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How To Use a Pultec EQ For Warm And Punchy Sound

In this article, I’m going to show you how to use any Pultec EQ plugin to create a silky, warm sound with punch – perfect for percussion, vocals, bass, and mastering. To demonstrate different EQ applications, I will use the “RARE” Pultec EQ emulation plugin from Analog Obsession. You can download this plugin completely for free here: Mac Installer, Windows Installer

Understanding the Pultec EQ

The Pultec EQ is a passive equalizer, meaning it does not amplify the audio signal but only attenuates it. When you boost the lows, the Pultec attenuates the highs, creating a unique sound. This EQ became famous in the 1950s for its ability to produce a silky yet punchy sound, thanks to its internal tube amplifier that compensates for the gain loss during equalization.

The Pultec EQ Trick

Pultec EQ Bass Trick

A famous technique with the Pultec EQ is to simultaneously boost and attenuate the same frequency, commonly at 100 Hz or 60 Hz for low-end. This creates a tight, punchy low-end without muddiness. This trick is particularly useful for bass-heavy instruments and can add significant character to the mix.

This technique added body, warmth, and depth to sounds because the boost and attenuation circuits didn’t perfectly overlap, creating beneficial EQ curves.

Pultec EQ Frequency Response

The Pultec EQ is a passive equalizer, meaning it uses passive components like capacitors and inductors to shape the frequency response. It also includes an internal tube amplifier to compensate for gain loss, which adds harmonic distortion and warmth to the signal. This unique combination gives the Pultec its distinctive sound.

Best Settings for Using a Pultec EQ

Enhancing Vocals

Analog Obsession RARE Pultec EQ Vocal Mix

To enrich vocal tracks, start by boosting around 20 Hz for added fullness and attenuate at 20 kHz to reduce harshness while maintaining clarity:

  • Low-End Boost: For fuller vocals, boost around 20 Hz and attenuate at 20 kHz to add weight without affecting clarity.
  • Midrange Clarity: Boost around 3-5 kHz to add presence. This helps the vocals cut through the mix without sounding harsh.
  • High-End Sparkle: Use the high-frequency boost section to add air. Start at 12 kHz or higher to avoid sibilance. Adjust the bandwidth to control the sharpness of the boost.

Kick Drums

Analog Obsession RARE Pultec EQ Drum Bus

For kick drums, enhancing the low-end is crucial. Set the frequency selector to 20 or 30 Hz, boost generously, and attenuate slightly. This approach creates a powerful and focused low-end without muddiness. Adding a boost around 8 kHz can enhance the kick’s click and presence, ensuring it cuts through dense mixes.

Kick Drum:

  • Low-End Enhancement: Set the frequency selector to 20 or 30 Hz, boost generously, and then attenuate slightly. This creates a powerful, focused low-end without muddiness.
  • High-End Definition: Boost around 8 kHz to add click and presence. This helps the kick cut through dense mixes.

Snare Drum:

  • Body and Warmth: Boost around 200 Hz for body and cut around 500 Hz to reduce boxiness. A slight boost around 5-8 kHz adds snap to the snare.

Overall Drum Bus:

  • Use a Pultec EQP-1A on the drum bus to glue the drum kit together. A gentle boost at 60 Hz and another around 10 kHz can add both warmth and clarity.

Bass Guitar

Pultec EQ Bass Guitar Settings

For bass guitars, set the frequency to 60 Hz, boost, and then attenuate to enhance the low-end while keeping it tight. A slight boost around 700 Hz can add clarity and presence, helping the bass stand out without clashing with other instruments.

For acoustic guitars boosting around 100 Hz can add warmth and depth. Cutting around 250-500 Hz reduces muddiness, and a gentle boost around 5 kHz adds brightness, ensuring the guitar sits well in the mix without overpowering other elements.

Piano

Pultec EQ Bass Piano Settings

For pianos, boosting the low end around 60 Hz adds fullness, while adding some high-end sparkle around 8-12 kHz ensures clarity and presence. This approach helps the piano to sound rich and full, yet clear and defined in the mix.

Best Pultec EQ Plugins

Here are some of the best Pultec EQ emulation plugins available:

  1. Universal Audio Pultec Passive EQ Collection: These plugins offer highly accurate emulations, capturing the smoothness and character of the original hardware.
  2. Apogee Pultec EQP-1A: This plugin precisely recreates the original EQ hardware being able to sculpt critical midrange frequencies with precision and warmth.
  3. Softube Tube-Tech EQ Collection: This suite includes detailed emulations that provide rich, warm sound, ideal for professional mixing and mastering.
  4. Noiseash EQ1A: NoiseAsh presents an extremely accurate model of these legendary equalizers with its Rule Tec® Collection, capturing the signature tone and the iconic “trick” that enhances warmth and presence.
  5. IK Multimedia T-RackS Pultec EQP-1A: Offers excellent sound quality and the ability to color the signal, although it can sometimes sound more artificial compared to others.
  6. Analog Obsession Rare: This is one of the best free Pultec EQ plugins (also used in the examples above) that stands out for its analog-like coloration and flexibility, offering stereo and mid-side configurations.

Conclusion

The Pultec EQ remains a powerful tool for achieving a warm and punchy sound. These techniques can significantly enhance your mixing and mastering processes, adding the characteristic warmth and punch that the Pultec EQ is renowned for.

Experiment with the settings, trust your ears, and explore the various plugins available to find the one that best suits your needs.

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