Jul 8, 2010

Last night I was working on mastering a song and I was struggling to get the mix brighter without making it harsh – a common dilemma in mastering a track. I’m not a mastering engineer, so this was more of a rough master for the artist to get an idea of the final product. Mastering engineers have all kinds of cool tricks that they use to deal with this stuff, like multiband compression, nice exacting hardware eq’s, etc. But I literally spent about four hours trying to get it right and I just couldn’t push up the high end and carve out the offending frequencies.

During one of my ear breaks I was looking around online and I discovered Softube’s new Trident A-Range EQ Plug-in. Holy cows! If you haven’t heard of the Trident A-Range console, let me tell you a little bit. The first Trident A-Range console was made for Trident Studios in England by the legendary tech Malcom Toft. The A-Range console had a revolutionary design and it sounded phenomenal. Once word got out about how this incredible console, Malcom and Co. began producing them for other studios. In total, only thirteen Trident A-Range consoles were ever made, and really famous records have been made on them by artists such as David Bowie, Queen, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Frank Sinatra and Metallica, to name a few. These consoles are pretty sweet peices of gear, to say the least, and the EQ’s in these consoles are considered to be the holy grail.

Software emulations of real gear have been getting better and better, to the point where major engineers are doing mixing completely in the box (that is, in the computer). The folks at Softube have done such an incredible job of mimicking the A-Range EQ at every stage that Malcolm Toft himself has endorsed it. By all accounts from engineers who have used the real Trident A-Range, this software is an extremely faithful emulation.

Back to my rough mastering job… I download the demo from Softube and I tried it on my mix. It was so smooth and musical that in less than a minute I had the master done. I could not believe that I had wasted four hours using a crappy EQ. I had become convinced that there was some harshness in the 5-6 kHz range and some weirdness around 2 kHz. But with Softube’s Trident A-Range EQ I just pushed up the shelf at 3 kHz and Bob’s your uncle, as they say. I was actually boosting the 5-6 kHz range (which is associated with harshness) but I wasn’t having any harshness or weird mud competing with the vocals. Why? Because this EQ is just musical and beautiful. After that, I started using it on individual instruments and it works like a charm on everything. It makes EQing easy!

There are four bands of EQ – the top and bottom bands are shelves and the two middle bands are bell-shaped. Even though you don’t have as much control as other EQ’s over the sharpness of the bands, you don’t need it – as I said this is a very musical sounding EQ. It also has high- and low-pass filters (which can be used to turn the upper and lower shelves into bands) and a saturation knob that emulates the original’s natural saturation. It’s nice to be able to dial in a varying amount of that saturation punchiness, which the original hardware did not give you control over.

Amazingly, Softube’s Trident A-Range retails for only $249. This is a must-have! For more info visit www.softube.com.

by Michael Vecchio

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