Why not pay a visit to the initiator of the nicely-priced Neve 1073 market?
Sure, Neve preamps have nearly always been valued, but I’m pretty sure it was Dave Grohl and his 2013 Sound City movie that blew it all apart; the whole plot being him buying a Neve desk and transplanting it into his home to salivate all over with celebrity friends. This was the moment that recognition grew from narrow-ish to absolutely chasm-ly.
And from here prices for any original, torn-from-the-frame preamps also blasted. Demand was so red hot that every Tom, Dick and Harry with a soldering iron and/or a hot connection at a Chinese factory started pumping out their own vastly varying versions of 1970s Neve 1073, with and without EQ sections.
But 7 years before Grohl’s film there was a maker who led the path, Swedish national Bo Medin. Medin started out his Golden Age Project company making cost-effective versions of the excellent RCA 77D ribbon mic, soon after shifting to manufacturing the MKI version of his latest brainwave, the Pre-73, built for mic, line, and instrument input.
Companies like Brent Averill’s BAE had been refurbishing and making replicas for a while, but it was Golden Age that brought this unit to the people; out of the snoot pit and into the hands of project studios and commercial consumers alike.
These were now a unit that was widely available worldwide, with a price that’d mean you were getting ripped off if you DIDN’T buy one.
Everyone was grabbing ‘em and getting a taste of 1073 into their sessions, so much so that the red desktop piece soon found a rack-mount accessory that’d mean you could stack ‘em politely side-by-side with all your other favourite outboard.
Since 2006 the Pre-73 has gone through a few iterations, with us now landing on the MkIV. Unlike much of the competition, they’re very much still a cost-effective way to get a no-IC’s-allowed, bathed-in-warmth 1073 tone, but now with a few extra features to help consolidate their position within your workflow.
The units have always had your standard 48v phantom power and phase options, a switch for the DI input on the face, a low-Z impedance selector(1200 or 300 ohms), and separate input and output knobs to be able to drive the piece into sounding like a beautiful, hazy sauna on a cold day.
The MKIV adds an 80 & 200Hz high pass filter, and air EQ boost of either 3 or 6dB and a -14dB output pad to be able to really push the output transformer in this thing without redlining your compressor, tape machine, computer or whatever you’ve got in the chain afterward.
Now, a decent chunk of the ‘Neve sound’ is attributed to pricey Carnhill transformers. With the more than reasonable price behind the Pre-73 you get a solid sounding metal can transformer but if you so desire, and you outgrow this one, there’s space (and pre drilled solder points) on the board to evict this and install a Carnhill 9045M traffo.
I also reckon you could squeeze another into the output transformer space too if you really want.
The build of the Pre-73 is solid; switches are tight and the internals are all proper-sized discrete components laid out nice n and neat. Plug it in and start pushing level through it and you get a nice, warm, neve-esque bloom.
It’s not a box for absolute clarity, but you wouldn’t pick an original 1073 for that purpose anyway.
You can push this unit loud, and unlike other units in the market, this one doesn’t get noisy. And it’s got XLR and TRS input and outputs on the back to make it easy to jack it into whatever ya fancy.
And hell, it’s even got the proper Neve style second gain stage once you push it over 50dB that so many other makers skip out on.
The Golden Age Project Pre-73 retails for $749 Australian and is available now from all good audio hawkers.
Find out more about the Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIV here.