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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Great River Electronics ME-1NV

Great River's single channel NV series pre great for Rock and Pop

The Great River ME-1NV is a top-end product. No single preamp does everything. But, the ME-1NV delivers very good to spectacular sound on a variety of sources. The ME-1NV is a great choice as that first high-end mic preamp. It's an even better first choice if you do a lot of Rock and Pop recording.

A new preamp is not going to change your life. Using the right microphone with proper placement on a great instrument played by a talented musician is much more important to my ears than the mic pre. However, adding a great pre to the aforementioned recipe sure can make for some beautiful sounding tracks and is definitely worth having in your gear cabinet.

The ME-1NV is a Neve 1073 inspired single-channel microphone preamplifier in a standard one-half rack space. It’s very solidly built and much heavier than it looks. The front panel has a high impedance 1/4 plug input for guitar, bass and keyboard, an input gain pot, an output trim pot along with buttons for polarity, 48v phantom power, input impedance (300 and 1200 ohms) and output loading. The front also contains a dual ladder LED display, which meters input and output. Finally, there's the power switch with blue LED.

On the back is a standard IEC connector for AC. Simply put: No wall wart here. Also on the back are an XLR input, +4 XLR balanced output, -10dBv unbalanced output and an unbalanced TRS insert jack. TRS insert? Hmm, I think it's perfect for an FMR RNC. I would have liked to have seen a TT input and output on the back. This would facilitate patching in a professional environment. As it is, you need to make or buy adapter cables to hook it up.

I received the ME-1NV just before a busy week of sessions. First up was a young band, playing ultra-heavy Rock. Their singer wasn’t comfortable using a large condenser for vocals and asked if he could use an SM-58. I hooked up the 58 into the ME-1NV, patched in my RNC and rolled tape. It sounded very full but with plenty of aggressive edge to cut through an extremely dense mix. The vocal sat perfectly in the mix with just a little compression.

The next night was a backup vocal and mixdown session for an artist very much in the vein of Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp. The singer who was doing the backups has a fabulous high tenor, but has always been a little hard to record - most mics hate his voice. I used a Soundelux U195 through the ME-1NV and into an FMR RNC. It did put the part where we needed it with no muss or fuss in a workmanlike way.

Friday was a session for a group of 15-year-olds. The song was a guitar-based power Pop number. I used the ME-1NV for bass, guitar, vocals and tambourine. For bass, it was wonderful -- fat, punchy and present. I squashed the track during mixdown and it sounded great. On electric guitar it was very nice, however I had to switch from the Royer R-121 to an SM-57, it was too fat for the track. On vocals, I used the Soundelux U195 and got a present, crisp tone, which really put the vocal out front. A little too bright for my ears, but the band liked it. I used the U195 for the tambourine -- very realistic, detailed sound. As an interesting side note -- through a parent’s connection, this song was played on our top-rated Rock station’s morning show the next week. The vocal, which I had thought was a little bright, sounded great. Just goes to show...

Sunday was nu-metal day. A Limp Bizkit influenced band was cutting basics for a new project on two-inch analog tape, which is a rarity at our studio. I decided to try the ME-1NV on kick drum as I had heard it excelled at this. The drummer was very good and his biggest concern was that the kick drum had enough punch. No problem: An Audio-Technica ATM-25 about eight inches off the batter head, pointed at the beater, no front head and toss a sandbag in there. It was just what he was looking for -- tons of snap -- but there was also quite a bit of low end left for some flexibility at mixdown.

On Monday, I found myself recording overdubs with the singer-guitarist of an Alt Rock band. The band is at the point where they just do overdub after overdub with no end in sight. We were doing all sorts of stuff, so I really had a chance to try out the ME-1NV. We did lead vocals using a Marshall V-67G and got a beautiful thick sound, with definition. The guitar overdubs were great also. I plugged a Royer R-121 into the ME-1NV and RNC combo. It gave us tremendously realistic tracks. We also mic’ed a blues harp, which was running into a Fender Pro Jr. I used the R-121 again and it sounded very nice, an authentic Little Walter tone with a little vocal bleed. I noted the ME-1NV just seems to reach out and grab the sound as well as the acoustic space. I found the tracks to be tremendously realistic.

On Tuesday, I recorded a vocal overdub session for a female singer. She’s doing a vanity project of standards and some Pop stuff with just vocal and piano. She possesses a rich yet mellow alto voice. I decided to use the Soundelux U195 through the ME-1NV into an RNC. The combination caught every nuance and added a wonderful texture to her tracks. I thought it sounded spectacular.

If you need two channels, then you might want to consider the Great River MP-2NV, which is two channels of the exact same components as the ME-1NV. Be warned: There are no economies with more channels. The cost is approximately double for the two channel version. Why the difference designations in the two channel versus one channel units? Originally, the ME-1NV was designated as the MP-2NV but changed in honor of Fletcher and Mercenary Audio with the "ME" standing for "Mercenary Edition."

The Bottom Line: A golden channel suitable in any world-class facility but affordable to many project studios. Very highly recommended.

--Mark Gifford

Great River Electronics

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