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Monday, December 22, 2008

Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5012

Portico Series 5012 Duo Mic Pre as good as the 'Rupert Neve' name

Short of selling the kids or refinancing the house, most of us cannot afford a vintage Neve 1073 or 1084 preamp. There are also numerous Neve clones on the market from $1,000 and up which have attempted to provide a similar sound at a more reasonable price than classic Neve units.

Rupert Neve himself has come out with his own new brand, Rupert Neve Designs. The first product to market is the Portico Series 5012 Duo Mic Pre. It's a two channel mic pre with a 1U half rack footprint.

So what makes a Rupert Neve design so special? Three characteristics come to mind when discussing vintage Neve preamps: Depth, detail and range. Others have described the sound as smooth, big and rich. However you describe it, the sound is THE SOUND I've wanted for a very long time.

When you go to the website of Rupert Neve Designs you will find the 5012 tantalizingly described. It calls the 5012 “a dual-channel microphone preamplifier that incorporates a number of unique features." It adds, "The classic warmth and presence of Mr. Neve's renowned audio circuit designs may be added to both outputs through the front panel 'Silk' switch." I was completed hooked by the words, "renowned audio circuit," and ordered one for my project studio.

After waiting the requisite two weeks to receive the device, I opened the box and found a well packed and professional looking preamp inside. My first impression was that the unit is very solid, well built, mostly metal and heavy in the hand.
Each channel of the 5012 front panel contains a variable high pass control with selectable frequency ranges from 20 to 250 Hz. Mic gain runs from 0 to 66 in 6 dB increments. The mic pres also possesses a switch for 48 volts of phantom power and as well as a phase control. The knobs are plastic.

The "Silk" button, which supposedly introduces the "renowned audio circuitry," in fact, engaged a sound very similar to the 1073 I just recently used for recording. It has a very rich low end and slightly scooped midrange with detailed highs. This is the big voice type sound people refer to which is associated with vintage Neve preamps. I don’t really care how Rupert got there. It definitely had the sound I had been looking for. Is it exactly like a 1073? Well, vintage preamps vary from module to module so let's just say it's right there in the ball park. In normal mode it has a very intimate and slightly more transparent sound that I found enjoyable on acoustic guitar and is a more versatile setting for instruments in my opinion.

For the record the unit does not have an internal power supply which seems to be a source of discontent for some people. The power supply is not a wallwart but uses a boa type similar to those you find attached to laptop computers. Some have speculated that this somehow cheapens the offering or they cannot believe it has a serious sound given this design choice. I am here to say it most definitely has a serious sound despite the external power.

Another key feature unique to this preamp is the routing buss on the back panel which sums multiple units into a common buss mix module (shipping sometime in the future). If you’re looking to build a world class mixer you will be able to expand several 5012s along with other modules from the Portico line into a top quality external mixer.

The Bottom Line: The Portico 5012 delivers a detailed sonic image with a broad range of frequencies. It provides a great value and two channels of a classic sound sure to put a smile on most any studio owner’s face. Recommended.

--Phil Grabmiller

Rupert Neve Designs

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