by Drew Townson
The recent introduction of the new AMS Neve 1073 SPX mono mic-pre/EQ channel reminds us that the venerable 1073 module brings with it a long and storied history. Only a handful of other studio devices - Pultec, Fairchild, Teletronix - have been revered for so long and used so well. Like those historical names, the 1073 has achieved legend status. The so-called "British Sound," or "British Iron," as it is often referred to, originated with Neve's consoles and the 1073. One might wonder where the recording world would be without the channel strip that Rupert Neve and company designed almost 50 years ago.
Birth of the British Sound: It all started in 1970, when London’s Wessex Studios were looking to install a new console. They turned to Mr. Rupert Neve, whose young company had been earning a good reputation for building new-generation transistor-based audio consoles for broadcast and studio.
Neve built Wessex a 28-input console called the A88, which was the first desk to be fitted with the model 1073 channel amplifier/equalizer module. Never meant to be a stand-alone device, the inboard 1073 was a Class-A solid-state preamp with transformer balanced inputs and outputs, which was somewhat of a rarity for the time. This was done due to Neve’s history in broadcast and radio electronics where isolation and protecting the signal from degradation was critical. Also, because this was a console pre, the amp had to sound good on everything. The 1073’s three-band EQ has a fixed 12kHz high frequency shelf band along with switchable low and mid range bands with cut and boost controls. Below those is a passive third-order (18 dB/octave) high pass filter. Two switches are fitted on the module's front panel for equalizer bypass and phase polarity reverse.
Dear Old Wessex: The Neve A88 Console that introduced the recording world to the 1073
Needless to say, Wessex was more than pleased with the sound of the console and news began to spread through the independent recording world. People began to connect the great sound they were hearing on records to the Neve equipment that recorded them, and the 1073′s fame grew.
Suddenly, Mr. Neve became a very busy man, selling consoles all over the world. The 80-series Neves of the 1970s, like the 8048, 8058 and 8068, typically fitted with the 1073 or a variation thereof, became regarded as the world’s best sounding recording desks.
Other Class-A modules followed, like the 1084, which is simply a 1073 with more high frequencies and a semi-parametric mid-band. Essentially, the 1084 is a “Super ’73.” But the 1073 model number has held its reputation throughout the decades, now being considered a “desert island” device for music recordists.
TONE-73: People love the 1073 because the sound is thick, round, and musically colored. Superlatives like "lush" and "opulent" are often used to describe its tone. The main factor contributing to the larger-than-life sound is attributed to the design of the transformer, made for Neve by the Marinair company, which seems to add harmonics and subharmonics to the signal. The equalizer section of the 1073 is regarded as very musical and practical, and has become the favorite choice of the music engineers to this day.
Unobtanium: Original vintage 1073 modules, farmed out of old consoles and fitted in to outboard racks, now go for between $5,000 and $7,000 per mono module...if you can even find one. That doesn’t include the powered rack, which can run well over $1,000. And if you don't have a powered rack, your 1073 module becomes a very expensive paperweight.
The good news is that the AMS Neve company still makes the beloved 1073 in many form factors, including 500 series, and at affordable prices. You can still get the hand-wired 1073 vertical module built new, and a powered two or eight-position rack to fit it in to. Better still, 19” plug-and-play rack versions are now available, many of them with added features.
Which circles us back around to the brand new 1073 SPX plug-and-play 1U rack channel strip with the legendary amplifier, built around original-design “Marinair” transformers, classic three band EQ, and many more assets that the original never dreamed of having:
• Convenient connections for Mic, Line & DI inputs on front of unit, with switchable mic/line input connections on the rear of the unit
• Switchable +48v Phantom Power, Hi/Lo impedance, -20dB pad and DI ground lift on the input stage
• Switchable Phase, and EQ in/out
• Insert send and return loop feature allows external equipment to be connected easily to the 1073SPX audio chain, such as mono limiter/compressors;
• 7-stage LED signal level meter – can show mic/line/DI input-stage level, EQ-stage level or output-stage level up to +24dB
• Output level control
Here’s a link to the different 1073 models from AMS Neve.