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Practical EQ

Not all mixer EQ sections are equal.

When you're cooking up a mix, equalization is your seasoning. You can add new flavors or enhance existing ones. You can perk up a bland sound or mellow out a sharp one. If you want to serve up gourmet audio, you should use the freshest, most natural seasonings – uh, EQ – available. And just as with flavorings, you can ruin a mix with artificial or stale equalization. We promise to drop this dumb analogy if you agree to read the following section. It explains why Mackie is known for the quality of our EQ – and how our practical approach can improve your creative product.

1. Hi shelving EQ.

2. Lo shelving EQ.

3. Mid Peaking EQ.

4. Brand X Hi and Lo shelving increases the midrange too.

5. Mackie Hi and Lo shelving leaves the midrange alone.

6. Mackie's wider Mid EQ vs. competitor's narrower midrange EQ.
For starters, we put it in the right places.

Along with designing mixers, Greg Mackie uses them, too. In the years between TAPCO and Mackie Designs, he had his hands on just about every mixer made. One of his ongoing frustrations was where EQ points were placed. They seemed to exist in some sort of time warp: "High EQ" was placed at 10kHz. That may have been high back in the Fifties, but today there is another octave of treble above 10k. Low EQ at 100Hz is equally outmoded – bass goes a lot lower than that nowadays. And midrange EQ seemed to be a refugee from some old radio studio board. Centering mid EQ at 1k might be great for making the spoken voice excruciatingly audible, but it has little to do with shaping the contours of music.

So Greg rewrote the book on mixer equalization... as only a practical musician could.

Hi Shelving EQ at 12kHz.

All of our mixers have Hi Shelving EQ at 12kHz (fig. 1) instead of 10kHz. A gentle 12k boost adds detail and sheen (without aural fatigue). Cutting at 12k can take a harsh edge off a sound without emasculating it.

When you're demoing mixers, EQ is one thing you can accurately test just by playing a CD into a couple of channels. Listen to how our Hi Shelving EQ delicately enhances the "tizzz" of cymbals, the delicate texture of strings and the breathiness of vocals. Then listen to the competition, many of whom still adhere to the old 10kHz thing.

Lo EQ with firm foundations.

Down there at the bottom, we have 80Hz Lo Shelving EQ instead of the tubby boom and bonk of 100Hz EQ. 80Hz gives you more control over deep, fundamental bass that's produced by kick drums, floor toms, bass guitar, and low synth sounds. You can add depth and richness to male vocals, fatten up guitar sounds and create ear-stomping dance mixes.

Shelving EQ that isn't off the shelf.

Shelving EQ gets its name from the plateau, or shelf, that's created when you boost or cut it. The whole idea is to boost all of the frequencies above or below a certain point (in our case, 12kHz and 80Hz). But the shelving equalization found in some mixers gives you an unpleasant bonus in the midrange.

When you boost high or low shelving EQ on some mixers the midrange gets boosted, too (fig. 4). When you add high- or low-end, you also hear more midrange. So you boost the shelving EQ more. Which boosts the midrange more, etc. This is a vicious cycle.

Through careful circuit design and more expensive components, Mackie Designs mixers avoid Hi/Lo-Mid interaction problems (fig. 5). If you want high or low shelving EQ, that's ALL you get. It's a difference you'll come to appreciate.

Midrange done right.

We located the fixed peaking Mid EQ on our 1202-VLZ PRO and 1402-VLZ PRO at 2.5kHz (fig. 3) because that's a far more musical point than 1kHz. 2.5kHz interacts with and enhances the harmonics of the human voice and many instruments, including guitar, reeds, horns, and keyboards. Hear the difference for yourself: At 1k, a boost adds a gradual "hollowness," as if the sounds were coming through a cardboard tube. As you continue to boost the 1k, the sound becomes strident and fatiguing. A 2.5k boost adds a brisk clarity of tone that enhances instead of hurts. Gently cutting 2.5kHz mid EQ de-emphasizes an instrument or vocal without radically altering its sound.

But there's another reason why so many warranty cards have raves about Mackie midrange: it's wider than many of our competitors' mid EQs. That goes for the fixed EQ found on the 1202-VLZ PRO, 1402-VLZ PRO, and for the 1604-VLZ PRO and 1642-VLZ PRO's swept mid EQs.

That's a very important difference. Narrow EQ curves (like the green one in figure 6), create an unnatural, intrusive effect that's not good for much except drastic corrections. The wider a midrange peak is, the more natural it sounds. The broad midrange EQ curve found on our compact mixers (blue area in fig. 6) is based on the circuitry in our acclaimed
8Bus consoles. It lets you actually use mid EQ as a creative enhancement, instead of as an audio "bandage."

On the 1604-VLZ PRO and 1642-VLZ PRO you get swept mid EQ, which you can sweep as low as 100Hz and as high 8kHz, for amazingly accurate control over midrange frequencies.

Midrange EQ on the
8Bus series of recording consoles gives you parametric equalization on the high mids (sweep from 500Hz to 18kHz, bandwidth variable from 1/12-octave to 3 octaves) and sweepable low mids (from 45Hz to 3kHz).

And on the large-format
SR408 and SR568, high mids are sweepable 500Hz to 15kHz, and low mids from 45Hz to 3kHz.

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