First off, a story: I was tracking some songs in New Orleans this summer, and Dan Kennedy of Great River was cool enough to send me this new EQ to the studio I was at; plus, he sent one of his MP-2NV preamps (which I'm familiar with as I already own and love one). So the gear shows up, I plug it in and track for three days, never once using the EQ, but using the preamp for basic tracking and every overdub. Why didn't I use the EQ? On the tracking I did, I had no EQ at all except for a tiny bit of high- end boost on the snare mic, for which I used the channel strip through which it was tracked. So I was ready to mix these songs and use the EQ-2NV a lot, but Hurricane Ivan was heading right at New Orleans, so I hopped a plane and left the Great River gear at the studio (wondering if I'd ever see it again). Eventually, I was able to convince someone in New Orleans to send up the EQ-2NV to me for review. What's it got? Two channels of EQ, sorta based on the Neve 1081 and 1083 EQ's, with a high-pass filter (six settings up to 270 Hz) and four bands of parametric EQ, all with 15 dB of boost or cut. The low band can do either a shelf or wide Q, with seven frequencies from 22 to 470 Hz. The two mid bands have three Q settings, from wide to tight. The low- mid has ten center frequencies from 220 to 1200 Hz, and the hi-mid covers 1.5 to 8.2 kHz. The high band has a wide Q or shelf and covers seven frequencies from 2.2 to 18 kHz. On the back, besides the usual XLR ins and outs, there's an insert jack that'll hook right up to Great River's MP-2NV, creating a channel strip of sorts. There's also a switch for it to drop into this mode, plus five varying degrees of input sensitivity (nice).

So, it's an EQ. What's so special about it? Well, after messing with it a bunch I'll tell you: I've never used an EQ that sounds this good. Really. In the past, I've always shunned EQ. "Don't use it unless you really have to," I'd say to clients and students. "EQ is bad. It destroys the integrity of the signal." But when I use the EQ-2NV on tracks, it can, invariably, make them sound better. On vocals, I'm able to brighten up the track without it getting harsh or too sibilant. On bass guitar, I was able to fill in missing frequencies yet retain the clarity and articulation. It seems to be a much gentler EQ than other EQ's-more musical one might say-as it's certainly boosting and cutting! The different Q points seem to have varying sonic signatures as well; it's worth tapping through them when setting the EQ. This EQ is well equipped to work with low end; with combinations of the low filter and the low parametric you can sculpt some drastic changes in a low-end source and still keep it usable in the track. The EQ-2NV is one of those pieces of gear that comes on so unassuming-"Oh, another EQ"-but leaves the user stunned at how much control is available without destroying the original signal. I get the feeling I'll keep learning more about this unit as time goes by as well. One really well-built EQ. ($3495 MSRP, $2750 street;

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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