Over the last couple of years a particular Equalizer has risen up through the forums to become a favorite amongst many mastering and mix engineers for being able to get a sound, mojo and tone shaping like nothing else they have heard before.
The Michelangelo has evolved over this time as well, with added functions created as a result of the discussions and interaction with its designer Chris Henderson (of Hendyamps).
It has also become one of the most popular analog Equalizers for people to check out and shootout on Gearshoot, so we thought it was a good plan to ask Chris some extra questions you wouldn't know about just by reading general stuff on the net.
To check out some audio examples of the Michelangelo go to the bottom of the page
The MA was originally conceived as an EQ that would work well for me in the tracking phase of musical production, and thus it began as an EQ I incorporated into the design of my Picasso channel strip. I wanted an EQ that would add a richness and harmonically complex tone to every source, and found that a more basic, broad strokes design, employing tubes, worked best. After using the Picasso in the studio for about a year or so and finding it to be the perfect channel strip for nearly any source, I decided to expand the EQ into a stand alone stereo design in order to make it more useful for mixing. As a person that approaches gear design from a “I need this in the studio right now and can’t seem to find another piece of gear that is matching the tone in my head” perspective, I determined that the MA needed to sound as thick and rich as possible, simultaneously becoming a broad strokes EQ and saturator at the same time, and it needed to be so easy to use that it felt like you were cheating when you used it.
Once I was satisfied with the design, some mastering guys actually became interested in it (very unexpected for me at the time even though I personally used it consistently in mastering applications) and before I knew it, the MA exploded onto the scene!
The Aggression knob actually works in conjunction with the calibration controls and the Air knob to alter the input impedance, drive, and feel of the circuit before it hits the actual EQ network. The net result is that between those controls, you will have a significant amount of interaction, possible levels, and types of curves and drive levels that feed the EQ network, allowing the EQ to go from a very tame and precise EQ to a raging monster of tone at will
There are technically a total of six transformers in the MA:
- The power transformer is rated high enough to actually power a Fender deluxe AND the MA at the same time, so the power transformer isn’t even breaking a sweat in there!
- The choke is to help filter the high voltage supply in the MA (voltages reach as high as 475v!) and is rated to easily support a 50 watt power amp.
- The input and output transformers are all Jensen designed and built, and I chose them after shooting out a large number of audio transformers from manufacturers all over the world. Why did I choose the Jensens? Because in the MA circuit, they simply gave me the most accurate representation of what the MA was doing and reflected the sound I was going for in my head. Some transformers rolled off the lows or highs, some had audible phase shift implications, others sounded fantastic but just not as fantastic in the MA. Thus, I stuck with the Jensens.
Well, to be honest, I am a custom build guy at heart, meaning I love always looking at designs and thinking of ways to modify them in order to better fit people’s specific needs. It allows me to continue interacting with new people who are as passionate about music as I am, and it keeps me up to date on studio needs and creative solutions. In the case of the MA, the Bass switch (80hz/150hz), the High Switch (Sharp/Smooth), and the LoZ/HiZ switch (Output impedance) are all products of interaction with users of the MA. As they have offered ideas, or asked for modifications, I have been able to incorporate the most useful of those ideas/requests into the design of the MA in order to constantly improve its versatility.
When operating in LoZ mode the MA uses a low output impedance in order to correctly interface with other units after it in the signal chain. The result is that the MA is driven less, allowing it to remain more linear in EQ response, produce less harmonic content, and have a more robust low and high end response. In fact, when running in LoZ mode, and when the source material is fairly low in volume feeding the MA, you will notice that the sound will be extremely punchy and clean. When using the HiZ mode, the output impedance of the MA is intentionally raised much higher than it “should be”, causing the output volume from the MA to drop several db and also forcing the MA to work very hard to drive any gear behind it in the chain. The net result is that you will notice more harmonic content, a drop in the highs and lows, and a more fluid, thick, and juicy tone that can shave off some of the transient response and attack. This smoothing of the transients can act as a perfect glue for a bus or mix, bringing a song together like never before, but it can also have too strong of an effect on the source material if precision and instant punch is needed. I wanted to keep both modes on the MA because it dramatically increases the versatility of the MA, making itself a far more useful EQ in nearly every circumstance.
A full Hendyamps 48 channel console. I would want half of the channels to be my Picasso channel strip (MA EQ and original optical compressor), and the other half to be my rembrandt preamp with the MA EQ and a VCA style compressor for the rest of the channels. It would be literally my dream piece of gear but I'd would be looking at over 100 tubes!