Equalizers are the most fundamental tool we have to shape the sound flowing through our tracks. There are different types, shapes, curves, and controls, but they all fundamentally do the same thing. Boost or attenuate specific areas of the frequency spectrum.
Every DAW has built in EQ plug-ins, and Logic offers many. The Channel EQ is a workhorse, capable of considerable flexibility with regards to how frequencies are boosted or reduced. Logic’s single band EQ is a competent purpose designed multi-function single band variation for the times when multi-band EQ isn’t necessary. However, what about vintage analog style EQs?
Emulating vintage analog hardware, after all of these years, is still a “thing” in the software EQ world. Our DAW EQs generally bring precision, but not the “character” we crave. So, what exactly is character when we are referring to empirically boosting or cutting specific frequencies. What makes one EQ sound dramatically different from another if they are both doing the same job?
Engineering vintage hardware EQ emulations involves, broadly speaking, two general aspects that contribute to the character, or vibe, or “feel” of using them. First is the relationship between the amount of gain and how wide a range of frequencies surrounding the center frequency are affected. Often what we describe as character, is the variable width of the affected area in the frequency spectrum. The width is variable based on the gain. In other words, as a band of EQ is raised or lowered, the range of surrounding frequencies effected is narrowed or widened. So small boosts or cuts affect a much wider range of frequencies than a steeper boost or cut. Often the range of adjacent frequencies effected differs when boosting or cutting by the same amount. This trait is what gives a lot of vintage analog EQs their “personality.”
Even when the gain/width relationships are captured in an EQs algorithms, it can still lack the “magic” we associate with the analog counterpart. This brings us to the second important aspect of hardware emulations — the Drive stage. What I mean by that is the subtle harmonic distortion or saturation that is added to the audio signal as it runs in, through and out, of the analog components in the unit. These drive stage characteristics are something that good quality emulations make it a point to include.
Everyone seems to be continually searching for the perfect emulations, while we have three of them sitting right under noses in Logic. I am frankly surprised by the lack of buzz and talk about the three vintage emulations added in Logic 10.4. They are excellent emulations of Pultec, Neve, and API hardware EQs. Why are they ignored? They sound fantastic!
Each of the three EQ has its own character. They model the unique gain/width relationship of their hardware counterparts. And not only do they model the drive stages of each, but the Logic developers have even made them interchangeable for us. You can use the drive stage of an API unit with the Neve EQs, or the Pultec drive modelling with the API EQ bands, etc.
Establishing which EQ to use in which context is, of course, a personal choice. There is no right or wrong use-case scenario inherent to each of the three. Experiment with them, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the user experience. Dialling in a sound “feels” different with each one, not just because of the interface, but because of the ways the gain and frequency parameters interact with each other.
Each of the following examples uses the same voice over I recorded. First, it is heard dry, and then with each of the EQs applied to it. Each example uses a healthy amount of the paired drive gain. I’ve compensated for volume differences by ear so as not to be distracted by gain changes.
Explore these three fantastic vintage emulations. You’ll find you won’t be reaching for your wallet as much as you may have been in the past!