One of the ways that Motown Records was able to create its unique sound was with custom studio processors built by its engineering staff. Universal Audio just released the Hitsville EQ Collection featuring a pair of plug-ins modeled from original Motown equalizers. They’re the only digital emulations of Motown gear officially licensed by the Motown Museum at Hitsville, USA, in Detroit.
The collection includes models of the seven-band Hitsville Studio EQ, a graphic equalizer, and the seven-band Hitsville Stereo Disk Mastering Equalizer (aka the “Hitsville Mastering EQ”). UA isn’t offering the plug-ins separately, only together.
Not only is the collection available in UAD plug-in format (launched with the UAD 10.1 update), but also in native UADx format for its Spark subscription program. When it launched Spark, Universal Audio said it would periodically add more plug-ins, and the Hitsville EQ Collection is the first such addition.
The Hitsville Studio EQ is a knob-based graphic EQ that offers fixed frequency bands at 50 Hz (Sub-Bass), 130 Hz (Bass), 320 Hz (Lo Mid), 800 Hz (Mid), 2000 Hz (High Mid), 5000 Hz (Treble) and 12,500 Hz (Hi). You control each band with a virtual stepped knob that boosts or cuts by 8dB in 1dB steps.
The original hardware, of which only 46 were ever made, was used on all sources, including drums, bass, keyboards, vocals, and more. The plug-in offers the same EQ curves, which were essential ingredients in the Motown sound. Although the bands are fixed, their voicings are musical and make it easy to quickly maximize sound quality.
A three-way toggle lets you switch between In, Out and Off. The Out setting bypasses the EQ circuit, but leaves on the signal path’s modeled amplifier and transformer sections. If you switch it to Off, the plug-in gets bypassed completely.
The Hitsville Mastering EQ models a hardware unit designed initially for vinyl mastering. It uses the same frequency bands as its sibling but offers the choice of Left/Right or Mid/Side operation. Each band features a Dip/Peak switch that sets the corresponding EQ knob to cut or boost.
An unusual aspect of the Mastering EQ is the option to switch each channel to 1/2 Speed mode, which cuts the frequency of each band by 50 percent. That means 2000 Hz changes to 1000 Hz, 800 Hz to 400 Hz etc. You can activate the 1/2 Speed setting per channel or per individual frequency within a channel.
The Mastering EQ also features a four-way Filter switch that lets you dial in high- and low-pass filters globally. The choices are off, 70 Hz high-pass, 15 kHz low-pass, and 70 Hz high-pass/ 15 kHz low-pass together. You also get master boost and cut knobs (plus or minus 8 dB) in the output stage and an On/Off switch.
Both plug-ins come with a generous selection of presets, including many from well-known engineers and producers such as Michael Brauer, Darrell Thorp, John Paterno, Joe Chiccarelli and many others.
The UAD2 version of The Hitsville EQ Collection is available for $299. If you’re a Spark subscriber, it’s included at no extra charge.