Tips & Tricks — The Pultec Passive EQ Collection
It’s almost impossible to walk into any commercial studio and not see at least one Pultec EQ in the rack. In production from the early 1950s to the early 80s, Pultec EQs have played an integral part in nearly 50 years of recording history — from tracking to mixing to mastering. Universal Audio has recreated three classic models from the Pultec line with the Pultec Passive EQ Plug-In Collection: the EQP-1A Program EQ, the MEQ-5 Midrange EQ, and the HLF-3C Filter Set. All offer a ton of practical and musical possibilities.
I used all three EQs from the Pultec Passive EQ Collection on the track below:
What you hear is the EQP-1A on the stereo bus, the kick, and the distorted guitar on the left side. The bass has the MEQ-5 on it, and it is driving an 1176 Rev A from the 1176 Classic Limiter Plug-In Collection to about -7 dB of compression. The filtered guitar with the Pultec HLF-3C comes in the second time the main riff comes around. Other UAD plug-ins on this mix include the EMT 140 Classic Plate Reverberator, the LA-3A Classic Audio Leveler on the main left guitar, SSL E Series Channel Strip for gates on the kick and snare, and a FATSO Jr./Sr. Tape Sim. & Compressor and Ampex ATR-102 Mastering Tape Recorder on the stereo bus. Let’s take a look at how each of these classic Pultec units can be used on your tracks.
The EQP-1A is a three band EQ with a layout that may be less than intuitive to a new user. Here’s a visual breakdown of the controls associated with each of the bands; Low Shelf, High Peak and High Shelf.
Key to the EQP-1A’s uniqueness is its ability to simultaneously boost and cut a selected frequency. How can it do both? Well, the Boost control has slightly higher gain than the Attenuation control has cut, and the frequencies they affect are slightly different. So when you combine the two controls around a chosen frequency, it allows you to tune their interaction. The end result is not only musical; it’s very useful as well. Here are a few examples of how an EQP-1A might be used.
Using the EQP-1A on the Stereo Bus
The EQP-1A can be great for extending the tonal range of your mixes. With these settings, I’ve opened up the track’s top-end response and I’ve used the Boost/Attenuate controls to make the low-end bigger without it becoming muddy or overwhelming.
Here is the full mix without the EQP-1A:
And here’s the mix running through the EQP-1A:
Shaping the Kick Drum With the EQP-1A
For the kick, here’s what I did to get some “point” on it, as well as a touch more bottom. I also used the Attenuation control to keep the kick from getting too out of control on the bottom.
Here’s the original kick drum:
Here’s the same kick drum running through the Pultec EQP-1A:
Dialing-in Distorted Guitar
Here is a setting that worked well on the electric guitar. Again, I’m really able to shape the low-end by combining the Boost and Attenuate controls.
Here’s the guitar without the Pultec:
And here it is with the Pultec:
The MEQ-5 Midrange EQ provides two boost bands and one dip band in the midrange region. This EQ is very useful for adding presence and punch to your tracks. It’s also helpful for clearing out problem areas in the midrange frequencies that can make a mix cloudy.
Bringing Forth the Bass
In this example, I wanted to bring the bass forward in the mix, while also creating more clarity and space. The 1 kHz boost and the 300 Hz dip worked well for this.
This is the original bass track:
And here is the bass after running it through the Pultec MEQ-5:
Crafting a Fatter, More Detailed Snare
In this example, I wanted to make the snare bigger while adding a bit of presence as well.
This is the original snare track:
Here is the same snare using the MEQ-5 — it's a little beefier, yet the snap remains:
The final model of the Pultec Passive EQ Collection is the HLF-3C, which provides 12 dB per octave low and high cut filters. Not only is the HLF-3C helpful for tweaking instruments, this powerful steep-sloped filter can also remove unwanted hiss and rumble from your tracks.
Here’s a filtering effect on a DI guitar.
Here’s the guitar without the HLF-3C — it sounds good but it’s larger than it needs to be:
And here’s the same guitar part using the HLF-3C. I’ve basically made it smaller and much easier to place in the mix:
Hopefully these examples illustrate how the Pultec Passive EQ Collection can liven up and shape your tracks. These classic EQs are easy to use and their musicality is apparent as soon as you insert one on a track. Best of luck and have fun!