Gear Stories 47, 500 x 4 = AWESOME! & Return of Pultec
Welcome to the 47th installment of Gear Stories, where I try to keep you all informed about the latest, coolest in pro audio gear! If you are receiving this and don’t want to… don’t get med, and don’t get even… just reply and let me know you would prefer not to get it… but I try to make them fun, so give it a shot first.. you might like it!
In this episode, I am returning to my roots and talking about gear for the recording studio. (But if you are an extremely discerning live audio engineer, you could use this gear in that setting as well.)
As usual, I start with something that is very affordable, and then the second half is about a piece of “Dream Gear” that is the motivation behind my occasional purchase of a Powerball ticket!
So let’s dive right in!
Part 1… “500 x 4 = AWESOME!” Neve 511 & Lindell audio!
Yes, I have always been bad at math… What I am referring to here is some brand new units for the “500 series.”
When I mention 500 series gear, at times I get blank stares from people, and then I say “Lunchbox” gear, and then they usually light up with recognition… 500 series modules are pieces of pro audio processing hardware that fit into a standardized form factor, and can only be used within a chassis, which supplies the inputs, outputs, and power supply for the units. It is called “Lunchbox” because the original chassis actually looked a lot like lunchboxes, and could be carried around by a little handle on top… And I suppose that if you had a spare bay, you could actually stick a sandwich in there, but if you do, absolutely use Glad sandwich bags, or else your sound will be crummy!
Actually, I had not had a lot of interest in 500 series gear myself, until fairly recently. It all seemed a little foreign to me, having grown up with traditional rack mount units… the 500 series units are just so…. so… small! They are less than 1/3rd the size of a single rack mount unit… In fact, one 500 series chassis, the Radial Power Strip is a three bay, single rack space unit … Here’s that link… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Powerstrip500/
You can see all the chassis that we carry here… http://www.sweetwater.com/c1040–Radial–500_Series_Chassis
The hump I had to get over was actually buying a chassis in order to use the 500 series modules… From an old school rack guy point of view, it’s kind of like buying a car and then being told that the engine comes separately! But once you get used to the idea that the power supply is virtually always the most important and expensive component of any piece of pro audio gear, you realize that being able to build a great piece of outboard hardware without springing for the price of the power supply is greatly to the advantage of the manufacturers, AND YOU! It keeps costs down and gives you configuration options that might not otherwise been available to you, and besides, they’re just plain CUTE!
The thing that changed my mid about the 500 series was in a meeting near the end of last year, when Rupert Neve Designs was giving a presentation, and they gave us a sneak peak… We were not allowed to talk about it at all… very hush hush, but they mentioned that at the NAMM show this year, they were going to announce a BRAND NEW preamp for 500 series, and it would cost less than $600!
“You complete me,” I said… “You had me at less than $600!”
Even though we were told that they would not be announced until the Winter NAMM show, in December, I had a little cash on hand at the time, so I bought my chassis, which sits, totally empty, in my rack, waiting for me to sell some older gear and buy that Neve!!! But now, the NAMM show has come, and finally, it was revealed! The Rupert Neve Designs 511!
It is very basic, and single channel only… with a simple input trim, high pass filter and gain… but then comes the thing that makes it AMAZING!!! it has the texture, or “Silk” settings that are designed to emulate his original vintage designs perfectly! Who better to emulate a Neve than Neve!?! ( In fact, in a videotaped message for the Sweetwater staff, Mr. Neve pointed out that none of the imitators who claimed to be making clones of his original designs were doing any such thing!)
Of course, Rupert Neve has been famous for many years, primarily because of the highly prized 1073 channel strip. It has one of the most sought after mic preamps in the world, and was originally a channel in one of his celebrated Neve consoles.
There is a two fold problem with that, however… The first problem is that the actual real deal vintage 1073 mic pres are very old! They have not been made for decades, and frankly, if you can find one that is still fully functional, you should be amazed! They are just incredibly old and falling apart, and yet, still incredibly expensive!
The other issue is this… When someone is good at something, and then they keep doing it… keep honing their craft and improving their designs… they simply get better! Rupert Neve was a very young man when he designed the 1073, and he has continued on designing now for longer than he had been alive at the time that he designed the 1073. He has done nothing but get better! The 511 is Rupert using not just his vastly increased knowledge of circuit design, but also the higher quality of modern components (there is a reason the bands on a 1073 are 3 octaves wide, for example – components to make higher Q filters just didn’t exist then) to create something that is more in line with what he had in mind originally, but couldn’t execute in the 70s.
So, if you had to buy a piece of critical gear, would you prefer to buy something that had been made by a rebellious young upstart, (albeit an exceptional one!) or an experienced master who knew his field perhaps better than any other human in the industry?
Personally I would go with the master! Also, if you had the choice of going with a piece of audio gear that was 40 years old, and always in need of maintenance, or a brand new piece of gear, made with the best components that are available at our current level of technology, and fully under warranty, which would you buy?
Right… logic would insist that you spend your money on the new piece of gear! And what if the two pieces of gear in question did the same basic thing, at least equally as well… but one was very affordable, and one was very expensive?
So we have the trifecta over the old, original 1073… Young brilliant upstart, or refined, experienced master… 40 years old and falling apart over brand new, solid and even under warranty!… and finally thousands of dollars, vs LESS THAN $600!
So, you can see why the covert announcement of the upcoming release of the Rupert Neve Designs 511 mic preamp caused me to go right out and buy myself a 500 series chassis! Hopefully it does the same for you!
BUT IT DOES NOT END THERE!
Shortly after that meeting, it was announced that Sweetwater was going to be selling gear from a little company called “Lindell Audio” that made some very affordable 500 series modules!
At first, though I was intrigued, I looked at the price and thought that they couldn’t be that great, because they cost so little… Augh Contrairey! (Didn’t know I spoke French, did you!? You’re right… I don’t.)
My new found fascination with the 500 series (and my two empty bays) caused me to pay attention… and WOW, these little guys pack a wallop!
Mr. Lindell has created a GREAT design for a mic preamp, a compressor, and an EQ that sound absolutely wonderful, and go for less than $300 each! (Yes, Lindell ALSO completes me!) I spoke to an electrical engineer friend of mine and he had taken a deep look inside and was amazed at the quality, and what Lindell had achieved!
When asked about how he makes such great sounding units at such a low price, he explained it this way… “I make a WHOLE lot of them all at once! A WHOLE LOT!” That makes sense!
So the three bays in MY Radial Power Strip will soon be populated by the Neve 511, and the Lindell 6X-500 Mic Preamp, and 7X-500 compressor… though he makes a killer EQ as well! Remember, I only have three bays for now.
Here is the entire Lindell line, complete with some full sized rack mount units for those who are like I used to be and didn’t want to buy the car without the engine…
SO LET’S MAKE A DEAL!
Since the whole point of the 500 series is that you can pick and choose and customize your gear for your own needs, I cannot make an across the board deal that says One Size Fits All! So instead, let me just say this… If you contact me between now and the next Gear Stories and want to buy anything 500 series related, I will make you an extra special, sweet deal… and like the 500 series, every deal will be custom made just for you!
But you have to call me or e-mail me and let me know what you want in order to get the deal!
I look forward to hearing from you all!
Part Two… Return of a GIANT… Pultec is back!
“Finally, a REAL Pultec! Just like Mother used to make.”
Allen Sides (Famous recording Engineer, and Founder of Oceanway Studios)
Anybody who has looked at an equalizer in the pro audio field in the last twenty years or so knows the buzz word… “Pultec” Why, even in the Lindell series I was just talking about… they refer to their EQ as “Pultec Style” as does almost everybody, it would seem.
Did you know that when the toothpaste companies say they contain MFP Fluoride, what that stands for is “Maximum Fluoride Protection” …In other words, it does not mean anything! They just made that up!
Lately, when companies say that they make a “Pultec Style EQ” it is almost the same as saying MFP Fluoride… At least that’s how it seems, because if you know anyone who has had the pleasure of working with the original Pultec equalizers, there is nothing really like them!
So that’s why when it was announced that Pultec was making a comeback, and that Sweetwater was going to be not only a dealer, but the EXCLUSIVE dealer in the USA, I was really excited…
But let’s back up a bit! There was this guy named Gene Shenk who created a company called Pulse Technologies back in 1951 and created AMAZING equalizers. His unique take on electrical design created a sound that defined pro audio and high end studio processing! However, they were VERY expensive, and only a limited amount of people were both interested and rich enough to buy any… So eventually, Pultec had kind of saturated the market, and went out of business… No other company seemed interested in buying the Pultec name, and the company, which really consisted of a couple of guys working out of a garage, just ceased to exist.
Then came the imitators… Again, it seemed that everybody and their brother were jumping on the Pultec bandwagon, saying that they made Pultec style EQ’s, but no one really got it right.
Eventually, a guy named Steve Jackson, who is a great electronic engineer, was speaking to a recording engineer friend and talking about how he could enter the industry… what could he design that would meet a need in the recording industry… and his friend said, “What you need to do is to actually make a REAL Pultec!” and the new Pulse Technologies LLC was born! (And just in time to meet the new need of the home recording studio boom, in which the quality of home studios has the possibility of sounding better and better and better!)
Steve spent over a decade researching, and talking to Gene Shenk about what the original specs and design were… and finally he got it right.
Now, if any of you are familiar with my personal music project, Dream Rodeo, you will know that my motto is “Purism is for people who aren’t very creative!” But in this case, Steve took purism to the level of art! He tried sourcing out transformers from all over, but never found anyone who could make them to spec, so he made them himself! He found the exact bulky, goofy looking buttons from the original, and he even got it down to the exact formula of the paint for the face of the units!
Finally, after about thirteen years, he had it… An authentic Pultec EQ made entirely to the original spec! And he has brought it to market!
The best part of it is that it not only looks and feels, tastes and smells like a real Pultec… but it actually SOUNDS like one… In fact not only does it sound LIKE one… in fact the reason it makes that sound is because it IS one! (And to paraphrase Cheech and Chong, “Good thing we didn’t step in it!”)
In fact, he has brought the whole line to market, and there is a unit to meet all of your professional equalizing needs, from tracking to mixing and mastering!
Check out the whole line here… http://www.sweetwater.com/store/manufacturer/Pultec/?m=Pultec&sb=&pn=
I have personally never had the pleasure of working with an original Pultec EQ, but a friend of mine who has, told me all about the unique way they work… He told me about how you can (quite counterintuitively, I must say) use both the boost and the attenuation knobs to both increase and reduce bass frequencies simultaneously, which seems like it would do nothing… but in fact, it does a LOT.. It creates this bloom of bass hugeness that is absolutely luscious! You might be familiar with it in some of the greatest, phattest recordings of the 60’s and 70’s! Well, that friend of mine had a chance to spend some time with these new Pultec EQ’s and confirmed to me that they sound and function exactly the same!
So yes, you may have to finance the purchase with a lottery ticket, like I keep trying to do… ( One day, given my own immortality and a constant stream of one dollar bills, I WILL win the lottery, and I will buy a few of these for myself! ) But in the meantime, I will be VERY happy to take your calls and get you your dream equalizer! (Perhaps a Sweetwater card is a better idea than a lottery ticket!) … http://www.sweetwater.com/financing/allaccess.php
Until next time, I look forward to being of service.
Jon Gillespie, Sweetwater Sales Engineer
800 222 4700 x 1352
260 432 8176 x 1352 (outside the U.S.)
260 432 1758 FAX
Manage the way Sweetwater communicates with you here:
My own personal web site can be found here… http://www.dreamrodeo.com/
Listen to my work in High-Res audio… http://soundcloud.com/dream-rodeo
No trees were harmed sending this e-mail, but several billion electrons were horribly inconvenienced!