It's no secret that I love this Mäag stuff. I own a dozen ribbon mics and use the Mäag PREQ4 preamp on them all the time. And the EQ4 [Tape Op #88] is my go-to for mono drum sounds and mix-bus EQ for two reasons: Mäag's trademarked, high-end boosting Air Band; and the 40 Hz Sub low-end boosting band. They are great tools, and they are not inexpensive; however, sometimes I found myself wishing for a junior to the EQ4 that wouldn't cost the farm and would give me the option to rock the Air Band and some low EQ with some of my other favorite preamps. Enter the EQ2. Even better, this piece of kit owes some of its existence to genius engineer/mixer Gary Paczosa and a bunch of candle wax. Yah, for serious.
Gary's brilliance speaks for itself. Check out the engineering marvel that is Alison Krauss' magnificent album Forget About It. This guy has more Grammys than most people have appendages - and for good reason. But here's the story - back in the day, when I was a teenager (1993), there was a company called NTI (later known as Nightpro) that made some really cool, high-end equalizers. Five fixed frequency points including "Air" and "Sub" bands, low phase shift, light blue faceplate... you get the idea. They were great, pricey, and rare. Several top engineers, Paczosa included, used them on their mix bus - primarily, for the Air and Sub bands. Gary went one step further and contacted the designer of the NTI EQ, Cliff Mäag [Tape Op #95], and asked if it would be possible to create a box with only the Air and Sub bands for his stereo mix bus. Cliff made him one, and it's sat on Gary's console bridge ever since, along with a bunch of candles, which dripped all over it and encased it in wax - hence the Wax Box.
Nobody else had this thing; it was kind of underground engineer-geek famous in Nashville; Gary's "secret Wax Box." Sorry Gary, the secret's out now, and it's called the Mäag EQ2. A mono 500-series version of the Wax Box, it sports the two important bands - Air and a selectable Low. They are gain only (no cut), and independently bypassable, with the famous Mäag low phase shift. The Low band has a ton of frequencies (11) in two ranges (medium and wide bell), which is actually better on the mix bus in my opinion, as it has enough options to let you hit the fundamental of the song in the bass, and it also has a killer 1.4 kHz option for bass guitars. And then they threw in a nice 12 dB input attenuator, which is eminently useful - crank the mic preamp for a little output transformer saturation, then dial down the level into the EQ2 so its circuits and the converters into your DAW don't clip. Add a little Air Band as well for some really nice new sounds from your vintage preamps. I love patching the EQ2 after my Neves and especially my V76. All the knobs are detented, which I adore - recalls are always perfect. The circuit sounds just like the EQ4 - maybe better. (Less to go through? I don't know, it sounds killer.) There's more Air Band, with an additional 15 kHz position to this version, and even more frequencies on the bottom. What's not to like?
Well, a few nitpicks, honestly. There's no true (relay) bypass for the entire unit, a bummer for mix-bus applications, although you are able to bypass both bands easily. In fact, I'd love to see manufacturers add things like a linkable relay bypass to 500-series stuff - one button to bypass a stereo set of EQs would be great, especially for mixing and mastering applications. The printing on the faceplate has some red on blue, which can be very difficult to read in certain conditions, and the input attenuator would have been even cooler with the addition of a range switch, allowing more options (maybe -20 dB and -40 dB?) for mic preamp abuse. Otherwise, these are a great and affordable addition to the rack for the two bands of Mäag EQ I reach for the most, and an extremely useful addition to the arsenal for tracking, overdubs, mixing, and, I would think, mastering. You can even spill wax on them if you want.
-F. Reid Shippen <www.robotlemon.com>
I was sent a pair of Mäag EQ2 modules to check out at the same time as Reid. Since I had no 500-series racks to try these in, I finally made my big leap into the world of these popular racks and bought a Radial Engineering Workhorse Powerhouse [Tape Op #92], a 10-slot, mixerless version of the original Workhorse [#85]. I dropped the EQ2s in, patched in some cables, and was off mixing a record for Jolie Holland. I'm a huge fan of recording tools that do one thing and do it well, and the EQ2 is exactly that. Right from the start, we felt that Jolie's vocal tracks needed a little high-end lift, especially because some had been tracked with a Shure SM7 [#36], and all had been recorded without compression or EQ. Jolie knows what she likes, and pretty soon every mix would start with her asking, "Is that sparkly thing on my voice?" I knew exactly what she meant, because if I bypassed the EQ2, the vocal would turn dull and lifeless and retreat into the mix. The EQ2 has a bonus Air Band frequency of 15 kHz not found on the PEQ4 and EQ4, and surprisingly, I ended up using this setting most often for high-end vocal "lift." I'd always heard that the Air Band was different than piling on highs with most equalizers, and this is apparently true. Much like you can with the Dangerous Music BAX EQ [#79], which resides on my mix bus at all times, you can add high-end sheen without harshness or undue sibilance. I messed around with the Sub band too, and I'll be trying that on bass and kick tracks at some point I bet, but the Air Band is the feature I know I'll turn to often on the EQ2 in the future. I'm happy to have a new, specialized, and effective tool at my disposal. Well done, Mäag!