Finally a plug that has a very transparent yet musical sounding high frequency boost!
I decided to try this plug on a whim when I was searching for more transparent plugs to complement my Nomad Factory Blues Tubes bundle. But the problem with most "transparent" plugs is that they tend to sound harsh or sterile. I am glad to say that the 1973 EQ is not harsh or sterile yet it remains very transparent and it is very flattering to pretty much whatever you put through it. This is by far the sweetest sounding high frequency boost I have ever used in a plug.
The high frequency knob is centered around 12kHz and you can apply a lot of boost on it without ever sounding harsh. And I do mean a lot. Up to +20dB. I find this feature to be indispensable when bringing elements up front in a mix (or conversely pushing them back a bit by rolling off this same knob). And yes this plug does impart a small amount of personality and coloring to the material being processed but only in a good way. This plug makes me forget that I am using a plug versus really nice outboard gear.
The other EQ controls are useful and very musical as well, but who really gets excited about a good sounding high pass filter or mid range? But they do indeed sound equally as good as the high EQ and are likewise very flattering to program material. But the high frequency EQ on this plug alone is worth the $40.
The controls are simple and do just what they should. Also, there is an oversampling switch that basically doubles the sample rate being used (as well as the CPU overhead) that is supposed to help reduce aliasing. I usually just leave this switched on and it seems to help add depth to the material.
On my Mac with OSX 10.5.2 running Logic Studio, Bidule and Tracktion3, the 1973 EQ plug requires negligible CPU (even in oversampling mode) and it never crashes anything. That includes both the AU versions as well as the VST version of 1973. No complaints there.
There are only a small handful of presets and honestly you don't need any presets anyway. The controls are simple and obvious and they are hard to screw up. I do like having presets on some plugs to horse around with and get things in the ballpark before starting to tweak, but the 1973 EQ is so simple and straightforward that a gob of presets would have been silly. You just twist knobs and listen. Fortunately, the high frequency boost and cut is very forgiving and sounds good without much effort, and the same can be said for the low boost/cut and the high pass filter. The mid frequency boost and cut can get out of hand if you don't exercise moderation, but that is normal for mid frequencies and less is usually more when dealing with mid frequency adjustments (or at least it should be that way). I find that the best sounding mid frequency adjustments on the 1973 EQ are in the +/-3dB range. On a different note about those mid frequencies, if you crank up the mid boost to max and rhythmically move the frequency selection slider slowly all the way back and forth through all of the detents, you can get a really interesting "sample and hold" effect going on guitars or keys. But even when you crank the mids, things never sound harsh or digital and there are never any artifacts along the way.
There is no manual for this plug (but do you really need one?) If there was any sort of a manual included, it would surely be a very short and concise one. This plug is pretty much WYSIWYG. (And if you don't know what EQ boosts and cuts are then perhaps you'd better not quit your day job in pursuit of a music career.) But seriously, the simplicity of this plug is its strength and even though it doesn't initially appear to have very many bells and whistles, the sound it bestows upon your tracks will surely put a grin on your face. As per the lack of presets or manuals, I am giving this plug a ten for documentation and presets in that the directions on how to use this EQ are right in front of you when you open this plug. Again, WYSIWYG. And you don't really need any presets on this plug to make it sound good. It doesn't get much more simple than that.
Customer support is great and Scott over at Stillwell replies quickly to emails and forum posts (they have their own forum on their website). And what's more, the demo plug for this is identical to the licensed one except for a ten second nag screen when you first open it up. But other than that, the demo is fully functioning with no drop-outs or noise bursts or any other limitations. Very generous indeed and it is good to see a company using the old "honor system" for letting people try their products.
This plug is definitely worth more than the $40 they are charging for it. Would be easy to pay twice that for as good as those high frequencies sound. Very flattering. Very musical. This is the kind of EQ you put on your more important tracks that deserve the very best. A rare jewel among plug-in EQ's.