AMS Neve 1073n Review. The 1073n is an outstanding microphone preamp with incredible analogue tone and flexibility brought up to date in its own standalone housing.
Considered as a royalty brand within the audio production world, over decades of fastidious attention to detail, the AMS Neve brand has consistently produced astounding analogue music technology that makes an regular in-house appearance at many of the worlds most established recording houses.
Having previously been invited to the infamous Abbey Road Recording Studios, I can confirm that the ‘AMS Neve’ designs brand has well earned some serious respect amongst the world-class engineers that reside at this incredible complex. In fact AMS Neve proudly report that in 2003 almost 80% of the highest grossing films used AMS Neve desks for their audio post-production. This is firstly an incredible feat for any manufacturer to achieve, and secondly demonstrates to you why we asked AMS Neve to produce this review of their brilliant 1073N. So, without further adieu, I would like to commence this review, and journey, through a timeless 1970 classic that has been presented in a modern form.
Rather commonly, your shiny new AMS Neve 1073 will arrive in your hands in the form of a rather inconspicuous brown box. In fact it would deliberately detract attention of the common individual if it wasn’t for the sneaky black and red AMS Neve sticker located on the side of the modestly sized package. Slashing your way through the tape is not something that you will want to do, instead you will want to respectively keep calm as to not damage the 1073N’s exterior finish, nor the external power supply that is both suspended inside with foam. Additionally you will notice that there is no physical copy of the instruction manual, instead you are presented with a CD that is partner to the warranty card. During this process I could not identify any issues with the presentation or packaging that could make your unit prone to damage in transit or liable to attract significant attention.
Features and Build Quality:
With a larger than life tonality that effortlessly compliments any instrument or genre that you throw its way, the AMS Neve 1073N is a standalone version of the timeless Neve 1073 microphone preamp and EQ module. With no ‘critical’ technological cuts to the original Class A 1073 circuitry and custom hand-wound Neve transformers, the 1073N noticeably increases its connective potential as well as adding an external 48v PSU in order to reduce the cost of production, and subsequently passes this benefit over to the end user.
As the 1073N is still produced in England there has been no substitutions in terms of how this unit is fundamentally created, however, like its older brother, this standalone unit continues to benefit from still remaining to have a Series 80 Neve Console Amphenol connector, and builds upon this by adding an integrated DI/1/4″ Jack input as well as a back-panel accessible Neutrik branded combi-XLR/Jack socket for the Mic or Line inputs XLR line output. Additionally the 1073N allows you to tailor the input signal impedance to that of your microphone with the availability of an ‘MIC I/P Z’ switch located next to the XLR input. This is a great additional feature, as when you are in that critical recording environment you can best suit the performance of the microphone by switching between an 300Ω or 1200Ω impedance on the XLR input, and during use the set impedance’s appear to work well within their respective environments. Additionally, for ‘hot’ or high DI input signals there is a very useful -20dB attenuation pad located close to the phantom power (48v) switch… there really isn’t much more than you can ask from this beautifully presented unit…
Moving on now to the front of the unit we notice a rather useful solid grounding post that can be twisted off with the fingers, along with two individual push buttons for the EQ input and 180° degree phase reversal; if required. Instead of having a free flowing ‘smooth feel’ variable input pot, the 1073N has a fixed input potentiometer that extends from +20dB to +80dB for your XLR microphone input in 5dB increments, and from -10dB to +20dB for any DI input. When using the DI input if the -20dB pad is engaged on the back due to a hot signal the 1073N switches the input impedance of the DI input from 10M Ω to 10K Ω. Additionally if you are using a line input then you will have to make sure that you set the rotate the gain knob anti-clockwise from the ‘Off’ position so that you prime the line input and disengage the DI and Mic inputs. However, if you are familiar with the original 1073 then this will be second nature, but it can be slightly confusing for first time users.
Now, with regards to the fixed low cut cut filter and the smooth ‘British’ EQ high frequency cut/boost, the operation is fairly straightforward. However, if you are not so familiar with Neve equipment then the mid-range and high-frequency operation might not be so second nature. Essentially the recessed ‘metal’ ring selects the frequency target, and the smooth pot selects the gain boost or reduction. I do have to say here that I really did feel a bit let down. I have no prejudice towards the operation, yet I felt as if the ‘smooth’ grey pots were really not up to standard. In fact they felt feeble in the finger with no resistance, and plastic in construction; totally unlike the input and low-cut dials. Everything about this unit screams attention to detail, yet it was three grey pots, and the ‘wonky’ phase and EQ buttons that unfortunately led to us not being able to give the 1073N a full editors chorice award. Genuinely I have no fault with the new housing… it feels incredibly well built, and up to the job, but I would like to see AMS Neve updating these minor components. The cost of upgrading these components is so minor, so please AMS Neve will this issue be addressed? Once this has been done we can give this unit the full five out of five with an editors choice award.
I would like to start out this particular section of the review by outlining that immediately there is some audible low-level noise created by the nature of the analogue circuitry. However, it should be known that this is minimal, and completely to be expected. Unless you are using the 1073N with a low level input source, from everyday use I cannot see this becoming an issue, and therefore I have discredited this for the remainder of the review. Besides from this the 1073N is a great unit that packs a powerful punch! It has bags of character, that brings the best out of almost every single instrument that you can put its way. An example is that if you DI a bass guitar signal through the 1073N, you’ll receive a rather plump sound that, when suitably compressed, adds a killer low-end weight to any mix, with a satisfying smooth mid-range definition. Staying with the low-end for a minute, if you don’t have a 1073N pair for your drum overheads (we wish), then try it on the kick, or even snare… you won’t be disappointed! Playing with a SM57 and the EQ on a snare can define this important rhythmic element within your mix to be a somewhat blending sound that still pops with vintage silk.
As I said previously, I definitely could imagine that a pair of Neve 1073N’s working wonders with some Neumann KMS184’s or U87’s over a well made drum kit… unfortunately we don’t have this privilege, and we are so sad that we are publishing the first unhappy smiley we have ever used in a professional review: 🙁 . Regardless, of this we love the 1073N! We’ve had such fun that we threw almost everything that we had its way. At no point were we ever disappointed with its natural character, and the EQ was something else. When you get to that final mastering stage, please take some time to experiment with outputting the signal into the 1073N. We did just this because the EQ is just so damn good. Now although we had to do a bit of fiddling, the ‘magic’ EQ responded in a truly musical way. Placing a mix directly through without any use of the EQ naturally amalgamated the sounds into a more saturated space without losing definition/punch, and when the EQ was input we played around far too much. The end of the story here is that you can produce great results no matter what your task is. With the 1073N you’re not sacrificing clarity for that vintage vibe, you seem to get the best of both worlds.
Without a doubt the 1073N is one punchy beast that isn’t totally clinical like some other brands focus on, it will iron over certain smaller flaws; particularly in vocal lines, but it compliments any genres of music, and is a classic sound that continues to live and be relevant. In terms of its sound quality and performance, it is second to none. By all means throw everything you have at the 1073N, it will become that desert island pre. There isn’t much else that I can report on it’s performance other than what it said. It will metaphorically shine in all areas.
This is your desert island pre. No matter who you are, the Neve 1073N comes in a new format that brings legendary performance onto your tabletop. The build quality on the whole is excellent, although we do strongly feel that the EQ pots do need some tweaking so that we can give this unit an editors choice award, but ultimately this unit is currently second to none. AMS Neve have struck a home run again… in fact they smashed it right out of the ball park! The Pro Audio Web Blog awards the AMS Neve 1073N with a full five out of five rating.