Softube - PE1C

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  • Tube-Tech's PE 1C equalizer is 25 years old this year. It was the product which both launched the company and put it on the map. Following on from Softube's first successful collaboration with Tube-Tech in the form of a plug-in recreation of the CL 1B compressor earlier this year, the PE 1C is the second product Softube have painstakingly recreated in software form and it's available now for owners of AU, VST, RTAS and TDM compatible DAWs. An iLok key is required for authorization and a 20-day trial period from Softube's website is available if you'd like a test drive before committing to a purchase. What exactly is the PE 1C? Well, Tube-Tech's original hardware is a passive, tube-based EQ which recreates the classic Pultec EQ-1P hardware which found favour for its unusual and innovative design and approach to tone control. Effectively, the PE 1C plug-in is a digital recreation of a hardware unit first launched in 1985, which in turn was designed to recreate the performance of an EQ first launched in the 1950s. Quite a journey - so what's all the fuss about? The Pultec EQ design, replicated here, is to provide two bands of tone control. Starting at the bottom end, the Low Frequency section is initially confusing if you're new to Pultec style EQ but its results can be wonderful. You'll find a Low Frequency select knob which lets you choose 20, 30, 60 or 100Hz as the cutoff frequency below which the low shelf filters will work. The Boost dial provides between 0 and 14dB of gain but, uniquely, the Pultec EQ also provides an Attenuation dial to apply up to 18dB of cut based on the same frequency setting. While it might sound counter-productive to cut and boost at the same frequency, the Pultec style EQ actually features two filters working in tandem at the bottom end, with one slightly lower than the value printed on the front of the unit and one a little higher. Therefore, it's possible to produce volume spikes or dips (by cutting and boosting simultaneously) around the cutoff frequency which can be musically wonderful, particularly for working on kick drum sounds. The Pultec EQ became so famous for this that its "low end trick" became common studio parlance. The High Frequency Section is also split into two, though the functionality here is a little more straightforward. Starting with the Boost section, a dedicated dial allows you to add between 10dB and 18dB of gain to a specific frequency selected by the High Frequency dial, which can be snapped to 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12 or 16kHz. How much gain is added depends on how spiky you want the bandwidth of your boost to be. A dedicated dial allows you to slide between Sharp and Smooth extremes. Up to 18dB can be added if you select the Sharp value, with up to 10dB of gain assigned at the Broad end of the spectrum. The Attenuation settings within the High Frequency section are restricted to three frequency positions - 5, 10 or 20kHz, with up to 18dB of gain reduction applied via the Attenuation dial. For those more accustomed to multi-band EQ or "fix it" parametric style treatments, the Pultec approach recreated here in the PE 1C might seem limited, but the range of musical applications to which it can be usefully applied is vast. The kick drum treatment possibilities in terms of smoothing out problem notches in any chosen sound, or applying some extra body to sounds lacking the requisite punch, are both dealt with uniquely by this approach, producing some stunning results other EQ types simply can't match. What I like so much about the methodology here is that it forces you to use your ears. So many would-be producers read about specific treatments for bass or kick sounds that they apply without considering the implications but with the PE 1C's approach, there's no rule book. The warm tube-like sound is glorious too and I'd have no hesitation in adding the tones produced by this plug-in to any bass content within my mixes. At the top end, vocals are one obvious beneficiary to the tool set provided by the controls here. You can easily target your vocalist's sweet spot and boost with the same degree of warmth I described at the bottom end while simultaneously addressing over-bright sounds with the Attenuation dial. As this features a shelf rather than a bell-shaped filter, the 5kHz setting is a great tool to use on any upper mid sound which is eating too much into high frequency content territory and I found it worked beautifully as a tool for knocking top end out of pad and piano sounds to create extra room for vocal parts, in particular. As a mix-buss plug-in, the PE 1C can also work its magic as an output channel processor, allowing you to focus a mix with subtle yet significant treatments of benefit to tracks which are simultaneously a little wooly at the bottom while lacking clarity at the top. The PE 1C is a specialist EQ and its lack of a mid section means that it won't provide a go-to solution for anyone looking to shape sounds rich in frequency content from bass to treble. That's not its purpose though; it's a unique processor for bottom and top end treatments and its sound is so warm that sprinkling a little PE 1C onto vocal parts or using it more comprehensively on bottom-heavy content will allow you to produce results unattainable with regular EQs. If you already have your bases covered and are looking to add a different kind of EQ weapon to your armory, this could be just the thing. Ratings: COST: 4/5 VERSATILITY: 4/5 EASE OF USE: 4/5 SOUND: 5/5