The Rupert Neve Designs Portico 542 500 Series Tape Emulator is the ultimate "color box." In addition to the 100% analog tape emulation circuitry – great for bringing out 3rd-order harmonics – the 542 incorporates a soft-clip circuit that tames the harshest sources and enhances 2nd-order harmonics, variable Silk Red & Blue for an infinite variety of transformer tones, and a blend control to dial in in the perfect amount of saturation.
TRANSFORMERS IMITATING TAPE
Unlike digital emulations, the “True Tape” drive circuit works by feeding a custom-designed interstage transformer acting as a “record head”, which in turn is coupled to a correctly-equalized replay amplifier. As the voltage rises on the “record head”, saturation increases, and a soft clip circuit engages at higher levels to round off peak transients. The sound of the tape circuit can be further modified with selectable 15 / 30 IPS modes and a pre/post-tape blend control.
WHAT IS SILK?
In addition to the tape circuit, the continuously variable Texture control with Silk Red and Silk Blue modes provides a whole other level of control over the harmonic density and tonality of your tracks & mixes. The Silk Red mode accentuates transformer saturation in the high and high-mid frequencies to amplify the vibrant midrange harmonics associated with Rupert’s vintage equipment, while Silk Blue accentuates saturation of the lows and low-mids to add thickness and weight to any source – especially useful for “thin-sounding” tracks or mixes. Unlike EQ, these Silk & Texture controls saturate the output transformers, and add highly musical harmonics to the source material according to the amount of Texture applied.
Drive the 542 hard, choose your Silk flavor, and crank the Texture knob for a rich, saturated, vintage vibe – or disengage Silk entirely for a more purist, hi-fi tape effect. The choice is yours.
TAPE IN: Sends the signal through the “True Tape” circuitry, which is affected by the saturation, blend and 15 / 30 IPS controls.
TRIM: Provides ±12 dB adjustment of level on incoming signal levels, prior to the tape circuit.
SATURATION: Controls the signal level being sent to the “tape head” circuit. As the saturation level increases, the level on the “record” head rises, and the replay gain is reduced so that the overall output signal level remains more or less constant. In a real tape recorder, you would adjust the record and replay gain controls separately – however, in the 542 the record and replay gain controls are coupled so that the overall signal level only varies as the “Tape” saturation level changes. As you approach maximum saturation setting, the output signal level will drop due to the effect of extreme saturation and soft clip. Additionally, to compensate for low frequency loss at low “record head” levels, the saturation knob also controls a low frequency compensation circuit that boosts low frequencies more at low saturation levels, and tapers off at higher levels. This function can be useful on many sources like bass and kick drum to find the balance between a clean, boosted low end (low saturation) and a denser, more saturated low end (high saturation).
15/30 IPS: Selects the pre-emphasis / de-emphasis, record / replay tape characteristic. The 15IPS mode has a significant “head bump” in the low frequencies centered around 60 Hz, as well as a more pronounced roll of in the high frequencies. The 30 IPS mode is generally a flatter response through the high-end with a “head bump” around 120 Hz.
BLEND: Controls the mix of pre and post tape signals. This allows the engineer to dial in a subtle amount of the tape effect, to better control the amount of saturation, tone and soft clipping in the post blend signal. As the signal gets more saturated, dialing back the blend can be a great way to impart the feel of tape, while maintaining a similar level of detail and transparency. NOTE: The blend control does not affect the Silk and Texture controls, as that circuitry is located at the physical output of the unit.
SOFT CLIP: A soft clip engages in the “True Tape” circuitry when the drive meter hits 5 (first yellow LED), and becomes more apparent at higher levels. The soft clip can be used as a way to tame overly transient material like drums, and can be controlled further by using the blend control.
SILK / TEXTURE: Pushing the Silk button engages the Silk Red circuit, and pushing it a second time introduces Silk Blue circuitry. Silk reduces the negative feedback on the output transformer, adding desirable harmonic content as the texture is increased. Silk Blue mode features more saturation in the lows and low mids, whereas Silk Red accentuates the saturation in the high mids and highs.
LEVEL / DRIVE METERS: Two eight segment LED bar-graph meters are fitted to the 542 for output level and drive metering. The level meter shows the output level of the 542 before the Silk circuit, and the drive meter reflects the level on the “record head” when the tape effect is engaged. The soft clip circuit is present at Drive levels above 5.
This does outstanding things to my 2 bus. Great saturation.
By Matt S on December 8, 2022
If you have a 500 series rack a pair of these are a must have amazing on everything you run through it drums vocals whole mix ect
By John R on May 11, 2022
Got my pair of Shelford Channels running into a pair of 542’s out here in Hawaii. Life is good!
By Ryan H on January 7, 2022
By SAMUEL M on June 14, 2021
This pair will forever live on my 2 bus. Without the silk channels engaged, the saturation pushed right up to the last green LED, and the mix knob at 50%, at least on my mixes, these bring an excitement and forwardness to everything, but especially the low end. In a very controllable and musical way. Turn it off while playing your mix back and that is when you will realize that these things are staying put.
Red silk is nice but on the 2 bus, it’s a little too nice. I usually need to dial it in and then run a low pass at the end of the master to tame it. I’m not using these for tracking at all, but can see plenty of use case for it on individual instruments or busses.
Blue channel, I am still trying to wrap my head around. I honestly can not hear much going on between dry and blue engaged. Maybe a slight high roll off. Maybe a slight low mid bump. I plan to do some freq response tests with it on and off so that I know for sure what’s happening. Maybe if I can see it with my eyes, then I’ll be able to hear the blue channel better.
For what it’s worth, I’m working with rock/punk/metal/hardcore. I wish that I had these back when I actually did this for a “living”. There’s no tape plug-in that quite does this. Not to my ears. And I have them all.
TLDR: for my purposes, this is color, body and excitement for my 2 bus that I am very pleased with.
In case it matters to you regarding my review, I’m running my mixes out from DAW to 16 (or 24) outs to a dangerous summing mixer, and back into DAW through the 500 box where these live.
By Christopher C on March 3, 2021
Can be subtle or sizzle but you definitely notice the difference when you hit the bypass. Everything sounds better through these. I bought a pair.
By AWH on October 26, 2020
I love it I want to remix everything I've done and add mr NEVE to it
By karl t on February 9, 2020
Game changer! process your tracks and you will use less compression or eq.
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