This post is meant to be a fun shootout between my $4000 preamp EQ vs a $100 Plugin from Fabfilter. Sometimes opinions get heated in the analogue vs. digital debate. Although I’m not a passionate disciple of either, I thought it would be fun to see if I could hear any difference. If you want the quick version, jump to the video at the end of this post.
Before I get into the comparison, here’s a quick look at the two EQs that I’m going to use for the test.
The Avalon 737 is a classic Class A studio preamp first released in the 1990s and is ubiquitous in many of the best studios in the world. They retail at around $4000 new and although there are fancier and higher end preamps available nowadays this is a go to for many. Some people call it the Swiss army knife of preamps because it deals well with a bunch of audio situations.
I got this Avalon about 15 years ago in London second hand. I’ve since had the valves replaced and a service done so it should be pretty transparent and accurate.
This preamp is obviously an analogue piece of equipment (complete with Valves and a lot of other stuff I don’t really understand). The theory is the analogue will give the EQ-d sound more warmth and depth.
That’s the Avalon covered, next up the plugin EQ.
Fabfilter Pro Q2
Fabfilter are renowned for their Pro-Q series of plugin EQs (now updated to the Pro Q3). The whole series of EQs is notable for it’s high sound quality. It has one of the best graphic interfaces of any EQ plugin. It’s now quite rightly one of the most popular EQ plugins on the market and I use the Pro Q2 version myself in almost every mix.
The Fabfilter Pro Q2 retails for around $100 or equivalent.
To compare the two EQs I thought it would be best to keep things relatively simple so I chose a soloed vocal part from a song I was working on. I felt a vocal would be the clearest example with which to compare them. I then attempted to use the same EQ settings on both the Avalon 737 and the Fabfilter Pro Q2 to try and make the comparison as close as possible. Here are the approximate EQ settings:
- High Pass Filter at about 100Hz (to remove rumble and unnecessary boomyness)
- Low Mid cut at around 300Hz (to remove boxiness and woodiness)
- A High Mid Push at around 2kHz (to enhance the power of the words)
- A High Shelf Boost at around 10kHz (to add some air and breathe to the vocals)
First here’s the vocal part with no EQ applied.
First up for the test is the Avalon 737sp. Here’s the result of the EQ changes I noted above through the Avalon:
Next it was the turn of the Digital plugin the Fabfilter Pro Q2 to apply the same approximate EQ curves to the vocal. I also added a mild valve saturation effect to the Fabfilter to try to approximate some of the warmth from the Avalon. Here’s the result:
That’s it! Have a good listen through your best and worst speakers, your headphones and any other speakers you have and see if you can hear a difference. For me I definitely feel the Avalon seems to set the vocal in the mix a little more. It feels a bit more glued into the track but like all things musical, it’s subjective so maybe you prefer the sound of the Digital Fabilfter.
Here’s a quick video breakdown of the above shootout:
I hope you enjoyed this comparison of my $4000 Preamp EQ vs a $100 Plugin. Let me know if you can hear the difference and if you have any questions or comments in the comments section below. For more ideas on working with vocals in your mixes check out this post.