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This article was originally published in Playback Issue 002. Subscribe to Playback for free to stay up to date with our latest articles, interviews, product reviews and more.
In our new column, Presets, we'll be sitting down with Vintage King Audio Consultants to talk about classic pieces of gear and how to use them for specific sound sources. For the first installment, Audio Consultant Stephen Earnest is setting you up for success with the Neve 1073 microphone preamp and equalizer.
"The Neve 1073, whether vintage or new, is a must-have for any studio," Stephen says. "Not only does it work on pretty much every source, but it has the tendency to add character where it lacks, while still sounding modern and fresh. Very few mic pres have such a nice mid thickness while not feeling murky."
The Neve 1073 is tied to a trail of numerous hit records. The classic mic-pre/EQ made its debut in a console Rupert Neve designed for Wessex Studios in 1970. The rich sound of the 1073 soared in popularity in the late 70s while a handful of similar models thrived alongside its success. The module also helped Neve capitalize on successful console designs in the 80s. To this day, original modules remain highly collectible.
The current version is hand-wired in England with a Class-A preamp and discrete circuitry. Different variants are available, but there’s nothing quite like the warmth of the original. Read on to discover how to apply it in different scenarios.
For vocals, start by setting up the high-pass filter to eliminate unnecessary low-end. Ultimately, choosing the appropriate cutoff frequency depends on the vocalist. Start at 160Hz and switch to 80Hz if it sounds too thin. The important key is to make sure the vocalist sounds natural. Cutting at 220Hz will clear out the mud or boomy sound from certain vocalists. It isn’t always necessary, but it’s an additional way to carve out unwanted frequencies.
Paired with a talented vocalist, the sound of the 1073 can really begin to shine through when the mid band is boosted. A subtle boost at 3.2kHz will add energy. This is especially true for female vocalists. Slightly increasing the fixed high band (12kHz) will add a pleasant, airy texture. Adding air while applying the right high-pass setting and cutting the low band will give the vocal plenty of clarity.
To reap the advantages of what a 1073 can do for a kick drum, ignore the high-pass filter. In most instances, you’ll want to relish every drop of low-end, assuming the kick drum isn’t producing excessive ‘boom’. Leaving the high-pass filter untouched will give your kick drum that big 1073 sound.
Where you boost on the low band depends on the genre or style you’re aiming for. For an earthy feel, boost at 110Hz. If you’re working on a hip-hop track, 60Hz is where the money is. There aren’t any hard rules here, but it helps to find the sweet spot first, then boost accordingly. To sharpen the definition of the kick, a small boost at either 1.6kHz or 3.2kHz goes a long way.
Begin with a general high-pass rolled off at 80Hz; anything more can potentially thin out certain snares. As discussed previously, engaging the high-pass filter is a useful habit to develop. For a snare drum, scraping away unnecessary sub frequencies will make room for the clean punch of the 1073.
Just like kick drums, the burly presence of the 1073 can be harnessed for snares as well. Boosting 220Hz on the low band will give the snare some weight. This is especially good for rock, heavy metal, and various subgenres. However, boosting too much in this area can make the snare a nuisance later in the mix.
As most know, accentuating frequencies around the mid band works like magic on a snare. Adding gain at 3.2kHz does the trick. Excessive gain can color the snare too much, clash with tracks that occupy the same space, and wear out your ears while mixing. Boosting the high band will help it breathe, if necessary.
For acoustic guitars, start with the high-pass filter at 80Hz. Regardless of the mic formation, frequencies below 80Hz are usually nonessential. Like the presets already mentioned, it’s a common way to focus on the frequencies we want to emphasize. Treating an acoustic guitar depends on the song. If the song is driven by the acoustic guitar, then a boost at 220Hz is recommended for more body. Otherwise, a cut in the same area will keep it from taking up too much space. Increasing the fixed high band will brighten a dark acoustic guitar and highlight the lush sound a 1073 can create.
Obviously, there are multiple ways to treat an electric guitar. Different genres and playing styles call for different formulas, but we have some general tips to set you up with a starting point. The 1073 can impart warmth on electric guitars of all styles. A couple of small EQ adjustments is all you need. Set the high-pass filter to 160Hz, but refrain from cutting frequencies in the low band to preserve a full tone. A small boost at either 3.2kHz or 4.8kHz will help it stand out if the signal sounds buried or dull.
Whether you choose a DI box or a mic, the 1073 works well on bass guitars too. It tends to fatten up bass guitars nicely, even when used sparingly. Ignore the high-pass filter and give it a slight boost at 110Hz. If the bass is played with a pick, a touch at 3.2kHz will help it cut through. Minimal EQ adjustments are all you need to help elevate a bass guitar during tracking. This loose and simple strategy works well for any genre. | VK