Any regular readers of this blog will know I'm a huge fan of Maag Audio gear, it's an affair that started with the Maag EQ4 plugin, then the 500 series hardware and was furthered cemented after meeting the Maag team, all super talented and some of the nicest people in the business. Since then we've become good friends who I'm delighted and honoured to know.
So when I found out that they were making a new rack mount 6 band dual channel mastering EQ I was excited to get hold of one to try. I was even more excited when they told me I was getting one of the first units in the world... Christmas came early in my house.
The Maag Audio EQ4M 6-Band Dual Channel Mastering EQ
The Maag Audio EQ4M™ is a 6-Band Dual Channel Mastering EQ with AIR BAND® (shelf boost from 2.5 to 40kHz), a true in/out bypass, a transparent INPUT ATTN (attenuator), and stepped (detent) controls.
Maag design criteria for the EQ4M is as follows:
The EQ4M rides on +-18v rails without the need of any supporting chassis or power source.
The EQ4M has an extra 3v compared to the EQ4 and boosts headroom to +29 dBu.
The EQ4M offers more control with its true in/out bypass, a transparent INPUT ATTN (attenuator), and an extra 15 kHz selection on the AIR BAND. All controls are stepped (detented).
|Frequency Response||-2 dB points, 10Hz & 75kHz|
|Nominal Input Impedance XLR)||48 K Ohms, balanced|
|Nominal Output Impedance (XLR)||50 Ohms, balanced|
|Headroom||+29 dBu @ 10 K Ohms, +28.5 dBu @ 600 Ohms|
|*Specifications subject to change without notice.|
Maag also say this about the unit:
"Because of the Maag Audio EQ4M’s unique design, phase shift is very minimal. This helps the user maintain the integrity of the original sound and enhance the “Airy” frequencies, while tonally shaping the sound from the top to the bottom. The lack of phase shift and the AIR BAND® make the EQ4M great on anything that needs EQ shaping.
The EQ4M’s band passes all interact with each other. Increasing the AIR BAND gain will also increase the overall gain to a small extent. This is normal and is a necessary byproduct of the design. This happens because of the interaction (summing) of the AIR BAND with all of the other band passes. This interaction is a necessary part of the design to ensure the integrity of the sound is maintained. To compensate for the added overall gain, simply adjust the level via the INPUT ATTN. The EQ will remain the same shape, but the overall gain will be lowered. This compensates for the extra gain added from the interaction of the boosted band passes. This is the correct way to get the desired results from the Maag Audio EQ4M. Here is another way to look at it: If lifting a desired frequency, you may want to consider bringing down the level of the other band passes above and or below; always remembering the band passes interact with each other. This is a different approach from other typical equalizers.
Understanding how the band passes and the AIR BAND interact in the Maag Audio EQ4M, will help you better shape your sound; providing unparalleled transparency and top end presence while maintaining the true natural sound behind the source. "
The The Maag Audio EQ4M In Use
Connections to the EQ4M are via balanced XLRs on the rear, power is via a standard IEC power connector, on this basis set-up was simple and connected via an Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt.
I created a Pro Tools session and loaded some stereo mixes of tracks I know very well. I then sent the tracks out of a stereo send from Pro Tools and back in via and Aux channel so that I could use the solo option in Pro Tools to A/B the tracks. There is a a true bypass switch but I wanted to use this option in Pro Tools to test that too.
On power up the Umlaut on the Maag logo illuminates with orange LEDs to indicate when the EQ4M is powered on, this is a nice design touch. When signal is fed to the the unit small green LEDs indicate level and a red LED indicates when the level reaches 23 dBu.
As already mentioned all the controls on the EQ4M are detented which means that although the two channels are not linked for stereo operation you can accurately match the settings on both channels, in a world of endless smooth rotary controls I found this a really nice option for setting up the controls.
The three tracks I choose were tracks I had been working on and some had been mixed by other people; a pop ballad, a jazz standard and a acoustic pop track. All three mixes had different challenges, not that any had problems but I wanted to see what the Maag Audio EQ4M could do post mix to further enhance the tracks, after all it is a mastering EQ.
One thing you realize almost immediately when using the Maag EQ4M is that all the controls are very responsive and need little movement to start making a difference, be that a cut or a boost. Frequencies to choose from are 10Hz, 40Hz, 160Hz, 650Hz, 2.5kHz, all of which are fixed boost and cut bell and the variable AIR BAND which is a boost only shelf at 2.5 kHz, 5 kHz, 10 kHz, 15 kHz, 20 kHz, and 40 kHz. The frequencies below the shelf peaks are also affected due to the transitional slope.
As I changed the settings on each track I then printed the new version to a new stereo track in Pro Tools so that I could go through all three tracks and then listen back to them in detail.
I am no mastering engineer, but even in these hands the Maag EQ4M delivered a significant improvement to all three mixes - allowing me to do everything to clean up muddy bass, add sub, remove cloudy mids, add more body or give the magic air to vocals. Even though I have already said that the controls need little movement what you do find is if you push them hard they still sound very musical and sweet, truly analogue.
Finally I wanted to test the claim of increased headroom on the input stage so I pushed the sends from Pro Tools as hard as they would go and the Maag EQ4M didn't even blink, it still sounded as sweet.
The Maag EQ4M In Conclusion
Let's cut to the question some of you will be asking, how much is the Maag EQ4M? Street price in the UK is around £2000, approx $3000, so it isn't cheap. The fact is that it isn't meant to be cheap, it's meant to be a best in class professional audio device. Furthermore it's a mastering EQ, that's not to say it can't have other uses, but it's made with that purpose in mind - forensic stereo EQ of the highest quality.
Even after spending a couple of hours with the Maag Audio EQ4M 6-Band Dual Channel Mastering EQ I can hear the quality and the musicality of this unit - in the right hands this unit will deliver mastering magic.
If you make your money from mastering, or own a professional studio and require a top EQ as part of your mixing process, then I would recommend you take the Maag EQ4M for a test drive. I was already a fan of Maag gear, I thought the EQ4M would be just like the rest of their amazing family of EQs, but I was wrong, it's even better. If I was to find a phrase to sum up the Maag EQ4M then it would be this 'classy musical magic.'
My guess is you'll be seeing the Maag EQ4M in a lot of racks in the years to come and deservedly so, another winner!