Apex PE 133 MkII Paragraphic Equaliser (part 3)
No LCD, no nudge buttons and no excuses. These units are fitted with a full complement of physical controls, fifty-five on the PE133 excluding the power switch. The corollary of this is that there is no MIDI facility and no programmability so we are talking about real old-fashioned sound engineering here. On a unit with so many EQ sections the first thing I look for are in/out switches, and there is no shortage. Obviously each section of EQ is going to make a little bit of noise even when set flat, so its good to see that there are six in/out switches so what you dont need doesnt get in the way.
If you have a simple EQ task then perhaps you will start with the low pass and high pass filters. These have a slope of 12dB/octave and range between 2kHz-40kHz (high pass) and 15Hz-300Hz (low pass). Just above them is a level control with a calibration range of minus infinity up to +6dB. If your instincts lead you to the graphic section then you will notice that there are 30 bands and a scale switch which sets the range of cut or boost on each band to 6dB or 12dB. I liked the sound of the constant Q filters rather more than conventional graphics and I felt that I had much more control over the sound than usual. It is also much easier to make the sound pretty horrible by having large differences between adjacent sliders, but then thats up to your sense of self restraint!
Switching the graphic out of circuit and moving on to the parametrics we find three individually switched bands, each of which covers the full range between 18Hz and 20kHz. A range such as this on one knob would provide only a very coarse control and Apex have thoughtfully included a three position range switch, so you can choose between 18Hz-200Hz, 180Hz-2kHz and 1.8kHz-20kHz. (This switch is actually closer to the Q control so you might mistakenly think that you could set a Q of 80 in the x10 position!). For fine tuning there are also vernier controls with a range of ±10% over the main control. As I mentioned earlier, the gain of each band ranges from minus infinity (actually specified to be -45dB) to +15dB.
One of the things to watch out for with equalisation is the potential for creating an overload by boosting several sections at around the same frequency. This could easily happen with four sections which have the capability to boost a single frequency by as much as 57dB. The overload detection system here works well and monitors a number of potential overload points in the circuit. I couldnt hear any clipping that wasnt clearly indicated by the LED so all must be well. One slight anomaly I found was that the overload LED lights even when the graphic is switched out of circuit, but only when the parametrics are switched in. Im sure that there must be a good reason for this and I dont see why it would be any drawback in use.
I found the PE133MkII to be a very capable piece of equipment with no significant drawbacks. Its quiet with low distortion. It has relay bypass on power off (as all equalisers should, and delay units too), and it sounds good. What more can you ask?