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Apogee Pultec Review – What You Should Know

Whether you're a gear nerd or a non-technical musician who lets his engineers do the hard yards, you've probably seen or at least heard of this military-grade metallic Pultec EQ. But with hundreds of attempted emulations floating around in the market, it's hard to find the right one for you. In this Apogee Pultec review, we spent 2 weeks putting it to the test to see if it delivers the revered Pultec sound or not. Read on to see our in-depth verdict & whether it's worth the cash!

Apogee Pultec (Quick Review)

whippedcreamsounds

Sound quality of low and high bands, Bandwidth quality
Accurate Emulation and Analogue Sound
Versatility across various genres
UI, Resizing and Looks
Value for money
Ease of use for a recent buyer

Verdict

The Apogee Pultec is an unapologetically analog, warm and characterful EQ and is among one of the best plugins we've ever used. If you're looking for a musical EQ that makes anything you throw at it sound better, then you're in the right place. Great for character and tone, and works wonders on the master track!

4.7

Is The Apogee Pultec Worth It? (Quick Answer)

Compatibility: VST, AU, AAX ( Windows 10, Mac OS X 10.12.6+, 32-bit, 64-bit)
Price: Apogee Pultec EQP-1A for $199 or Rent-To-Own at $9.99 for 20 months. EQP-1A+MEQ5 at $199 or $9.99/month for 20 months.

The Apogee Pultec is worth it. It's a fantastic emulation of the original EQP1A, that gives an incredibly colourful, smooth musical EQ to anything you throw at it. It's particularly good for low to low-mid frequencies. However, is a huge investment at $299, when compared to the competition.

Pros

✅ High level of realism in emulating the Pultec hardware units.

✅ Can be used with Apogee DSP in Symphony Desktop, Ensemble Thunderbolt and Element Series or as a plugin in your DAW.

✅Modelled in collaboration with Pulse Techniques, who make the hardware units.

✅ Tried and tested Pultec hardware tricks work great on the Apogee.

✅ Realistic Bandwidth emulation with the famous low-mid scoop.

Cons

❌ Pricey compared to the competition

With top modellers like UA, Waves and Apogee providing equal levels of realism, it comes down to price. Compared to its close competitors, the Apogee Pultecs are the most expensive. With Waves' PuigTec selling at $35 and UA Passive EQ Collection at $299, it's all about personal preferences as all three sound strikingly similar to the real unit.

Apogee sounds the best out of the three we have used and is much more CPU friendly too. Additionally, with the UAD Passive EQ, you will need Univeral Audio hardware to run it.

So, out of the expensive options Apogee seems the most desirable (if you don't have the extra hardware).

Additionally, with an attractive Rent-to-own option at $14.99/month for 20 months for the Apogee EQP-1A + MEQ5 Bundle, you can spread the cost making it less of a hit to the bank account.

Is it worth the couple hundred dollars extra? If you're serious about audio and have a good studio setup – you will be able to notice the difference.

What Is The Apogee Pultec & What Does It Do?

The Apogee Pultec is an emulation of the revered Pultec Hardware EQ which has been used on countless records for over 60 years. The Apogee Pultec is versatile and can make almost anything sound musical, making your low-mids sound sophisticated, without adding unwanted boom.

Known to add analogue presence when left on the master bus, the Apogee Pultec is a must-have in your arsenal.

As a modelling plugin, Apogee has remained true to the Pultec hardware units, modelling the plugin on the key factors that create the Pultec sound:

  • Tubes are used for making up the 15-16dB gain lost in the Passive section of the EQ.
  • Signature Transformer design.
  • The all-encompassing ‘Q’ or Bandwidth is as wide as bandwidths can get.

How Does It Sound?

The Apogee Pultec sounds fabulous on almost anything you slap it on! Warming up your lower-mid frequencies, it has a smoothness that is instantly recognisable. Working on vocals just as efficiently as on bass or a drum bus, the Apogee Pultec can also add a shimmer in the highs that come out well in synthesisers and cymbals with a long tail.

Being used for over 60 years on snares, basses and on the Master, we thought we would add some modern Hyper-Pop synths along with the usual suspects to give you an idea of how the Apogee Pultecs perform under different scenarios.

We've created some sounds and left the settings below so you can listen to how it sounds:

Snare

Here are the recommend settings we used:

Boost to level 3 at about 100 Hz on the CPS knob. Move the KCS knob to 5kHz. Broaden the Bandwidth to taste. Boost the High Frequency all the way up to 9 or 10. Try it on your Top Snare Mics and Claps. Tweak the KCS according to where your cymbals peak. Watch how cohesive and clean everything might begin to sound.

apogee pultec EQP-1A snare

Snare Before

Snare After

Bass

Here are the recommend settings we used:

Boost to level 3 at about 30Hz on CPS. Move the KCS knob to 4KHz. Sharper bandwidth at around 3. Boost the High Frequency all the way up to 9. Attenuate sightly to level 1 to activate the Boost to Attenuation relationship and Attenuate select 5Khz. See how your bass defines itself even in notes played on the first few frets on the low E string.

apogee pultec bass

Bass Before

Bass After

Synth

The revered Pultec ‘Dip’ that occurs is great for lower-mid to midrange instruments like synths. Applying a broader bandwidth allows the ‘Q-Factor’ to spread evenly across the synth. 

By selecting 100Hz in the CPS, we are placing the dip at around 400Hz which is an optimum place for a synth. But remember, this only works when Boost and Attenuate are both engaged. 

apogee pultec emulation synth

Synth Before

Synth After

Synth With MEQ-5 Only

TheMEQ5 alone can add a lot of brilliance and shimmer to your mid-range Synths. We’ve set the peak and the dip to 700Hz but boosted them differently. This causes a nice bump and dips to happen in the low-mids. We’ve set the 5KHz peak to a value of 6. This is responsible for the brilliance you hear in the highs. You can go higher in value too. But, it might make your Synth too thin.

pultec VST effect

Synth Before

Synth After MEQ-5

Vocals

Low Attenuation with a high Boost at 60Hz. Set the KCS to 8Khz. Attenuation to be 2 levels higher than the Boost for KCS. Attenuate Select 20Khz to catch the air in the room that's necessary to bring vocals to life. You can go lower on the CPS for a male vocal. But roughly maintain the Boost to Attenuate ratios.

pultec EQP-1A

Vocals Before:

Vocals After:

EQP-1A And MEQ-5 In Tandem On Drums

Using a MEQ5 in tandem with the EQP-1A is a tried and tested trick to fatten your drum bus sound.

Here are the recommend settings we used:

Set your 1000Hz Peak to 7 followed by a dip of 6 at 1KHz. Set your high frequency peak to 3KHz and cross level 5 or 6. Work your way up from here. Look out for the dip. Try to locate the perfect spot between 700Hz and 2Khz for your dip by tweaking your knobs.

Paired in tandem with an EQP-1A, you should end up with a fairly fat drum bus sound.

Drums Before EQP+MEQ5

Drums After EQP+MEQ5

Master

A tried-and-tested trick is to just leave the Apogee Pultec “ON” in the master channel. Watch how the nice bump occurs in the mids without any apparent increase in level. The Apogee's 16dB make-up gain emulation takes care of that.

Before:

After:

You can additionally boost the low-end from around 50Hz onwards, with an attenuation of 1-3. This creates a really nice low-end warmth on your masters.

What Features Do You Get With The Apogee Pultec?

Accurate To The T Emulation!

The Apogee Pultec sounds as realistic as a plugin can get to emulating the legendary Pultec hardware. Staying consistent with the 1953 control surface, the dark-turquoise blue panel used on the plugin is bound to put a smile on your face as the vintage looks are acutely replicated.

With all the dials and functions being similar to the original hardware, you can go about using the plugin in the same way that you would with the hardware unit.

The famous low-end scoop and Master channel presence on the hardware unit can all be experienced now inside of a plugin by using the Apogee Pultec.

The Most Musical Low End You'll Ever Hear!

Unlike most EQs which have a Gain knob used to boost or cut the levels of a signal, the Apogee Pultec is quite different. To understand this better, let's start with the Low-Frequency section on the left.

apogee pultec low frequency section

A Low-Frequency dial on the bottom allows you to choose between 20, 30, 60, or 100Hz. The frequencies are denoted in CPS or cycles per second. Additionally, the Boost and Attenuate knobs control slightly different frequency bands.

So even if you Boost and Attenuate to level 2 at the same time, you're going to end up affecting different frequencies. With varying values on the Boost and Attenuate knobs, you can create dips and swells across your frequency spectrum, which sound amazing.

For the swells and dips to work, both Boost and Attenuate must be engaged.

As mentioned in the Synth sound example, boosting at 6 and attenuating at 4 on 100Hz would give you a nice musical drop at around 400Hz.

This is one of the standout features of the Apogee Pultec and the sound really shows.

A Single Bandwidth Knob To Rule ‘Em All!

At first glance, the Bandwidth might seem quite banal as it moves from Broad to Sharp, but it controls everything! Starting modestly at levels 1 or 2, the Bandwidth quickly starts to display its range as you cross level 6.

You can work on bringing your instruments ahead or sending them back in the mix by dialling in 3, 4 or 5KHz in the KCS.

Increasing the boost in this bandwidth can give lead instruments a fantastic presence. But, if you want to send the instrument to the back of a mix, you can also do this by controlling 5KHz on Attenuate Select.

Since the bandwidth is so wide, boosting an instrument at note B8 (or 8KHz) tends to affect the sound down to B5 at 987Hz.

That’s a truly astounding EQ slope!

As you’re tweaking around on your Apogee Pultec, it's important to keep in mind that boosting just the highs doesn’t just affect the frequency range you select, but a large section below it too.

A large reason for the Pultec’s musicality is credited to this vast ‘Q’ or bandwidth that it has, and it's perfectly been replicated here.

Genuine High-End Shimmer:

Denoted by Attenuate Select, the High Frequency dial helps you select the frequency you would like to affect. Selecting 5KHz, 10Khz or 20Khz allows you to affect high frequencies in these regions.

Selecting 10KHz allows you to focus on sculpting bite in your mix. Working in tandem with 10KHz selected in the KCS dial, you can make certain elements like the hi-hat sound crispier. This is also the region where you can add more sparkle to the risers and FX in your track.

Selecting 20KHz allows you to work on adding shimmer to audio sources, which works incredibly well on the room microphones.

To do this you want to select 16KHz on the KCS to make sure you're working on this bandwidth. Attenuating and Boosting this area will give you the high-end shimmer that the Pultecs are known to produce.

Apogee does a great job at capturing this high-end information and adds genuine silkiness to your high-end.

For example, if you've recorded your room or drum overheads with a U87 stereo pair, try dialling in 16KHz on the KCS and 20KHz on the Attenuate Select to bring out the missing details in your track. You can use the Apogee Pultec on a separate ‘Wet' channel, which you can crossfade to if the high-end shimmer is too much for your liking.

Boost And Attenuate At The Same Time?

The main mojo of the Pultec sound originated by disregarding the way the Pultec was originally used (or at least intended to be used by the manufacturer).

Since the EQP-1A has a boost and cut, you would assume that using them in tandem would even each other out.

Much like how phasing in microphones cancels each other out and gives you a weaker signal.

But the gain reduction that Attenuation causes are a bit lower than the gain increased by applying the Boost. Also, they focus on slightly different frequency bands.

Using this anomaly to its advantage, the EQP-1A helps scoop out unwanted boomy low-mids, lending it its characteristic sound.

Slap it on electric bass at 100Hz in the CPS section and watch how smoothly your bass slides between the notes. Or use it on the ‘kick-out’ microphone at 50Hz on your plugin to add genuine body to your kick. 

The Original Bypass – Why Would Anyone Intentionally ‘Bypass' An EQ?

Apogee has done a good job at modelling the Bypass since it’s a crucial factor in determining the legitimacy of a Pultec unit. If ran through a spectral analyser or a simple parametric EQ, you can notice a slight bump in the mid-range.

Pultec’s tube make-up gain compensates for the 15-16dB lost in transition. Apogee stays true to this as you notice no gain difference on your signal. I.E. beautiful mid-range lumps added at no extra cost!

The reason behind this is that the bypass isn’t hard-wired to the surface as you would usually expect. So the transformers and tube gain are still affecting your sound as they’re passing through in “Bypass” mode. 

What About The Technical Stuff?

With a fairly simple user interface, the Apogee Pultecs should run comfortably on most computers. We've listed below some of the technical details you would want to know:

How Hard is Apogee's Pultec on The CPU?

We stress-tested the Pultec EQP1A and MEQ5 on a Mac Mini M1 2020, running Big Sur 11.2.1 with 8GB RAM, an 8-core CPU with 4 performance cores, and 4 efficiency cores. With 21 instances open on 65 tracks, the Apogee performed fairly well with no signs of lagging.

What Does My System Need To Run It?

The Apogee Pultec is not a heavy plugin by any means. Any computer which can handle native plugins in a standard DAW should be able to handle the Apogee with ease.

Mac:

  • Anything above MacOS 10.12. 6 should work.
  • 4 GB RAM is a must. 8GB+ should work comfortably.
  • Create a Pace iLok account for free. No need for a physical iLok.
  • DAWs that support VST 1 and 2, AUv2, and AAX should do.

Windows:

  • Anything above Windows 10 should work.
  • 4 GB RAM is a must. 8GB+ should work comfortably.
  • Create a Pace iLok account for free. No need for a physical iLok.
  • DAWs that support VST 1 and 2, AUv2, and AAX should do.

What About UI & Utility? How Easy is It To Use?

The military-grade metallic turquoise look with screws creates a nice ambience while working. However, the controls are quite confusing.

This isn't Apogee's fault though… the original hardware unit has had this anomaly from the day it was made. Apogee just stayed true to being an accurate emulator. With standard switching options between remote view and control view, Apogee's sizing isn't an issue either.

Adding multiple sessions of the EQP-1A and MEQ-5 isn't a problem as well as the Apogee Pultec is quite light on the CPU. However, you can't add more than 6 instances of the EQ inside one channel, because this is the limit.

An important thing to note is that the presets are quite underwhelming, offering only 4 presets on the EQP-1A and 3 presets on the MEQ-5. This is not a problem for most, but for producers who are fairly new to the analogue plugin realm, you're bound to have a hard time figuring it all out all by yourself as these 7 presets barely scratch the surface.

It's also important to say that if you get the Apogee FX Bundle, you get access to 7 more FX Presets, which are a combination of EQP-1A, MEQ5, ModComp, ModEQ 6, and Opto-3A. Within this bundle, you get access to legendary engineer Bob Clearmountain's FX presets.

Under the FX section, there are 8 rack parameters in all. They amount to 128 Fx parameters that can be automated in your DAW. We feel that Apogee could've filled this section with a large number of different presets which would help a beginner get familiar with the Pultecs.

What Are Others Saying About The Apogee Pultecs?

Countless reviews across the internet praise the Apogee Pultecs for their impeccable emulation. But, some feel an accurate modern EQ like the FabFilter Pro Q3 could do the same tricks and more rather than having to deal with a non-visual broad bandwidth vintage EQ.

We loved the Apogee Pultec for its vintage large bandwidth mojo. But, after scouring the internet, we found some interesting comments which might help you with your decision on the revered plugin.

We've listed some of them below (click to enlarge):

How Do The Apogee Pultecs Stand Up To The Competition?

Apogee, Waves, and Universal Audio have all come within touching distance of the original hardware unit. The Apogee emulation seems to give a better emulation, but the difference is minimal. Other than price, convenience is the only other factor.

Choosing between these plugins comes down to whether you already have an Apogee or UA Hardware unit or not, as it's convenient to stay within your interface's plugin collection.

If DSP isn't your concern and you're looking for a high-quality Pultec emulation to be used inside your DAW, we highly recommend going for the Apogee Pultecs. Being quite light on your CPU, the Apogee Pultecs provide the best sound you can get.

If price is an issue, then the Waves Puig-Tec is a less expensive option. However, the sound isn't as good and the Universal Audio and Apogee emulations are probably the closest that a plugin can get to the original hardware unit at the moment.

You can grab your Apogee Pultec at Plugin Boutique.

Verdict

Apogee Pultec (Quick Review)

whippedcreamsounds

Sound quality of low and high bands, Bandwidth quality
Accurate Emulation and Analogue Sound
Versatility across various genres
UI, Resizing and Looks
Value for money
Ease of use for a recent buyer

Verdict

Given its wide-ranging applications within everyday production and mixing, The Apogee Pultec is definitely worth it. With 60 years of audio work done on the Pultec, it's one of the easiest plugins to get customised preset information on. If you're looking for a high-quality EQ in your arsenal, then the Apogee Pultec is surely for you.

4.7

FAQ

I’m new to production and I honestly can’t tell the difference. How do I use such a subtle EQ?

Ears take time to develop to a stage where one can appreciate the nuances of such high-end audio gear. To begin with, dial in the values mentioned. Now boost a bit more till you can tell the difference. Once you’ve heard it for yourself, now dial it down again so that every track doesn’t end up being boosted.

I’m not satisfied with just hearing. How do I see what the EQ is doing?

Add a native parametric EQ from your DAW and place it after the Pultec. Now observe the frequency changes and delete the parametric once you’re done. Download a ‘Spectral Analyser’ for a much cleaner workflow. It also doesn’t interfere with your FX Chain.

The ‘Bandwidth’ knob seems to affect everything. How do I choose the right frequency to boost?

Start with a sharp bandwidth with the boost set to 10. Now sweep through the KCS or the CPS section. Watch out for a frequency you would like to highlight. It will sound like the ‘Resonance’ knob on a filter-nasal in the KCS and boomy in the CPS. Once you’ve found the right frequency, you can dial down the boost and shape your bandwidth to taste.

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