Rupert Neve Portico II Channel Strip Review

Dec 1, 2010 9:00 AM, By Barry Rudolph



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The Portico II features a built-in de-esser.

The Portico II features a built-in de-esser.

The audio artistry of Rupert Neve is fully realized in the Portico II channel strip, which features his unique thinking on circuit design in its mic/line/DI input, EQ, VCA-based compressor and output sections. The single-channel, two-rackspace Portico has a sturdy steel case with a thick aluminum front panel. All push-buttons have LED lighting with multicolor 16-LED gain reduction, and output meters. Interior construction is excellent. A Motien DC-to-DC converter supplies phantom power. Additionally, the unit has a large toroidal output transformer and field-replaceable circuit board subassemblies. In what seems to be a tribute to vintage Neve-designed console channel strips like the 1073, the Portico II’s switches and pots are mounted on a steel subframe that mechanically isolates them from the front panel.

Microphone, line or direct source inputs are coupled through a custom input transformer. The mic input uses Neve’s “Transformer-Like-Amplifier” topology and has a 10k-ohm, non-reactive input resistance that is said to load low-output mics in a nondetrimental manner. There are also front panel 1/4-inch DI and thru input jacks for the 3-megohm discrete FET input circuit.

Input gain is controlled from 0 to 66 dB in 6dB steps by a 12-position rotary switch, and fine adjustments are made by a ±6dB pot. Push-buttons are provided for phase (polarity), mute and phantom on/off, and a signal-present LED glows green for -20dB levels (and higher) and red at +22 dBu. Last is a 20 to 250Hz, 12dB/octave active Bessel highpass filter that’s switchable from the main signal path to the compressor sidechain. The back panel also sports jacks for the sidechain send/returns and stereo linking.

The 4-band equalizer (±15dB each) has a pair of fully parametric midrange (LMF and HMF) sections and LF/HF shelving/peak filters. The LF and HF filters have four frequency choices each. Here, designer Neve has reused the “Accelerated Slope” design found in his 1064 and 1073 modules for the HF/LF filters. The LMF and HMF bands have continuously variable Q from 0.7 to 5, and a 70 to 1.4k Hz range for the LMF, and 700 to 14k Hz for HMF. There are in/out buttons for each of the HF and LF sections, and a single switch for both the LMF and HMF.

In what could be a design first, the de-esser circuit is built into the HMF section, where only that section’s audio is reduced (in response to an “s”) instead of the entire audio band via the unit’s compressor section. And rather than simply hijacking the EQ’s HMF section for de-essing, it’s possible to boost/cut and de-ess at the same time. De-ess amount is controlled by a separate pot, and the Q and frequency choices that you make in the HMF are also used by the de-esser’s opto limiter.

Among the compressor’s distinctive and useful features are the Blend control, which mixes the amount of compressed signal with the original, while a FF/FB button offers a choice between either a modern feed-forward compressor style or feedback style that is common in vintage compressors. A Pre/Post button instantly jumps the EQ’s position in the signal chain to either before or after the compressor. The Silk mode emphasizes low frequencies, while Silk+ emphasizes high frequencies. A Texture control for the Silk and Silk+ modes adds saturation to the output transformer by reducing the amplifier’s negative feedback.

The compressor uses a THAT Corp. VCA chip with 1:1 to 40:1 ratios, a -30dBu to +20dBu threshold, 20 to 75ms attack times, 100ms to 2.5-second release times, and up to 20 dB of make-up gain. An RMS/Peak button switches between RMS and peak detection, with RMS used below 250 Hz and peak on higher frequencies.

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