KIT Plugins BB N73 review: Does the world need another 1073 emulation?
The latest collaboration between KIT Plugins and Blackbird Studios is a painstaking recreation of the Neve 1073. We put it head-to-head with its rivals.
⊕ Ability to push the preamp gain into saturation
⊕ Linked input and output gain controls
⊕ Excellent clarity in the high-mids and high frequencies
⊕ Useful, modern tweaks
⊖ Analog Hum switch doesn’t add much
KIT Plugins continues its collaboration with Blackbird Studios in Nashville with the release of the latest emulation – the BB N73 – which, as the name suggests, is a recreation of the legendary Neve 1073 preamp and EQ. This fabled module has a long history and is arguably Rupert Neve’s most enduring product, emulated countless times over the years.
The original 1073 was developed in 1970 and was included as part of the first 24-channel Neve A88 console in London. The 1073 became instantly popular and is still regarded as the pinnacle of transistor preamp circuits. The secret ingredients are the input and output transformers, designed especially for the preamp to give a classic, smooth top end and mid-forward balance.
Such popularity has led to countless emulations from every plugin designer worth their salt. Waves, Arturia, Universal Audio and Slate all have 1073s, so it’s into this crowded market that KIT launches the BB N73; standing out from the ever-growing crowd requires something special.
Fortunately, KIT has considerable form in this area, given its partnership with Blackbird Studios in Nashville, and has been producing painstaking recreations of the studio’s vintage hardware. This new emulation is just as thorough in its creation, combining characteristics taken from no fewer than twelve different 1073s housed at Blackbird, down to the distinctive electrical noise they make.
We are comparing the BB N73 emulation with an Arturia equivalent, and as a reference point for budget-minded users, a 1073 clone found in Logic Pro’s Vintage EQ collection.
There are a couple of sounds that we regularly run through 1073s, namely vocals and drum overheads. Although it sounds great on a wide range of other sources, these sources have frequencies that, to our ears, are always affected pleasingly by the 1073’s unique character.
One of the first tests we like to perform on a preamp plugin is to audition the effect the processor has on the sound when it is run completely flat. In analogue circuitry – even when everything is set to a null value – the signal is still running through the input and output sections of the circuit, which colour the signal.
This test on our vocals presents a subtle variation between the three plugins. The raw sound was significantly boosted by the BB N73 and has the most pleasing additional harmonics introduced by it. There are slight boosts in the signal around 800 Hz and 2 kHz, which is where vocals largely sit, so it brings the vocal further forward. The Logic preamp provided less difference and was much more neutral, whereas the Arturia somewhere in between, closer to the character of the BB N73.
Once all the tone controls are given a slight push to boost the entire frequency range, the parts start to come alive. The BB N73 sounds fuller and thicker in the 800 Hz -1 kHz region and there is a significant boost in the low frequencies, adding depth and richness to the vocals. In comparison, the Arturia is significantly quieter with the same amount of gain, and needs to be pushed much harder to achieve the same levels of EQ adjustment. The difference can perhaps be put down to the BB N73 having an additional output bus stage, also based on a Neve circuit.
To treat the vocal, we use a high pass filter to remove some of the low end, thin the low-mids a little and boost the high-mids for extra clarity. Once passed through the BB N73, the sound is far sweeter and settles well in the mix.
The 1073 sounds superb on all drums, but the particular sweet spot of tonal change is the high frequencies on cymbals and snare.
Here, the BB N73 works significantly better than its competitors. The clarity it provides in the high frequencies (8 kHz plus) and high-mids (2 kHz – 4 kHz) is far better than either of the other plugins. The definition that this plugin brings greatly reduces the need for close mics on other parts of the drum kit – a definite consideration for those working with a limited number of inputs.
That little bit extra
Like other plugins from the KIT Blackbird series, the BB N73 contains true-to-life recreations of controls on the hardware, including the ability to switch between mic and line level, so it’s important to set this appropriately to establish the right input sensitivity (this way, the signal gets affected by the tone circuit in the correct way). There is also a saturation switch which, when flipped, adds a bit of grit to the incoming signal. This needs to be used to taste; it sounds great with drums running through it, but not as pleasing on our particular vocal line.
As with the BB N105, KIT has emulated the background noise of the original hardware, which as before, doesn’t seem to add any value to the product and is left switched off for our tests.
The BB N73 is a fabulous 1073 plugin that compares extremely favourably with its rivals; it’ll surely be used on countless tracks as the first plugin in a chain to give tracks extra clarity. There are a few useful tweaks to the original hardware that modern users need such as the ability to link the input gain and output level with continuous gain adjustments, as well as being able to revert to the stepped-gain setting of the original. The modern tweaks to the interface – whilst maintaining the vintage character – make the BB N73 an emulation to be thoroughly recommended.
- Detailed recreation of Blackbird’s stock of 1073s
- Line & mic level preamp section
- Neve output section also emulated
- 4-band EQ with swept high and low-mid
- Resizable GUI
- $150 (or introductory price of $75)
- Contact KIT Plugins
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