The second plug‑in in KIT’s Blackbird range aims to bring a little Motown magic to your DAW.
From their base in Nashville, KIT Plugins are one of the latest developers to take on the challenge of bringing a convincingly analogue sound to our DAW software. I’ve been using their BB N105 plug‑in (reviewed in SOS March 2022) for a while; it’s an emulation of the preamp and EQ section of Blackbird Studios’ Neve 8078 console, and it really does have a convincingly analogue sound. For their latest release, KIT have again teamed up with John McBride at Blackbird, this time to model a very rare piece: the fabled Motown EQ. These units were never available commercially and with fewer than 40 units known to exist today all are, of course, in the hands of collectors and a few lucky engineers and studios.
KIT’s Mo‑Q is available in AAX, VST3 and AU formats and authorised using iLok (cloud or dongle), with two simultaneous authorisations per licence. Mac M1 support is already here for VST and AU, and an update is pending for AAX. It’s very simple to use, and really is all about turning the dials until you like how it sounds, which, it has to be said, can be pretty refreshing!
The seven EQ bands each have a fixed frequency and bandwidth, and allow you to cut/boost by up to 8dB. This might strike you as pretty limiting for a general‑purpose EQ, but there’s a clever choice of frequencies, and the broad bands interact. There’s also a certain amount of analogue character, which varies according to how hard you drive it.
I was mixing a lot of electric‑guitar‑heavy music while assessing Mo‑Q, and something I always find a little tricky with such material is adding presence without making things sound brittle or harsh. Dialling in a 5kHz boost and adding a little at 130Hz, I was often able to add brightness and clarity with Mo‑Q, without losing weight or introducing anything unpleasant. It was similarly helpful with kick and snare drums, which often exhibit unpleasant ‘boxy’ frequencies in the 320Hz area.
People often associate Motown records with a great bass sound, of course, and while Mo‑Q can’t turn you into James Jamerson, I found that, by playing with the 50, 130 and 800 Hz bands, I could soon add serious weight to bass parts while keeping things tight and audible in a busy mix. The 12.5kHz band can add a lovely ‘shine’ to vocal parts too. In fact, each of the seven EQ bands seems to have a very practical use: the engineers who created the hardware version clearly understood how to make recorded music translate!
As well as sculpting the sound of individual tracks, I used the Mo‑Q across some whole mixes, where I found it could add a convincingly analogue‑like presence and vibe. In fact, it can be very addictive in that role!
I particularly like the way in which you can push the high midrange and add weight to bass parts.
Music is all about vibe and feeling, and mixing it shouldn’t have to be a precise, formulaic process — you shouldn’t need to spend an age tweaking every parameter. People often say they still use hardware as much for the way it makes them work as for the sound, and I loved that about Mo‑Q. It’s so refreshing to simply turn the controls until you like how things are sounding. It can also lead you to investigate what happens when you tweak what might perhaps seem less obvious parts of the spectrum, such as around 800Hz.
But it’s by no means only about the workflow: Mo‑Q is one of the better‑sounding digital tools that I’ve tried in recent years, and I particularly like the way in which you can push the high midrange and add weight to bass parts.
In summary, then, Mo‑Q is a great, musical‑sounding EQ that offers a convincing analogue‑like sound, with subtle coloration and some interesting interaction between the bands. If you’re tired of surgical digital EQs in which everything’s possible but the visuals distract and every parameter seems to need setting, then Mo‑Q could freshen up everyday mixing jobs. Definitely worth taking the time to check out the free demo.
A great‑sounding model of one of the rarest of analogue EQs, Mo‑Q has a lot to commend it.