In this article
Give your tracks the sweet sound of Motown.
The Hitsville EQ Collection gives you the soulful tone of the custom-built graphic equalizers that shaped the legendary Motown Sound.
Available only from Universal Audio, the Hitsville EQ Collection gives your tracks the rich sound of secret-sauce EQs used by everyone from The Supremes to Stevie Wonder and The Jackson 5.*
*Use of artists names does not constitute official endorsement and are used only to represent the hardware modeled as part of Hitsville EQ Collection software.
- Get instant "Motown Sound" with the only EQ emulations officially licensed by the Motown Museum at Detroit’s legendary Hitsville U.S.A.
- Easily elevate your recordings with seven bands of inspired EQ, modeled from the original hardware
- Dial in rich-sounding vocal, drum, bass and guitar tones with the sweet-sounding Hitsville studio EQ curves used on Motown classics
- Produce louder, fuller stereo mixes using Hitsville's one-of-a-kind disk mastering EQ, featuring custom elliptical filters and mid-side control
Shape Sounds with a Soulful Graphic EQ
From vocals and drums, to bass and keyboards, the Hitsville EQ plug-in makes everything sound better with seven bands of pure inspiration, giving your tracks the hit-making frequencies that made Motown records jump out of the speakers.
Get the Tone of the Historic Motown Studio
The custom-made gear built by Hitsville engineers was essential to Motown's rich, energized sound. By thoroughly emulating the original Hitsville EQ units — with help from the technical engineers who made them — you can finally give your tracks the same punchy, open sound heard on countless Motown hits.
Add Professional Shine with Motown's Classic Mastering EQ
Finish off your tracks with the world's only emulation of Hitsville's ultra-rare mid-side disk mastering EQ. Hear how the legendary "Motown Filters" and half-speed frequency settings give your productions the fat, vintage hi-fi sound and energy of a classic single, hot off the Motown production line. Hitsville, indeed.
- Exclusive licensing and authentication with Motown Museum / Hitsville U.S.A.
- End-to-end emulation of Hitsville's historic and exceedingly rare custom studio and disk mastering EQs
- Design guidance from Motown alumnus/technical engineer John Windt
- Reference units from the collections of Michael Brauer, George Petersen, Jesse Gay and the Motown Museum
- Same custom EQs as used on countless Motown hit records from Detroit and LA locations for vocals, drums and more
- Discrete, inductor-based, proportional Q graphic equalizer represents the seven frequency ranges of the audio spectrum
- Models the entire electronic path, including transformers, makeup amplifiers, EQ band interactions, and internal clipped filter distortion
- UA artist presets from Bob Olhsson, Michael Brauer, and more
- Available for UAD-2 and UAD Spark
The Hitsville EQs provide equalization over seven bands, with ±8 dB of boost or cut per band. The seven bands overlap, and are arranged in roughly 1½ octave ranges. These bands are arranged to cover fundamental frequencies for music production: sub-bass, bass, low mid, mid, high mid, treble, and high/brilliance.
In addition, the processors include amplifier and transformer emulation, which can be used independent of the EQ. To level your audio signals, both plug-ins provide ±8 dB of makeup gain.
Hitsville EQ plug-in
The Hitsville EQ allows quick and musical EQ adjustment for any audio material. Optional tape labels show descriptions of the bands, and stepped knobs provide easy adjustment and recall.
Hitsville Mastering EQ plug-in
The Hitsville Mastering EQ provides similar graphic EQ control as the Hitsville EQ, but with full stereo control and expanded EQ frequency options. You can process stereo channels individually, or link them. Switch to mid/side operation to independently adjust the center and sides of the stereo image.
You can cut the frequency centers of the entire Mastering EQ by half, or set band centers independently between normal frequency or half-speed. Originally intended for half-speed mastering of vinyl disks, the half frequency options make the EQ more versatile and flexible for modern production workflows. Elliptical high and low pass filters provide focused mix energy and maximize program gain. Filters can be engaged independently or as a combined band-pass filter.
The processors included in the Hitsville EQ Collection have the following common features:
- Graphic, stepped EQs with rotary gain controls that cut or boost at the specified frequencies in approximately 1 dB steps
- ±8 dB of gain adjustment per frequency band
- ±8 dB of output makeup gain
- Colored bypass which disables primary processing, while other circuitry still colors the signal
Knob Operation (both Hitsville EQs)
- Click the “+” or “-” labels to increment or decrement the control in 1 dB steps
- Click any number to set the control to that value
- Click “0” or the Frequency label to adjust an EQ knob to 0
- Click on the “Hitsville USA” label to return all EQ knobs to 0
- To use the mousewheel to adjust an EQ control, hover over a knob, then scroll with the wheel to adjust its value
This UAD plug-in includes presets tuned by prominent Universal Audio artists. Artist presets for UAD-2 are accessed through the host DAW’s preset menu, the Settings menu in the UAD toolbar, or Apollo’s Console/LUNA preset browser. Artist presets for UADx plug-ins are accessed from the preset browser included with the UADx plug-ins, or from the LUNA preset browser.
Eric J Dubowsky
UA artists that provided presets for Hitsville EQ Collection
Hitsville EQ Controls
Hitsville EQ interface with tape labels on and off
The EQ knobs are rotary gain controls that cut or boost the specified frequency in approximately 1 dB steps.
Tip: Click the “Hitsville USA” label to reset the EQ gain knobs to 0.
Tape labels provide a visual guide to the target frequency ranges for the EQ controls (sub-bass, bass, low mid, mid, high mid, treble, and high/brilliance).
You can switch the tape labels on and off for the frequency bands by clicking on the property badge to the right of the Gain knob.
Studio EQ Band Frequencies
Each of the seven knobs controls the gain for one frequency band. Each band can be adjusted to boost or cut the frequency by ±8 dB. The available band frequencies, in Hz, are listed below.
In / Out / Off Toggle Switch
This switch enables or disables the processor.
- IN – The EQ circuit is engaged and processing audio.
- OUT – The EQ circuit is bypassed, but audio still passes through the amplifier and transformer modeling. This bypass disables primary processing, but the remaining circuitry still colors the signal.
- OFF – Completely bypasses the plug-in to compare the processed and unprocessed signal.
- UAD-2 – When this switch is OFF and LoadLock is disabled, UAD-2 DSP load is reduced.
- UADx – The plug-in header bar includes an IN button that is lit when the plug-in is active, and unlit when the plug-in is inactive. This button behavior is identical to the OFF setting in the plug-in.
Gain provides ±8 dB of overall output volume compensation in 1 dB steps.
Hitsville Mastering EQ Controls
Left/Right and Mid/Side Controls
The Hitsville Mastering EQ is arranged with two independent channels for equalization. The controls for each channel can be linked or unlinked with the Controls Link switch. Channels can be configured for left/right or mid/side operation with the Mid/Side switch.
- Left/Right – Allows you to equalize the left and right side of the stereo program either independently or with the controls linked. In this configuration, the top channel controls apply to the left stereo channel, and the bottom channel controls apply to the right stereo channel.
- Mid/Side – Allows you to equalize program material for the middle of the stereo image (mid) and for the left and right sides (side) independently. In this configuration, the top channel controls apply to the middle of the stereo image, and the bottom channel controls apply to the sides of the stereo image. See Mid/Side & Left/Right Switch for more information.
Controls Link Switch
The Controls Link switch links or unlinks channel controls.
Note: If you switch from unlinked to linked controls, the settings from the Left/Mid Program channel are applied to both channels.
Each frequency band includes a rotary control that is adjustable in 1 dB steps.
Select Dip or Peak with the Dip/Peak switch to choose whether the control boosts or cuts at the specified frequency.
Note: Click the “Hitsville USA” label to reset the EQ gain knobs to 0.
Tip: Click the property badge to show or hide grease pencil band numbers that indicate frequency bands 1-7.
The available band frequencies, in Hz, are listed below. The ½ Frequency (½ Speed) values are listed in parentheses, and on the tape labels on the processor. Use the Dip/Peak switches to control whether the frequency is boosted or cut.
The Dip/Peak switches set each EQ rotary control to either cut (Dip) or boost (Peak) band gain at the given frequency.
Tip: Click the text label for either setting to adjust the control.
These switches enable or disable the processing for each channel.
- IN – The EQ circuit is engaged and processing audio.
- OUT– The EQ circuit is bypassed, but audio still passes through the amplifier and transformer modeling. This bypass disables primary processing, but the remaining circuitry still colors the signal.
Frequency (½ Speed) Switch
The Frequency (½ Speed) switch specifies whether the EQ controls for each band operate at the normal frequency or one half of the normal frequency. When this switch is in the ½ Frequency (½ Speed) position, the value of all EQ knobs is reduced by half, and the frequency for each knob is as indicated on the tape labels.
This feature was originally designed for disk mastering. The engineer would equalize the program material at normal speed, then run the tape machine, vinyl lathe, and mastering EQ at half speed, which allowed for hotter and more detailed masters. In the modern era, this feature allows you to use an expanded frequency range for your mixes.
Tip: You can click the frequency label or related tape frequency label for any EQ knob to toggle between the normal value and half the frequency. When an EQ knob is toggled to the opposite frequency from that set by the Frequency switch, a white grease pencil mark appears next to the Frequency label or the tape label, indicating which frequency is active.
Note: When you toggle the Frequency switch, all individually toggled EQ settings are reset and grease pencil marks are removed.
This 4-position rotary switch emulates Hitsville’s early disk cutting filters. These filters are steep elliptical high and low pass filters, which were designed to sharply reduce very low and high frequencies to maximize the available gain for the purpose of vinyl disk manufacturing. The filter always applies to both channels.
From left to right, the settings on this switch are:
- No filter
- 70 Hz high pass filter
- 15 kHz low pass filter
- Combined 70 Hz & 15 kHz band pass filter
Note: The Filter knob always applies to both channels, regardless of the Controls Link switch setting.
Channel Gain Knobs
The Left/Mid and Right/Side rotary controls provide ±8 dB of output volume compensation for their respective channels, in 1 dB increments.
Tip: Click the “+” and “-” labels to adjust by 1 dB increments, or click any number to set the control to that value.
Mid/Side & Left/Right Switch
Toggle this switch to change the processing of the EQ channels from Left/Right (stereo) to Mid/Side.
The Mid/Side configuration allows you to equalize program material for the middle of the stereo image (mid) and for the left and right sides (side). This can be useful to increase or reduce the stereo width of a mix, or to boost or cut frequencies on the sides or in the middle of the stereo image. Mid/Side requires no special configuration; the Mid/Side processing occurs inside the EQ, and works on a standard stereo source.
Note: Mid/Side operation is only effective when the Controls Link switch is set to Unlinked.
Mid/Side Auto Solo
When adjusting Gain and Peak/Dip controls in Mid/Side mode, the signal for that channel is momentarily soloed and centered. This allows you to hear the program material for the center or the sides and to more accurately EQ the signal. When you release the control, the signal returns to the fully combined mid/side signal. Auto Solo only works when Mid/Side is enabled and channel controls are unlinked.
Note: Auto Solo only occurs when a Gain knob or Peak/Dip control is touched.
The power switch is the plug-in’s bypass control for comparing the processed and unprocessed signal.
POWER (ON) – Signal processing is active.
OFF – The plug-in is completely bypassed to compare the processed and unprocessed signal, and processing load is reduced.
- UAD-2 – When this switch is OFF, DSP load is reduced when UAD-2 DSP LoadLock is disabled.
- UADx – The plug-in header bar includes an IN button that is lit when the plug-in is active, and unlit when the plug-in is inactive. This button behavior is identical to the Off setting in the plug-in.
Detroit's Motown Museum has graciously given Universal Audio permission to build emulations of classic gear employed at the legendary hit-making studio, Hitsville U.S.A. The story of how these processors came to be created, and how we recreated them, is full of twists and turns.
Finding the Original EQ Units
The classic seven band EQ units that were used at Hitsville and other Motown studios in Detroit were removed from the studio when Motown moved to Los Angeles. After the Los Angeles studio closed, these EQ units made their way into the studios and collections of private owners. Only 46 studio EQ units were ever made, so tracking down working units took more than a year. After an exhaustive search, mix engineer Michael Brauer graciously made his EQs available to Universal Audio.
When the units arrived, we were immediately impressed; the build quality was impeccable. The massive 1 dB stepped switches are so smooth that they feel continuous. The heavy-duty United Technologies Corp (UTC) and Freed input/output transformers and socketed op-amps are thoughtfully implemented. The wire routing and wire dressing show meticulous attention to detail. The 3/8" aluminum chassis and front panel are rock solid. Fairchild-style knobs and heavy Switchcraft toggle switches complete the “beyond military grade” builds.
Working Out the Circuit
Unfortunately, no schematics for the Hitsville EQs were ever located through the Motown Museum, or through any studio owner or service person we knew. Through our contacts, we discovered vintage electronics expert Ken Hirsch, who may have the only schematics for the Langevin 252 EQ, on which the Hitsville EQ design is based. As a starting point, this schematic was crucial to our development time and effort. Access to the schematics meant we did not have to disassemble our pristine units.
Coincidentally, another pair of Hitsville studio EQs came to us. Jesse Gay, a long-time Universal Audio beta tester, reached out to us to offer his units in hopes of seeing a plug-in of the graphic EQ. When analyzed, all four units had amazing unit-to-unit consistency and all worked perfectly – proof of the incredible design and care taken in the manufacturing of these EQs.
The Elusive, Ultra-Rare Disk Cutting EQ
The rare passive disk cutting EQ, of which only six were made, was also a processor we wanted to emulate. On a visit to the Motown Museum to study what we believed to be the sole surviving half-speed disk EQ, we discovered that the unit did not pass audio after years of neglect and environmental damage. However, inside the unit we discovered original filter plots safely tucked away, illustrating the filter's frequency response — a discovery that could shorten development time. We owe a great deal of thanks to forward-thinking technician John Windt, who placed the frequency plots there some 60 years prior.
Fortunately, we found a 2014 Recording Magazine article penned by legendary pro audio journalist George Petersen, where he discussed a once-in-a-lifetime flea market find. George had recovered the second long-lost Hitsville disk cutting EQ, purchased for just $20 from a storage unit sale. If George didn’t buy it, the EQ might have ended up in a dumpster. Mr. Petersen graciously allowed us to study the only functional Hitsville half-speed disk EQ in the world.
In addition to the schematics, devices, and frequency plots, we were able to discuss the history of Hitsville and the design of the EQs with the designers themselves. Hitsville technical engineers Mike McLean and John Windt provided invaluable guidance and technical assistance. John's understanding of the underlying design, and his knowledge of how to connect and analyze the units, were critical to our analysis. John also introduced us to the "Motown Filters," featured in the Hitsville Mastering EQ, which were instrumental in shaping the tight sound and high volume on Motown disk masters. These uniquely customized, transformer-based elliptical band pass filters have steep rolloff and some resonance at 70 Hz and 15 kHz, and were carefully analyzed on site by UA’s design and technical teams.
During the design process we leveraged all of our technical expertise and historical knowledge to create incredibly accurate, richly detailed plug-ins of these historic, extremely rare EQ units.
George Petersen, Ken Hirsch, Michael Brauer, Jesse Gay, Hitsville Alumni Mike McLean, John Windt and Bob Olhsson, Motown Museum staff Nicholas Mancuso, David Ellis, Hannah Thoms and Steve Thomas. Very special thanks to Berry Gordy. In fond memory of Mike McLean. Historical photos courtesy of John Windt and the Motown Museum.