The pro-audio industry is littered with remnants of Mr Rupert Neve’s distinguished - if disjointed - career. His console designs of the 1960s and 1970s are legendary. The original Neve company has subsequently passed through several owners, but even now, as AMS-Neve, reissues of Rupert’s designs are a mainstay in the catalogue. He founded Focusrite, and again, his original designs for this company are still marketed. He latterly designed circuits for Amek, but now is back in the saddle using his own name again, living in Texas and trickling out these diminutive Portico units. These will soon have the possibility of integration into a tracking and mixing system, and the 5033 like others in the range has the option of a vertically oriented faceplate for mounting in an optional PSU rack. Other options enable joining two Porticos side-by-side for a full-width 1U rackmount, or installing a single unit with a half-rack blanking plate.
The unit is supplied with a ‘lump in the line’ PSU, and being free of an earth connection this undoubtedly helps isolate the unit from possible mains hum problems. It is a switched mode supply that sends DC to the unit, but the manual claims that the Portico is relatively unfussy about its DC supply. One useful option is a Y-lead to run two units from the same power supply. The front panel is reassuringly thick; although small, the 5033 is surprisingly weighty. The tiny legending seems protected from any possibility of the markings rubbing off. The larger Gain knobs are slightly damped and have useful centre détentes for easily finding the zero position. The smaller knobs have a stiffer oily feel – this damping helps when making small adjustments, although cramming five bands of EQ into the space inevitably results in small tightly-spaced knobs. On the rear are single male and female XLR connectors, these are high quality Neutrik components, so no corners have been cut there. There are also a pair of (presently redundant) Buss jack connections, which will no doubt have their uses when RND’s new 5088 console is launched shortly.
The High and Low bands are shelving type EQ bands. These share an In button for activation. Each covers over three octaves in the range of corner frequencies available. The shape of these curves approximate to 6dB per octave, with a range of +/-12dB boost or cut, so they can frequently be used as pseudo- high or low pass filters. The Low band ranges from a subsonic 30Hz right up to the low-mid of 300Hz. This is useful for filtering unwanted LF or adding warmth and boosting the oomph of a bass, for example.
The High shelf is continuously variable from 2.5kHz up to 25kHz. Neve (the man) is a great believer in extended high frequency response, and it is therefore no surprise that the high end is tweakable up to a range beyond that which humans can hear! The top-end boost is sweet and musical sounding, and great for adding ‘air’ or rolling off excessive brightness.
The three Mid bands are all full parametrics, each with their own individual bypass, which is great for checking the effect of each band in isolation. And with the LMF extending down to 50Hz and the HMF up to 16kHz, one can use these for top and/or bottom, freeing up the shelving bands to use as pseudo-filters. These bands are wonderfully sweet sounding and forgiving of extreme settings.
An All Bypass button lights when pressed, but the +/-12dB Trim remains active, so it is no good for matching EQ’d levels with bypass.
In use the 5033 has a terrific character, with a certain amount of precision, but without sounding clinical like, say, the GML 8200. However, it shares the GML’s forgiving character – full boosts never hurt or sound nasty. It sounds creamy and smooth, and every signal we put through it was improved with varying amounts of tweaking.
The 5033 is excellent, but if you like the modular approach, check out the API 550B. If you prefer standalone, the slightly dearer Empirical Labs Lil FrEQ is a terrific 1U EQ providing eight sections of processing. Also try the new stereo (AMS-)Neve 8803 or the quirky Chandler Germanium Tone Control.
Smooth EQ based on classic Neve designs
Warm and Sweet sounding
Technically out-performs vintage units
Horizontal or vertical mounting
Good balance of precision and character
Future expansion and integration with other Porticos and 5088 console using bussing system
Walk On By
Expensive for a mono EQ
No High or Low Pass Filters
Trim active in EQ Bypass
Compact size makes small adjustments fiddly
Legending hard to read
Vertical racking requires proprietary rack
You’ll probably want two
A high quality EQ in a compact box
Reproduced with kind permission from George Shilling. Copyright George Shilling.