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MANLEY Massive Passive


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MANLEY Massive Passive

Category:  Products / fx & processors / eq unit

Added: 20-Nov-12  |  Author: admin

New price: 3,332.78 UKP - 4,899.00 Euros  |   S/H price: Not listed

MANLEY Massive Passive

I recently installed a MANLEY Massive Passive in my small but busy mastering studio. I was looking for an analog equalizer with a touch of character. I have a very nice and clean custom built eq which is great for more transparent equalization jobs and felt the need for a companion eq. The new eq needed to be capable of broad tonal adjustments and be able to impart some character if necessary across digital productions.

Unpacking the box was quite involved. As you can imagine the unit was very well packed as these devices are shipped from the USA where they are hand built in Chino, California. It's very reassuring to know that big chunks of tailor cut foam and thick corrugated cardboard has protected your investment during shipping. The first thing that strikes you is the weight (approx 9 Kgs)and secondly the classy looks of the unit.

The MANLEY Massive Passive has been very well designed aesthetically speaking and it has a classy purple facia and chunky controls that beg you to touch them. It is a four band stereo equalizer (dual mono) with a set of switched high and low pass filters. A mains transformer protrudes from the rear of the 3u 19 inch case (presumably to reduce interference into the electronic circuits within). The unit has transformer balanced XLR inputs and outputs and TRS jack inputs and output all referenced to +4dBu. The TRS jack output bypasses the transformers which allows you to have a slightly cleaner equalizer when utilizing them.

Along with dual blue LED EQ on/off buttons each band can be individually bypassed and switched into boost or cut mode, these are recessed into the facia and glow red or green from a back lit LED, they look and feel great in use. In addition all bands can be switched between shelf and bell modes, this is quite a unique feature as most mid bands are bell only, with only the low and high bands having shelf eq capability.

Gain and Q knobs are constantly variable and the frequency knob is a stepped switch affair. The feel of the continuously variable knobs is smooth and secure with a good amount of resistance to movement making them confident in use and a breeze to recall. The clear un-numbered legending assists in this process. The frequency selection switch gives a reassuring clonk when in use. In addition to the 4 band parametric controls the Massive Passive has high and low pass filter switches set at various frequencies for rolling off highs and lows. These have come in useful although as with most processes sometimes they work for a mix and sometimes not. They are certainly a welcome feature to have in the analog domain.

When the unit is switched on there is a mute relay system that halts audio throughput for approx 10 seconds until the unit has switched on and stabilized to avoid clicks emanating from the outputs. As a guideline valve equipment is best left to settle for 10 mins before being put into use so all the tube circuitry has nicely stabilized. Passive equalization is unique in that when you boost 1kHz for example it is actually attenuating all frequencies except 1kHz, this is the reason for the CLASS A topology 6 valve/tube amplifier stage in the back of the unit. This produces the gain to drive the outputs. Despite being a lossy unit and passive in nature the eq is very quiet indeed. (lack of hiss/hum) This is testimony to the sheer design quality and attention to detail in MANLEY's products.

Of course eq use is very much dependent on the source material and as I run a mastering studio I tend to use the eq on stereo 2 track mix downs so I will reflect on my experiences so far in a practical working situation. In use it is easy to hear the equalizers action, boosting at 100Hz with a bell is immediately noticeable with a very pleasing thickening on the low end in a track. I very much like the low frequency section of the eq for rounding out the deep lows in a track. I can imagine this eq being especially good for mastering dance music

The results of tweaking the controls differs a little from a typical parametric equalizer as the bands can interact with each other. This is part of the unique operation and sound qualities in a parallel passive eq design. For example an extreme boost of 20dB at 680Hz and another 20dB boost at 680Hz in the next band up does not equate to a 40dB boost. This is the nature of the parallel filter arrangement in the eq. I am still discovering the character of how the bands interact with each other. The mid range is nothing short of excellent, this equalizer can subtly widen the stereo image whilst tonally shaping arguably the most important frequency ranges in any mix down. This is an excellent trait and makes it very suitable as a mastering equalizer.

My personal experience is that the upper mid range is best used for reducing harshness or providing a very gentle presence boost. With it's 27kHz high band setting air can be introduced in a fairly transparent manner if required to add a sense of space and "expense" without being obvious. Just passing audio through the device offers a gentle widening effect courtesy of the valves and transformers in the input and output signal paths. This is an added bonus. Thus far I have no negative experience with the eq at all, it has all the qualities I was expecting of a broad brush strokes mastering grade equalizer and then some. I would probably use another equalizer for more surgical eq duties. I am sure this will be in use daily for many years to come. Of course such high end equipment does not come at a low price. However when you take into account the quality of the machine and spread it over 5 years of ownership as an investment it seems more than reasonable.

These devices are sought after and unique and I believe they can add something special to the music making process. Whilst plug ins have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years they still cannot quite capture the full complexity of an 'alive' signal path, especially ones which exude the qualities of devices such as the MANLEY Massive Passive.

This review was written by Barry Gardner who operates SafeandSound online mastering a low cost, high end mastering studio based in London, UK.

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