely accurately.” That remains true, but it's now even better, and the 232P Remote version is also significantly cheaper. It's still an expensive device (albeit less expensive than the original model), yet it has unique capabilities, and for anyone who values the sonic character of high-end outboard equipment, it has no competition. As with the original model, a Mid/Side version of the 232P and models with customised frequency ranges are available to special order. They're well worth checking out.
The only memory-recall analogue equalisers I am aware of beside the Bettermaker are the AMS Neve 8803 Dual Channel Equaliser, and the Solid State Logic X-Rack fitted with Stereo EQ and E-Series EQ modules. However, both systems require manual control-position matching, and although both are cheaper than the Bettermaker, neither is as comprehensive, or has an automatable DAW plug-in.
Preset 1, 'Instant Vocal' : Uses the P-filter section low shelf to reduce rumble and noise, and the P-filter high shelf for air and presence.
Preset 2, 'Quick Master': Uses the high-pass filter section to cut below 25Hz and a 16kHz P-filter shelf to add some openness and air.
Preset 3, 'Mudda F': Designed to reduce mud and congestion in a mix. In addition to the HPF to remove the lowest frequencies, it also uses the EQ sections to introduce gentle cuts around 275 and 600Hz, and the P-filter to add a little high-end lift.
Preset 4, 'Kick It': Intended to beef up kick drums and add body to weak-sounding instruments.
Preset 5, 'Oh My God': Another drum preset, designed to help tighten up overheads by filtering out the lows, cutting the lower mid-range and lifting the highs.
Preset 6, 'Dark Basstard': Equalisation optimised for bass DI signals.
Preset 7, 'Guitar Sitter': intended to help control dense electric-guitar mixes, with the HPF to cut mud from the bottom, some low-end lift for body, and some mid-range cut or boost to provide clarity.