PuigChild 660 Jack Joseph Puig has considerably influenced the way I hear. I chased his Black Crowes' Amorica kick drum sound obsessively. Thick guitars that crunch but never hurt, warmth across the entire spectrum, and the ability to make John Mayer's voice sound amazing through the ceiling speakers 30 feet overhead at Home Depot are elements of JJP's work I keep with me nearly every time I mix.
RSPE Audio Solutions in Los Angeles recently hosted a WAVES-sponsored demonstration of the JJP Collection featuring a delicious buffet and the maestro himself, Jack Joseph Puig. The soft-spoken studio legend captivated an audience of producers, engineers and musicians with insights into his mixing process and the creation of the WAVES JJP Collection. His experience in the LA studio scene had a strong influence on the digi-immortalization of four studio legends: the Pultec EQP-1A and MEQ-5 equalizers, and the Fairchild 660 and 670 compressors.
Jack Joseph PuigWAVES' search for the finest living Fairchilds led to Jack Joseph Puig. I have mixed feelings about splicing one's name into that of a classic piece of recording equipment. Observe the banter I overheard before his presentation between a couple attendees who resembled the wisecracking stars of Knocked Up; the Paul Rudd character said to the Seth Rogan character, as a fan approaching JJP, "I'm sure you get this all the time, but … will you sign my dongle?"
Yet as Mr. Puig spoke, he portrayed a humble confidence that soon had us gushing with respect for more than his amazing productions, his vibe-supreme studio at Ocean Way, or his larger than life mystique. Just like he does with his mixes, when it came to these plug-ins, JJP did whatever it took to make the feeling come out.
Their Fairchild project began nearly four years before the plug-ins saw retail light of day. The gold standard imprinted on his pinnae, JJP hunted for realism throughout his rigorous testing process. WAVES project manager Mike Fradis decided to send Jack the computer lab itself. Jack meticulously tweaked the software model as if he was producing a Jellyfish track — until his PuigChild had "the sound."
Before every major studio had an SSL and identical outboard FX, studios were individually known for their "sound," generated by a particular set of equipment, some of it custom built. Producers chose a studio based on the sound they wanted. Mr. Puig believes that as the sound of records homogenized, their success in the marketplace has diminished — the advent of perfectly precise digital recording contributing to the downward slide. The WAVES JJP plug-in collection represents the beginning of Jack Joseph Puig's personal quest to digitally archive the world's vibiest equipment so that the common man can do with it what was intended: create a feeling.
PuigChild 670 PuigChild
Mixing a song can be like going to a playground. There's as much potential for good times as for meltdowns. The compression character of PuigChild is like a cool parent who encourages a child's self-expression through play, exploration, or manic exuberance. Via an occasional outstretched arm or firm word, this parent can keep the child within safe boundaries, without stifling or punishing, only fully stepping in before the kid falls off the monkey bars. Lots of compressors do a fine job of holding a track within safe limits, but are oppressive to an otherwise fun track. The PuigChild enhances a track's excitement while holding it in the just the perfect place in the mix.
On a mix, the PuigChild will tuck in the lows and gently compress the rest without dulling harmonics or transients. Don't go looking for deep needle wagging to tell you the compressor is doing what you paid for. Considering the slower speed of the VU, a little is probably all you'll need. The time constant is the setting to focus on; listen especially for the shape of the release relative to the kick and bass.
PuigChild's is a great-sounding tube limiter, offering useful in-the-box distortion for program material. Threshold set to 0, output fixed below zero and the input turned up to 11 (out of 20), PuigChild exhibits smooth limiting. As the input gain increases, so does the tube drive — the output gain securely holding the signal below digital clipping. Not only is PuigChild a viable alternative to traditional digital mastering limiters, it can add pleasing distortion. When the level is pushed to flat line, PuigChild produces a tubey breakup, softly folding over on low frequency transients.
PuigChild's compressor begs to be driven harder on individual tracks like acoustic guitar, vocal and bass. At the top of the curve the compressor allows to enough sound to pass to maintain presence, attack and clarity. You can really squash a track and yet it somehow still feels dynamic. And the tube drive is always on tap to kiss the peaks or aggressively saturate. The PuigChild has a knack for creating a musical blend of excitement and control.
PuigTec EQP1-A PuigTec EQP1-A
EQP1-A will put a smile curve on your tracks. The low end is as big as a dirt moon and the top sounds like sunlight. You want to add some giant-ness to the mix? Put this thing on 60Hz and turn it up a touch. The first time I did I could hardly believe I was getting that much "size" out of one frequency boost. Don't you love it when a processor does something exciting the moment you insert it?
All the high frequency EQ points sound so great you might have a hard time choosing which one to use. This EQ just does not sound like other EQs in your computer. When I'm looking to add a beautiful high frequency presence, I set up a boost of 6, bandwidth of 5, then scroll through the seven frequencies until one captures just the right character. At sharp bandwidth settings, the EQ can really push the point. When set broadly the highs rise like a silk zephyr.
Both PuigTecs put out a very low-level noise if either the 60 or 50Hz "Mains" selector is engaged — now that's authentic. To bypass this signal, toggle it to the off position. According to JJP, there is actually a sonic difference between the 50Hz British setting and the 60Hz American setting, also native to PuigChild.
PuigTec MEQ-5 PuigTec MEQ-5
It's smooth and versatile. The MEQ-5 has five low-mid boosts, 11 midrange dips, and five high boosts at a fixed bandwidth, the equivalent of ~4 on the Pultec scale of sharp to broad. I've inserted several MEQ-5s on one track with ridiculous boost and cuts and tone always stays intact, as if it had come that way through the mics. On most any other EQ, these extreme settings would have destroyed the integrity of the sound. The PuigTec MEQ-5 keeps a toneful tone whether subtly or radically reshaping the spectrum.
PuigTec's EQ bypass allows the signal to travel through the virtual transformers and push-pull tube amplifier stages. In this mode, the audio is noticeably enhanced and fuller — worth the price alone. Inserted on the master with the EQ bypassed, PuigTec's big, juicy tone keeps the mix balance intact. It's the sense that the music came a half-foot farther out of the speakers — as flattering to your mix as when your date leans in toward you over the dinner table and opens her eyes a little wider.
These days it's easy to take for granted the sheer number of available frequency bands in either the analog or digital domain, whether it's a Massive Passive, 550A, Q10, or Filterbank E6. But in 1951 when the EQP1-A was introduced, you were lucky to have any EQ. The EQP1-A and the MEQ-5 became, in combination, a flexible EQ chain for thousands of recordings. PuigTec EQs can give a master that je ne sais quoi.
Fast Facts Applications
Studio, project studio, audio post, audio for broadcast, live
plug-ins based on those Pultec EQP-1A and MEQ-5 equalizers and Fairchild 660 and 670 compressors used by Joseph Jack Puig: PuigChild, PuigTec EQP1-A, and PuigTec MEQ-5; up to 24bit, 192kHz resolution; mono and stereo components; supports TDM, RTAS, VST, AU; PC and Mac compatible
$1,600 and $800 (TDM and Native, respectively)
WAVES | 865-546-6115 | www.waves.com System Usage and GUIs
Until the JJP collection, I'd call WAVES GUIs flawless. On my Dual 2.0 PPC, the JJP plug-in knobs turn like a dream in which you're running with all your might, but can barely get moving. WAVES' release notes indicate one Known Issue: "The PuigTec plug-ins are very CPU intensive." At my songwriter friend Rick Ellis' studio in Topanga Canyon, the plug-ins responded better running on his Intel Mac.
I got around the syrupy knobs by clicking directly on numbers around the knobs, which turns out to be a fabulously efficient way to get results quickly. Accidental innovation? When a knob is selected, indicated by a yellow ring, the keyboard up and down arrows adjust in deci-increments.
At 96k, each EQP1-A uses a whopping 91 percent of a chip and in Pro Tools will only instance on an Accel card. At 48k, it's half a chip.
I want legacy of the Pultec name to live on honoring Ollie Summerland and Gene Shenk, the founders and sole proprietors of Pulse Techniques Inc., as well as the name Fairchild to honor designer Rein Narma and founder Sherman Fairchild . Considering less than 30 working Fairchild 670s remain in the world, cost up to $30k, and weigh 65 pounds and that Pultecs are similarly rare and expensive, WAVES and Jack Joseph Puig have ensured that their sound will not be forgotten by archiving these classics for us all to enjoy.
PuigChild and PuigTec are unlike most of your plug-ins; they have a distinct character. I wouldn't want to mix without them. As JJP told us at the presentation what we choose to do with these plug-ins "comes back to how you hear and what you listen for." Now that JJP has given us the sound, it's up to us to produce a feeling. By the way, Puig rhymes with "quick."
Alex Oana is an award wining engineer, who mixes and masters at his studio in Los Angeles.