Why is the Neve 1073 such a sought-after mic preamp?
When it comes to input stages, few are held in as high regard as the Neve 1073. As a transformer-based preamp, it remains the standard tool for quality recording worldwide. The 1073 has been used on countless notable albums since its introduction, but why does it remain such a mainstay in modern recording culture?
The Neve 1073: A truly classic design
Back in 1970, a time when tube circuitry still ruled, the 1073 was a solid-state channel strip originally designed by Rupert Neve and his team for the A88 Wessex console. With transformers on both the input and output stages, the 1073 produces great results with a wide range of sources using virtually any microphone you can find.
As you can expect, it quickly caught on and was incorporated into many of Neve’s early consoles. The inductor midrange EQ made the 1073 an essential studio tool due to its musical character.
Also, the fixed frequency bands were selected to process a larger frequency spectrum rather than the EQs on the early Neve broadcast consoles which were geared for speech.
Which is the best 1073 for your setup?
Few of us will ever own vintage 1073s, and with the options available today it’s hard to justify the cost. However, there are plenty of designs modeled on the original that will suit your workflow and budget.
Whether you choose the 80-series, standard rackmount, or 500- series, there really is something out there for everyone. Most important, however, is the layout and topology.
While some 1073 style pres out there offer the same functionality as the original, others simply offer the gain stage without the EQ. Furthermore, some designs provide additional features like compression, so keep this in mind when comparing prices.
Warm Audio WA-73EQ
Warm Audio is famous for making vintage designs accessible at reasonable prices, while still ensuring a decent level of quality. The WA-73EQ gives you all the hallmarks of the original 1073 with some practical additions that make it even more versatile.
For example, there is an XLR mic input and an instrument input for easy access on the front panel. Meanwhile, the rear panel has an insert path should you wish to add an external compressor into your input chain.
The three-band inductor EQ with a switchable HP filter can also be bypassed, and there is an output gain knob to accurately control your recording level.
The 1073D brings the famous console channel strip to the 500-series format in classic BAE style. This means uncompromisingly high-quality design and pristine analogue signal path.
This monster three space unit has some neat features like the mic impedance switch, which shifts between 1200 and 300 ohms. Just like the original, each of the EQ bands and the high pass filter can be switched off.
This means you get all the magic and precision of the 1073 EQ, for carving signals any which way. Many regard BAE designs like these as the best vintage Neve clones on the market, which makes the 1073D one of the more pricey 500-series modules available.
Great River MEQ-1NV
As a manufacturer, Great River Electronics is a true pioneer of modern preamp technology. The tone-centric design approach makes the MEQ-1NV one of the most desired channel strips ever built.
Comprised of two separate units in a 1U rack space, the MEQ-1NV gives you the ME-1NV 1073 modeled preamp and the EQ-1NV four-band EQ, based on the 1081/1084.
Apart from the massive discrete gain, high headroom, and incredibly low-noise floor, the modular design gives you more flexibility. This means you can also buy both units and rack ears separately to fit your spec.
Rupert Neve Designs Shelford Channel
Although it comes from the 1073’s inventor, the Shelford Channel isn’t a clone. Instead, it is the culmination of over 40 years of audio innovation packed into a 1U channel strip.
The Shelford gives you a mic pre, inductor EQ, diode bridge compressor, and the Silk control for emphasizing harmonics. On closer inspection, the input stage also features a DI circuit with an output thru for your guitar amp.
In addition, the compressor has sidechain functionality, which makes the Shelford Channel extremely versatile. Although it may seem pricey for a single rack processor, this is still more affordable than replacing a channel strip on a high-end console.
AMS Neve 1073 SPX
The AMS Neve 1073 module is arguably the closest you’ll get to the original vintage item. The class A circuitry, the Marinair spec transformers, and all the sound sculpting capabilities that come with it.
The EQ section gives you a HP filter with four selectable bands, a low shelf with four bands, a fixed-Q mid boost/cut with six bands, and a 12k high shelf.
All this tone shaping potential combined with +80 dB of input gain makes it hard to beat and of course, the convenience of having a 1073 in a convenient rack module is hard to beat.
More about preamps and vintage gear:
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- Warm Audio WA73-EQ: Warm Audio
- BAE 1073D: BAE
- Great River MEQ-1NV: Great River Electronics
- Rupert Neve Designs Shelford Channel: Rupert Neve Designs
I bought and returned the Warm Audio 73, the Heritage 73, and the BA73. I ended up with a Shelford Channel – which uses much higher voltage rails (more headroom than the others in my list) and its versatility and incredible sound is in a class all in its own. It can be surgical, or it can be colorful – or a mixture of both. I ended up getting a second one to have a stereo pair. I can’t recommend these enough. Anything you throw at it (including re-amping DAW things), instantly sounds better. Better = thicker, girthier, more “3d”, etc (forgive the terms but I don’t know how else to describe it). Overtime I think it will become a classic on its own.