Heritage Audio has quickly become a mainstay of many a studio. While there are many ‘cloned’ offerings of classic vintage preamps and channel strips, Heritage is known for sourcing key original components, and maintaining a meticulous manufacturing process that can often result in a modern recreation that is closer to the original than it ought to be for the price. I had the opportunity to check out the HA-73 elite, as well as its EQ-equipped big brother, the HA-73 EQ elite. I don’t want to admit to the world what I had to do to get my hands on these mic preamps a month before they were released, but I can tell you… it wasn’t pretty.
The HA-73 Elite is an 80dB, 3 stage fully discrete class A mic preamp. It fits in 1 rack unit, and is dead simple to control. There is a gain knob that satisfyingly ‘clicks’ when rotated on the front panel. Your standard mic pre controls like pad, line input control, phase invert, and the like are all also available on the front panel. The XLR input is on the back, but a Hi-Z instrument DI input can be engaged on the front panel - something very helpful for a project studio. There are separate mic-level and line-level XLR inputs available, and you can use this to route pre-recorded tracks through the HA-73 to add warmth to a previously recorded track. The phantom power indicator light is also the switch that engages 48v, a small touch, but a nice one. There is also an 80Hz hi pass filter, which you can engage with a button on the front panel.
Both the HA-73 Elite and the EQ model feel built to last. They’re not overly heavy like some of the other 1073 clones I’ve used in the past, but they feel very rugged and reliable. The knobs rotate and click solidly, and the buttons have enough throw to them to see whether they are engaged or not from a short distance.
While durability is important, what really matters is the sound. I fired up the HA-73 and recorded a quick guitar track with an AKG C414. I was pleasantly surprised at the wonderfully silent noise floor the HA-73 presented to me for the price (more on that later) What you’ll hear here has a touch of post-recorded compression and reverb on it, but that’s it. No EQ or any other sonic sculpting.
I found the preamp to be revealing, and I also found that it had plenty of headroom. Even raising it up pretty high, all I heard was room nose - no hiss. I was happy with what it did to my Taylor acoustic, and decided to give the EQ model a shot. I’m a big fan of ‘musical’ EQs like the 1073-style ones, and while quite a lot is possible in software these days, I still stick with the process of spending a good amount of time sculpting the source sound before it gets to the DAW. I tried to approximate a few touches that would make the acoustic ‘pop’ in a dense mix a little more.
With a few subtle tweaks to the mid band and the hi shelf, I was able to bring out the attack and percussive nature of the guitar without drastically raising the volume. This saves me a ton of time in post, and the adjustments felt incredibly precise. I’m quite impressed with how quick it is to dial in a good tone with the HA-73 EQ.
The Elite Series from Heritage Audio is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered in its price range. At $650 for the base model and $899 for the EQ model, it’s pretty remarkable what Heritage was able to pull off. This gear feels and sounds like equipment that would typically cost thousands, and you really have to hear it to believe it. At the price levels they are offering, I prefer the EQ model as it allows for more flexibility pre-DAW, but either is a fine choice.
Price: $649 for the HA-73, $899 for the HA-73 EQ
Pros: Fantastic sound, high-quality fit and finish, musical EQ, ridiculous price.
Cons: I used a prototype model and they won’t let me keep it :)