Pulsar train their modelling sights on Manley’s mighty Massive Passive.
Pulsar may be a fairly young company, but they’ve impressed me with all their releases and their latest is no exception. As with the others in their range, Massive models an analogue hardware device and in this case it’s Manley’s Massive Passive, a transformer‑balanced, tube‑amplified, four‑band inductor EQ with additional high‑ and low‑pass filters. This EQ’s four bands are switchable bell/shelving types, both shapes being affected by the Q (bandwidth) setting. An important characteristic is that the four bands are arranged in parallel and thus tend to interact in interesting, always smooth‑sounding and forgiving but not always intuitive ways. Notably, apply a chunky boost with one band and then do the same around the same frequency with another (or even all of four), and the combined maximum boost will barely increase. Another characteristic is that the Q control can be used to coax complex curves from just one shelving band, with narrow bandwidths creating a bell boost just above the shelving frequency when you cut and a dip when you boost. (You might be surprised what you can achieve with only two low shelves and a high‑pass filter!)
I already have a couple of plug‑ins which emulate the Massive Passive and each has its pros and cons. UA’s Manley‑endorsed one sounds decent to my ears and mimics the hardware’s parallel signal flow, whereas Acustica Audio’s Magenta 5 sounds a touch more impressive and ‘hardware‑like’ sonically, but its sampled filters are not arranged in parallel and the bands thus combine in a different way. I use both of these plug‑ins in my mixes fairly frequently, so I was really keen to see how Pulsar’s offering compared.