With its unique combination of quirky filter curves, tube character and tuned overlapping frequencies, it’s no wonder countless top mixing and mastering engineers twist the knobs of a Manley Massive Passive EQ each and every day of their working lives. Wouldn’t it be great if you could call up a few of them on your own desktop DAW? Thanks to the collaborative work of Manley Labs and Universal Audio, that is not a dream, my friends, it is a reality.
Universal Audio (UA), with its own mighty history of quality tube gear, has just released the Massive Passive software equalizer. This UAD Powered Plug-in version of the two-channel, four-band Massive Passive works across UA’s UAD-2 platform and comes in mono/stereo standard and mastering versions. Extensive modeling and research went into the creation of this cool piece of software. Download, installation and authorization is a no brainer (thank you!), and it also updated the firmware on my UAD-2 card. Literally, within a few clicks and several minutes, I was up and running.
What makes this EQ so special? Firstly, the 20-plus pound “Massivo” hardware unit was originally developed as a “sortof” four-band “Pultec on steroids.” It uses passive EQ, transformer-balanced outputs, overlapping and interacting frequencies with bell and shelf curves, tube gain stages as well as resistors, capacitors and inductors to shape the overall tone. It’s a 3U monster with a weighty price tag to match (starting at $4,800 list). Since it’s been around for years, I’ll skip discussing the layout, as the software GUI is an exact replica of the original.
Since I own a hardware Massive Passive and rely on it daily, I was able to really dig into the software version on a one-to-one basis. I took some of the same material, both individual tracks and stereo mixes, and dialed in the exact settings as best I could. It was nice to pop on and off the blue lights (bypass), just like with my hardware. With careful listening, I was hard-pressed to hear a substantial difference.
The transformers and tubes on the hardware do something “thickness-wise” to the audio that I didn’t hear. However, the classic character was retained, and it simply sounded great with both. Do I hate to say that? Yes, sort of, since I own the real thing! But the ears don’t lie, and in my opinion UA engineers have delivered the real deal here. This thing sounds really good! Will I sell my original? Absolutely not. This is a case where more really is more.
As I’ve found with my Massive experiences, it shines in getting depth out of the midrange of a mix/instrument. I also tend to use it on stereo mixes to widely cut some low-end woof around 390 Hz, shelf 39 Hz and boost a narrow touch at 4 kHz. It’s also nice to have the stepped Output of the Mastering version, along with the higher-frequency filters (52K, 40K, 27K, 20K, 15K).
Using it on some freshly completed TV tracks that were done on a laptop rig, the contrast between the before and after was amazing. So much so that I had to stop and make sure my consumer speakers were set up correctly! I was almost embarrassed that I thought the tracks were fine before using the Massive on it. Since I had just uploaded them to the client’s server, I quickly “remastered” every one of them and replaced them with the new ones. The clarity, punch and presence were undeniable.
The only big drawback of the Massive Passive plug-in is that it’s a DSP hog; it obviously takes a lot of math to make something sound this spot on. On a UAD-2 Solo, you get two mono and one stereo, four mono and two stereo on a UAD-2 Duo, and eight mono and four stereo on a UAD-2 Quad (about 60 percent of the total DSP per chip). It has VST, AU and RTAS support, but when using it in Avid Pro Tools, it shows up under RTAS as a wrapped VST. Delay compensation was handled in my HD rig. LE and MPowered users will need to run UA’s ATA Auto Time Adjuster plug in (if used on individual tracks).
With a price tag of $299, the Universal Audio Manley Massive Passive is as no-brainer as it gets for a plug-in purchase. For a few hundred bucks, you can get your hands on one of the best reproductions of a hardware EQ anywhere. For that matter, it is seriously one of the best-sounding software equalizers available. I just wish I could have more of them. If you can’t strap this across a mix and make it sound better than it did before, there’s a job in a little yellow car in New York City with your name on it.
Contact: Universal Audio | 866-UAD-1176 | uaudio.com