The Waves Scheps 73 eq plugin is modelled after a Neve 1073 equaliser belonging to the well known engineer Andrew Scheps.
The 1073 was the preamp and eq channel section from one of the early Neve desks, the A88, built in 1970. This is virtually the most sought after preamp/eq in the recording world, famous for it’s fat, sweet, “musical” sound.
Much of the colour is attributed to the transformer used in the circuit and the eq section provides an 18dB per octave high pass filter (at 50, 80, 160 and 300Hz), a 12K fixed shelf and two further bands. There is a “Low” shelving band with switchable frequencies of 35, 60, 110 and 220Hz and a “Mid” bell band with switchable frequencies at 360 and 700Hz as well as 1.6, 3.2, 4.8, 7.2KHz, plus a 10Khz setting that was not on the original hardware model, but Waves found the option actually included in the schematic.
These fixed frequencies mean that the 1073 was not designed as a surgical eq tool like later parametric or sweepable models, but more as a “tonal paint brush”. The frequencies chosen and the shapes of the curves used work wonderfully well with musical instruments, percussion and vocals and it’s refreshingly fast to find exactly the right sound for the job. This is an eq where you can actually hear the effect of boosting a band by just 1dB. Like using the right amplifier with a good guitar, it contributes to the “musicality” of the track you’re working on. Fast, sweet and fun.
Each band can be switched in or out, as well as the whole eq section, there is a “Phase” switch for polarity reversal and input and output level faders that can be linked if needed to maintain a constant level. There are nice VU meters switchable to read input or output and there is a mono and stereo version of the plugin (see stereo version above), so the stereo version features two sets of controls and meters.
The Scheps 1073 also features controls for the preamp at the top of the plugin. There is an in/out switch and a gain control, which is so subtle that it doesn’t seem to do much to the sound at all, although when I ran a test tone through the unit I could see that it produced a series of even order harmonics at higher settings. However, there is also a Drive switch and when that’s activated all hell breaks loose!
Apparently, using the drive circuit simulates feeding a line level signal into the mic input, which, as you would expect, can produce some serious overload. This mayhem is easily controlled with the input fader, so bringing the fader down to it’s minimum setting of -24 and gradually bringing it up will allow you to dial in just the right amount of overdrive or “saturation”. This is where linking the input and output faders comes in handy, because, as you increase the drive with the input fader, the level goes down automatically with the output fader, saving your monitors and/or eardrums. I’ve seen a few people on forums complain about the massive amount of distortion on hand here, but maybe they don’t realise that it is easily controllable and is one of the best sounding overdrives out there (and there are many of them). I’ve used a touch of this on a vocal and the result was magical.
One warning though – make sure the output fader is down low before you try the drive section out. Having it too high will make big loud noise!
There is a Monitor (stereo version) switch that allows you to audition the left, mono, stereo or right signals. The stereo version Mode switch has a Stereo setting, which gangs the left and right controls together and a Duo setting, which allows you to eq the left and right sides independently, which can be useful at times.
Another wonderful feature of this plugin is it’s ability to be switched to MS (mid/side) mode. This means the mid portion of your mix, mainly lead vocals, kick drum, snare and bass can be equalised separately from the sides content and vice versa. This doesn’t affect the stereo signal at all, so you can, for example, add a little more weight to the kick and bass (and of course whatever else in the centre) without affecting the guitars in the sides of the mix. Great for sub groups and busses and also in a mastering chain.
There are some very useful presets on board, including an MS mode one for piano, which clears the “mud” out of the middle of the piano signal and adds some sides sparkle, making the piano stand out a little more clearly and reducing mix congestion.
I love this plugin and use it all the time. The 1073 was the tool used on many hits from the 70’s and right up to the present day and it’s not hard to see (or hear) why.
Another great thing about the Scheps 73 is that it doesn’t have any graphs to look at, so it forces you to use your ears, which is the only way to record and mix. But it is pretty.
At the time of writing this review, the Scheps 73 is $199 US. Waves website is here.
Definitely 5 Stars!