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Neve 1073OPX

Remote-controllable Eight-channel Mic Preamp By Hugh Robjohns

Neve 1073OPX

Could this be the perfect partnership between vintage vibe and contemporary convenience?

The Neve 1073's alluring sound quality and legendary associations with some of the greatest music ever recorded mean that this preamp has remained consistently popular for many decades. Neve now offer several variations of the 1073 but the latest, launched to mark its 50th birthday, is like no other: with the eight-channel, rackmounting 1073OPX, Neve have reinvented the 1073 to suit modern DAW-based workflows, and to that end, it boasts remote-controllable preamps, stereo monitoring facilities, and an optional digital interface card.

Old Meets New

Perhaps the biggest change is that the preamp gain is now controlled using MDACs (Multiplying Digital to Analogue Convertors), with 1dB increments, to enable exact resetting and accurate alignment of stereo pairs. The remote-control facilities build on those developed for a version of the 1073 preamps first employed in Neve's Genesys Black console. The digital card caters for both Dante and USB connections at up to 192kHz, and enables the 1073OPX to serve as an eight-in, two-out Core Audio/ASIO USB audio interface.

While the OPX preamps clearly incorporate new technology and look a little different from most 1073s, they share the same heritage, most obviously at the front end, which is balanced with a low-noise version of the Neve Marinair TF10003 mic input transformers, encased in mu-metal cases to ensure the original EIN specification of -125dB has been maintained, and the preamp's maximum output level (+26dBu) remains the same too. The original output driver and big transformer have been replaced with an electronically balanced configuration, which has lowered the overall distortion (from around 0.07 to 0.002 percent) and reduced the power consumption. Differential line-receiving ICs replace the line input transformers of the original design.

Controls

On each channel, a familiar red, winged gain knob operates a detented rotary encoder. Three illuminated buttons select phantom power, a 25dB pad (for all three input modes), and a low-impedance mic input option, reducing the default 1.3kΩ to 300Ω.

A button selects the input mode, the current selection indicated by one of three coloured LEDs, and pressing and holding this button for a few seconds inverts the input polarity. The gain ranges for the three input modes are +20 to +70 dB for mic, ±20dB for line, and +30 to +60 dB for DI inputs, and the gain setting is shown on a large, red, seven-segment LED meter.

An 'FNT' button selects the front panel's combi XLR input instead of the rear-panel connectors and, handily, this accepts mic, balanced line, or instrument inputs. Phantom power only appears on the front and rear mic connectors, of course, and the DI is apparently balanced, with a transformerless class-A buffer amp presenting a 650kΩ input impedance. The last button on each channel introduces a 12dB/octave 80Hz high-pass filter. Naturally, these facilities can all be remote-controlled.

With eight versatile inputs and stereo monitoring, a lot of sessions could be handled very comfortably with no more than a 1073OPX and a laptop!

Connectivity

On the rear panel, a pair of AES59 (Tascam) 25-pin D‑subs accept the eight balanced mic inputs (with phantom power), and eight electronically balanced line inputs. Another D‑sub provides electronically balanced analogue line outs, and a quartet of XLRs accepts an external stereo input to the monitoring and provides the stereo monitoring output. There are no insert points between the mic/line/instrument inputs and the digital card. While it's possible to use the OPX as a unity-gain summer, via the monitoring output, there are no transformers on the line input to monitor output signal path.

The rear panel includes a space for an optional bolt-in card, which adds both Dante and USB interfacing.The rear panel includes a space for an optional bolt-in card, which adds both Dante and USB interfacing.

A single RJ45 socket caters for remote-control over Ethernet — up to eight OPXs can be controlled simultaneously from the Mac/Windows control software. DHCP network IP assignment is available, but Neve recommend setting a fixed IP address. The process, which is pretty painless, is done via the gain encoders in the relevant configuration mode. Once recognised, all of the unit's facilities are controllable and can be stored/recalled from the app via a graphical mimic of the front panel.

A quad DIP switch beside the network socket is reserved for 'a future product update'. Power comes from an external line-lump which accepts 100-240 V AC via its IEC socket, and delivers ±16V and +48V to the main unit via a five-pin XLR.

The optional digital card is bolted in place on pillars above the motherboard, to which it connects with a ribbon cable. This card is equipped with a pair of RJ45 sockets, a USB‑B port, a couple of BNCs, and a miniature button associated with a trio of LEDs. The Ethernet sockets provide primary and secondary Dante connections. The USB is for computer audio interfacing, and the BNCs cater for word clock in and out. The button configures the analogue/digital alignment and headroom, adjusting the converters' 0dBFS clipping level for +26, +24 (SMPTE) or +18dBu (EBU).

Set Up & Monitoring

A silver button, marked with the Neve symbol, switches the unit in and out of Standby, and an array of LEDs indicates the sample rate and status of the digital card, if fitted, and remote network comms. A couple of buttons enable the USB and Dante interfaces.

The configuration and monitoring facilities are on the right-hand side of the front panel. The lower half of this section is the direct monitoring facility, where preamp outputs can be auditioned and latency-free artist monitoring can be set up. The volume control, which affects both the front-panel headphone socket and the XLR outs on the rear, has a button action to select the preamp channels for auditioning individually or in stereo pairs. The analogue and digital monitoring inputs can also be auditioned and, by holding the Volume control while pressing any desired preamp gain knobs, those input channels are combined with the monitoring inputs to provide an artist's mix. The mono button does what it says.

Listening

The 1073 OPX is well-built and easy to use. It offers a very handy 70dB of gain on the mic inputs and there's oodles of headroom available. The DI input, despite a lower than typical impedance, works well, although with its minimum 30dB gain I needed the input pad for a particularly hot guitar.

The 1073OPX's forte is its networked remote-controllability and convenient octal packaging, and the digital card adds considerably to its efficacy and capability too, particularly in enabling its use as a USB interface. With eight versatile inputs and stereo monitoring, a lot of sessions could be handled very comfortably with no more than a 1073OPX and a laptop! Some purists may argue that it's not a 'proper' 1073, but even if it doesn't allow the same overdriven-output-stage effect, it exhibits much of the warmth and body I've always associated with the '1073 sound'.

Alternatives

The Rupert Neve Designs RMP-D8 also has eight channels and is remote-controllable, but it's a different design and costs more.

Pros

  • Networked remote-control facilities.
  • Full parameter recall, with 1dB gain increments.
  • 1073 mic transformer and front end.
  • 70dB maximum preamp gain.
  • Transformerless DI inputs.
  • Optional Dante connectivity and 8x2 USB interfacing.

Cons

  • Lacks the classic 1073 output stage.

Summary

This novel reimagining of Neve's 1073 design packs eight remote-controllable preamps in a 2U rackmount case, and provides versatile monitoring and digital interfacing options too.

information

£3594. Optional Digital I/O card £954. Introductory bundle offer of 1073OPX plus Digital I/O card £4194. Prices include VAT.

AMS Neve +44 (0)1282 457011

info@ams-neve.com

www.ams-neve.com

$3695. Optional Digital I/O card $995. Introductory bundle offer of 1073OPX plus Digital I/O card $4,295.

AMS Neve +44 (0)1282 457011.

info@ams-neve.com

www.ams-neve.com

Published August 2020