Tube-Tech PE 1C by James Meeker
The Tube Tech PE-1C, released in 1985, was the original Pultec clone--long before the Manley and pretty much everyone else decided to toss their design into the fray. This is a high quality equalizer, with a price tag to match, that pretty much conjures up the sounds and feel of the (almost) holiest of grail artifacts from recording ages past (this award would probably be reserved for the Fairchild, but that's a whole 'nuther story). Lately it's become fashionable to bag on the Tube Tech as not being "vintage sounding" enough and to champion this brand Pultec clone or this one, or whatever. Such is life amongst a barrage of never ending marketing hype, ad copy and gullible customers looking for the next best, next-best thing.
That being said the PE-1C is probably the cleanest Pultec-ish EQ out there. Tube Tech have gone on record stating their EQ isn't going to sound like a EQP-1a nowadays due to changes in tone from aging components, countless repairs of varying quality and other alterations. No, they state, the PE-1C is designed to sound like a Pultec when it was new. This is a difficult claim to quantify, especially since few of us were working recording engineers when the originals came out, and even those who were the passage of time can alter perception, not to mention the entire recording chain has changed from then to now for how they would have used them. Either way, at the end of the day marketing hype is marketing hype... Proof is in the pudding, so let's see how the PE-1C operates in the real world.
The faceplate of the PE-1C should be very familiar--it's laid out exactly as the original. While I'm not going to get into the operation of this style of EQ, let's just say that you either know what you're doing with a Pultec-style EQ or you've yet to learn; that being said, if you DO know what you're doing you'll find the Tube Tech operates exactly as you'd expect. All the famous Pultec tricks are here, from the "boost/cut" low end trick, the "top end set to stun," and the "boost/sweep" interaction for the midrange. Nice work, Tube Tech! Just like the original, famous for getting away with fairly insane EQ boosts in any range, the PE-1C does not disappoint. Unlike many EQ's, a true Pultec design seems to "meld" with the sound, becoming part of it. This, along with the subtle added thickness, is part of what keeps the Pultec legacy going on and on and on. And trust me, it will keep going on as long as there's sound to record because it's that good.
Use the PE-1C anywhere you'd use a Pultec. Obviously kick drums are a no-brainer. Bass guitar is another shining exemplar of its tonal twisting. Another less discussed, but very cool, instrument is adding top end and bite to electric guitars (and rolling off a little top). More than one engineer has put a stereo pair of these on drum overheads, set the top end around 8khz and dimed these--something you can actually get away with! In fact, after playing around with one of these EQ's you start to understand why at one point The Power Station had about 24 of these laying around. Yeah, you can pretty much throw them on anything and good stuff just pours out.
On the downside, the Pultec clone market is very, very saturated around the Tube Tech's price point. Competition looms all around it, which seems to have left the PE-1C a bit in the dust. Maybe it's because they were first, and therefore the main point of comparison to these newer, often more colored sounding modules; maybe it's because the Manley cost so much less (and in all fairness, was sonically inferior by a few percents); maybe the Tube Tech is just too big, takes up too much space in a rack; maybe it's just a triumph of marketing weenies over reality.... I dunno. That being said, you're not going to regret time spent on a PE-1C--it's a quality EQ, probably the cleanest and quietest of the bunch. They've had a fairly long production run now and are considered very, very reliable. My only complaint on the Tube Tech is two of the three units I've had the pleasure of using had broken knobs (usually the boost or attenuation knobs in the low shelf section); I don't know what's going on, but the knobs seem prone to breakage. However--the rotary pots they are attached to must be pretty tough because the operation of the unit was unaffected in all cases.
Bottom Line: the PE-1C is a very high quality, built to last program equalizer true to its roots in the Pultec. It has a number of detractors, often gear merchants that, coincidently, don't sell the Tube Tech line. The market for this type of equalizer is pretty crowded and there are PLENTY of amazing options out there. If your tastes veer more towards the authentic and clean, and worry about reliability, the Tube Tech PE-1C should be at the top of your list to consider. They are pretty expensive for what you get, but so are all Pultec clones.... something I'd criticize the entire market for doing, which is cashing in on demand and not charging for the cost of design, materials and labor only. A real winner and pleasure to use. Highly recommended.