Golden Age's new Premier brand takes their popular Pre‑73 preamps to the next level.
Swedish manufacturers Golden Age Project have made a name for themselves with their excellent Pre‑73 range of preamps, all based on the famous Neve 1073 input module. We've reviewed various iterations of them in the past, including the original Pre‑73 in March 2009, and the DLX version in March 2013. However, the latest incarnation of this highly-regarded and attractively-priced vintage-style preamp looks and feels rather different, and forms part of the range of the newer and more upmarket sister brand Golden Age Premier. There are two initial models, one incorporating a three-band equaliser (the PreQ‑73 Premier), and one without (the Pre‑73 Premier), although the latter does still have some useful basic EQ facilities. Although very similar in concept and design to the current Golden Age Project Pre‑73 MkIII and PreQ‑73 preamps, the new Premier versions have been enhanced to provide a more 'premium quality' product. (In fact, the Project version of the PreQ‑73 is being withdrawn.)
Still housed in a half-rack width 1U chassis (a dedicated 'Unite' shelf unit is available for rackmounting single or pairs of preamps), the most obvious visible change is an aesthetic makeover which emphasises the derivation from Neve's 1073 module, featuring the traditional grey-painted front panel, red-winged gain switch, fluted output fader knob, and a quartet grouping of white rectangular input configuration buttons.
Internally, the most significant differences are that Carnhill input and output transformers are now fitted as standard, and almost all the internal connectors between circuit boards have been replaced with direct hand-wiring (only the gain switch is still hooked up via a connector, and that's to allow it to be pre-wired for production efficiency and easier field replacement). Company owner Bo Medin says this constructional change removes 48 separate signal-path contacts (compared with the transformer‑equipped Project Pre73‑MkIII Plus model), and that has to be a good thing from the perspectives of both sound quality and service reliability. The trade-off, of course, is a more demanding and lengthy build, which inevitably adds slightly to the production costs.
The vintage-style buttons, knobs and transformers add to the unit costs as well, of course, but the modestly increased sale price of this new premium range has also allowed Bo to use higher-quality components throughout these new models, including polystyrene and tantalum capacitors in the gain-stages, and the internal 24V DC regulator has twice the reservoir capacity of the Project models. That internal DC power regulator is provided with 24V AC from an external double-insulated (groundless) 'line-lump' mains transformer via a coaxial power socket. It makes perfect engineering sense to keep the mains transformer as far away from the unit's magnetically-sensitive audio transformers as possible, though I was surprised that the opportunity was not taken in this Premium range to upgrade the power connector with a higher-quality locking type — something Bo tells me he'll consider for future revisions. On a technical note, it's probably worth stating that, as a Class‑2 device, the Pre‑73 Premier relies on being grounded (for electrical screening purposes) via its audio socket connections.
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