Last year the Maag EQ4 plug-in won our ‘People’s Choice Award’ and in doing so garnered a lot of love and attention from the recording community. The EQ4 plug-in is a model of the hardware 500 series EQ4 equaliser from Maag Audio, a boutique audio company based in the USA who have gained a reputation in the pro audio community by building top end audio products. On top of their technical credentials, Maag Audio is run by some of the most decent people in the industry.
The Maag Audio EQ2 - 500 Series Equaliser
The Maag Audio EQ2 is a 2 band boost only equalizer with AIR BAND®, Low Mid Frequency (LMF) bell boost from SUB to 1.4 kHz, and an INPUT ATTN to control down to –12.5 dB of attenuation.
The LMF provides both tight or wide bell curve options.
Both top and bottom bands can be turned on and off independently, allowing the user the opportunity to use it on either the top and bottom, or indeed both.
An INPUT ATTN control offers up to –12.5 dB of attenuation.
The Maag EQ2 In Use
I have a pair of the Maag EQ2 equalisers in a Radial Powerstrip so this gave me the chance to try these units in a stereo operation. Being mono units and having no way of stereo linking them, the first thing I wanted to do was to see how close the build tolerance is on the units. Building any analogue audio product to an exacting tolerance is not just a matter of luck, it takes good design, sourcing of high quality and consistent parts, care in manufacture, and final testing.
On the Maag Audio web site they state “Only the finest components are used in Mäag Audio gear. Build quality is among the highest in the professional audio industry. You can rest assured your Mäag Audio gear will perform at sonically superior levels, every day.” However no promises are made by Maag Audio as to each unit being matched, so I wasn’t expecting them to be, I did try and contact them to ask them about what I should expect but was unable to get hold of them, so I thought In would run my own test.
The test was a simple nulling test, sending the same signal from a Pro Tools channel to both units, bringing them back into 2 mono channels and then using an instance of Avid Trim to invert the phase (polarity) to see if the audio would null out. In other words, in a perfect world then what I should hear is silence.
I ran the test both with the units in bypass and also in several settings, by adjusting EQ and various frequencies and on the whole what I got was silence, having notched pots on the Maag EQ2 makes the testing easier and takes away any guesswork on my part. When I did hear something it was so tiny that it was barely audible, however I think it right to state that in certain settings there was a tiny little bit of audio. It’s also important to state that several other factors need to be taken into account when running a test like this with hardware, such as the that the signal had gone from my Avid Omni, out via a DB25 loom then into a patchbay, patched via jacks and then back into Pro Tools via an Audient ASP880 audio pre-amp in the digital domain, so there are plenty of other factors that can affect the result of a nulling test.
However, the reason I ran this test was because I wanted to use the Maag Audio EQ2s as a stereo pair on a mix and wanted to know how much I would have to do to compensate for any differences between 2 Maag Audio EQ2s, the simple answer is very little.
I then took some time trying the EQ2 on three pieces of music;
- Get Lucky - Daft Punk
- Trouble - Shawn Colvin
- Please Read The Letter - Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
Being a 2 band boost only EQ the Maag EQ2 lends itself to mix and mastering applications, giving the opportunity to sweeten a mix.
Of course one concern I had was that with the limitation of just 2 bands of boost that I would find that any changes would over-cook the mix and I would end up with boomy bottom and fizzy top sounding mixes that somehow resembled the Radio Shack graphic EQ shapes we saw in their 1980s brochures. This is where a Pultec EQ shines, offering the magic of cutting and boosting and preventing too much bleed entering into bands further up the spectrum.
Despite not having any option for attenuation as well as boost, the EQ2 gives a very musical and subtle sound when used for sweetening, in fact far more than one would expect. Having the option of both a tight and wide bell curve gives plenty of opportunity to shape the sound on the bottom/low mid end. The top end shelving EQ is also versatile enough to give everything from a nice push to vocals and guitars around 5Khz right up to the magic Maag AIR band sparkle.
In modern production we find ourselves spoilt by almost limitless tone shaping possibilities, even the Maag EQ4 offers 6 bands of EQ, so the big question is what can a 2 band EQ offer?
The Maag EQ2 proves the old cliche, that less is more, offering tone shaping tools that perform far beyond what appear to be meagre features.
On the material I tested the Maag EQ2 made a significant difference to the sound for the better, bringing both warmth and clarity without sounding over processed. Of course as with all Maag Audio products the sound is very musical, working with the audio rather than fighting with it.
Being a boost only device there are other equalizers that are more suited to remedial work on problem material, but in the hands of any accomplished mix or mastering engineer the Maag EQ2 would prove to be an invaluable tool for sweetening. My advice is that if you are looking for a high quality EQ then add the Maag EQ2 to your shopping list.
I make no secret of my love for Maag Audio and their products, the EQ2 proves yet again that my love is not misplaced.
Disclosure: I love Cliff Maag Senior
- High quality
- Musical sounding
- Small 500 series footprint
- Built like a tank
- Price means this is not aimed at the home studio
Maag Audio EQ2 Specifications
- Frequency Response -2 dB points, 10Hz & 75kHz
- Nominal Input Impedance XLR) 48 K Ohms, balanced
- Nominal Output Impedance (XLR) 50 Ohms, balanced
- Headroom +27 dBu
- THD + Noise < 0.005%