Prism Sound Maselec MEA-2 by Lagerfeldt
Prism Sound Maselec Master Series MEA-2 precision stereo equalizer
Picture © 2013 Holger Lagerfeldt, not to be used without permission.
The Prism Sound Maselec Master Series MEA-2 precision stereo equalizer was invented by the Swedish audio engineer Leif Mases (ABBA, Led Zeppelin) in the mid-1990s, and has been widely used in mastering studios ever since. It’s sought after for its precision, clean sound and excellent ergonomics.
The MEA-2 has been updated several times since its release. The newest revision is the seventh (as per 2013) and the revisions include minor interface changes as well as improvements to the audio chain and functionality, such as an extended frequency range and bypass of individual bands at zero gain.
Let me start out by saying that the MEA-2 is one of the cleanest equalizers I’ve used. With a dynamic range that matches or exceeds most other similar gear, and with less than 0.0006% harmonic distortion with all bands engaged - it’s a good starting point. The MEA-2 uses an ingeniously designed transformerless output, which is another factor in its neutral base sound.
Control and Bypass
The MEA-2 is a four band dual mono equalizer which gives you independent control over each side. Each band can work as a parametric or shelving equalizer. All knobs are large, detented quality pots that assist you with a precise workflow and easy recall. Each band has up to 8 dB of boost or cut, of which the first 3 dB in both directions are available in 0.5 dB increments.
There are individual hard bypass buttons for each channel and a global switch entitled “power” on the front. Each band is effectively removed from the audio chain at zero gain, but it would’ve been nice to have individual bypass switches for each band, like the GML 9500.
The actual main on/off switch is on the back of the unit and its power consumption is 15W. The MEA-2 doesn’t run particularly hot, though I left a quarter unit of space above the 3 unit large machine.
Each of the four bands offers 21 different frequency settings for a total of 84 frequency settings to choose from per channel. There’s a nice overlap by each band which makes it easy to find the exact spot you’re looking for.
19, 22, 26, 31, 37, 43, 51, 60, 71, 84, 98, 114, 134, 158, 185, 218, 258, 305, 364, 435, 540
21, 24, 29, 34, 41, 48, 57, 67, 79, 92, 108, 126, 148, 173, 203, 240, 280, 332, 400, 477, 572
617, 727, 862, 1k, 1k2, 1k4, 1k7, 2k0, 2k4, 2k8, 3k3, 3k9, 4k6, 5k4, 6k4, 7k6, 9k0, 11k, 13k, 17k, 24k
665, 787, 937, 1k1, 1k3, 1k5, 1k8, 2k2, 2k6, 3k0, 3k6, 4k2, 5k0, 5k9, 7k0, 8k2, 9k7, 12k, 14k, 19k, 27k
The labelled Q settings of 4, 6, 9, 14 and 20 dB/octave have little actual relation to the bandwidth apart from the approximate severity of the setting. Instead the parametric bands are asymmetric and have a variable gain-dependent bandwidth. The asymmetric behavior means that the MEA-2 exhibits a wider bandwidth when boosting and a more narrow bandwidth when cutting. The variable Q adds to the equation by further narrowing the bandwidth the deeper you cut, and widening the bandwidth again as you apply less gain change. This feels completely intuitive and makes search & destroy or focusing techniques a breeze.
The MEA-2 is often applauded for its ability to control or add fullness in the lower midrange. This is certainly true, but the parametric bands are just as effective in all areas of the frequency range. I’ve succesfully used the MEA-2 to cut problematic sub frequencies without affecting the overall fullness, added punch in the fundamental kick area without adding unwanted filter ringing, removed resonance in the lower mids without losing body, and brought forward the upper midrange and vocal presence in a smooth and pleasant manner.
On one track I succesfully corrected a problematic, hard panned hi hat in the right side using a parametric EQ, while at the same time balancing the top of the left side by using a high shelf. Unlike my Gyraf G14, which is a fairly colored and inherently wide sounding stereo tube EQ, the MEA-2 is able to deal with advanced dual mono setups with authority and no unexpected phase shifting of the stereo image.
Since each band can work as a parametric or a shelving EQ you can potentially have four shelves at the same time. Realistically this can be used for stacking two high shelves, where HF1 acts as a gentle midrange to high frequency lift while HF2 acts as a more conventional air band lift, though you will need to set the corner frequency of HF2 higher than normal to account for the overlap. If you don’t have access to a Baxandall EQ this trick with the MEA-2 can do something a bit similar.
Unlike my Summit Element78 EQ-200, which is a Rupert Neve design featuring focused, Gerzon-like shelves, the MEA-2 excels at gently sloped shelves. Because of the uncolored sound of the MEA-2, the low shelves never sound muddy or even add very much character. They’re simply there to increase or decrease the low end in an unembellished fashion.
The same characteristics are exhibited by the high shelves, which due to the gentle slope sometimes need to be set a bit higher frequency-wise than the numbers would normally indicate. For instance, where I would expect to use a 10 kHz high shelf, I tend to go for a 12 kHz high shelf on the MEA-2.
When the HF2 band is used in shelving mode at 27 kHz it’s possible to increase the extreme top end in a manner comparable to the sound of my Kush Clariphonic’s Silk band, though less colored.
If you’re looking for an equalizer with lots of character and harmonic distortion to complement a purely digital setup, the MEA-2 is probably not for you. If you’re looking for a mastering grade precision built analog equalizer which could end up as your centerpiece, look no further.
RRP USD $6,999