Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5211
In a world saturated with mic preamps of every description, one name always rises to the top of the heap: Rupert Neve. The Rupert Neve Designs 5211 2-Channel Microphone Preamp draws on elements of his renowned 5012 Duo Mic Preamp, but updating it with some key features. With two channels of gain up to 72 dB, a sweepable high-pass filter, and variable Silk control for saturation of the dual-tap transformers, the new 5211 2 Channel Mic Pre from Rupert Neve Designs can bring you tonal options from crystal clarity to a vintage vibe.
Rupert Neve Designs began in 2005 with the renowned Portico 5012 Duo Mic Preamp, and the new 5211 follows in its footsteps, while bringing something new to the table. The 5211 differs by having a transformerless input; the design incorporates a Transformer-Like-Amplifier (T.L.A.) that allows all the nuances of the original microphone signal to enter the circuit. The input also acts as a high-quality line input with 9 kOhms impedance, when the +48 V phantom power is disengaged. Phase inversion and a high-pass filter from 20 - 250 Hz complete the input controls.
A major evolution from the 5012 sound is the addition of a variable Silk control. This control saturates the Class-A output stage to dial in a zone of tone reminiscent of Rupert Neve’s vintage designs. Applying Silk reduces negative feedback and saturates the dual-tap output transformer, while also tweaking the frequency spectrum. This imparts a very musical character to the signal, and also allows some experimenting with the total effect required, as Silk is further enhanced the closer it is driven to the limits of its headroom.
Speaking of headroom, there’s plenty more in the 5211 than ever before. The circuit has been updated in part by increasing the voltage on the rails to ±21 V, allowing greatly expanded headroom, excellent dynamic range and increased signal-to-noise ratio.
The Silk control is one of the hallmarks of the 5211 design, but it would be nothing without its better half: the dual-tap output transformer used in the famous Shelford Channel. This transformer has two taps, providing both full-headroom (+26 dBu) and -6 dB outputs. This allows the operator to overdrive the unit into full-on vintage transformer saturation, with no fear of clipping any devices later in the signal path. Even if the 5211 is the front end of a digital chain, your A/D converters are in good hands! For convenience, that output is displayed by an eight-LED meter ranging from -10 dBu to +22 dBu.
Housing the 5211 in a standard 1U rack size allows for a heavy duty internal auto-switching power supply; this will provide plenty of power via universal voltage. The faceplate is uncluttered and is powder coated in the “Shelford” color reminiscent of some of the classic modules of yore.
If you’re lucky enough to already own modules from Rupert Neve Designs, the 5211 is a natural evolution of the circuits and principles behind them. If you haven’t yet gotten some of Mr. Rupert Neve’s iron into your studio, the new 5211 offers the opportunity to start your collection on a high note. By providing both a clean and pure audio path, as well as the warmth that only transformers can provide, the 5211 offers a ‘best of both worlds’ design.
- Mic Gain: 12-way precision rotary switch controls gain from 0 to 66 dB in 6 dB steps
- Trim: Continuously variable ±6 dB level control
- SILK/TEXTURE: Pushing the Silk button engages the red Silk circuit, which reduces the negative feedback on the output transformer, adding harmonic content as the texture is increased. Red Silk accentuates the saturation in the mid and high frequencies, similar to that of the red silk mode on the Shelford Channel. By manipulating the Texture control, the amount of Silk can be changed from essentially absent, to roughly 10 times the amount of coloration / distortion found in Silk from the original Portico Series. With Silk / Texture engaged, the distortion characteristic and harmonic content of the unit are very reminiscent of many of Rupert’s vintage class-A designs.
- Level Meter: An eight-segment LED bar-graph meter displays output level (pre-Silk). from -30 dBu to +22 dBu.
- Polarity: Reverses the polarity of the input signal.
- High Pass Filter: Continuously variable from 20 Hz to 250 Hz, and engaged with the HPF button.
- Phantom Power: Provides 48 V phantom power to microphones
- -6 dB Output: A secondary split off the output transformer with a lower headroom, designed to allow engineers to fully drive the output of the 5211 without clipping converters and other devices
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