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Sometimes in recording, tech trumps tone when it comes to accessibility. DAW recording is efficient, but getting the sounds that are classic and yet still current means a lot of tweaking. Of course, a classic mic preamp will bring the tone, but at a cost that might be out of the realm of anyone who doesn’t have an audio engineering award. But hold the phone! Warm Audio has released a 1073 style preamp/EQ, and the price is as unbelievable as its tone.
The front panel of the two-channel unit covers the usual XLR inputs, and a three button bank that covers phantom power, phase polarity, and a tone switch. When not engaged, the overall sound is natural, uncolored and organic. Kicking it in, things get quite aggressive, with a lot more attack and overall thickness. Warm suggests using condensers and dynamic mics in the disengaged mode, and dynamic and ribbon mics when it’s engaged.
Now there are 1/4” instrument inputs on the front of the unit, and can be selected to be the input signal, disengaging the XLR input. The large red input knob adjusts the level input source, and the adjacent hi-pass knob is selectable between 50, 80, 160 and 300Hz, with an 18Db octave slope. The EQ is selectable, and contains Low, Mid and High controls; each has a center selector that can adjust the EQ curve as needed in correspondence of its relative control.▼ Article continues below ▼
The back side offers up the XLR and TRS outputs, as well as sends and returns, which, circuit-wise, sit after the input stage. Have a compressor, or additional EQ? Here’s a great place for it. Line level inputs and XLR inputs reside here, as well.
Warm starts with premium components, such as Carnhill transformers that are custom spec’d out to be the sought after versions found in vintage 1073’s. The original obsession continues with polystyrene and tantalum capacitors, as well as an output transformer that gets smoother in higher gain modes. Each knob, switch and button has a super robust positive feel when making adjustments. Each unit is hand made, and popping open the chassis to peek under the hood, the overall build quality and attention to detail was very impressive for a unit in this price range.
OK, so it’s got great components, it’s well made, and features plenty of control options — here’s where the rubber meets the road. Using it with a variety of microphones, from tried and true SM57s to Warm’s own 251 Tube Mic, we found nothing but excellent results across the board. We used it during a drum tracking session on our snare track, and it made a drastic and dramatic improvement, even with a flat EQ to start, and with minimal tweaking it sat in the mix perfectly, right where it needed to be.
It’s hard to get a piece of gear that just works so musically with a few simple tweaks. It makes you wonder why other EQs and preamps take so much more work, when the Warm WA273 just gets it done out of the box. Our testing session also included using it on guitar tracks, and again it just nailed it. Even recording using a cab sim added just the right texture needed. The EQ is flexible enough to cut through where needed, without getting unmusical or grainy, and of course kicking in that Tone switch really brings a whole new avenue of articulated attack, that’s offset with the thickness that in most cases would take hours of patching in a dozen other items, and yet still wouldn’t give you the same results.
While don’t have a real 1073 on-hand to compare to, our experience with Warm’s WA273 is quite amazing. If analog sounds this good, and does it this easy, why mess with anything else? Oh, and here’s the big deal; it comes in at a $1499 street price. A serious studio should have at least one of these, and for anyone doing recording where a classic analog style is required, this should be your big investment.
Great 1073 tones, ultra-flexible and easy to use EQ.