A few weeks ago Engineer Robert Cheek and I went into the Hangar to do some listening tests on several hardware and software EQs: The URS Fulltec, Waves Q-Clone and the Chameleon Labs 7602. Rather than repeat this three times, here's the set up we used. Tape Op's copy editor Caitlin Gutenberger is in a really cool band called Two Sheds that Robert's been recording. Her vocals were all tracked straight into Pro Tools with a Shure 330 Ribbon mic and a UA 6176. We duped her vocal track several times and used this as the source for our EQ tests.

I've always loved the sound of classic Neve mic preamps. The first preamp I ever bought was a vintage Neve 1272 racked by Brent Averill, and I used that on just about every track I recorded for nearly 10 years. Then I got a 1073 about five years ago and finally a Neve broadcast board about three years ago. I feel like I know the sound of these preamps and EQ's pretty well. The 7602 is a Chinese manufactured mic preamp and EQ whose electrical design is an exact replica of a famous British unit, and I have to say it sounds almost exactly like what I love from vintage Neve gear. The biggest difference between this and a 1073 are the cosmetics and the price. The 7602 is less than $800 while a new 1073 is $3500, and used channels can go for up to $5000! Each power supply works with two channels, so your second channel will cost you even less.

We've been using a pair around the studio now for several months, and every engineer has given the 7602 great marks. We've tried them on drum overheads, electric and acoustic guitar, bass, but strangely we hadn't yet tried them on vocals. So as a way to really test the EQ section, we thought it would be interesting to compare the 7602's EQ to our 1073 on Caitlin's vocals. We duplicated the settings on the two EQs, and I have to report that the 7602 is pretty much dead on. I love old (and new) Neve gear (and Rupert's new stuff is amazing too!), but if you're on a budget, the 7602 is a great deal. Even as a second set of preamps if you already have some of the pricier stuff. We've been sending ours out on remotes and getting great stuff back.

The build quality is overall pretty solid-not as robust as the vintage or boutique stuff but much nicer than a lot of overseas stuff I've seen. The power supply looks a bit cheap, but hey just stash it behind the rack, and track down some cool old vintage knobs to throw on this thing, and you'd be stoked.

Bottom line is, after using these for a few months, there's no way I'm sending them back. These are worth every penny. ($799 MSRP; www.chameleonlabs.com)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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