Warm Audio WA73-EQ Review | Black Ghost Audio

Learn about the Warm Audio WA73-EQ. Discover its features, studio applications, pros and cons, ideal user, and where to buy.


The Warm Audio WA73-EQ is a one-channel British microphone preamp and equalizer. It’s a hand wired and assembled 19″ rack mountable unit that offers a mix of classic design and modern functionality. At its core, it’s a recreation of the iconic Neve 1073 preamp/EQ, a unit that’s synonymous with the distinctive ‘British sound’ coveted by audio engineers around the world. The WA73-EQ supposedly provides the look, feel, and sound of a $1,800 Neve 1073 for just $700. Although, does it really live up to the hype?

  • 80 db of gain
  • Warm and colorful British sound
  • Ability to insert hardware
  • Neve 1084 EQ settings
  • Overall sturdy build quality
  • Affordable Neve 1073 emulation
  • Flimsy EQ gain knobs
  • Small faceplate text
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The front panel of the WA73-EQ is home to a variety of buttons and knobs, all of which add to the unit’s elegant aesthetic.

An image of Warm Audio's WA73-EQ, sitting above Warm Audio's WA76 Limiting Amplifier.
Figure 1: Warm Audio’s WA73-EQ, sitting above Warm Audio’s WA76 Limiting Amplifier.

There’s a mic input on the front of the unit, in addition to the back of the unit. You can connect the mic input on the back of the unit to your patch bay and reserve the front mic input for other uses. For example, you may decide to use it to record the output of a DI box or plug in a microphone that you’ve rented.

An image of the Mic input on the front of the WA73-EQ.
Figure 2: The Mic input on the front of the WA73-EQ.

There’s a variety of switches that allow you to enable different features on the WA73-EQ. The unit includes a +48V (phantom power) switch to power condenser microphones. When phantom power is engaged, an LED beside the +48V button illuminates.

An image of the switches on the front of the WA73-EQ.
Figure 3: The switches on the front of the WA73-EQ.

The Polarity switch inverts the polarity of the signal. If you’re recording with more than one microphone, and additional WA73-EQs, you can toggle the Polarity switch to minimize phase cancelation. You’ll end up with in-phase recordings that sound punchy and full.

One of the most notable coloration controls on the WA73-EQ is the Tone switch. It changes the input transformer configuration from a 1:2 (step up) turns ratio to a 1:4 (step up) turns ratio. This causes the transformer to produce more color and deliver additional impact.

When the Tone switch is engaged, the WA73-EQ has an input impedance of 300 ohms, and when disengaged, the input impedance changes to 1200 ohms. The user manual recommends using the 300 ohms setting (punchy, aggressive, and thick) for dynamic and ribbon mics. In contrast, the manual suggests using the 1200 ohms setting (open and natural) for dynamic and condenser microphones. Try both settings to see which option suits your recorded material the best.

The Line input switch engages the TRS line input on the back of the WA73-EQ and disables the XLR microphone inputs. If you’re running a signal from your DAW into the WA73-EQ, you’ll want to make sure that the Line switch is engaged. The same goes for if you’re running a signal from a piece of line-level hardware, like a synthesizer, through the unit.

Engaging the Insert switch allows you to insert a third-party hardware compressor or EQ into the middle of the WA73-EQ’s circuit. The device is inserted after the input transformer and initial gain stage, prior to the WA73-EQ’s equalizer. For example, you can connect the Send jack on the back of the WA73-EQ to the input of Warm Audio’s WA-2A Tube Optical Compressor, which is a popular vocal compressor.

An image of Warm Audio's WA-2A Tube Optical Compressor.
Figure 4: Warm Audio’s WA-2A Tube Optical Compressor.

Then, you need to connect the output of the WA-2A to the Return jack on the back of the WA73-EQ. These connections should be formed using unbalanced 1/4″ cables. Now you’ll be able to punch the WA-2A in and out of the WA73-EQ’s circuit using the Insert switch.

If you own an electric guitar, or other devices that produce an instrument-level signal, you can plug them into the WA73-EQ’s Instrument input jack. To enable this feature, press the Instr switch on the front of the unit.

The built-in preamp provides a massive 80 dB of gain, and is controlled with a resistor-stepped gain switch. As you turn the gain knob, it firmly clicks into the next position.

An image of the WA73-EQ's preamp knob.
Figure 5: The WA73-EQ’s preamp knob.

It’s possible to cut low-end from the signal running through the WA73-EQ using a hi-pass filter at 50, 80, 160, or 300 Hz. A blue stepped switch controls the filter’s cutoff frequency. When turned counterclockwise, the filter is disabled. You can use this feature to eliminate low-end rumble when recording dialog and vocals.

An image of the WA73-EQ's Hi Pass knob.
Figure 6: The WA73-EQ’s Hi Pass knob.

Within the WA73-EQ, there’s an inductor based 3-band EQ. Each band is controlled by a UK-made Blore Edwards dual-concentric switch potentiometer. The outside part of the potentiometer (the ring) controls the band’s center frequency, while the inside (the knob) controls the amount of gain applied.

The low band uses a low-shelf filter and allows you to boost or cut at 35, 60, 110, or 220 Hz. A bell filter is applied by the mid band, letting you boost or cut at 360, 700, 1600, 3200, 4800, or 7200 Hz. Finally, a high-shelf filter is used by the high band, which grants you the ability to boost or cut at 10, 12, or 16 kHz. If you’d prefer to bypass the EQ, simply toggle the EQ button.

An image of the WA73-EQ's EQ controls.
Figure 7: The WA73-EQ’s EQ controls.

The Output knob controls the level of the signal leaving the WA73-EQ. Below the Output knob there’s an LED meter with values that include -20, -8, 0, +8, +20.

An image of the WA73-EQ's Output knob.
Figure 8: The WA73-EQ’s Output knob.

On the back of the unit, there’s a ground lift switch that can eliminate unwanted hum and buzz. It does this by disconnecting the audio signal ground from earth or chassis ground. This feature is most useful for troubleshooting ground loop issues, helping you identify and fix the root of the issue.

An image of the ground lift switch on the back of the WA73-EQ.
Figure 9: The ground lift switch on the back of the WA73-EQ.

The WA73-EQ has a solid build. Its thick-gauge casing, large power supply, and UK Carnhill transformers contribute to its heftiness. The transformers found in the WA73-EQ are custom reproductions of vintage ’73-Style British preamp transformers. When pushed, the WA73-EQ’s preamp produces sweet saturation.

An image of one of the Carnhill transformers used in the WA73-EQ.
Figure 10: One of the Carnhill transformers used in the WA73-EQ.

To top things off, the unit uses a fully discrete balanced signal path. A discrete signal path uses separate and identifiable components, which is different than an integrated circuit, which uses a single chip that houses tiny components. The benefit of a discrete path is that it allows for more control over the design and can be tailored to create a specific sound; many audiophiles argue that this results in superior sound quality.

Studio Applications

The WA73-EQ, with its range of features and functions, is a versatile device that can be used in a variety of studio applications. You can use the high-gain preamp to record soft vocals captured with a Neumann TLM 103 or aggressive performances tracked with a low-output dynamic mic, like a Shure SM7B. With 80 dB of gain, you may not need to use a Cloudlifter to get a clean signal from your low-out mics. The warmth and color the preamp imparts on sounds makes mixing recordings a breeze.

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The EQ section is just as flexible, allowing you to shape your sound in a variety of ways. The high and low-frequency shelves are musical and can add a nice sheen or warmth to your tracks. The midrange control can also help bring out the detail in vocals or guitars.

When mixing, you can use a pair of WA73-EQs to add some character to your drum bus or shape the tone of individual tracks. For example, you may want to use the high-frequency shelf to add some sparkle to overheads, or use the midrange band to bring out the thump in a kick drum.

Furthermore, the WA73-EQ’s connectivity options make it a versatile tool in modern studios. The balanced TRS line input can be used to ‘warm up’ a live synth or an already recorded track, even with the EQ bypassed. The insert point with separate send and return jacks can be used to incorporate additional outboard gear into your signal chain, offering even more sound-shaping opportunities.

Warm Audio WA73-EQ vs Neve 1073

For those of you interested to hear how the preamp in the Warm Audio WA73-EQ stands up against the Neve 1073, the following video provides side-by-side audio examples. To me, the differences are quite subtle.

One thing I noticed is that the upper midrange of the WA73-EQ sounds a little harsher than the Neve 1073. Additionally, the top-end of the Neve 1073 sounds slightly brighter and more open than the WA73-EQ. Despite these differences, you’ll have a hard time convincing me that the $1,000 price difference is worth it.

Keep in mind that a pair of Neve 1073s won’t necessarily sound identical. The age of each unit, component tolerances, and various other factors come into play. As far as emulations go, the WA73-EQ sounds very similar to the Neve 1073.


The WA73-EQ’s blend of robust construction, high-quality components, and intuitive design make it a noteworthy preamp and EQ. It offers the warmth and color associated with the iconic Neve 1073, along with some additional EQ options. The fact that it’s capable of delivering this at a budget-friendly price point is remarkable.

The front panel of the WA73-EQ is not just aesthetically pleasing, but also functionally designed. The stepped potentiometers and solid knobs contribute to a smooth and satisfying user experience. With 80 dB of gain on hand, the unit can handle a wide range of input sources.

With the flexibility of the Neve 1084’s EQ options, users can sculpt the sound in more ways than was possible with the original Neve 1073. This makes the WA73-EQ a versatile tool for both recording and mixing.

The unit’s sturdy build offers reassurance of its longevity. This is an important consideration for studio gear, which often sees heavy use over long periods.


The biggest downside of the WA73-EQ is the build quality of the knobs in the center of the potentiometers; these control the gain applied to each EQ band. They’re somewhat wiggly and turn too easily for my liking. You don’t get the type of resistance that you’d expect from a quality knob component. In comparison, the frequency selection ring around each EQ knob is built like Thor’s hammer, emphasizing the flimsy nature of the EQ knobs.

Another one of my gripes is the size of some of the text on the front faceplate. The text surrounding the preamp, low-cut filter, EQ bands, and below the Output knob is very small. In a dimly lit studio environment, I believe many producers will need to strain their eyes to dial in the WA73-EQ’s parameters.

Ideal User

The WA73-EQ is well-suited for serious home studio enthusiasts and professional audio engineers working in commercial studios. It’s a magnificent piece of hardware, but I wouldn’t recommend it to brand new music producers. New producers should allocate their budget to purchasing a pair of headphones, studio monitors, a MIDI keyboard, and acoustic treatment for the most notable production gains.

In comparison to the sonically-neutral preamps found in most audio interfaces, home studio enthusiasts will love the flavor that the WA73-EQ brings to the table. It delivers a rich sound that you’ll want to start applying to every vocal and guitar that you record. The built-in EQ and option to insert a compressor give you the ability to capture recordings that sound controlled and polished the moment they appear in your DAW; this cuts down on the amount of mixing you need to perform.

Professional audio engineers can purchase multiple WA73-EQs to multi-mic drum kits and tackle other comprehensive recording tasks. Since each unit costs $700, it’s not unreasonable to load an entire rack with these preamp/EQ combos. Sure, it’s a significant investment but it’s much cheaper than loading a rack with Neve 1073s. There’s also a 2-channel version called the Warm Audio WA273-EQ that’s perfect for processing stereo recordings.

The Warm Audio WA73-EQ is as a must-have mic preamp and EQ, especially if you record a lot of vocals, guitars, and drums. Despite its flimsy EQ gain knobs, its otherwise robust construction, rich sound, and budget-friendly price make it a worthwhile investment. Whether you’re a home studio enthusiast or professional audio engineer, you’ll love the sound and user experience that the Warm Audio WA73-EQ provides.

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