The incredible string of hit records that came out of Motown’s “Hitsville U.S.A.” studio in the 1960s resulted from the confluence of many talented people, including singers, musicians, producers, songwriters and engineers. One of the latter who had a significant influence was the studio’s chief engineer, Mike McLean, who built much of the gear used at the vaunted facility.
Among the processors he constructed was a 7-band graphic EQ renowned for its warm and punchy sound and referred to by some as “The Holy Grail of Equalizers.” He ended up building multiple units for the studio.
Heritage Audio, a pro audio manufacturer, based in Madrid, Spain, just released a faithful reproduction of McLean’s EQ, which they’ve dubbed the MotorCity EQualizer. As a reference, Heritage used original versions of the unit, which were lent to them by legendary producer and mix engineer Michael Brauer. Because most of the components were no longer available, Heritage Audio created custom re-creations that matched the tolerances of the originals, with less than 1% variation.
The 2U, single-channel MotorCity EQualizer features bands of 50 Hz, 130 Hz, 320 Hz, 800 Hz, 2 kHz, 5 kHz and 12.5kHz. It lets you boost or cut each by up to 8 dB, in 1dB increments, using the heavy-duty, detented rotary switches, which you adjust with large, custom-molded Bakelite knobs.
The only other controls on the unit are a 3-way switch that turns on and off the power and lets you toggle the EQ between on and bypass, which is perfect for A/B comparisons. An output Gain control and an old-style, jewel-light power indicator round out the front panel.
The back panel is simple: XLR in and out jacks and a jack for the external power supply.
The press release for the unit includes this comment from Brauer of Heritage’s re=creation: “It’s simply got that sound!”
Now shipping, the MotorCity EQualizer sells for $1,999, which seems surprisingly low, considering it’s an authentic reproduction of the original.