Odd / TAV in TapeOp May / June 2010 (Issue 77)  

Finding myself in what seems to be the largest surge of interesting
studio gear development in history I’m always surprised when someone
asks me if a piece of gear does enough. Maybe it’s the fact that many
plugins, especially EQs, seem to have found a valid place alongside
their outboard equivalents. Perhaps the fact that these tools exist –
with there surgical precision and plethora of option unheard of in their
analog counterparts — is the reason people are expecting too much from 
their outboard.

Personally I’ve been driven in the opposite direction. I have enough 
overpowered, ninja-esque plugin EQs to hack every sound I’ve recorded 
into oblivion. What I don’t have is an unlimited number of are EQs that 
sweeten things up in a way that’s impossible to represent on a virtual graph. 
Here enters Purple Audio’s contenders into the world of 500 series equalization.

The boom in 500 series development seems to have coincided perfectly
with my own purchase of a console. The API 1608 at Strange Weather
came out of the factory half loaded with 550A EQs. I think the 550A is
a great piece of equipment but having spent years working on the
Auditronics 501 desk at Studio G (now at The Bunker Studio also in
 Brooklyn) I longed for the fluidity of workflow allowed with inductive
coil EQs. For those not in the know, inductive coils are the technology
behind the long adored Pultec EQs as well as plenty of others,
including Sphere and Cinema Engineering units. When I heard that Ed Anderson
had designed an Auditronics style EQ for Purple Audio, I had to try
it out.

Ed’s first of the 500 series designs, the ODD, seems to owe quite a
bit to its Auditronics forefather. Luckily I’m an owner of a rare
PEQ-82 stereo equalizer. It’s a 1RU-height stereo unit with 
just the EQ from the 501 console. The faceplate of the ODD makes 
them look extremely similar. It’s a 4-band EQ with a switches to 
choose between two different frequency points per knob. There are 
also fixed high and low cut filters on buttons at the bottom of the unit, 
as well as a bypass button. The only things that set the EQs apart functionally 
are the addition of a changing color level led on the ODD and the ability to switch
the high and low curves from bells to shelves.

Inside it’s a whole different story. The Auditronics EQ is an IC based
design with extremely limited headroom. On the other hand both the ODD
and TAV are based around the Purple Audio KDJ4 and KDJ3 discrete, 
socketed op-amps. Having worked with these before I can tell you that they 
have an amazing sound — pristine, with a huge usable frequency range; however,
there still remains a certain degree of color. On top of that, the ODD
and TAV both have input and output transformers, which help a ton when
considering how they play with others in a studio full of esoteric
vintage gear. All of this means that the ODD has considerably more
usable headroom than the Auditronics maintain far better extension
into high and low frequencies. One of the first albums I worked on 
with them was Jolie Holland’s The Living an The Dead.

A couple of 
mixes had already been done by 

Joel Hamilton at Studio G, and I knew it was going to be a
bit of a struggle matching his work on G’s Neve 5316. I knew from 
prior experience that while the Auditronics EQ is extremely smooth,
sometimes it can feel like it’s sneaking away with part of the
aggression of your signal. The ODD quickly showed itself to have no
such issues. The signal stayed as aggressive and clear as ever, plus
or minus whatever frequencies I choose to effect with it. I found it
surprisingly easy to quickly dial in an emulation of what had been
going on in the previous mixes, which gave me plenty of time to focus
on the details. Immediately after that session I sold off all but one
pair of my API 550A’s (which now reside outside the console in a 500
series rack) and purchased as many ODDS as I could.

That all happened about a year ago. This year things have gone well at
Strange Weather and I began to look at the still empty slots in my
console and think about what to do next. I ran into Purple Audio owner
Andrew Roberts on the floor at AES, and he told me that the TAV EQs
were shipping. About two weeks later, a pair showed up at my door to 
demo and review.

Aesthetically, the TAV seems to share quite a bit with the API 560
graphic EQ. It has ten horizontal sliders which share similar, if not
the same, frequency points with the API as well as a simple bypass 
button at the bottom. The TAV also adds a three color input level LED
to match the one on the ODD. However after plugging it in, it became
clear that this is where the API comparison ends. The TAV is also an
inductive coil EQ with a similar internal design to the ODD. The
 difference is that to fit more useable bands on the faceplate, it was
necessary to go to sliders instead of knobs. Along with the added
bands, the width of each band was tightened considerably. Moreover, 
the bands tighten up as more boost or cut is applied


This time, my guinea pigs for this new toy turned out to be the band Pale
Brother from Washington DC. First things first — I threw the TAV onto 
the channels I primarily use for drum room mics. It turned out to be a perfect
compromise between the 560s that I normally use and the ODD. It has
quite a bit more precision than the ODD, but even at full boost or
cut, the signal doesn’t seem overly tampered with, in the way it does with
the API 560. It almost seemed more like carefully moving a microphone around
than tweaking a traditional EQ. For the next track, I moved the bass guitar onto 
those channels, and the low end retained all of the umph I would expect from
the 560 while staying far more soft and malleable.


Though these two EQs look quite a bit like classic designs, Ed Anderson
and Purple Audio have made them into something completely new. They
are EQs that can stand up in the world of high and low frequency
extension in which we all seem to work, while bringing to that table
the smooth texture of an inductive coil design. And at the price,
which is substantially lower than many other 500 series options, I
don’t think there’s any chance that they’ll be beat out in the near
future. ($725).

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