RUPERT NEVE DESIGNS PORTICO 5015 MIC PRE COMPRESSOR REVIEW
It has to be said that over the years of gathering all of my studio equipment together and running everything through the standard mic pre's on my interface, the last thing I thought about investing in was a decent separate mic pre. In hindsight, it should have been amongst my very first purchases, such is the importance of a quality signal path. I've come to understand this over the years and can now pass on my experiences.
I now have two very respectable characteristic Mic Pre's, but recently had the chance to try the Portico 5015 for which I now own. Don't worry, I paid for it out of my own pocket :)
PORTICO 5015 - WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE MIC PRE'S ON MY INTERFACE?
It's all about focus of sound and where that sound sits (depth) in the mix. A quality mic pre such as the Portico 5015 will let the recorded sound sit right in the middle of a mix and 'in your face'; it's uncanny! I'd be lying if I said you can only get this effect from the Portico as many quality mic pre's will do this for you. However, it's all about the character of the recording, the manufacturers thumb print on the recorded sound, Rupert Neve's thumb print.
PORTICO 5015 - WHAT'S IT LIKE IN THE STUDIO?
My bad, I took it out of the box, hooked it up to my system (no manual for me, I know all about this stuff) and used it for a vocal session that very evening, only to have to ring the singer the following morning with humble apologies. The mistake I made was to take the meter reading as a normal 'keep it out of the red and all will be well' philosophy. However, what I'd actually done was fire everything off at +40 dB! There were other variables in place and I just didn't spot it; we've all been there, too much coffee, adrenalin, enjoying the moment kind of thing and I couldn't blame JD on this occasion!
So, back to my question; what's it like in the studio? And the answer is... awesome! It is so so quiet I need to shout it out... IT'S QUIET ! With regards to the background noise, I'm sure it's there, but I can't hear it! I'm not used to that!
It was very nice on this occasion to be recording a female vocalist with such a wide dynamic range to her performance. I dialled in 6 dB of gain, giving an output of between -4 and 4 dB on average and my meters in Pro Tools were running lower than I've ever had them at stages within this dynamic performance. I added a compressor in my DAW and pushed the level on the fader... silence, nothing, bliss!
The character of the Portico 5015 is very pleasing. I'm going to resist terms like 'warm' and idioms such as 'butter running down the breast of an oven ready chicken'. Instead, I'm going to remind you about the golden rules of mastering . . . space, depth and width. With the Portico 5015, everything sounds as you hear it at source before it shoves it in your face! Just brilliant!
PORTICO 5015 - SO, WHAT ABOUT THE COMPRESSOR?
Here are the important bits: It's very quiet, has low distortion figures on paper (and in practice) and lacks character. Lacks character, that sounds like a bad thing, but it's not! It simply translates to 'transparent'. If you put up your favourite microphone with its own character, the last thing you want is to colour a colour. As with any use of compression going in to a DAW, use as little as is safe to get the performance down without a hitch. Using this method, you'll hardly notice that your utilising the compressor on the Portico 5015.
PORTICO 5015 - WHAT ABOUT THE MAGIC BUTTON?
The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed a button called 'silk'. It could have been labeled 'vintage' and is intended to sweeten the performance. I think I must have an ear wax build up though! They say that it's 'subtle', but I would suggest it's going to be too subtle for most users, which is a shame because we all like a magic button.
PORTICO 5015 - CONCLUSION
On the tactile side, it's built to withstand a nuclear explosion! All of the controls are positive and offer nice resistance through rotation. In use, it's so quiet... I'm still amazed just how quiet this is in fact! It's extremely simply to use (just have a quick gander at the manual). I'm really looking forward to recording some violin with my ribbon through the Portico 5015. It will certainly change my whole working practice. If you love dynamics in your recordings, I would suggest you give this a go. Proof is in the pudding as they say. Try it, you'll like it !
For more information on the Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5015 Mic Pre/Compressor, click the link below: