KUSH Electra EQ by UBK
Kush Audio and UBK became a familiar name in studios when they started modifying the original Empirical Labs FATSO into their own UBK | Kush Fatso. New York based Kush Audio started gaining a reputation by pushing these designs by Empirical Labs a little further by creating extra warmth and harmonic weight to what were already great devices. Shortly after the success of the UBK Fatso, Kush began developing new analog products, and later plugins, under their own name and original designs.
Their first analog hardware product was the unique Clariphonic EQ created to add air, sheen and presence by enhancing the signal with extra detail whether used on individual tracks or mix duties. Achieved through clever use of parallel and blending of signals, the Clariphonic provides easy musical controls to help shape your sound. When it was released a few years ago it created an amazing buzz in studio land, and continues to impress engineers around the world. So great was the success of the Clariphonic, from mixing studios to mastering suites, Kush decided to launch a plug-in version, the Clariphonic DSP ( recently updated to the Clariphonic DSP mkii ). Prior to this they had already launched a successful compressor plug-in called the Kush UBK-1.
The ELECTRA range
The Electrified Transient Equaliser or ELECTRA is available in the 500 Series format and two channel 19” Rack version. Both units are the same design, though the 19" version has a dedicated power supply and more metalwork, but both are the same EQ circuits. It's more a case of which version do you require, rather than a cut down or different sounding option. The basis of this review is with a pair of ELECTRA 500's but every point could easily refer to the 19” Rack version as they are identical in sound and control.
At first glance the dial controls show the large outer knob covering the frequencies and the inner small knob looking after the gain with +12db and -12db ranges. Interestingly there are hardly any frequency markings, which initially caused me to pause a little for thought…
The reason you see, I was first taught to engineer by some amazing guys who had ears like bats ( not physically - thankfully ) but who could hear things I could only dream of at the time. They always said that with time and practice you won’t need to sweep through frequencies you’ll just dial in what you need. 2kHz for some crunch or 16Kz for air and you’ll just know that 250Hz will take out some fullness and 4kHz will give you some edge..etc etc
They always stressed to me that a good engineer wouldn’t be sweeping frequencies, and used the analogy a good pianist wouldn’t just be wandering up and down the keys looking for the right note. These engineers knew their frequencies as well as anybody and they got there by being very disciplined in their approach, which is how I learnt. I was always told a good A-B comparison with EQ in and EQ out is better for the ear to compare as we lose perspective easily when we start to sweep.
Now the reason for this side-note is due to the way the ELECTRA is designed. It is really pushing you TO sweep by not have frequency markings, so you can’t help but start to sweep and experiment a little. Certainly watching the Kush demo videos as well, it seems that Gregory Scott has the most fun when he does sweeps to find the resonating or offending frequencies and then cutting or boosting according to his vision. So who is to say one way is better than another if it gets you to the desired result? Well, perhaps the way to look at the ELECTRA is it’s not like other corrective EQ’s in a traditional sense …it’s a vibe EQ in a creative sense.
How Does It Sound?
The ELECTRA EQ has been joint designed by Gregory Scott and another talented designer Brad McGowan who designed the HF and LF Shelves and is split into 5 overlapping bands. Firstly there is a ‘ subtly resonant butterworth ’ high pass filter that is sweepable between 25 Hz and 400 Hz. Then there are the semi-parametric bands that go from 30-730 Hz and 250-5300 Hz, the HF is shelving from 3.8kHz and the Low Shelving is a fixed frequency at 90Hz. The design is not too dissimilar to the API 550a Proportional-Q type design, which means the bandwidth of each frequency changes with amplitude. i.e.. The ELECTRA bandwidth is broad at lower gain settings and gets narrower as the gain increases, so this is one very musical sounding EQ
For notching narrow frequencies I may use something more surgical, software or hardware, but for vibe and, dare I say ‘mojo’, the ELECTRAs work extremely well. Musicality by the bucketloads, and a coolness to their approach makes them very appealing. With either broad strokes at lower gain through to tightening and extra punch as the gain increases, the ELECTRA range is very flexible in use and I found the HF top end to be extremely pleasing ( no surprise from the man who gave us the Clariphonic ). A small bypass switch for the EQ and HPF bypass switch with LED leave the faceplate looking neat and tidy and such a breeze to get to grips with.
There is also a little trick that is hidden within the 500 version of the ELECTRA. Via switches inside you can turn the low shelf dial into a 'fader' so multiple units can be used to create an ELECTRA mixer in a 500 series chassis. With so many 500 Series enclosures and now various desks including space for 500 modules how long will it be before we see studios with SSL XL-DESK's filled with ELECTRA EQ's?
Software or Hardware ?
Recently KUSH have released a software plugin version of the ELECTRA as well, called the ELECTRA DSP. I've had some decent time playing with this as well, and in it's own right I think it's a pretty awesome plugin.
This wasn't meant to be a shoot-out side by side to the hardware but when you have something modelled on a hardware device you can't help but A-B and compare. Between the two I kept finding myself back at the hardware even though the plugin sounds very good. I just felt the hardware to work better for me. I could control more than one dial at a time rather than single choices via a mouse, and as it's a 'vibe' EQ I felt the tactile approach worked better when experimenting with the frequencies.
Finally, at this price point I don't think there is a better featured 500 series EQ to add to your lunchbox...and if your lunchbox is full, well then Kush has the solution in the ELECTRA Rack...or try the plugin version...
They've thought of everything. Literally.