Whilst many in home-studios can only dream of a large 'name' console it is possible to
assemble components of these classic signal paths to impart some flavour and character.
The BAE1073mpf offers a classic, musical signal path with some tonal flexibility via the
filter, impedance switch and use of gain. Whilst high in price (for the prosumer) it
promises to be a good investment, both artistically and as a durable, serviceable piece of
The BAE1073mpf is a solid steel-encased 1u rack
unit and has a hand-wired modular construction based on the Class-A circuit in the 1073
module designed by Rupert Neve for the A88 console at Wessex Studios. Whilst many
amplifier designs have progressed towards greater efficiency and tweakability, the BAE
company ethos is to offer faithful reproductions of classic designs and with that
circuitry the sound of classic audio equipment. Created in conjunction with Avedis Audio,
the design and production of the BAE1073mpf involves using original (or reproduction of
original) components with some having improved quality.
According to Hugh
Robjohns SOS article, the circuitry differs physically in that the Neve 1073 uses an
additional preamp stage whilst the BAE has an adapted gain structure. The similarities and
differences in sound can be heard in Gearslutz audio tests: although both units sound
rich, musical and add harmonic definition, the BAE sounds slightly 'darker' (or the Neve
'lighter'). Some users prefer the Neve on vocal and guitar and the BAE on bass but I'm
sure that either unit would be outstanding on most sources. I've not physically compared 2
units but the build-quality on the BAE is excellent.
review is based on the dual-channel 'mpf' unit. The rear panel has two XLR (mic/line] in
and two transformer-balanced XLR (line) out (@ +4 dB) on top-quality connectors. Rear
panel also has 5-pin XLR power lead to the power supply. The power supply is a solid,
external unit with mains off-on switch and 'power on' light; it connects via IC lead to
mains. It can power 2 BAE units (although there are facilities to supply 4 units).
On the front panel 4 LED-lit latching push-buttons select: phase;
phantom power (48v to mic/line input); line pad; and DI. Next a solid 1/4" DI input. A
12-position red rotary switch controls the gain (from +15 to +70 dB); each step can be
trimmed by a grey rotary dial. A 2-position toggle switch changes the impedance (1200/300
Ohms). The 18 dB/octave high-pass filter is controlled by a 5-position blue rotary swich
In my home studio the BAE1073mpf is
mainly used for tracking (into line-in on a Sound Devices 702 A/D): one channel for DI
guitar - electro-acoustic, electric and bass; the other channel for microphone. I warm the
unit before use.
I'm limited in the range of comparisons I can draw having
mainly used budget preamps (Yamaha MG & 01X, Saffire, US-122); however the Sound Devices
preamps are first-class and clean - it's a straight representation of that microphones
'sound' - whereas the BAE imparts much more character and each microphone sounds smoother,
warmer, more dimensional, more euphonic.
Microphones used are a Rode K2
variable-pattern tube, Rode NT1A and the Shure SM58 dynamic: the K2 has a rich bright tone
and increasing the input gain adds warmth and harmonic 'fizz' whilst switching the
impedance from 1200 to 300 Ohms makes the signal less present and adds definition to the
mid-lows. Compared to use with budget preamps the SM58 is a new microphone - not
high-fidelity but with plenty of character and definition...warm but not wooly. The Rode
NT1A, usually quite sibilant and airy, was tamed and warmed well with excellent
definition. The filter will gently lift a vocal and tame boominess.
guitars - the humble Ovation Celebrity electro-acoustic is a great guitar although lacking
the bottom-end of wooden guitars; when plugged into electronics it's character is superb
but it's still light - the BAE DI changes this and the bottom-end is far more
musically-pleasing...also gone is the slight scratchiness which the BAE smooths over
without losing the articulation of the strings. The Taylor 414ce sounds very full and
smooth through the BAE DI, less distant than with budget preamps but the new presence
isn't peaky, it's warm and a more faithful reproduction of the original signal. The
solid-body Fender FMT HH Telecaster benefits from the harmonic richness dialled in with
lots of gain - it just makes the instrument sing.
The Ibanez SR500 bass guitar is
active with 3 band fixed EQ and a variable dial to mix the two pick-ups; prior to the BAE
I was having trouble with definition and tone - either too quiet or too boomy, and lacking
in presence. Using the BAE DI I can hear the instrument as clearly defined in the mix and
with a sweet musical tone; it's particularly good when digging in to the strings - no
harshness, totally smooth. Finally, the Martin D15, a mahogany guitar without electronics
which needs to be tracked using a microphone - so far I've used the K2 and this worked
superbly capturing the Martin's deep, natural tone without hype.
guitars it's safe to say that if I never had another preamp I would be happy with the BAE;
again, the filter offers a range of tonality, taming boominess and clearing a space in the
bass range. A major advantage is that I can hear the instruments/vocal more clearly when
tracking; also they sit better in the mix. Whilst there is no stereo linking, each channel
on the BAE1073mpf is manufactured within such a tolerance that any two channels are stereo
compatible. This is great for running a stereo mix through. There is an example here: http://soundcloud.com/arthurstone/wha-time-is-it
The BAE 1073mpf is well-engineered, easy to operate and sounds great.
It has a familiar, warm and friendly character - smooth and intimate for soft vocals yet
able to add a harmonically-rich distortion to mixes or instruments/samples. The stand-out
sales point is the build-component quality and musical timbre. It is available as a
single- or dual-channel unit; BAE offer a one-year warranty.
Does it represent
good value? Spread the cost over 2 or 3 decades...that's about 30p a day. Can you afford
to not buy one?
References: AMS Neve
Celebrates 45 yearshttp://www.gearslutz.com/board/high-end/184455-neve-1073-dpa-brent-averill
-1073-a.html Rupert Neve Designs – 1970?sBAE 1073 MPFQ. How do the different amp
classes work?Neve Electronics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia