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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 Melbourn, England, 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 studio consoles.
The 1081 was another step in the evolution of mic preamps found in vintage Neve consoles. Previous models were the 1066, 1067, and 1073. The 1081 mic pre/EQ was one of the flagship products of the Neve company, and whether found in the original consoles or racked separately for project studios, vintage Neve 1081’s are still in service in every corner of the globe. To this day the 1081 (and its cousins the 1073 and 1084) are still manufactured by AMS Neve according to the original specs. It remains one of the best sounding and most versatile mic pre/EQs ever made. The reason is obvious, no other gear has that “Neve sound,” and there is no substitute for the real thing.
"I have always been a designer in the sense of whatever I was doing, I wanted to improve it. In the days when I was designing radio receivers, that was design, even when I was building on others’ designs. I’ve always been a designer and I now recognize that as a person who was created in the image of the Creator, the kind of designs that I’ve been involved with are those that seek perfection. We never reach that perfection, but you can go on searching for it, and that always makes me a designer." - Rupert Neve
The 1081 made its first appearance in a custom console for Decca Studios in Paris in 1973, and later starred in the Neve 8038 and 8048 consoles. It uses the older grey, red and blue Marconi knobs on a faceplate of RAF (Royal Air Force) blue-grey paint. The 31105 was designed for the legendary Neve 8078 console, when the overall aesthetic had changed to the New Appearance Design (NAD) in the mid 1970s. This resulted in modules with a lighter face plate color called Extra Dark Sea Grey, while the Marconi knobs were replaced with black plastic having various shades of blue on the top. The modules in the NAD consoles had a ‘3’ added to the beginning of the model number. One of the most important of these was the 31105, which was essentially the same as a 1081 preamp, but with 10 dB less in gain range and LED indicators for mic/line, phase and EQ.
The Neve 31105 has all of the features listed for the 1081, except for the following:
The Neve 1081 microphone preamp/EQ is one of the most sought-after pieces of gear in the recording world. It equals if not surpasses its close cousin, the legendary 1073. Where the 1073 is all Class A, sexy, and simple, the 1081 is Class A/B smart and supple. The 1073 has three bands of EQ and a fixed high-shelf, while the 1081 has four EQ bands and variable highs with peak or shelving. Although both are discrete, it’s not really sensible to compare them to each other; they each exist on their own terms.
As mentioned earlier, AMS Neve continues to carry on the tradition of the brand’s original designs and makes a modern version of the 1081 to spec. There are several different versions of the 1081, which makes it easy to find one that will fit into the racks for your studio space. AMS Neve makes the horizontal Neve 1081 CH, the vertical Neve 1081 CV, and the micro processor-based Neve 1081R Mono, Neve 1081 AIR Mono, and Neve 4081.
There are other current manufacturers aside from AMS Neve making mic pres/EQs based on the 1081. BAE Audio's 1032 has frequency points that are inspired by the 1081 and features Class A transformer-coupled circuits. Great River's EQ-2NV has a topology based on the Neve 1081 and 1083 and allows for digital control over analog components. One other modern example is the Vintech X81 mic pre/EQ, which utilizes the mic pre of their X73 and a four band EQ that is similar to the 1081.
In addition to all these physical recreations of the Neve 1081, there are some high quality plug-in emulations of the mic pre classic. Universal Audio has a fantastic version of the 1081 Classic Console EQ that allows you to capture the punch and presence of the Neve original. Waves Audio also makes the V-EQ4, which features the classic 4-band EQ and offers smooth, responsive performance.
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