German-based Algorithmix has released three killer EQ plug-ins, LinearPhase PEQ Red, LinearPhase PEQ Orange, and the classic PEQ Blue. Each title deserves separate consideration, so I will limit this review to LinearPhase PEQ Red and cover the others in the future.
LinearPhase PEQ Red is a DirectX/VST 10-band linear-phase parametric equalizer designed for mastering applications. Using 80-bit floating-point processing, Red aims to offer the finest digital processing available. Copy protection is provided via USB dongle, but demo versions require a simple response-key.
The user interface for Red is straightforward and uncluttered. The top half of the GUI shows a graphical representation of the EQ curve. Users can manipulate the curve directly or via text boxes for frequency, gain, and Q/S in the lower half of the screen. Since many mastering engineers work with very small EQ adjustments, Algorithmix allows you to expand the plug-in window to mega-size. This is a lifesaver. I'm blessed with good vision, but squinting at a monitor gets old fast. With the window expanded, visual strain is history.
In addition to offering various bell shapes, a strength of Red is the filter selection. Based upon Algorithmix's Continuous Slope Filter-technology, users can invoke shelving and/or cut filters of any intermediate slope in the range from 6 to 24 dB per octave. Furthermore, extremely shallow slopes (less than 6 dB/octave), which are physically impossible with classical filter technology, are easily created with Red. According to Algorithmix, some customers purchase Red just for the filters.
In use, Red is simply one of the best transparent EQs I have ever used. I've struggled to come up with a way to describe the sound. The best thing I can say is this. When you make EQ adjustments with most plug-ins, you hear the EQ working. Your brain hears the change and thinks, "Okay, I've just equalized this piece at such-and-such frequency." Changes made using Red sound like you went back in time and moved the microphone or changed the source itself. It just "does it". In small to moderate gain amounts, there is no hint of "this sound has been processed" that accompanies most colored analog gear and plug-ins. The source simply becomes different, as if it always had been that way. The shelves, especially in narrow amounts, have the ability to shape the overall tone of a mix in a gentle, believable manner. I've used other linear-phase EQs, but none seem to have the smoothness of Red.
I have a few concerns regarding Red. First, there is presently no Mac version. This is especially inconvenient for users of Sonic Studio's new soundBlade DAW, which seems to gain converts each week. Second, users must do some routing maneuvers to use Red in dual mono or mid/side modes. I also had some issue with saving settings, but customer support corrected that quickly.
I have been vocal in my opinion that plug-ins are not yet the sonic peers of dedicated outboard gear. I always suspected that computer-based processing would catch up, but I figured it would be years away. With LinearPhase PEQ Red, the vanguard has arrived. Red is easily in league with the best digital gear from Weiss, Z-Systems, and MDW / TC Electronic. Mastering engineers with powerful PC-based DAWs (especially Sequoia users) should make every effort to try the demo. If you're like me, you'll have your order submitted way before the two weeks end. (1190 EUR, www.algorithmix.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.