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Manley Massive Passive EQ Manual

In this article

Get mixes and masters with sweet tube clarity.

The UAD Manley Massive Passive EQ Collection plug-ins are thorough emulations of Manley's flagship boutique tube EQs. Renowned for its natural sounding, organic curves, the Massive Passive EQ excels at radical tonal shaping as well as delicate vocal shading or subtle mastering enhancement.

Officially licensed and endorsed by Manley Labs, the Manley Massive Passive EQ Collection plug-ins expertly capture the behavior of the original hardware, from the unusual filter curves, to the multiple band interdependencies, right down to the tube amplifier distortion, and all-important transformer/inductor hysteresis.

  • Expertly shape tracks and masters with Manley’s ultra-boutique tube EQ

  • Dial in punch, air, sizzle, and clarity without adding harshness

  • Add weight and heft to an entire mix without adding mud

  • Harness complex band interaction and tube amp distortion for organic, musical textures

Add Effective, Musical Tone Shaping

The two-channel, four-band Manley Massive Passive tube EQ utilizes design strengths from choice console, parametric, graphic, and Pultec EQs — delivering sweet curves with unparalleled clarity and headroom. The Manley Massive Passive EQ plug-in expertly emulates these tone-shaping elements, giving you the same natural and organic sound as the hardware.

Experience Finished Pro Productions

The Manley Massive Passive EQ plug-in gives you a Standard version with continuous bandwidth adjustment, and a Mastering version with 16 steps of easily recallable selections. Perfect for subtle or broad strokes to individual instruments or whole mixes, now you can add presence and sizzle without harshness to drums and vocals, or add weight and heft to an entire mix with clear, punchy bottom end.



Massive Passive


Massive Passive Mastering



Unusual EQ Conventions

The Massive Passive has design and operation characteristics that make it unique in the EQ world. Some of these factors mean the "Massive" may not respond in a manner that you would expect from typical EQs. Keeping these points in mind may help you obtain more satisfactory results. See Notes from Manley Laboratories for more tips.

Passive EQ

No active components are used in the EQ circuits, just like revered vintage EQs. This can make some adjustments respond in more subtle ways.

Parallel topology

The EQ bands are routed in parallel instead of serially, so gain values for the bands don't "add up" like most EQs. For example, if two bands in the same channel are boosted 20 dB at 2.7 kHz, you'll get much less than 40 dB of boost at 2.7 kHz.

Unique shelves

Most EQs offer a shelving mode for the edge bands only. Massive Passive offers the shelving option on all bands for expanded sonic possibilities, such as "staircase" EQ curves.

No negative feedback loops

One result of not using negative feedback loops in the design is that the gain control for a band cannot have a "bipolar" boost and cut control. Only band gain is available; how that band gain is applied, either as a boost or as a cut, is specified with a separate toggle switch.

Control interaction

Due in large part to the above points, the Massive Passive controls are much more interactive with, and interdependent upon, each other. We encourage experimentation with an open mind, without expectations of what a visual interpretation of what control settings "should" do.

The Massive Passive utilizes older parallel concepts rather than non-interactive series designs as defined by George Massenburg's original parametric EQ. The Frequency controls intentionally interact with one another, as do the Gain and Bandwidth controls. While this may result in the appearance of some unorthodox knob positions, it is specifically these band interdependencies between all bell, shelf and cut filters that allow for the Massive Passive's natural and organic sound.



Massive Passive Mastering EQ

Manley Labs developed the Massive Passive Mastering EQ to better address the specific needs of mastering engineers. Your Massive Passive license includes both the standard and mastering versions, available as two individual plug-ins.

The Massive Passive Mastering has nearly the same features and control set (plus all the musicality of) the standard version with a few tweaks that offer more practical functionality for program material. The Mastering version features include:

  • Stepped channel gain, band gain, and bandwidth controls for repeatability.

  • Channel gain and band gain ranges are reduced for finer resolution.

  • Low/high pass filter frequencies and slopes are optimized for mastering.

The Mastering Massive Passive is identified by the all-black "flat top" band gain and bandwidth control knobs and the word MASTERING near the center of the interface.



Standard vs. Mastering Versions

The layout and function of the Massive Passive controls are essentially identical for both the Standard and Mastering versions. The exact control differences between the controls are detailed in the table below.




Channel Gain Range

-6 dB to +4 dB

±2.5 dB (0.5 dB steps)

Band Gain Range

±20 dB

±11dB (16 steps)

High Pass Filter Values (Hz)

22, 39, 68, 120, 220

12, 16, 23, 30, 39

Low Pass Filter Values (kHz)

6, 7.5, 9, 12, 18

15, 20, 27, 40, 52*

Low Pass Filter Slope

18 dB/oct (6K, 7K5, 9K)
30 dB/oct (12K)
Modified Elliptical (18K)

18 dB per octave*
(*30 dB/oct @ 52K)

Channel Gain, Band Gain, Bandwidth



Control differences between Massive Passive versions



Massive Passive Band Controls

Massive Passive has two identical channels (left and right). Each channel has four EQ bands, with five controls in each band.

Because both Massive Passive plug-ins operate the same way (and the bands of each channel are identical), the control descriptions for each band are only detailed once.

See&Standard vs. Mastering Versions for the exact differences between the Massive Passive parameters.


This three-position toggle switch determines whether the frequency band will be boosted, cut, or disabled altogether. The amount of boost or cut to be applied to the band is determined by the See Band Gain control.

When Boost or Cut is selected, its label illuminates (green for Boost, red for Cut). When the switch is in the OUT position, the band is disabled.

Note: When set to OUT, the other band controls have no effect.


The Shelf/Bell toggle switch defines the shape of the filter band. A unique aspect of this control is that unlike other EQs where only the edge frequencies offer a shelving mode, with Massive Passive all bands can be used in either mode for expanded sonic possibilities.

Note: The Bandwidth control affects the slope of the band filters in both Shelf and Bell modes.


The two lowest (leftmost) bands can each be in Low Shelf mode; the two highest (rightmost) bands can each be in High Shelf mode. Shelf slopes generally boost or cut towards the highs or lows (thus the high shelves and low shelves). The two middle shelves are almost the same as the outer ones but just have other (interleaved) frequency choices.


Bell curves focus their boost and cut at a given frequency, and the further away the signal is from that frequency, the less boost or cut is applied.

Band Gain

This control determines the amount of EQ gain to be applied to the band. The range is from zero gain (flat) at the fully counter-clockwise position, to the maximum value at the fully clockwise position. Whether the gain is applied as a boost or cut is defined by the Boost/Cut/Out switch.

The range for the standard version is continuously variable at up to ±20 dB; the range for the Mastering version is up to ±11 dB in 16 steps (in both versions the maximum value depends on the Bandwidth control).

Important: When Gain for the band is set to zero, the other band controls have no effect.

Unlike most EQs, this control is not flat at the center position with the gain cut or boosted by moving the control to left or right of center. This design allows the band gain to operate at twice the knob resolution as that of a "conventional" dual-purposed control, as well as facilitating a quicker and more accurate return to zero.

Gain has a fair amount of interaction with the Bandwidth control. The maximum band gain is available in Shelf mode when Bandwidth is fully counter-clockwise; less band gain is available in Shelf mode as the Bandwidth is decreased (rotated clockwise). Conversely, the maximum gain is available in Bell mode when Bandwidth is fully clockwise; in Bell mode less band gain is available as Bandwidth is decreased (rotated counter-clockwise).

Due to the parallel EQ topology, the four band Gain controls also interact with each other unlike typical EQs. For example, if two bands in the same channel are boosted 20 dB at 2.7 kHz, you'll get much less than 40 dB of boost at 2.7 kHz. This also implies that if you first boost one band, that the next three will not seem to do anything if they are at similar frequencies and bandwidths.


Bandwidth adjusts the slope or "Q" of the band filter in both Bell and Shelf modes. Bandwidth does not have a lot of range and it also affects the maximum boost and cut (like a Pultec).

The widest Q (which is obtained at maximum boost or cut) is approximately 1 for the 22-1K (leftmost) band, and 1.5 for the other three bands. The narrowest Q is approximately 2.5 to 3 for all of the bands.

Bandwidth in Bell mode

In Bell mode, rotating the control counter-clockwise increases the bandwidth (lowers the Q) of the band and a broader range frequencies is affected. As Bandwidth is rotated clockwise, bandwidth is decreased (Q is increased) and a narrower range of frequencies is affected.

At the narrowest settings (Bandwidth fully clockwise), the maximum boost/cut gain of 20 dB is available. As Bandwidth is broadened, the available band gain is decreased, down to about 6 dB of boost/cut at the widest (fully counter-clockwise) settings.

The effect of the Bandwidth control on the response curve in Bell mode is shown in the filter plot below.


Bandwidth in Shelf mode

In Shelf mode, rotating Bandwidth counter-clockwise decreases the slope of the shelf and Gain adjustments are more gentle. As Bandwidth is rotated clockwise, the shelf slope steepens, and Gain changes will be more obvious.

As Bandwidth is increased in Shelf mode, a bell curve begins to be introduced in the opposite direction (i.e., overshoot). For example, if the Shelf is boosted, a dip is created at higher Bandwidth values. At maximum Bandwidth, this overshoot curve is pronounced.

The effect of the Bandwidth control on the response curve in Shelf mode is shown in the filter plot below.


Band frequency

This control defines the center frequency (Bell mode) or edge frequency (Shelf mode) for the band. Each band provides a wide range of specially tuned overlapping and interleaving frequency choices. The available frequencies for each band are listed in the table below.

Available Band frequencies

Massive Passive Band

Selectable Frequencies (Hz)


22, 33, 47, 68, 100, 150, 220, 330, 470, 680, 1K

Low Mid

82, 120, 180, 270, 390, 560, 820, 1.2K, 1.8K, 2.7K, 3.0K

High Mid

220, 330, 470, 680, 1K, 1.5K, 2.2K, 3.3K, 4.7K, 6.8K, 10K


560, 820, 1.2K, 1.8K, 2.7K, 3.9K, 5.6K, 8.2K, 12K, 16K, 27K



Channel Controls

The controls for the two identical channels (left and right) are detailed below. Because both Massive Passive plug-ins operate the same way (and the controls for each channel are identical), the control descriptions for each channel are only detailed once.

Note: See Standard vs. Mastering Versions for the exact differences between the Massive Passive parameters.


The EQ In pushbutton switch enables the channel. When the button illuminates in a brighter blue, the channel is active and the other channel controls will affect the signal. When this control is disabled, all the desirable low-level system filtering and coloration is retained in the channel, just like the original hardware.

Channel Gain

This knob sets the overall gain for the channel. The range for the standard version is continuously variable from -6 dB to +4 dB. The range for the Mastering version is ±2.5 dB, in 0.5 dB steps.

The Channel Gain controls are intended to help match levels between Bypass and EQ enabled modes so that the EQ effect can be more accurately judged. With drastic EQ there may not be enough range to match levels, but with drastic EQ this kind of comparison is of little use. The range is small to allow easier and finer adjustments.


Low Pass and High Pass filters are available for both channels. The response curves of the filters are shown below. See Available Band Frequencies for the available values for each version.


High Pass and Low Pass filter response curves (standard version)

Low Pass

The Low Pass filter allows the channel's lower frequencies to pass while attenuating higher frequencies. The slope of the Low Pass filter depends on the value set for the filter. At 6K, 7K5, and 9K values, the filter slope is 18 dB/octave. At these values, a small (1.5 to 2 dB) bump occurs in the response before the curve drops off. At 12K, the slope is 30 dB/octave. At 18K, a modified elliptical filter is used.

In the mastering version, when Low Pass is set to 27kHz the frequency response is down by about 0.6 dB at 20kHz. When the control is set to 52kHz, there is actually a boost of about 0.4 dB at 20kHz; the filter is slightly resonant at this setting so there is a slight boost before the filter starts rolling off.

High Pass

The High Pass filter allows the channel's higher frequencies to pass while attenuating lower frequencies. The slope of the High Pass filter is 18 dB/octave.

Mastering Filters

The Low Pass/High Pass filter frequencies in the mastering version are tuned specifically for mastering, and the slopes are flatter until the knee. The slopes are 18 dB per octave on the mastering filters except for the highest value (52K) which is 30 dB/octave.



Other Controls

The Power and Link controls are global to both channels.


Power is a two-state knob that determines whether the plug-in is active. When the knob is in the Off (counter-clockwise) position, all LED elements are unlit, plug-in processing is disabled, and processor usage is reduced. On the UAD-2 plug-in, if UAD-2 DSP LoadLock is inactive, UAD DSP usage is reduced.


The Link switch is a software-only addition that allows the two sets of controls for each channel to be linked for ease of operation when both channels require the same values, or unlinked when dual-mono operation is desired. The Link parameter is stored within presets and can be accessed via automation.

Important: When unlink is switched to link, channel 1 controls are copied to channel 2. Control offsets between channels are lost in this case.

When set to Link (up position), modifying any channel one or channel two control causes its adjacent stereo counterpart control to snap to the same position (channel 1 & 2 controls are ganged together in Link mode).

When Link is active, automation data is written and read for channel one only. In this case, the automation data for channel one will control both channels.

Note: When Link is active, changing channel two parameters from a control surface or when in "controls only" (non-GUI) mode will have no effect.

When set to unlink (down position), the controls for channels one and two are completely independent. Unlink is generally used in mono mode. When unlinked, automation data is written and read by each channel separately.

Note: If disparate values are set under the unlinked state, the left channel will override the right channel when Link is activated.



Notes from Manley Laboratories

  • Do not assume the knob settings "mean" what you expect they should mean. Part of this is due to the interaction of the controls. Part is due to the new shelf slopes and part due to a lack of standards regarding shelf specification.

  • You may find yourself leaning towards shelf frequencies closer to the mids than you are used to and the "action" seems closer to the edges of the spectrum than your other EQs. Same reasons as above.

  • You may also find yourself getting away with what seems like massive amounts of boost. Where the knobs end up, may seem scary particularly for mastering. Keep in mind that, even at maximum boost, a wide bell might only max out at 6 dB of boost (less for the lowest band) and only reaches 20 dB at the narrowest bandwidth. On the other hand, because of how transparent this EQ is, you might actually be EQing more than you could with a different unit. Taste rules, test benches don't make hit records, believe your ears.

  • Sometimes the shelves will sound pretty weird, especially (only) at the narrow bandwidth settings. They might seem to be having a complex effect and not only at the "dialed in" frequency. This is certainly possible. Try wider bandwidths at first.

  • If you seem to be boosting all 4 bands at widely separated frequencies and not hearing much "EQ" as you might expect (except for level) this is a side-effect of a passive EQ and probably a good thing. To get drastic sounding EQ you should try boosting a few bands and cutting a few bands. In fact, it is usually best to start with cutting rather than boosting.

  • A reasonable starting point for the Bandwidth for shelves is straight up or between 11:00 and 1:00. It was designed this way and is roughly where the maximum flatness around the "knee" is, combined with a well defined steep slope.

  • The Massive Passive may sound remarkably different from other high end EQs and completely different from the console EQs. Yes, this is quite deliberate. Hopefully it sounds better, sweeter, more musical and it complements your console EQs. We saw little need for yet another variation of the standard parametric with only subtle sonic differences. We suggest using the Massive Passive before tape, for the bulk of the EQ tasks and then using the console EQs for some fine tweaking and where narrow Q touch-ups like notches are needed. The Massive Passive is equally at home doing big, powerful EQ tasks such as is sometimes required for tracking drums, bass and guitars, or for doing those demanding jobs where subtlety is required like vocals and mastering.



Additional Information

The original (and rather lengthy) user manual written by Manley Labs for the hardware unit contains a wealth of great information about the philosophy, design decisions, and use of the Massive Passive EQ. It is highly recommended reading for those interested in technical details. The manual can be found on the Manley website, along with info about their other great products.


The Massive Passive EQ hardware interior


All visual and aural references to the Massive Passive EQ and all use of MANLEY's trademarks are being made with written permission from MANLEY LABORATORIES INCORPORATED. Special thanks to EveAnna Manley.