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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Great River Electronics MP-2NV

Great River MP-2NV: Simply great, simply versatile

I was a little shocked when I got a package from George Massenburg with a Great River MP-2NV inside. George Massenburg? The man is super cool in my book. He produced The Trio, the super group of Linda Rondstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. So, here I am at my house in my eight foot by 12 foot room I call my project studio with a Great River MP-2NV that came from George Massenburg's studio.

The Great River MP-2NV is a two-channel solid-state mic pre. It's a Neve 1073 inspired mic pre. The story goes that Fletcher of Mercenary Audio thought it'd be genius if someone took the Neve 1073 but tightened up the sound so that after 16 or more tracks there wouldn't be that infamous Neve haze awaiting you at the end of your mix once all the tracks came together. The world probably did need a sonically focused and tight Neve 1073 flavored mic pre. Somehow, Fletcher talked Dan Kennedy of Great River Electronics into taking the idea and making it into a finished product.

When I talk to engineers about the MP-2NV, they oftentimes speak admiringly of the MP-2NV as a "safe" mic preamp. It's safe in that you can track a whole project with one and get a tight sound at mixdown. It's safe in that you can stick about any mic through it and get a decent sound. It's safe in that it's got a solid DI. In essence, it'll get the job done almost all the time.

The Great River MP-2NV comes in a single-space chassis with rackmounts. On the front you'll find two channels, which contain a Hi-Z Input, 65 dB of Gain, +-10 dB of Output Level and switches for Polarity, Phantom power, Impedance switching and Loading. There is also the obligatory On/Off switch on the front with a pleasant glowing blue light. There are also In and Out light meters for each channel. They meter the Gain stage and the Output Level.

I tried out the DI first. I plugged my G&L George Fullerton into the HI-Z input on the front of the MP-2NV. If you don't know, G&L stands for George Fullerton and Leo Fender. The Fullerton is basically a 1956 Stratocaster guitar with the 1957 pickups.

I set the gain at 40 dB. I alternated engaging the Impedance and Loading buttons looking for the most musical sound. I found the sweet spot with the Impedance button engaged with the Loading button to the off position. I liked the sound's tad of grit and distortion. The guitar came across with a balanced tone.

I like to layer guitar parts using DI. I think this comes from my background of being in an all guitar big band at the University of North Texas. You could layer a guitarist playing the trumpet, sax and trombone parts on a big band chart through the MP-2NV and never worry about losing the image of the originals in the mix.

I tried my Music Man Sabre Bass with the MP-2NV. I got a nice level with the gain set to 30 dB. I tried all the different combos of impedance and loading switching available. No matter what the combination I could feel the hint of a low end. At first, I kind of felt a little too much mid presence for my tastes but over time I found myself liking the tone. I put a Speck Model ASC EQ in the path after the Great River MP-2NV. I added some low shelf EQ to see if I could bring out the bottom on the bass. What a difference a little EQ can make sometimes. It balanced out the mids and gave a nice heavy sound.

I did like how the MP-2NV put across the attack on each bass note with the a hint of "moving air." It's more of a psychoacoustic effect with the MP-2NV. Guitarists and bassists usually talk about a stack or half-stack amplifier moving a lot of air. In essence, it's the impact of the sound on the body coming from four to eight speakers. While not the real thing, the sensation of "moving air" put out by the MP-2NV adds a nice texture to the bass. It'd be a nice flavor for a Reamp situation or when layering on top of another bass part.

I really like the Loading switch. When a Neve 1073 pre is in a console, its output transformer is loaded, meaning there is a 600-ohm resistor connected across the secondary. When it's racked, it's not loaded. Engineers got accustomed to hearing the 1073 one way or another or perhaps even both ways. The MP-2NV sounds flatter when the Loading switch is engaged. When it is off, the pre sounds a bit gritty in the mids and there is a nice bit of air in the high frequencies.

I found the Great River MP-2NV exceeded my expectations in versatility. I liked how the mic pre let me switch the "Loading" characteristic as well as fine tune the interplay between the input and output levels to give various shades of color from clean to dirty.

The Impedance button refers to input impedance. Your options are 300 and 1200 ohms, which are generally considered optimum for 50 and 200 ohm microphones respectively. I'm a fan of switchable input impedance. It gives you more sonic colors from dynamics, ribbons and condensers as well as DI instruments.

With mics, I found the MP-2NV to be the most versatile mic pre I've used. The image in the monitors tended to be tight and bordered somewhere between two-dimensional to three-dimensional. I'd categorize the color as slight. The color makes things very interesting and Neve fans will dig it but it never overpowers the source.

The Bottom Line: The Great River MP-2NV is simply great and versatile. Very highly recommended.

--Steven Langer

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