- The success of the Neve 1073 channel EQ was partly a case of being in the right place at the right time. In the 1960s, studio technology and industry dynamics were changing quickly, and building a studio's equipment in-house was becoming less economical. Rupert Neve offered an affordable solution with the 80 series consoles, and as a result, they became ubiquitous throughout the recording industry (and he got credit for creating the modern mixing console).
Almost every major recording in the '60s and '70s had at least one of its tracks put through a Neve preamp, and almost every independent studio was equipped with a console. The 1073 was the EQ on many of those consoles, and its preamp, in particular, was a key contributor to the fat, punchy, coloured "Neve sound." It's a desert island preamp for many engineers, and Sound On Sound readers voted it the best mic preamp available. EQ Magazine went so far as to call it "probably the most famous… preamp in the history of recording."
Not surprisingly, there are quite a number of digital emulations available, including a version made by Waves in the form of their VEQ-3. Additionally, UAD, PSP, Nomad Factory, FabFilter and more have offered their take on it. (The issue of price is particularly pertinent here: a modern unit will set you back some $3000, and a vintage original $5000—and that's for one channel's EQ section.) Waves' Scheps 73 version was designed in collaboration with Andrew Scheps, an experienced engineer with credits ranging through Metallica, Jay-Z and Adele. They used a component modelling approach, which means that the physical behaviour of the individual circuit components is modelled with software algorithms. As the speed of personal computers increases, the models can become more detailed. So even though there are plenty of Neve 1073 emulations on the market, each new one has the potential to be more faithful to the original than the last.
The Scheps 73 is more or less functionally identical to the 1073. There are three bands—low, mid and high—and an 18 dB per octave high-pass filter with settings ranging from 50 to 300 Hz. The high band is a shelving EQ set at 12 kHz, with adjustable gain. The mid is a peak EQ, and the low is a shelving EQ; both are frequency-selectable and gain-adjustable. You can activate or deactivate each band, allowing you to A/B with and without its effect. In terms of the preamp, it was the transformer that gave the original unit its characteristic sound, and Waves have been particularly painstaking in modelling it. (Scheps reportedly helped them to "tweak the harmonics to perfection.") In its regular mode of operation, it gives a subtle warmth to the channel, with the different settings bringing out different overtones depending on the source material.
The Scheps also adds a few twists. Pressing the drive switch imitates the effect of putting a line-level signal into the preamp when it's on its mic-level setting, resulting in aggressive overdrive. Some users have complained that even this effect's minimum level is too hot, but lowering the input level with the fader will reduce it further. The mid EQ channel has a 10 kHz mode that was discovered on the 1073 schematics but not actually available as a setting. (It was included on the more rare 1078 channel strip.) Waves provides both a mono and a stereo version, and the stereo version allows independent control of each channel if desired, as well as mid-side processing. The metering options are comprehensive, and there are a number of useful features, such as the ability to inversely link the input and output gain faders, so that you can control the amount of drive with the input fader while leaving the overall output volume roughly the same.
Sound quality and character are subjective beasts. Accordingly, opinion is still divided when it comes to people's preferred 1073 emulation. The general consensus, though, is that Waves have done a great job emulating the original, with many saying it's the best yet. Personally, I think it sounds great, bringing life to whatever channel I put it on. With drums, it lets them punch through without being overly sharp. On basses and kicks, the preamp and its drive setting allow you to add variable amounts of beef, ranging from earthy undertones to full-on sonic decimation without the expense of nasty distortion. On synths, it gives a rich, detailed character to the midrange. The 1073 was known for bringing a lot of feel to the process of frequency adjustment, and Waves have managed this with the Scheps. It's not too CPU-intensive, so it's appropriate for placing on all the major buses and key instruments. Putting it on every channel of a fifty track mix, though, isn't realistic.
Many electronic musicians are currently using hardware to bring their music closer to the rougher sound of the '80s and early '90s, but the Scheps 73 will move you a bit in the other direction, lending your tracks a professional, big-studio sound. Since the Neve 1073 is so crucial a part of recording history, and the Scheps 73 is such an excellent, well-valued emulation, this plug-in should be seriously considered by computer-based musicians who wish to add the second method to their arsenal in the battle against sterility.
Ease of use: 4.5/5