Welcome to the MT Buyer’s Guide, where we round up some of the best products reviewed in recent months here at MusicTech. This month, we look at hardware and software EQs of all shapes and sizes, across all budgets…
Best: Combination – TC The Swift
Contact Thermionic Culture
Thermionic Culture’s The Swift not only combines the best of British and American EQs, but is also something of a ‘best of’ of Thermionic’s gear, as it contains elements of the company’s Freebird, Rooster 2 and Phoenix HG15.
Reviewer John Pickford said: “With the addition of more comprehensive midrange controls and the sublime Air control, The Swift ranks as the finest program equaliser I have ever heard. It is a first among equalisers.”
He concluded: “The Swift has a no-compromise design that offers sweet-sounding tone control for individual sounds and complete mixes alike. It is quite simply the finest stereo valve equaliser we’ve ever used, bar none.”
Best: Neve! – RND 551
Contact Sonic Distribution
0845 500 2500
While many companies try to emulate the sound of the Neve EQ, why not get the real thing, designed by the man himself? Mike Hillier was blown away: “The colouration from the 551 is subtle, but there is definitely something in the sheen of this module that gives us the polish we were looking for. There are plenty of great-sounding digital EQs, but sometimes, being able to grab something physical and dial in a sound quickly is worth its weight in gold. The 551 is one of the best EQs we’ve ever heard. This is truly one of Rupert Neve’s best designs.”
Best: Pultec clone – Warm Audio EQP-WA
Contact Nova Distribution
0203 589 2530
The EQP-WA Tube Amplified Program Equalizer is a single-channel 2U rack-mount unit based upon arguably the most iconic equaliser of all time: the Pultec EQP-1A. Comparing the new unit to a vintage version, reviewer John Pickford said: “It was obvious that the EQP-WA is the real deal, possessing the weight and warmth we expect from the low-end boost, and the silky highs from the extreme top-end settings. Dialling in similar settings on both confirmed that designer Bryce Young has got the classic sound spot-on.” He went on to conclude: “Warm Audio has taken a world-class design, added some useful features and improved some of the original units to create a superb product that punches way above its weight. As a creative, musical sonic-shaper, it’s second to none.”
Best: Pitch tracker – Sound Radix SurferEQ
Contact via website
This pitch-tracking EQ offers a unique take on EQing by ‘offering a way to track the pitch of incoming audio and have boosts and cuts move musically to it’. So, we’re not really talking traditional EQ-ing, more EQ-ing used as an effect. But, according to reviewer Alex Holmes, it’s a very useful effect indeed: and this latest version also packs loads of new features.
“In practice, it’s a really rather wonderful tool to have. We’ve often found ourselves trying to shape a bassline with a static EQ, only to have certain notes pop out or others disappear. With the ability to bring in extra harmonics and have these changes move with the melody of the part, it’s almost like you’re controlling synth parameters on an instrument track. It’s an extremely useful sound-design tool that lets you create smoother, cleaner and more natural-sounding mixes. A well designed, unique EQ with great new features and a smooth analogue sound.”
Best: Budget – Sonimus Sweetone
Contact via website
The Sweetone is the cheapest in a suite of thee EQs from Sonimus. It has variable high- and low-pass filters, plus an additional mid-band ‘Tone’ knob, with two modes. Reviewer Mike Hillier said: “The ability to quickly get your sounds in the right ballpark cannot be underestimated. We could easily see this being placed early in the mix chain for various instruments.” He then concluded: “A great addition to your studio, with a very useful preamp stage to boot.”
Best: Software EQ – FabFilter Pro-Q2
The first version of this EQ appeared back in 2010 and quickly became the go-to software EQ for many producers, not least MT’s Mike Hillier. “Pro-Q is still the first EQ we turn to, for just about any task, whether mixing or mastering, subtractive or additive.” Q2 adds loads more functionality and a better GUI, as well as updating the original algorithms.
“For all the eye-catching new features in Pro-Q2, it’s the ease-of-use and great-sounding results that make us keep coming back to it over our other EQs. Whether it’s a detailed carving out of problematic resonances, or broad-brush enhancing, Pro-Q2 is more than up to the task. The top-end is so smooth that it’s easy to boost without the harshness often associated with digital EQs. “This will be the first plug-in we add to every channel on every mix we do for the next few years. Absolutely brilliant.”