How to Use a Pultec EQ
In this one, let’s look at Pultec EQs, and I’m sort of hoping to demystify and break this stuff down. This is definitely one of the more complex EQs to understand.
You know, it’s a very musical EQ, it’s a very powerful EQ. You’ll see this a lot in mastering, as well as mixing. It’s great for warming tracks up, opening up the top end, again, it works in a very unique way.
So with that said, let’s break this thing down.
You can sort of think about the EQ in two — I think about it in three sections, but you can pretty much split it in half. The low end is going to work on here — these three knobs on the left. These two top and this bottom.
So you’ve got boost, attenuation, and your low frequencies.
Low frequencies is pretty self explanatory. You’ve got 20Hz, 30Hz, 60, and 100Hz. Boost does what it says it does. It boosts. Attenuation, you know, attenuates. It cuts.
But the thing is, when you start boosting and attenuating at the same time, you start to get resonant curves. That’s easier to show you than it is to really just tell you about it, so let’s bring up this Renaissance EQ and we can illustrate these — what I’m talking about here. Because this thing sort of emulates what’s going on here.
So let’s say 30Hz. So 30Hz there, and you’ll see as I boost it, you know, you’re boosting all of this information here, it’s a shelf. But you’re also dipping out a lot here, so you start to get this resonant curve, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.
So you start boosting all of the bottom end on something, but at the same time, you’re sort of dipping out the mud. You know, and the higher up you boost, the more exaggerated that dip gets.
So you can get very abusive, just like any tool, or EQ, or compressor. But subtly, if you know what you’re doing, we can really add some warmth and really add some bump on your tracks. So let’s — let’s put this over here. I’ve got a track here. This little Pop thing.
Sounds like that. So let’s boost some 30, and then we’ll roll in the attenuation and you can kind of hear what happens, so…
This is going to sound like garbage, but again, let’s just exaggerate it so it’s easy to understand.
[mix, adjusting Pultec at 30Hz]
Alright, so a ton of bass in that, right?
Now let’s roll in some attenuation.
[mix, adjusting attenuation]
And now there’s still a ton of bass, but it gets a little more compact and it gets a little tighter.
Here’s where we started.
Again, so you can start to see the power of that. If you really want to add some thud in your tracks in mastering or on a bass guitar or whatever, this is a great tool to use for that.
So that’s the low end. Let’s reset these plug-ins. Bring this back to zero. Let’s talk about the high end.
Okay, so the high end is — I split the high end in half, so first, let’s talk about the attenuation. This is a shelf. You’ve got this attenuation knob. It’s doing the same thing this one is, fundamentally. Then you have your attenuation select, so you’ve got 20kHz, 10kHz, 5kHz.
You can see what happens here. We’ll attenuate it. 5kHz is the most extreme setting, so this would be — we’ll go 6dB at 5kHz. Come here, select 5kHz on the Renaissance, bring this down about 6dB, and you can start to see, we get this bump, this resonant shelf here when we start cutting. Here’s what that sounds like in our track.
Again, you start filtering out all that top end, the track closes up, but you can use this in combination with these three controls, which is your standard bell curve. You’ve got boost, you’ve got your Q knob, or bandwidth, and then you select your frequency.
So you’re going to go 8kHz, boost 7dB. I’ll keep our bandwidth down the center. So let’s see what happens here when we’re at 8kHz and we boost a good amount here.
You can start to see what happens to these curves. You can get very unique shapes in the top end, which is pretty cool, and you can narrow this stuff out, you know, and that’s with us attenuating at 5kHz. If we attenuate at 20kHz, watch what happens to the curve.
Now it flips up like a huge, crazy bell, so it gets, you know, very dramatic. If we were to attenuate at 10kHz, this is what it would look like. Split the difference between the two. That’s what the top end is doing. Which can get very confusing, that’s why I’m saying it’s easier to show you with that graphical representation of what the curve is doing rather than just turning knobs and trying to hear this stuff.
So let’s do — we’re already attenuating, we can go a little more dramatic. 5KHz, 7dB, then I’ll slowly roll the boost in at 8kHz.
You can hear the top end start to roll back in.
We’ll bypass it on and off a couple of times.
[mix, with and without Pultec]
Again, you’re not going to get a huge difference there. Real subtle changes at that point, but we’re doing all of this crazy stuff, so we’ll attenuate at 10kHz.
That’s 20kHz. Again, if you bring that attenuation down, it start to get a little more dramatic.
So there you go. That’s the Pultec EQ. I hope this cleared up the functions of this thing for you. Again, if you can — this is a great EQ, it’s a great tool. There’s a lot of different plug-ins. This one is the PuigTec from Waves. They modeled JJP’s Pultecs.
These EQs came out in the 50’s and they’ve been used on all sorts of stuff. I remember when I was interning, I kind of ignored them, and you know, I always went for the parametric EQs and graphical EQs, and I kind of didn’t really understand what these were about until one of the older guys came in and sat me down and called me a dumbass for not using them, and it sort of showed me what was up.
Again, but yeah, pretty powerful stuff. Play with them, experiment with them, Google — you know, Pultec EQs, and read up on them. They’re really great. I think in my opinion, they’re definitely one of the more musical tools.
As far as EQs go. You can do a lot of really cool, subtle, musical things with these things. So that’s my shpiel on the Pultec.
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