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Author Topic: Rupert Neve Portico 5043 Compressor  (Read 5746 times)

Glenn Bucci

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Rupert Neve Portico 5043 Compressor
« on: January 31, 2010, 08:20:15 pm »

Rupert Neve created a new company several years ago called the Rupert Neve Designs, and started the Portico series. This review will be focusing on the Portico 5043 Compressor-Limiter Duo.

After Rupert’s team designed the ½ rack units with the red and black face plates, they came out with the 5088 console. It has the same Portico pre’s, EQ’s and compressors that are in the ½ rack space units. They decided to use cream colored plates with machined metal knobs that have a more secure feel to them over the more rubbery type of knobs on the Portico ½ rack units. In order to match the look of the 5088, they changed the Portico line front plates, and knobs with that of the 5088 console. I have the original 5012 pre’s. I personally liked the look and feel of the newer plate and knobs better than the original.Rupert Neve Designs now sells the updated plate and knobs for those who want to update their original faceplate with their newer look. I ordered it for my Portico 5012 pre not only because I liked the look and feel better, but also to have my Portico pre match the look of the 5043 in my rack. The process is fairly easy as you just need to remove several screws to remove the old face plate and knobs.

The 5043 compressor-limiter has two compressors which have almost all discrete components in this ½ rack space. They can be used independently or connected together. Starting from left to right, there is a Threshold (-36dB - +22dBu), Ratio (1:1 – Limit 40:1), Attack (20mS – 75mS), Release (100 mS to 2.5 seconds) and makeup gain (-6db – 20dB) knob. Besides the standard controls, there is a button to bypass each channel, a feed-forward/feed-backward option, link button, line buss input and a meter button that switches between the 1st and 2nd compressor. There is one output meter and one gain reduction meter on the unit. What this means is you cannot see your gain reduction for both compressors at the same time. Due to the size of the ½ units, they put the on/off switch in the back of the unit. Rupert Neve Designs offers a bracket if you want to combine two Portico units in a single rack space. If you just have the one ½ rack unit, they also offer a bracket and a metal plate to fill in the other side of the rack. The line drive amplifiers have isolation and single sided circuit topology. This can assist in reducing ground problems. The compressors also use THAT 2181 VCA chip which helps it to have a very clean sound. The unit is enclosed in a steel shell which provides magnetic screening and good stability. The front panel has an aluminum plate with a steel sub panel behind it. They offer front panel layouts for vertical or horizontal mounting.

On the back of the unit are XLR inputs and output for each channel. There is a Buss inputs, a link in case you want to join additional Portico gear together, the power button and DC input jack. You can also run the Portico modules from a 12 volt battery. The unit has an external switched mode power supply that keeps the heat of the transformer away from the internal parts. It provides 17.5 VDC for the amplifiers. The unit also includes an easy to read manual which provides some detail on the unit and explains what each of the controls do.

In Use
This is a Voltage Controlled Amplifier (VCA) type compressor that has an input and output transformer. The transformers impart a little larger sound to your signal and a gentle character that makes your DAW tracks sound a little more analog. The unit was designed for both tracking and mixing application. I was initially not too happy about having just one output meter and gain reduction meter. However to switch between channel 1 and 2’s meters is done with a click of one button. I found the more I used the compressor, the more I became comfortable with the work flow of the meters, that my initial concern disappeared. The meters have 3 different colors which represent different signal strength. The green segment covers the range of -10 to + 10 dBu. The yellow segments covers the range from +10 to +20 dBu, and the red segment, +22 dBu and above which is regarded as overload.

The compressor works in two different ways. The feed-forward mode is similar to some of the modern compressors out there today. It obtains the signal from the input stage (before the V.C.A) and is able to react faster than the feed-backward mode which takes the output (after the V.C.A.) which is a similar design of some vintage designs. The feed-back mode offers a soft knee and offers a little more musical and sweetness to the signal. In the feed-forward mode, it has a harder knee and offers a cleaner sound. I found the feed-forward mode very effective in grabbing the quick transients on a drum buss or slap bass guitar, as it offered a punchy, solid sound that none of my plug ins were able to duplicate. With the link button depressed on both compressors, the DC controls are together allowing the gains to work together for stereo operation. Though the knobs are not dented, I was able to match the settings on both compressors pretty close so there were no audible issues. In feed-backward mode, there is a little bit of a pleasant character added to the sound. I preferred this mode for tracking vocals, guitars, 2 bus and bass when I wanted a little character. The feed-forward mode worked best on a drum track, drum buss, bass guitar when you want a very clear tone that is punchy. It also works best at the mastering stage when you want a clear opened detailed sound with a low ratio.

This compressor is very similar to the compressor on the MasterPiece 2 mastering box that Rupert Neve designed http://www.legendaryaudio.com/. I was able to compare this unit to a Focusrite Compounder, though it is not really a fair comparison as the Compounder cost ½ the price. Never the less, the Compounder is a good stereo compressor in its price range. In comparing the two, I found the Compounder made the signal a little unclear (some distortion), as the higher end components of the Portico gave a clearer, detailed sound. Since the 5043 compressor is not too colored or too clean, it is able to be used very successfully in many applications making this compressor very flexible. For those who have a home studio and are used to plug in compressors that add color on your mixes, you may be surprised when using the Portico compressor. It does not add the type of color or smoothness of many of the plug in compressors. You need to listen to the dynamics, not the over all sound to hear what it is doing. On a 2 bus for instance, focus on what is happening to the kick, bass, high hat and cymbals. When you hear the difference with in it and out, you will start to really appreciate what a high end compressor can do to a mix without affecting its overall character. There has been a lot of positive talk on the forums on this compressor as well.

There are some minor things that I would have liked to have seen with the unit. If it was designed in a full rack unit instead of the ½, the knobs could have been more spread out, and each compressor would have room for their own meters, and an on/off switch in the front. I have to admit though that I had no problem working with the tighter space of the ½ unit.

Not any one compressor will exceed at everything which is why most studios have multiple compressors. If you want a compressor with more character and punch, you may want to look at something like the API 2500. For a gentle enhancer that will make a 2 bus, vocal, or at the mastering stage come alive, compressors like the DW Fearn VT-7, or Pendulum ES-8 should be considered. The Portico 5043 is is a very good all around compressor that can handle most duties very well. I would recommend this unit for someone who is looking for their first high end stereo compressor or a pro studio who wants a flexible compressor. This one is sitting to the right of my Portico 5012 in my rack into my patch bay and looks quite happy.

LINK:
Multiple 5043’s may be daisy-chained via the rear panel jacks. When an individual channel is
engaged, it’s control voltage appears at the rear panel LINK jack. When both channels are engaged
they are linked together internally and their control voltage also appears at the rear panel LINK
jack.
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J.J. Blair

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Re: Rupert Neve Portico 5043 Compressor
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2010, 09:05:06 pm »

Nice review, Glenn!
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D. Uwins

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Re: Rupert Neve Portico 5043 Compressor
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2010, 02:30:50 am »

I have one of these compressors. It can be quite aggressive too, when it's pushed, but it never sounds hard. It does add some richness to the sounds and i'm still glad i bought it. Two of the recordings at my link were entirely put through it.
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