Heritage Audio HA73X2 Elite by Kerbkrawler
The HA73X2 ELITE
Construction: A quick peak inside reveals clean a SMT work with those carnhill transformers. I was not expecting hand-wired work as this unit is a lower-cost offering to compete with the likes of Warm Audio. If you are particular about that sort of thing, then one of Heritage Audio's handwired offerings may be more in your wheelhouse. Knobs on the unit I have are solid with firm resistance, and little in the way of noticeable wobbling. Recall is not difficult give the readability of the front panel and plenty of real estate on the front of the unit. The unit comes with a reasonably sized power supply that does have a mid-cord wart. This again, does not bother me as I am indifferent to internal vs external power supplies (as long as it's quiet!). Inputs are straight forward, (DI, Mic, Line) along with the typical assortment of options you would expect for those inputs (48v phantom power, 2 impedance settings, pad and phase switching). There are no inserts on this unit, but that was a non-issue in my set up, just something for you to be aware of.
Sound: I was initially disappointed in the sound of the unit as I was expecting a thick and creamy "Neve" sound and was surprised at how clean and punchy the unit sounded. Compared to the Silver Bullet, which has a channel modeled on Neve circuits, this has a more hi-fi sound than I expected. Of course the SB is a tonebox and this is a preamp. The HAX73 is colored, but not nearly to the degree I was expecting. The SB "N" channel does a really good job of taking the edge off of overly snappy transient or strong high mid range material. The HAX73 did this to some extent, but again it was more neutral than I expected. The dual-mono equalization on the unit was a pleasant surprise as I found it very pleasing and was wonderful on both drum buss and bass material. A db or 2 at 60 imparts a nice fat roundness to drums and bass, the mid range offerings do an excellent job of boosting mid-range or cleaning up mud, the 12K shelf is pretty clean, but has a nice sheen to it when opening up material passing through. I have used the shelf at 50hz and found it pretty tame and useable.
Conclusion: If you want an extreme vision of Neve color/mojo and intend to smash the inputs for pleasing analog saturation opt for something else (like a Silver Bullet). This thing stays remarkably clean until you really push it to its limits. If you want a slightly colored and sonically pleasing preamp with an excellent EQ this would be something for you to check out. I cant compare it to BAE or the real thing, but it's a nice pleasing and rich sound and the unit provides a nice alternative to tracking or mixing sub groups through the SB. I got this on sale for $1399 and believe it to be a great bargain for the EQ alone, which is my favorite feature of the unit.