What EQ should I get ?…This is a question that we've all had at one time or another and with the variety of 500 Series EQ’s out there for the API Lunchbox format it can be time-consuming (and confusing) researching all the units on the market when you just want to make and record music.
So sometimes it feels better to go with an established ‘name’ (as a good starting point at least) whether it be for example : API, Neve, SSL, CraneSong or in this case, what better place to look than Rupert Neve Designs.
Rupert Neve Designs was set up in 2005 and they first released their Portico Series modules consisting of Mic Pres, Compressors, EQ’s and Tape FX. These modules have all received great respect within the industry for their sound and flexibility but as the market for the API Lunchbox format over the last few years has grown larger, many of these original Portico designs have been ported or adapted for the 500 series format.
When Rupert Neve Designs released the Shelford Series 5051 Inductor EQ/ Compressor and the 5052 Shelford Series 5052 Mic Pre / Inductor EQ towards the end of 2013 it wasn’t long before later the following year a 500 series Inductor EQ was released, inspired by the Shelford Series called the Rupert Neve 551 Inductor EQ.
The Rupert Neve Designs 551 Inductor EQ is a new original design based on Rupert Neve’s personal favourite EQ’s. It’s a discrete Class A module inspired by the Low band from a 1064, Mid and High Bands from a 1073 and an extra 16k Air Band. It’s not a Shelford Module, even though it does have the similar RAF blue/grey faceplate and same based EQ. It’s not high voltage +/- 24v ( having to run within the Lunchbox format ) but it’s no slouch in the looks or sound department!
It has 4 Low Frequencies selectable between Shelf or Peak ( which of course many vintage modules aren’t ) at 35Hz, 60Hz, 100Hz and 220Hz and there is a High Pass Filter at 80Hz at 12db/Octave.
The Mid Range has 6 selectable frequencies at 200Hz, 350Hz, 700Hz, 1.5kHz, 3kHz and 6kHz with a high peak switch which narrows the Q (bandwidth). Both the Mid and Low frequencies have -15db and +15db of gain.
The High-Frequency choices are 8kHz or 16kHz with the same gain options, and Peak/Shelf switch.
So how does it sound?
Well in one word : Superb.... I could end the review here really. It provides everything you want in a high-quality EQ and it has the modern weight that is desired should you want to add Sub at 35Hz, or do more of a Rock thing at 60Hz or 100Hz - I don’t think I’ve heard as much low-end weight in a 500 Series module since the A-Designs EM-PEQ. Activating the HPF at 80Hz whilst adding some low-end EQ really helps focus.
But it doesn’t end there, the mid bands have been chosen for their inspiration and you just can't make it sound bad. Whatever you throw at it, the 551 just says "thanks very much, I’ll make that sound better"and it does, easily.
Having 8kHz and 16kHz is just enough to add some bell boost on guitars (CLA-style) or some ‘Air’ on a mix or vocals, and that’s all you need, it’s so simple.
The pots have that lovely textured metal feel that those who have used Portico modules will know, and it’s easy to navigate and you'll feel familiar with the controls quickly.
So is there a negative to this module? Well, I’ve used it for many weeks now, and it works on all genres of music, mixing and tracking. My only criticism if I had to think of one is that it could sound too 'nice’.
Let me explain, I’d rather have this module than any other, but of course sometimes, a track may require some ‘grit’ and this is where I feel perhaps a different type of EQ (maybe capacitor based) could be useful to run alongside.
The 551 will do an amazing job on its own, it really will, and the Inductor saturation is very smooth and adds a sheen and polish unavailable in many designs, which is why you'd get one (or two) of these.
But I may turn to an SSL EQ for example in some guise like the SSL E-Series 500 Series or SSL XLogic X-Rack E Series if I wanted to add some ‘aggression’ into a track, no doubt there will be some that disagree, but it’s just my personal view of how I would use it.
The Rupert Neve 551 Inductor EQ is very very good. It’s based upon classic EQ sonics but with a modern twist, and with wonderful build quality I have no doubt it’ll be around for years to come - and can see it being used alongside API and SSL modules with ease.
I know this is quite a statement, but I think this is the best 500 series EQ module available today on the market.