IGS AUDIO Rubber Bands EQ2P by coniglius
About my setup and style
I'll try to make this introduction brief as possible. I'm a long-time musician and amateur recordist. All recording and production is done by myself. Tracking is all analogue to an Otari MX-5050-8 MKIII. I mix with a Soundcraft 400b and track through either the console or some outboard preamps of various makes. Occasionally I'll mixdown to a DAW for convenience and getting stuff out quickly, though it usually goes to 2-track tape. I'm really only interested in sounds and techniques of "rock, pop, and soul" from the '60s and '70s, so please keep that in mind when reading this review and my assesments. That's not to say I always know what I'm doing, but I try in earnest!
IGS Audio and Atlas Pro Audio
APA is the US dealer for IGS Audio and I got the unit through them. Dealt with Igor and Nathan directly. Emails were answered same day and I was given status updates without having to ask. I was given a build time estimate and a ship date estimate and the unit ended up in my hands ahead of the dates I was given. It arrived in utilitarian but impressive package purpose-built for a heavy 2U rackmount unit to survive a rough 10-14 day trip from Poland to the US.
The unit is as well built as any modern piece of gear I've seen. Chassis is steel. All switches, pots and jacks are sturdy. Lettering is silk-screened. Knobs are plastic chicken-head type. Power is indicated by an orange jewel lamp. What you don't see in the promotional images is that this has an external PSU. The Rubber Bands (RB) connects to the PSU via detatchable 10-pin "umbilical cord" which is about 5 feet long. This cord is permanently attached to the PSU. The PSU is about the size of 2 MXR-type stomp boxes and connects to mains via removable IEC cable. It's switchable from 115V to 230V. There is power on both the RB itself and on the PSU. Igor told me that the PSU can always be left "on" and that no voltage would be present on the cable unless it was attached to the RB. To my ears, the PSU was dead quiet. I had to put it against my ear to hear any discernable hum.
I let it warm up for about an hour before I used it. When I passed a signal through it the first time, I did so with all boost/cuts set to 0 and flipped back and forth between "IN" and "BYPASS". There wasn't much discernable difference. Igor told me that the unit would pass unity gain if all controls were set to zero and that was what it did. Settings still 0, the next thing I tried wasto gradually increase the input to the unit until I was really slamming it. Honestly I was hoping to hear some transformer or tube saturation, but there was none. It stayed completely clean throughout with no noticeable distortion or saturation coming from the unit.
Now for a stereo bounce I had of an electric cello section with a harpsichord over them. The cellos were panned L/R and the harpsichord panned at about 2 o'clock with some reverb bleeding into the left. This mixdown was a problem for me previously because the harpsichord was lost and all you could hear was the "tinkling". It was almost impossible to discern its individual notes otherwise. It was meant to be in the background, so that wasn't too bad, but I would have liked to be able to hear the melody a bit better. I set the RB to boost at 5K and played around a little bit with the HI Q and HI Boost. With the HI Q about halfway and the HI Boost at about 7, I was able to recover the harpsichord part without affecting the rest of the mixdown. The result was very natural sounding and wasn't harsh at all. Not only was I able to hear the pitches and discern the melody, but there was some "air" added that helped separate it further from the cellos. Also, I tried setting the boost to 10 and setting the Q to its "harshest" setting and it was still a useable sound. Though a bit much, it wasn't harsh or grating when maxed out.
Next was the entire mix. I was working on a Bo Hansson type arrangement and production of a now well-known fantasy show theme. I thought I had it sounding pretty good, the only thing really remaining was to get the drums to stand out a little better. To give you an idea, it was an overdub of 5 or 6 heavy orchestral "war drum" type sections with about 30 overdubs in all. It was sounding "ok", but I wasn't getting it to sound as big as I'd liked. I played around with boosting/cutting frequencies. The "ahh" moment came with 60Hz boosted at 3 and 20Hz cut to 10. Best I can describe is that it sounded like I'd switched the drums from mono to stereo. They really sort of "cradled" the mix now whereas before they were more of a rumbly low-end pad. Cutting 6K at 4.5 and boosting 8K at 6.5 with a Q of 4.5 yielded the same perceived increase in stereo imaging on the airier type instruments; several minimoog overdubs, electric violins, and the previously mentioned harpsichord.
I've only used the unit for about 3 full day sessions at present. My impressions so far, and this may change ... It's not a "flavour" type EQ. It's super clean. I thought I'd use this for bouncing tracks down as a sort of "glue" in addition to compression. I don't really feel like this is suitable for that in my case. Nor do I think this is something I'd use as an EQ for tracking in most cases in the future. Personally, I also would not leave it on the mixbuss "all the time". To me, it's more of a "polisher" or "enhancer" to take a completed mix that you're already pretty happy with to the next level. My channel EQs are the Soundcraft 400Bs. They're not terrible, but they are also not great for creating a dynamic mix, especially in the highs and lows because they only boost/cut and 10kHz and 20Hz. But after I dial it in on the board the best I can, adding the RB on the mixbuss really just makes it all work.
These "Dislikes" represent the point I took off of the rating under "Features".
Though it doesn't affect the functionality. I would say that the fact that the numbers are silkscreen rather an engraved is a big minus in my book. Aesthetics aside, from a functional point of view I think that manufacturers need to realise that the lettering is not "static" and that it actually gets wear and function. I don't know how other people work, but all of my gear is constantly being masking taped, china marked, erased, cleaned, etc etc. Every piece of newer gear I own with printed numbering has worn off from one extent to another. It's usually from rubbing of China Marker or removing masking take that I'd made notes on. I have much lower end pieces of gear that have been laser engraved. Being a DIY-er myself I know that laser engraved front panels are reasonably priced enough at this point in time as to justify the small added expense. Being a very reasonably priced unit for this type of EQ I don't believe justifies the use of the more economical silk screening over engraving. As we all know the only thing that keeps these Pultec type units expensive is the fact that the originals are expensive and they are in high demand. The circuit is no more expensive or complicated to build than units that are a fraction of the price. I took a point off of "Bang for the Buck" for this reason. Due to the limited feature and circuit aspects, I don't believe any EQP1 type EQ is a good bang for the buck. Though the RB being one of the more reasonably priced ones gives it more !/$ than most
The chassis hardware is the "star" type. I don't know if that's the standard in Europe or not. But in the US it's generally considered a "specialized" type of thing and most people don't own a set of star tools (or whatever they're called). Case in point is that I've owned a couple of sets over the years and used them all so infrequently that they always ended up getting buried or packed away and lost.
No user manual. Igor gave me a manual for their older EQ. Though being a passive unit, there's not mention of the tube stage which comes with this unit.
I like the fact that the PSU unit is separate. It moves heat and potential noise away from adjacent gear. It also makes the unit itself much lighter so it is easier to rack and has less inertia, hence less potential for damage in shipping. However, if you were to acquire more than one piece of IGS gear, it could be cumbersome to deal with multiple such PSUs lying around.
This is probably the single most expensive non-instrument, non-vintage piece of recording gear I own, so it was a huge investment for me. Being inexperienced, I made an err in judgement as to which style EQ I thought I wanted. Going in this case with a Pultec type EQ that I did not understand well at the onset, when what I was really looking for was something more channel-oriented. Probably something like the Hammer. I was lucky to have a "happy accident" as the RB really has done more for me than I would have hoped in such a "channel EQ". Specifically, in that it allowed me to actually use all the EQs already on my board more usefully to where I no longer needed something outboard for each channel. It enhanced everything without really adding any sort of colour of its own. In my use cases at least, the RB is best suited for whole mixes, or submixes with a wide frequency range. Boosting 5K seems to be where the magic is for me. Overall I find it an excellent and piece of gear and would highly recommend the Rubber Bands for anyone looking for that extra something to bring your mixdowns up to a professional level (no pun intented). As have been most small companies like IGS Audio that I've dealt with, customer service all the way through the pipe was first rate. However, for me, I felt that things like the attention to packaging, the pre-emptive updates, and the ahead-of-schedule delivery dates really give them an an added level of professionalism. So I would recommend IGS Audio to anyone in general.
Unfortunately I'm unable to release any sound samples for now of the session I recorded with the RB. But in the near future I hope to make some sound samples of the unit specifically for demoing purposes and I will update this thread.