Manley Massive Passive

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When Manley Labs set out to develop a new equaliser, the design brief they set themselves was simple, but about as challenging as it gets: “make it as good as or better than a Pultec”. No small feat, and one which led to a seriously thorough development process (described at length in the Massive Passive’s surprisingly interesting manual).

The Massive Passive was released in 1999. A passive two-channel, four-band design with variable frequencies and bandwidth (Q) plus low-pass and high-pass filters, the unit was immediately hailed as a modern classic. The design proved equally as capable on individual drums or voices as it was on sub-mixes or when used for mastering.

The Massive Passive was immediately hailed as a modern classic.

What makes the Massive Passive so special? As Manley themselves explain, “there is no single reason why it sounds the way it does but more of a synergy of the advantages of passive EQ, the parallel topology, the tube/transformer amplifiers, the unique shelves and, of course, Manley’s construction style and use of premium components”.

The Massive Passive has won plaudits from just about everyone who’s used it. It even became such a popular choice in mastering studios that Manley introduced a special Mastering Version with detented knobs allowing for easier recall and more accurate channel matching.

Interestingly, despite its popularity, Matt Colton isn’t a fan. “The Massive Passive is very popular in UK cutting rooms,” he says, “but I find the character a little overwhelming on most recordings. When it works it adds a real scale and size to a recording, but for me more often than not it isn’t the right choice.”

Colton’s criticism is an interesting reminder that EQ choices are personal, not universal. If you don’t like the sound of a particular EQ, trust your ears and move on to something else. Just because others rate a particular model doesn’t mean you should force yourself to use it if you don’t like the sound. For those of us who do like it, Universal Audio’s officially licensed emulation offers a software version.

27th February, 2014

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