Offering both controllable coloration and three interactive bands of EQ, the Michelangelo aims to deliver something a little different.
My analogue mastering chain, which comprises two equalisers and two compressors, has remained the same for seven or eight years. I know it so well that using it has become instinctive, and have thus been reluctant to change it; I've only done so when I've discovered something I felt I could not live without — at which point I swapped out an old processor for the new one, without extending the chain. By coincidence, the last two such changes were both to units that I initially explored for an SOS review: the Thermionic Culture Pullet (www.soundonsound.com/reviews/thermionic-culture-pullet) and the Knif Soma (www.soundonsound.com/reviews/knif-soma), and both are passive, but otherwise very different, EQs.
Because of this domestic bliss, the last thing I thought I'd be interested in acquiring would be a new EQ. Such an addition would have to bring something to the party that my broad, passive EQs haven't already. So what initially piqued my interest in the Hendy Amps Michelangelo — a broadband analogue EQ — was not only hearing good things about it on the mastering grapevine, but specifically hearing about it from fellow Knif enthusiasts.
The Michelangelo is a three-band (or arguably four-band, depending on how you count them), Class-A, all-valve EQ, with Jensen transformers. It has a number of unique features, the most immediately noticeable being the massive transformer, which sticks out of the back panel, and the next being the complete lack of frequency and bandwidth information on the front, other than for a lone two-way switch labelled 'Low Shift 80Hz-150Hz'.
The front panel contains six chicken–head rotary controls (Aggression, Low, Mid, High, Air and Trim) and various switches. Like the Low band, the Mid and High ones have a 'Shift' setting, with the options being 'flat' or 'full' for the former, and 'smooth' or 'sharp' for the latter. The Air band also has a two-position 'Shift' switch, the choice being simply on/off. A Vintage switch (on/off) can produce a darker sound. There are also true Bypass, post-processing Trim and Calibration controls. The last is used for balancing the channels and, in conjunction with the Trim control (Calibration up/Trim down), provides a means of increasing the harmonic content of the signal. Additionally, there's a ground-lift facility and, finally, a HiZ/LoZ switch, which changes both the sound of the Michelangelo and the interactions between it and other equipment. My preference, generally, was to use only the LoZ setting, which results in the least interaction.
Each unit is handmade to order by Chris Hendy, which makes further description of the unit's appearance a bit hazardous; there are a fair number of colour combinations on offer, and a couple of scale options too. The review unit came in the red,...