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Review of the Great River



Getting a good preamp is something that is not easy to do.  Along the way there are many stumbling blocks, things that get in your way before you finally get down to business and pay.  There must be a hundred reasons to not spend a lot of money on a preamp, a piece of gear that only does one thing, boost your microphone or instrument signal to line level.  Last year I counted up the number of mic preamps I had in my studio.  I was aghast to realize I had over 50 mic preamps, 46 of them on mixers, and that I used one or two of them on a regular basis.  How was I to justify getting a box that had "just one more"?  Especially one that had none of the features we are accustomed to getting. 

The ME-1NV falls into the "wire+gain" philosophy of preamp.  That is to say, there are no frills, no extra circuitry to run the sound through.  No EQ, compression, gate, scooper, de-esser, harmonic shifter, nothing.  There's no digital signal path, no s/pdif, ADAT, no big VU meters, just the basics.

It comes in a 1/2 rack 1 unit high case of thick metal.  A bit heavier than you'd expect and all the switches are solid.  The gain control is a stepped control, and you have a choice of settings in 5db increments from 5db to 60db.  The Output level knob is smooth and variable from -10 to +10db.  Fully pushed to the max there is 70db of gain which is plenty for any dynamic or condenser mic and probably for most ribbons as well.  In addition to the usual phantom power and polarity switches, there is a switch for "loading" and for "impedance".  These can give your mics a slightly different sound and response characteristic.  Where you set the output can also affect the sound.  You can push the gain up high and decrease the output level into minus territory for a more vintage sound, or lower the initial gain and boost the output for a more modern sound, according to the documentation.

There is also a HiZ input for electric guitars, basses, or whatever instrument level devices you wish to amplify.  Works great.  My guitars come through as clean as I could want, with a nice texture for mixing.

Subjective characteristics:  First test:  Acoustic guitar/Shure SM81. The first thing that I noticed in the first minute was the awesome sense of pressure coming from my recorded audio tracks.  It was a character that could be felt as well as heard.  Perhaps it is this sense of dynamics that lead people to say its a great pre for pop music.  Its got punch.  Second Test:  Vocals (mine) with an SM57 and then an RE20 by Electro voice.  The SM57 sounded so good I had to check to make sure I did not make some mistake and record into the wrong mic!  My first thought was heck, throw the rest of the mics away, this is all I need.  Until I tried the RE20, which was even better with plenty of high end but no harshness.  Oddly I found the RE20 to sound better than the Neumann TLM 103 with the ME-1NV, at least with my voice, yet the Neumann had all of its characteristic smoothness, now in greater relief. 

Though the ME-1NV is not regarded as one of the quietest preamps, to me, with my limited experience with high end preamps it was very quiet with a rich detailed sound.  While I can imagine a more "transparent" sound, and a more "neutral" sound, I'd have a hard time convincing myself that is what I really want.  So far it has been able to take everything i have thrown at it. 

Count me as a satisfied customer.  After all the years of messing around with lesser preamps and spending lots of cash on things that did not as profoundly affect recorded sound, I have to wonder why it took me so long. 


Go to the studio-central Mic Preamp forum

Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity Microphone Preamplifier
The 710 Twin-Finity is a radically new UA pre-amp design which uniquely combines both the classic retro warmth of UA tube design and the transient bite of solid-state in a 2U, half-rack, all-metal chassis. The 710 was created specifically to add the tonal versatility and sonic inspiration missing from generic audio interface preamps.

PreSonus ADL600 Anthony DeMaria Labs Microphone Preamp
The PreSonus ADL 600 is a high voltage Class A, two channel tube microphone preamplifier designed by world-renown tube circuit designer Anthony DeMaria. The ADL 600 is packed with six high-voltage vacuum tubes (three per channel), military-grade switched attenuators, analog VU and LED metering as well as instrument input, line input and selectable microphone input impedance. The ADL 600 utilizes extremely high voltage power rails (600V peak to peak) delivering 75dB of gain, over 30dB of headroom, and extremely wide frequency range of 5Hz to 80kHz within 0.5dB. The combination of Anthony DeMaria?s preamplifier design and PreSonus? state-of-the-art manufacturing process achieves a new standard in hand-made, high-voltage tube preamplifiers.

Universal Audio LA610 MKII Classic Tube Microphone Preamplifier
The LA-610 defined the affordable, ultimate vintage tone channel strip. So how can UA improve on tonal perfection in what was already a hit product? Enter the sequel... LA-610 Mk II, a second-generation revamp of the original 2005 LA-610 design. While the preamp and compressor are identical to the original LA-610 that users have come to know and love, user-requested features such as true compressor bypass, larger metering, improved output signal, an auto-sensing power supply have been added bringing the end user an enhanced user experience. The LA-610 Mk II also features the highly popular "black on black" cosmetics of the LA-610 Signature Edition.

Solid State Logic Alpha VHD 4-Channel Microphone Preamp
The XLogic Alpha VHD Pre is a slab of pure analogue attitude. Whether you need to track pristine vocals, crunched drums or electric guitars on the edge of sonic destruction, the VHD Pre delivers a powerful and versatile sound shaping tool kit - the perfect analogue companion to any digital recording system. Based on the VHD circuit from SSL’s acclaimed Duality console, the VHD Pre adds four SSL mic preamps to any line level DAW audio interface, transforming it into a professional quality, multi-channel analogue recording system.

Tweak:  You NEED Better Sound than your Audio interface preamps can deliver? The Golden Age Pre-73 is worth your consideration.

Golden Age Pre-73 Microphone Preamplifier
The Pre73 provides a low cost alternative to microphone preamplification featuring a fully discrete signal path by utilizing separate transformers for the balanced mic input, the line input and the output. Similar to the circuit you would find in the Neve 1073 preamp/EQ with a remarkably similar output.

Review of the Great River ME-1NV
Review of the Focusrite Voicemaster Pro
A Primer on Mic Preamps
Review of FMR's Really Nice Preamp
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