For decades, recording engineers have relied on the sound of Neve products to give that signature tone to their recordings or mixes. Neve gear can help add presence, punch and clarity to any recording, the preamps, EQs and compressors have such musical quality to them, they work wonders on just about every instrument and genre of music.
In this blog, I’m going to highlight four Neve classics that could help revolutionize the sound of your studio. With so many great products to offer, it was hard to narrow it down, but I think I landed on some options that will work no matter what you’re working on.
The Neve 33609 compressor just might be one of the most magical sounding pieces of gear on the market. It’s a two-channel compressor with adjustable threshold, attack, release, ratio and make-up gain per channel. Each channel is also equipped with a limiter with adjustable threshold, attack and release.
The 33609 is one of those units that has “a sound” even if you just run through it without any compression happening. There’s a warmth in the transformers that helps beef up whatever source you’re working with, it also tends to bring that source up to the front of the mix.
You can choose between five ratio settings, ranging from 1.5:1 to 6:1, similar to the classic Neve 2254. The lower ratio settings are very transparent, you can hit a source with -3dB or -4dB of gain reduction without really hearing it.
The lower ratios are a great way to glue together multiple microphones used on one source. For example, if you recorded an electric guitar with two close mics on the cabinet, a mono room mic and then two distant stereo room mics. You’re going to want to blend all of them together so the character of each microphone is complimenting the next, and the track is more manageable when you go to mix. Bus all the microphones together either to mono or stereo into the 33609 on a lower ratio to help glue them into one sound.
On higher ratios, this compressor works wonders in parallel on drums. Sending the drums in parallel to the 33609 will allow you create a sound as big as it needs to be in the track. Whether you’re sending just the close mics, rooms mics and overheads, or a blend of the entire kit, the 33609 helps bring out all the punch and tone of the drums while pulling up the air, space and depth of the room.
A wonderful compressor to use on a live piano, the 33609 is the signature sound of all the old Billy Joel piano tones. It helps bring out the attack of the hammer on the strings and pull out the harmonic overtones in the sustain. It smooths out the transients of the louder notes without crushing them completely, just making the piano bigger and creamier in the track.
The “gain” control on each channel adds nice warm color and subtle overtone harmonics. Even if you bump this up one click, it will open the source right up. This is one of those features you can use even if you aren’t looking to add compression, simply run through the 33609 and add some gain to give a source some weight in the mix.
All of the recovery options sound really good on the 33609, but there’s something special happening on the 100ms setting. The compression always tends to be less obvious, mostly because its the fastest release time, but it’s just “rounder” or “smoother” sounding than any of the other settings. I’ve also noticed there’s a larger low end bump to the 100ms setting, the sound becomes wider and fuller in the mix as soon as you switch over.
Using the 1.5:1 ratio, 100ms release time, slow attack, threshold all the way up and between +2dB to +4dB of gain is one of the best sounding mix bus compressors on the market.
The limiter is a little bonus. It’s very transparent, but works wonders if you decide to drive the signal with the channels gain controls. On the 50ms recovery, it’s hard to tell if it’s even there, the a1 and a2 settings tend to add a bit of character to the sound. I like throwing this on once I’ve dialed in a tone I’m looking for to see if it adds anything special, if it’s hurting the sound or I can’t tell it’s even there, I bypass it.
The Neve 1073 is one of the most sought-after preamps of all time. The preamp alone works wonders on just about every source, as it's great for drums, acoustic instruments, vocals, percussion, brass, etc. It works in step gain, making it easy to dial in a sound or recall that exact same setting to do some overdubs later.
The EQ is very musical and easy to add character to whatever you’re running through it. The high band is set to a shelf at 12kHz, this allows you to add some air or sparkle to the source. If something needs to sit a little further back in the mix, taking a few dB off of this band helps tame any sound.
The mid band has seven selectable frequencies, all very musical for making something poke through the track. The 3.2kHz setting is nice for adding some presence to electric guitars or vocals, also helps make them sit on top of the mix. This band seems to work the best with subtle boosts, a little goes a long way with this EQ.
The low band has four selectable frequencies that are helpful for adding power and depth to a source. This band works great on the 220Hz setting to add some weight to a vocal or snare drum. The lower frequencies are helpful for adding some depth to a bass guitar or kick drum.
The high pass filter has four selectable bands for clearing up any unwanted rumble or mud in the signal. Engaging even the 50Hz high pass filter on a vocal will open up the key frequencies. Use the hi-pass filter along with the low band boost to dial in some extra weight and punch to the source, then clear out the extra low end rumble added from the EQ.
If you run back through the channel in “Line” mode, you can utilize the line gain circuit. This increases the harmonic distortion, which adds some color to the source and pulls it forward in the mix. Try adding some line gain to a snare, kick, piano, or vocal to make them cut through a heavy track. It’s also fun to send a copy of the source to the line input of the 1073 then blend the two signals together in parallel, leaving the dry signal for the pure performance, then the overdriven Neve signal for color and attitude.
The 2264A (500 Series/horizontal/vertical)was originally designed in 1974, since then has become one of the staples for compression amongst many audio engineers. It offers similar sound characteristics to the classic 2254, but in a nice smaller package that can fit into any unit ready to house 1073 or 1081 modules.
It is a mono compressor and limiter, with controls for threshold recovery, ratio and gain. You can choose to use either the compressor or limiter, or both by engaging the toggle switches on the left side.
This compressor can be very subtle like the 33609, but can do some serious compression when the higher ratios are engaged. It tends to work the best for me on the lower ratios, it has a great way of glueing everything together and smoothing out the transients without crushing the original dynamics.
True bypass switch is included so you can A/B the sound pre and post compression, always nice to be able to quickly switch back and forth to see if you’re improving the sound or crushing it.
This is a great compressor for vocals, adds some warmth and brings the track forward in the mix, also has a nice way of smoothing out the dynamics while maintaining a natural sound. Great for drum room mics to bring out the nuances of the room they were recorded in, or bringing out the overtones of an acoustic guitar or piano.
The 1084 (horizontal/vertical) is a supercharged 1073. The preamp is the same design as the classic 1073, which offers a smooth, fat sound with the ability to overdrive the input for some sweet harmonic distortion.
The major difference lies in the versatility of the EQ. The high band has three selectable frequencies of 10kHz, 12kHz and 16kHz rather than the fixed 12kHz band of the 1073. You can choose between seven bands in the mid-range frequencies, the difference in the 1084 is the ability to adjust the “Q”, engage the “hi Q” switch to open up a whole new shape of tone from this frequency band. The low shelf remains the same, giving you the option to select between five frequencies with the ability to boost and cut.
The filter section has been changed slightly for more versatility. The frequencies on the low band have been modified slightly, now giving four options ranging from 45Hz to 360Hz. The 1084 now includes a low pass filter with five selectable frequencies from 6kHz to 10kHz, a great feature to help smooth out unwanted harsh frequencies or get rid of added preamp noise or hiss.
Any one of these Neve products will surely have a huge impact on your next recording. There’s nothing quite like the sound of a Neve preamp, compressor or EQ, not matter what style of music you’re working on, Neve will help take your sound to the next level.
If you have any questions on the products mentioned in this blog or just looking to add something special for your studio this holiday season, be sure to contact your Audio Consultant at Vintage King via email or phone at 888.472.9023.