The Pultec is the oldest model on our list, but six decades into its career it remains as relevant as ever. Introduced (as the EQP-1A) in 1951, the Pultec is about as classic as classic audio gear gets, used on countless recordings in every genre. You can see the influence of its design and sound in modern options like the the Tube-Tech EQ 1A, the Summit Audio EQP-200B and, of course, the Manley EQP-1A and Massive Passive, but no matter how many engineers try to update and upgrade the concept, there’s something about the original which remains timeless.
Incredibly smooth, musical and absolutely full of character, Pultecs sound good on pretty much anything. They’re industry standard for vocals, but sound just as good on kick drums. With just four choices for the low-frequency shelf filter, seven for the high-frequency peak boost and three for the high-frequency shelf, the Pultec specialises in broad brushstrokes rather than precise surgical shaping. Then there’s the classic trick whereby you boost and cut simultaneously with the low-frequency filter, creating an altogether different shape of curve.
Chopstick, who has a pair of Pultecs, can’t speak highly enough of them. “It’s definitely not made for any precise surgical EQing,” he explains, “but the gentle equalisation curves make it so damn musical. You can get really interesting results and it always sounds musical. Even though there’s so little to play around with compared to fully parametric EQs, the results speak for themselves. It’s my go-to for vocals. If you have a vocal, insert the EQP-1A and play around with it. And if you don’t have a vocal, use it on your kick drum. The beauty is that you can boost and attenuate simultaneously – you’ll get that punch you need in your bottom end.”
It always sounds musical... The results speak for themselves.
The Pultec EQP-1A and the later 1A3 employ a valve gain stage after the filters in order to bring the signal back up to its original level (passive filtering results in an unavoidable drop in signal level). It’s this combination of passive filter circuits, valve gain stage and transformers which give the Pultec its much sought-after sound. Some modern interpretations also incorporate features of related models such as the EQ-H2 high-frequency equaliser and MEQ-5 mid-band equaliser.
In addition to the dozens of hardware EQs inspired by the Pultec, you can also take your pick from countless software emulations. Try Universal Audio, Waves, Nomad and IK Multimedia for a start. Whichever one you go for – software or hardware – we don’t think you’ll be disappointed.