hendyamps michelangelo mastering equalizer
The Hendyamps Michelangelo is a discrete, Class A, Stereo tube EQ that’s equally well suited for recording, mixing, or mastering studios. I first got my hands on one in 2016, after hearing about it from colleagues and seeing it in racks at every studio I visited. It’s an enigmatic piece of gear. The faceplate and colors have changed often over the years, and trying to establish a chronology of these changes is essentially impossible. After a long email chain with its designer Chris, it’s apparent to me that the Michelangelo is an ever-evolving design. In fact, mine has several unlabeled switches whose function neither Chris nor myself could ascertain, even after lengthy experimentation. That’s honestly okay though, as after finding a setting on the Michelangelo EQ I like, I’ve never really touched it. It’s got a vintage, handmade aesthetic to it, with mismatched fonts on its faceplate and razor sharp case corners. Its entire personality is likable.
The controls on the Hendyamps Michelangelo are reminiscent of a vintage tube guitar amp. This isn’t surprising, as Hendyamps originated as a boutique guitar amp builder. There’s an input gain, called aggression or mojo depending on your unit, and an output trim. Between these two knobs are four equalizer bands with widely overlapping curves. There are switches that shift the EQ points on these bands, and a set of trim calibration pots which allow for more or less distortion from the tube circuits. Honestly, it’s best to think of this unit as a hi-fi distortion rather than an EQ. There are two distortion modes: modern and vintage. Vintage darkens the signal considerably, while modern scoops the mids slightly.
I use the Hendyamps Michelangelo as a distortion unit. I find that a small amount of ‘mojo’ from the Michelangelo, at the front of my analogue chain, adds a bit of closeness and life to excessively digital-sounding content. This can be a very important tool, given that adding a controlled amount of analogue harmonic content comprises a large part of mastering music that was produced in the box. Sometimes the Hendyamps Michelangelo can feel like a shortcut, allowing me to finish masters in an incredibly short time. The equalizer circuit also has its uses - the unit’s distortion considerably shifts the spectral balance of the track, and equalization is required to restore its original balance.
The Michelangelo Equalizer is very colored and can considerably degrade detailed content. It imparts a grainy haze that’s only acceptable on a small number of projects. It also has a habit of consuming tubes quite often, requiring a replacement every year or so. Fortunately, these tubes are of a common variety.
The Hendyamps Michelangelo is a tone piece. For engineers seeking a workhorse equalizer in their analogue chain, this would not be my suggestion. As another color to paint with, the Michelangelo is brilliant.