First Listen: A Review Of The Trident A-Range 500 EQ
The Trident A-Range console is known for having one of the most beloved EQs of all time. So it wasn't such a surprise when the Trident team announced at the NAMM Show 2018 that they would be bringing the classic EQ to lunchbox racks around the world with the release of the Trident A-Range 500 EQ.
Why is there so much love for the Trident A-Range EQ? Its unique design sets it apart from any other EQ due to its use of faders rather than stepped potentiometers for gain adjustment. It also doesn't hurt that Trident A-Range desks were used in the making of Lou Reed’s Transformer, David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and many more classic records.
To hear the Trident A-Range 500 EQ in action, watch our new demo featuring the module on vocals, snare drum and electric guitar. Read on after the video to learn more about the sounds in the demo and Vintage King's Bryan Reilly thoughts on the EQ.
I had a chance to use the original rackmount Trident A-Range mic pre/eq for the first time a few years back while tracking a band at a friend's studio just outside of Detroit. My buddy was stoked to have just gotten this new piece of gear and said, "This is the sound of some of the best records ever made. Bowie loves this thing!”
During recording, I learned that on the snare and electric guitar, the A-Range really opened up recordings once EQ was applied. It has the ability to make just about any source fatter and brighter without getting muddy or brittle. From that session on, I was completely sold on the A-Range.
Although I don’t get to use the hardware model too much these days, I’ve been a big fan of the A-Range EQ plug-in by Universal Audio. The plug-in does a good job of replicating the tone of the EQ, but most of the magic in the A-Range comes from the physical feel of the faders, which is slightly lost when adjusting the fader on a screen.
Needless to say, when the chance came for me to check out the new A-Range 500 Series EQ, I jumped at the chance. Let's talk a little more in-depth about how we achieved the sounds in the demo video above on vocals, electric guitar and snare drum.
For vocals, I used a take from Ali Shea of Empty Houses that we recorded a few weeks back with the Rupert Neve Designs/sE Electronics RNT microphone through a Shadow Hills GAMA preamp. Ali has a soulful, gritty, in-your-face type of voice. Although it seems like the preamp is breaking up a little, that’s just the natural sound of her voice.
The RNT does tend to have a little bit of natural bite to it when you don’t attenuate the input on the power supply. The raw vocal was a little thin in the low end and a tad bit too bright, so with the A-Range I was looking to add some more bottom and roll off some of that harsh top end without making it dull.
I mentioned earlier the A-Range has the ability to make a source fatter and brighter without making it too boomy or brittle. The key to achieving that sound is in the six filter buttons located beneath the faders. Each band has three fixed high and low pass filters, which can be individually assigned or all engaged at once. On the high pass section, you have the options for 25Hz, 50Hz and 100Hz. For the low pass, choose from 9kHz, 12kHz and 15kHz.
On this vocal example, I ended up boosting 6dB at 50Hz and around 3dB at 250Hz to fill out the low end. With that much boost, it was starting to get muddy, so I began engaging the high pass filters starting with 25Hz. It still wasn’t clear enough, so I engaged 50Hz, now it was sounding much better and had all the low end I was looking for, but it was still too boomy for my taste. So before I pulled down the faders, I engaged the 100Hz filter with the other two still engaged.
That is the secret setting for dialing in low end for me. I feel with all the filters engaged you can add an absurd amount of gain to add this richness to the low end that doesn’t end up swimming in sub frequency. Once I got the low end dialed in, I dipped a couple dB at 5kHz and a small boost at 15kHz. The raw vocal was a bit harsh, so after those boosts, I ended up engaging the 15kHz and 12kHz low pass filters. The A-Range did a great job of adding some air and presence while smoothing out all those harsh high frequencies.
For the electric guitar example, I played a Gibson Les Paul through a vintage Fender Pro Reverb. It was miked up with a Sennheiser 441 through a Shadow Hills GAMA preamp with a touch of compression through an 1176 Rev D. Everyone was really happy with the raw electric tone while we were tracking, Dustin McLaughlin and I were going back and forth about how crystal clear that amp sounds.
Then we popped in the A-Range, and the tone is almost night and day. It adds so much life and body to the take. The mid-range and low end have less rumble and more focus. The overtones in the higher frequencies begin to sing. The A-Range does a great job of removing the cloudiness and making it feel as if you’re in the room with the amplifier.
I ended up boosting 4dB at 80Hz and 2dB at 250Hz to get more chug from the muted notes. I engaged the 25Hz and 50Hz high pass filters, leaving the 100Hz bypassed to preserve the lower notes on the neck. I then added a 3dB bump at 3kHz and about 5dB at 10kHz, as I wanted to put a little bark to the mids and have the high end shine.
To tame all that high end boost, I engaged all of the low pass filters. One of my favorite things about the A-Range is how subtle, but effective the filters are. They are some of the best on the market for smoothing out the top end without making the source dull.
If I had to choose one snare EQ to rule them all, I think it would be the A-Range. A snare is very tricky to record. It's hard to get it to sit just right in the mix. The standard snare microphone is an SM57, as it does a great job of capturing the transients and body of the snare without too much bleed from the rest of the kit.
A 57 also takes EQ very well, meaning you can add a lot of higher frequencies before it starts to sound brittle or thin (keep in mind bleed from the Hi-Hat or cymbals when boosting the high end of a snare top microphone). I ran the 57 through a Shadow Hills GAMA preamp without any compression. For the example, I played a solo snare march cadence with some solo hits at the end.
When you’re constantly playing a snare, there can tend to be a lot of build up in the low mid frequencies, all the delicate ghost notes can start to get lost, blend together or just muddy up the track. On the other side of the frequency range, a 57 doesn’t tend to have a lot of “crack” or “sizzle” (as it does in the live room) without any added EQ.
Through the A-Range, I added a few dB at 100Hz and 250Hz. Those frequencies help add or maintain the “thump” on the accent hits. I then engaged all the high pass filters to get rid of the rumble and mud. For the higher frequencies, I boosted 3kHz and 10kHz quite a bit, probably around 4 or 5dB. I then engaged all of the low pass filters to tame all the sizzle added by the EQ boost.
When I A/B'd between the raw snare and EQ’d snare, I’m amazed by how much of an improvement the A-Range makes. It’s not completely changing the snare tone, but making it a 3D version of what’s already there, much closer to what I’m hearing from behind the kit. Again, the A-Range allowed me to fill out the low and higher frequencies without making it boomy or brittle and helped pull it forward in the speakers.
I was so happy with how the A-Range sounded on this snare example, I used it on my snare all last week on a record I was producing and playing drums on. For a record that is organic and “rootsy,” snare samples don’t tend to work all that well, so you have to get it right at the source. I feel very confident we nailed it while tracking and little to no EQ or compression is necessary when I go to mix.
I know I’ve said it a couple times throughout the blog, but the A-Range is a pretty magical EQ. It’s almost impossible to make something sound bad through it and I feel it passed all my tests with flying colors. If you have a 500 series rack and are looking for new flavors of EQ, I highly recommend giving the A-Range 500 a shot. I know I’ll be adding one to the collection real soon.
The A-Range 500 is priced at $850, which is a slightly lower price point than other EQs in its class, and a big step down from the $3,000 dual channel A-Range pre amp/EQ module. From working with the older A-Range and now the new 500 series module, I couldn’t tell a sonic difference in the quality of EQ, I felt right at home as if I were using the big boy.