Over the past year or so my mixing workflow has become more reliant on studio outboard processors. As I slowly move away from an exclusive “in the box” approach towards a more hybrid setup I find myself more and more interested in testing outboard EQ units. Our friends at SX Pro kindly stepped into assist me in my pursuit of all things analog EQ and though it would be a good idea for me to test some gear from UnderToneAudio, more specifically, their 1U Class A MPEQ-1 mic pre EQ channel strip.
What UnderToneAudio Say About The MPEQ-1
The MPEQ-1 is the amalgamation of the UTA EQ and our new custom mic pre. It features the same flexible and musical Class A discrete circuitry, the uniquely powerful HP/LP filters, and an exciting new approach to a Class A mic pre. You can use the equalizer and the mic pre separately or as a complete channel strip. The mic pre has a custom input transformer and a carefully chosen output transformer. Both are optimized to accentuate the most flattering sonic qualities inherent in audio transformers. The unique mic pre design makes both of these transformers bypass-able. This offers users a choice between the detailed clarity of a Class-A transformer-less design or the vintage musicality of a dual transformer mic preamp.
MPEQ-1 Main Features
-10 to -60 dB boost range (in stepped 5 dB increments)
Switchable 20 dB pad
Front panel XLR–1/4" (DI) combo input
Phase reverse switch
+ 48 V phantom power
+/- 10 dB trim knob
Bypass-able input and output transformers
Ability to use mic-pre and UTA EQ on separate signals.
Inputs/Outputs (all XLR):
Mic-pre direct Line Output
EQ Line Output - w/ output transformer
EQ Line Output - w/o output transformer
We Test UnderToneAudio’s MPEQ-1
In this video test we provide you with a quick overview of the MPEQ-1 controls along with a visual demonstration of the filters and parametric EQ section using a frequency analyser plug-in to help you understand how to how to dial in a variety of different EQ curves and shapes on the unit.
Extended UnderToneAudio MPEQ-1 Audio Examples
Mic Pre Only - Acoustic Guitar Recording
This short video example demonstrates a selection of tonal variations that can be achieved at the MPEQ-1 mic pre. By backing off the mic gain and by driving the EQ input trim you’ll get a clean quality to the sound whereas the opposite will produce more grungy tones. For reference I’ve included the waveform representation of the four quick acoustic guitar recording examples from the MPEQ-1 mic pre demonstration.
EQ - Acoustic Guitar
In this example you’ll hear a round of an acoustic guitar part unprocessed followed by a round of the same part processed by the MPEQ-1 4 band parametric eq and filters.
EQ - Kick Drum
For this example I chose to use the MPEQ-1 to change the overall character of the kick sound adding more weight to the fundamental and bite to the top end by exaggerating the resonant peak using the low pass filter. The first half of the example is unprocessed.
EQ - Vocal
The vocal in this audio example didn’t need a lot of treatment so I chose to apply some gentle top end sweetening using the MPEQ-1. You’ll hear the first pass unprocessed, followed by the the treated signal.
The MPEQ-1 Is A Bit Of An EQ Swiss Army Knife
Apart from being a very capable EQ unit, the MPEQ-1 can also be set to recreate the curves and characteristics of a number of popular EQ units such as:
SSL “E” & “G” shelves
Chapter 7 of the excellent manual goes into great detail showing us how to achieve these curves. These curves are described by UTA as presets, which is a great addition to the overall experience of the MPEQ, extending the use far beyond a single style of outboard parametric EQ. If you are an EQ connoisseur then the MPEQ-1 is an outboard unit you’ve got to get your hands on.
Let’s start by getting my one and only negative MPEQ-1 opinion out in the open before I sharing what I consider to be the positives. I am not a big fan of dual concentric pots on studio outboard gear as I find I’m forever knocking the pot either above or below the pot I intended to adjust at any given moment. I suppose I am a bit heavy handed when it comes to adjusting dials on outboard gear but I do find I have to take extra special care when I am working with the pots on this device.
Now for the positives. Other than the pot arrangement, what’s not to like? The EQ controls do take some time to get used to and learn of by heart as the upper pots are not labeled. Luckily, a cheat sheet is provided appropriately name “The EQ WTF Guide”. This diagram sat close by to rack throughout the duration of me borrowing this unit as, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t commit the control types to memory.
As a standalone single channel EQ this device provides a huge array of tonal possibilities. UnderToneAudio describes this as a very musical sounding EQ, they’re not wrong about that. The high & low pass filters are some of the best I’ve ever used. The filter shape control is a genius addition that extends the power of the filters. Great for cutting sub energy from a kick drum track while boosting a resonant peak above the cutoff frequency.
The manual is by far one of the most informative and useful manuals I’ve read in years for a studio outboard device. It shares in great detail UnderToneAudio’s thought process behind the design along with some extremely useful user tips & workflows as well as diagrams to help new users understand how the circuitry works to shape sound.
The mic pre is great though in testing I was more interested in the MPEQ-1 as an outboard EQ. In the test records I found the mic pre alone (without the EQ inline) sounded open, clean and transparent but really the mic pre lends itself to being used in conjunction with the EQ.
As a channel strip the MPEQ-1 is a bit complicated at first but with regular use you’ll get to know it’s charms and start to fully appreciate it’s comprehensive set of abilities as both a mic pre, outboard mixing EQ and channel strip.
Book A Demo Unit Of The MPEQ-1 To Try In Your Studio
For more information and to enquire about booking a demo MPEQ-1 unit to test in your studio please visit the SX Pro website.