I guess I can begin by saying that the P1 and M5 EQ plugins by Acustica-Audio are yet another emulation of the famous Pultec hardware EQs. Emulation, as in plugins! Despite the shiny images, they’re advertised with they are indeed only software – and pretty good software to boot.
I said “yet another” because the Pultecs have seen their fair share of software counterparts from various companies. I myself have tried the Waves and IK Multimedia ones. So, the question is: How well do Acustica’s plugins stack against the competition?
Let the battle begin!
Round 1: Interface
By and far, the Acqua Purple series has the shiniest and best-looking dials on the market. Really, when I saw the pictures I had to double check whether it was hardware or software I was looking at. The animation is pretty smooth too.
When rotating the dials it feels like they are being physically turned, which adds a touch of flair to your workflow. The only problem is that if you’re sluggish in rotating the frequency band selection, it’ll start to rapidly snap between one value and your mouse pointer. Too bad, because it messes up the immersion you feel at first touch.
Round 2: Manual
I’m a bit torn here. The general explanation of the different dials and switches of both the P1 and M5 EQs is poorly phrased. Trying to figure out what the “Atten Sel” actually does is pretty tough from the words alone. Though, it’s obviously the same as the hardware counterpart, so maybe no explanation is needed.
On the other hand, I absolutely love the rest of the manual! It’s written in the style of a cookbook and talks about recipes for a good sound. This is something other companies could take a lesson from. Acustica really tries to explain how to best utilize their product to tackle any frequency issues you may have. Anyone else craving a “Snare Sauté”? Huge plus!
Round 3: Trim
I guess it gives you more sonic options, which is good, but it also means you need to control your outgoing signal somewhere else. I’m not really sure which way to go on this one.
Round 4: Latency
Yet another thing I didn’t expect. Maybe it’s the result of the way the signal is processed and maybe it’s the trade off to get better sound, but I’ve never had latency in a plugin before. Acustica did make a ZL (zero latency) version too and you get it with your purchase, but it didn’t work for me.
I use Cubase 7.5 on a 64-bit Windows 7, so maybe it just doesn’t mesh well with that setup. Either way, the presence of latency itself is a bit off-putting, especially since we tend to free up computer resources while mixing by ignoring it. Of course, if the ZL does work for you – then great!
Final Round: Sound
Let’s face it, when it comes to mixing it’s all about the sound. You can pretty much ignore all the previous points if this one wins you over – and it won me over big time!
This is where I’ll compare it to the other versions out there on the market. I first tried the Waves’s Pugitec and wasn’t too impressed with IK Multimedia’s Vintage Tube EQ after that.
Some might say it felt warmer, but to me, it seemed muddied.
If I wanted warmer, I’d definitely go with Acustica’s Acqua Purple. With IK out of the running, I immediately pitted it against Waves. I have to say, it’s pretty close. The Puigtec has more of a clean, hi-fi feel to it. Some may prefer that, especially if they’re used to digital sound.
However, if you want the analogue warmth, definitely go with Acustica-Audio! Not only that, it feels like it gives more punch and snap with less harsh frequencies. Must be that preamp part they added. It sort of does the same thing as a tape saturation plugin inserted after the fact, only it’s already in the EQ.
And the winner is…
Despite the minor issues I have with it, I pick the Acqua Purple EQ series. It’s without a doubt the best sound-wise. The main problem with plugins is that they tend to introduce a digital harshness when too clean or mud when trying to cover it up.
Acustica-Audio managed to find the right balance. Now, if the few kinks they have to get polished, we may just have another industry standard plugin.
Well, this was unexpected. I’m sort of used to the idea that a trim/gain/right-most knob on any plugin will adjust the outgoing signal level to match the incoming one. This is not the case here. I guess they really were trying to emulate every part of the hardware because trim actually adjusts how much of the signal goes into the EQ preamp.
Purple M5 and Purple P-1 equalizer plugins are both available for Windows and MAC hosted apps in VST 32bit & 64bit / AU 32bit & 64bit, AAX 32 bit & 64bit plugin formats.facebook.com/stryfersaudioroom[/author]