By Adam Gallant
Universal Audio Hitsville EQ Plug-In Collection
Universal Audio has released a brand-new UAD EQ plug-in bundle based on the iconic sounds of Motown Records . With this bundle comes two colourful EQs , modelled after bespoke hardware EQs built for use in Motown Records ’ studios , which earned the nickname “ Hitsville U . S . A .” This UAD software is officially endorsed by the Motown Museum in Detroit and has been painstakingly built with much respect and reverence for the historic studios and record label . In true Universal Audio style , we have full circuit modelling , with band dependencies as well as amp and transformer modelling , providing lots of warmth and familiarity . In this article , I ’ ll touch on each EQ in the bundle and give a few examples of how they were best used in a mix .
Hitsville EQ , a . k . a . “ The Motown EQ ” The Motown EQ is a legendary seven-band graphic EQ that was custom-built by Hitsville staff in the 1960s . This solid-state EQ is based on the Langevin graphic equalizer , a standard high-end bus equalizer used in the U . S . during the ‘ 50s and ‘ 60s . This Motown version was a redesign that included an isolation transformer on the input , more robust switches , and a make-up amplifier with an output transformer . Remarkably , only 46 studio EQ units were ever made . These boxes have since been iconized and we are now seeing several developers release both software and hardware units this year . The hardware units modelled by UA staff were made available by mixing legend Michael Brauer , who also provides many presets alongside the likes of Hitsville ’ s own Bob Ohlsson and many other familiar names , such as Joe Chiccarelli and Darrell Thorp .
The EQ ’ s seven bands offer fixed frequency centres with plus or minus 8dB of gain . Gain knobs are stepped by 1dB increments and the proportional Q filter automatically narrows as the boost or cut is increased . These design features make the EQ a fun and fast way to improve any audio source . In-use , this plug-in feels a lot like a Pultec in that it makes most things sound instantly better . On drums and bass this EQ creates a sense of warmth and , given the fixed frequency points , is very quick to dial in a satisfying sound . On vocals it ’ s hard to do any harm at all with this EQ . The frequency centres are at very satisfying and useful points and the saturation characteristics lend a feeling of richness . The bypass switch operates in three positions : fully bypassed , EQ-only bypassed , and fully engaged . Clicking the frequency labels gives a per-band reset to zero while clicking the Hitsville label resets all bands . Simple and fun to use , this EQ evokes the feelings of using a hardware unit .
Hitsville Stereo Disk Mastering EQ This is a very rare EQ to be modelled as only six were ever made . This EQ shares the same frequency points and passive circuit as the two-rack unit but with full Left / Right or Mid / Side controls and a special frequency-halving mode . This frequency-halving mode came into play when Motown engineers would equalize the stereo
master at normal speed , then run the tape machine , vinyl lathe , and mastering EQ at half speed ( for louder and more clear masters ). Because of this , the EQ frequencies are also able to be halved . The UAD software expanded on the hardware in that , on the plug-in , one can halve independent frequency bands ( as well as all seven at once , as is the only option on the hardware ). To engage the frequency shift , simply click the red tape label and a white line appears , indicating the value change .
Finally , this mastering EQ has the “ Motown Filters .” This is a pair of custom filters used to band pass around 70Hz to 15KHz . This was done to maximize the disk mastering process and is what partially led to the loud masters that Motown was known for outputting .
Perfect for use on lots of sources , this mastering EQ is a joy to dial in . It ’ s simple at first glance but offers lots of functionality when you start to poke around the plug-in . For example , while working in Mid / Side with controls unlinked , the plug-in will auto-solo the band you ’ re working on and bring it to the centre channel , giving a more accurate perspective on the EQ ’ s operation .
Adam Gallant has worked in all facets of digital audio production , from music composition to location and post audio for television and film . He currently owns and operates The Hill Sound Studio in Charlottetown , PE .
22 PROFESSIONAL SOUND