Rupert Neve Designs 5017
It’s a standalone unit with a pre, a DI and some other bits that’ll be useful in a variety of
situations. JON THORNTON gets his screwdriver out.
he RND Portico series has become a
familiar sight over the years and the range
encompasses mic preamps, EQs, dynamics
processing and various permutations
thereof, as well as more esoteric outboard such as
tape simulation. In the beginning, Porticos adopted
a standardised half-width rackmount form factor,
although over the years this has been added to
with full width units and 500 series modules. The
5017 mobile DI/compressor/preamp being looked
at here introduces yet another shape to the range.
The successor to the similarly specified 5016, it
eschews the half width rackmount enclosure in
favour of a standalone design with curved sides.
In truth, this probably makes more sense given its
probable application, as it looks equally at home
sitting with a pile of guitar pedals or on the desktop
in a control room.
What you get is effectively a single channel mic
preamp coupled with a separate high impedance DI
channel. What makes it clever is the addition of a
simple compressor, a variable phase shift, and some
flexibility in the ways in which the two signal paths
can be combined or separated.
The microphone input is electronically balanced,
and is accessed on the rear panel via an XLR
connector. Next to it is a slightly clunky looking slide
switch for selecting phantom power — the position
here is not necessarily a problem given the nonrackmounting design, but the lack of an obvious front
panel +48 indicator light might worry some ribbon
mic users. A switched gain control on the front gives
a maximum 66dB of gain in 6dB steps, and at unity
gain there is sufficient headroom for the channel to
work happily with line level sources. Pushbuttons
provide a high pass filter (80Hz at 12dB/octave) and
polarity reverse, and a single bicoloured LED meters
signal present or clipping.
Inputs for the DI channel appear on unbalanced
April 2012
¼-inch TRS sockets on the front panel — two
paralleled inputs are provided to allow a ‘thru’
connection from instrument to a guitar amplifier if
required. Input impedance is fixed at 3MOhm, and
up to 30dB of gain is available via a continuously
variable pot. The DI path also has a continuously
variable phase shift (0 – 180 degrees) that can be
switched in and out of circuit, and the same bicoloured
LED arrangement for metering as the mic channel.
The outputs of the mic preamp and the DI channel
can be mixed together via a front panel blend control,
which is clearly useful in applications where a
guitar is DIed and the cab miked up simultaneously,
allowing the DI and mic signal to be phase aligned (or
creatively misaligned!) A transformer balanced output
(XLR) on the rear panel carries this blended signal,
while a second output (also transformer balanced,
but rather curiously on a ¼-inch TRS jack rather than
XLR) carries the output of the mic pre channel only.
This arrangement does allow, if required, a separate
output for each of the two paths to be accessed by
setting the blend control to 100% DI.
By default, the blended signal passes through
the unit’s compressor before being output. The
compressor is a new optoelectronic design, and
subscribes to the school of ‘less is more’ as far as
front panel control is concerned. All you really get
is a threshold control, an in/out button and a single
LED to indicate that gain reduction is being applied.
Ratio is fixed at 2:1 and the time constants can be
set to either fast (Attack 5ms, Release 50ms) or slow
(Attack 250ms, Release 500ms). However, altering
these requires the lid of the unit to be removed
(4 screws) and a jumper set on the PCB. Another
jumper also allows the compressor to be applied to
the mic preamp path only, rather than the blended
output. It’s a shame really as, minimum signal path
considerations aside, the provision of two additional
front panel controls for these options would make
the flexibility they allow much more accessible to
the user.
The mic preamp itself is surprisingly characterful
in use; not the ‘big iron’ sound of a 1073 but quite
gutsy in its own way in the low and mid frequencies,
coupled with a nice open top end. Engaging the Silk
switch on the front panel can further enhance this
characteristic. Something of a Rupert Neve signature,
this function is applied to the blended and mic-only
outputs, and effectively reduces the level of negative
feedback employed in the output stage. It’s a subtle
effect but helps to add a little sheen to sounds without
sounding unduly harsh.
In many ways, the DI performance is similar to that
of the mic pre as there’s plenty of detail there at the
top end and a nice, full rounded sound to the low end
that works nicely with bass guitar. Compared with my
current favourite DI, the Radial JDV, it sounds a little
softer overall, which suits some instruments/playing
styles more than others. And I miss having the ‘drag’
control (variable load impedance) of the JDV to fine
tune bass guitar sounds in particular. The odd thing
is that the picture on the front of the manual shows
what seems to be an input impedance selector for the
DI stage — perhaps a feature that didn’t in the end
make it into production…
The compressor works nicely in this context though
— on the fast setting it does a good job of rounding
out a bass sound and the slower setting works well
in applying some gentle levelling to vocals. It sounds
natural in use, but for anything more than control
compression you’ll probably have to look elsewhere.
In short, there’s much to like about this unit. You
get a high quality mic pre and DI, a compressor and
some useful phase alignment capability all in one
box, with sufficient flexibility in the combination of
functions to meet most applications. It’s just a shame
that some of that flexibility can’t be accessed without
the use of a screwdriver. n
Four functions in one neat package; nice
sounding mic pre; flexibility of routing
options; useful and easy to set-up
No +48 indicator; compressor settings
altered by internal jumpers only; ¼-inch
TRS for mic pre direct out seems a little
strange; no fine gain control on mic pre.
The 5059 16 x 2 + 2 Satellite summing
mixer is built around many of the Class-A
topologies and custom transformers in
the 5088 mixer and Portico II Series.
It has 16 channels with individual level,
pan, inserts, stereo-2 sends, and master
texture controls with complete control
for two separate stem mixes.
Like the Portico series modules, it has
continuously variable Texture controls
with Silk and Silk+ modes. Channel
inserts are provided and by connecting
a second 5059 to the insert outputs of
a 5059, the dual stereo outputs can be
used as a way to add four auxes to each
of the 16 channels.
UK, Sonic Distribution: +44 845 500 2500