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The Neve 1073 Mic Pre/EQ

The World's Most Beloved Mic Pre

The Neve 1073 Mic preamp/EQ is justifiably legendary for its unique tonal quality and longevity in the marketplace. This famed mic pre has been used in more high-end studios and on more famous recordings than one can possibly count. The 1073 is the very definition of a piece of immortal gear, but even the immortals have to start somewhere.

The History Of The Neve 1073

Formed in 1961, Rupert Neve & Co. was focused from the beginning on designing and building the highest quality professional audio components. After moving from Rupert's house to a newly built factory in the late 1960s, Neve went on to create many iconic products including the 2254 Compressor/Limiter in 1968, the 1073 Mic Pre/EQ in 1970, and the 1081 Mic Pre/EQ in 1973. Using Class A discrete, transistor designs, meticulously hand-wired and built to last, Neve became the world standard for excellence in broadcast and recording consoles.

The history of the Neve 1073 goes back to the summer of 1970, when Rupert Neve & Co. delivered a model A88 console to Wessex Sound Studios. Not only was it the first 24 track desk ever installed in London, but it came complete with a special upgrad, the newly designed 1073 mic pre/EQ channel input module. The first rock group to record on this console was King Crimson, who made their third album in a row at Wessex, the controversial album Lizard. And surely the name of the album's main character, Prince Rupert, was strictly a coincidence!

Rupert Neve, inventor of the 1073 mic pre, and much more
A vintage Neve 1073 on its side
The rear edge connector of a vintage Neve 1073 mic pre/EQ

The 1073 Becomes a Classic

The 1073 was an instant hit, and it remains the most desirable Class A discrete transistor mic preamp to this day. What made the original 1073 stand out was the tone. Thick and warm with a mid-forward presence and a smooth top end, it created a tone that sat beautifully in the mix. As Rupert himself admitted, this was mostly due to the input and output transformers. The input transformer was manufactured by Marinair (Radar) of Harlow, UK, and later by St. Ives Windings (now Carnhill). The output transformer was developed for over a year prior to the release of the 1073, and was co-designed and manufactured by Marinair.

The 1073 was another step in the evolution of mic preamps found in vintage Neve consoles. Previous models were the 1063, 1065, 1066, 1067, and 1070, and future models 1076, 1078, 1079, 1081, 1083, 1084 and 1095 (to name only a few!).

Neve 1073 Predecessors And Successors

The most important of the predecessors, and the most similar to the 1073, is the model 1066. The high end shelf and the low and mid frequencies make a nice complement to the 1073. The most important of the successors is arguably the 1084, which is sort of a hot-rodded version of the 1073, adding selectable high EQ points and two different Q widths on the mid frequencies. The EQ specs are compared below:

A set of vintage Neve 1073, 1066, 1084 and 31102 mic pre modules

High-pass filter points
1066: 45 - 70 - 160 - 360 Hz
1073: 50 - 80 - 160 - 300 Hz
1084: 45 - 70 - 160 - 360 Hz

Low EQ points
1066: 35 - 60 - 100 - 220 Hz
1073: 35 - 60 - 110 - 220 Hz
1084: 35 - 60 - 110 - 220 Hz

Mid EQ points
1066: .7 - 1.2 - 2.4 - 3.6 - 7 kHz
1073: .36 - .7 - 1.6 - 3.2 - 4.8 - 7.2 kHz
1084: .35 - .7 - 1.6 - 3.2 - 4.8 - 7.2 kHz (with narrow or wide Q)

High shelf EQ
1066: Fixed at 10 kHz
1073: Fixed at 12 kHz
1084: Selectable at 10 - 12 - 16 kHz

Low-pass filter points
1066: n/a
1073: n/a
1084: 6 - 8 - 10 - 14 - 18 kHz

All three models have the following features
Separate mic and line inputs
Mic input gain from +20 to +80 dB in 5 dB increments
Line input gain from -10 to +20 dB in 5 dB increments
Hi/Lo impedance switch on rear of unit
Phase reversal
EQ bypass

In the mid 1970s, Neve switched their aesthetic to what was called the New Appearance Design (NAD), found on their 80xx series consoles. This resulted in modules with a different faceplate color in a lighter shade of grey, and different knobs as well. The Marconi knobs were replaced with black plastic having various shades of blue on the top. The modules in these consoles had a "3" added to the beginning of the model number. One of the most important of these was the 31102, which was essentially the same as a 1084 mic pre/EQ, but with 10 dB more in gain range and no line-in capability. The 31102 also saw the changeover to the Belclere input transformer on the later units.

Each of these models has its advantages, but the 1073 is the Goldilocks of all these Class A preamps. It hits the sweet spot of "just right" when it comes to the tone of the mic and line transformers and the frequency selections of the three-band equalizer. The raw data tell only part of the story. What seems at first like a limited selection of frequency points in the 1073 actually turns out to be a very intelligent choice of options that will have the most musical impact. Perhaps this happened because the first 1073s were designed for the recording studio and not for broadcast, or perhaps this was just a happy accident. Either way, the end result was a preamp/EQ that set a new standard in the industry. And whether found in the original consoles or racked separately for project studios, vintage Neve 1073s are still in service in every corner of the globe.

The Latest Reissues of the Neve 1073

For those who can't acquire a vintage 1073, Neve has got you covered. The company still manufactures the 1073 to the original hand-wired specs. It also offers a few less costly variations.

For the 500 Series format, Neve has split the preamp and EQ sections to offer them separately as the 1073LB and 1073LBEQ (where LB stands for "Lunch Box"). Fans of just the mic preamp stage can also get a pair of them in a standard 19" rack space in the 1073 DPA (dual preamp) model. And if you need those with digital connectivity, the 1073 DPD will do nicely.

If you have to have your pre and EQ too, then the 1073 DPX gives you a pair of classic pre/EQs, along with extras (hence the 'X') like DI, phantom power, inserts, level meters, and headphone out.

Their latest innovation, the 1073N, which also has a DI and phantom power, uses updated components and circuitry to allow backward compatibility as well as being a standalone preamp. You can pop it in and out of your BCM10 and take it with you on the fly, giving you the best of both worlds.

If you're in need of a modern reproduction of the Neve 1073, you don't have to look much farther than the Neve brand. Studio favorites like the Neve 1073LB, Neve 1073LBEQ, 1073DPX and 1073 CV ensure that you can use this style of mic pre, no matter how much open rack space you have.

Throughout the years, the legacy of the 1073 has also been continued by other brands. The Rupert Neve Designs Shelford 5052 echoes the timeless 1073 feature set, while BAE's 1073MPF Dual Channel Mic Pre, BAE 1073 1U and 1073 DMP Desktop mic pre remain best sellers year-in/year-out. More modern pieces of gear that fit the bill include the Wunder Audio PEQ2, Vintech X73I and UK Sound 1173, which brings together both a 1073-style pre and 1176-style compressor.

In the world of software emulations, the leaders in the field have all put in their work to accurately model the Neve 1073. Universal Audio, Slate Digital, Waves and Antelope Audio have all created 1073-style software that is sure to deliver what you need while working in the box.