Pultec equalizers (EQ) came into the market in 1951 and are among the few gears that achieved a mystery status in the recording world. Like many other professional gears, the secret lies in the circuit design (all-tube) and the distinct way this design allows users to cut and boost at once. The EQ later became obsolete but recently gained recognition due to plugin emulations, as well as the works of mixing engineers such as Lord-Alge Chris.
Why is Pultec Unique?
This equalizer is mysterious. It is among the oldest EQs and has a complete tube design. Additionally, it is the first EQ to use a passive circuit filter. What makes it unique is that, unlike the parametric equalizer, Pultec can attenuate and boost a steady frequency at a time.
How Does Pultec Work?
Because its design was among the first equalizers in the market, the controls are a bit confusing, especially when you use it for the first time. There is a link between the controls for attenuation and boost for the low band. As a result of the overlapping filters, you can easily amplify the attributes of low-end instruments.
Furthermore, the section for low frequency is a selectable four-band shelving filter and its magic starts when you use it. It allows you to create unique curves through simultaneous cutting and boosting. Selections between 16kHz and 3kHz give a boost-high EQ. However, the low-frequency section does not have any bandwidth control. Also, it has a top-shelving section that adds air and clarity to the high end.
The EQ Design
We already mentioned that this EQ uses a complete tube design. When you feed a signal into the Pultec unit, the amplifier will restore the reduced level. This simply implies that a signal will stay at the same level irrespective of whether the equalizer is switched out or in. You can visit https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Tube_Amp_Design to read about tube designs.
First, it is useful when you want to compare unprocessed signals with equalized ones since there is nothing wrong with thinking that a sound is better because it is louder. Second, the design of the unit reduces the signal level, and then uses tubes to boost it later.
Tubes add some harmonic distortion, richness, and depth that we can associate with a piece of incredibly sounding equipment. And this is the magical part of Pultec. Even when the EQ is switched out, it still adds something good.
Additionally, the EQP1 section for low frequency is a shelving equalizer with both cut and boost at 4 selectable frequencies – 100, 60, 30, and 20 Hz. On the other hand, the bell EQ section for the high frequency has both cut and boost at 7 center frequencies – 16, 12, 10, 8, 5, 4, and 3 kHz. You can also adjust the bandwidth from broad to sharp. Also, you can cut the high frequency with the shelving EQ at 20, 10, and 5 kHz.
The Equalizer Trick
The EQP1 original manual says you should not cut and boost the same frequency. But for decades, that has been the trick. You can click here to get the manual.
While experimenting with Pultec equalizer, engineers realized that something spectacular happens when they cut and boost at once. The boost gains more while the attenuation cuts and the frequencies of both controls are slightly different.
Engineers are still unable to give an exact description of what this trick does; it is best for you to hear the magic yourself. The trick, on the other hand, gives body to a chosen frequency without muddiness. You will get your desired fullness without compromising clarity. This is an extremely desirable quality.
The Magic of Pultec in Home Studios
It is very difficult to get the original Pultec EQ. It was designed to keep working for a lifetime and it sounds so well that nobody is willing to give out theirs. In fact, if you find one, it will go for about ten thousand USD.
The company that produced this EQ, Pulse Techniques, shut down in the ‘80s but Steve Jackson, an electrical engineer, revived it and it commenced operations in 2000. His mission was to faithfully reproduce the original EQP1. This was a huge success and since then, he has expanded the company’s product line. Other products from this company include a complete line for mastering equalizers, modules of 500 series, a midrange MEQ-5 equalizer, and so on.
Pultec EQ Plugins
The Pultec EQs that Steve Jackson produced are not clones but originals. As a result, they are quite expensive. The recent P-1A goes for four thousand USD, which is double the price of a pair of stereos. Therefore, getting Pultec EQ VST plugins is the sure way to have this equalizer in home studios. Below are some plugins you can check out.
1. UAD’s Collection of Passive Pultec EQ
Plugins from UAD are considered among the best analog emulations in the market. They are detailed and bring out the magic of old school in the digitalized realm. The collection of Passive EQ testifies of that. It contains MEQ-5, HLF-3C filter, and EQP-1A models.
Just like other plugins from UAD, the collection runs on hardware like a satellite or interface. This is useful since UAD produces some top plugins in the market. And if you purchase the hardware, you will get a free Pro Legacy Pultec plugin. This is a combination of EQP-1A and MEQ-5.
2. Waves PuigTec EQs
Waves modeled the MEQ-5 and EQP-1A of Joseph Puig to produce the PuigTec plugin. You will discover that waves’ plugins are almost like the hardware version, but they have additional control and a VU meter. PuigTec plugins are quite affordable and make a good introduction to top-quality Pultec EQ style in home studios. You can get them at one-tenth the cost of UAD emulations.
3. Softube’s Collection of Tube-Tech Equalizers
Softube is a plugin developer and works closely with Tube-Tech, a hardware producer. They both collaborated to produce 2 great designs: CL 1B compressor and Pultec clones, MEQ-5 (ME 1B) and EQP-1A (PE 1C).
Softube combined the two cloned styles into one simple plugin. As a result, the layout appears familiar.
Pultec equalizers are among revered analog equipment produced in the history of EQs. A mention of them is generally followed by the words – musical and magical. For more than sixty years, they have been the standard piece in studios. Therefore, getting the plugins will be worth the cost.