Published by analogexplosions on 13th December 2011
Seventh Circle Audio N72 Mic Preamp Kit
Talk about bang for your buck!
The Seventh Circle Audio N72 mic preamp kit is spectacular. The whole experience of building it was a real treat; so much so that at the end of it, I almost didn't care what it sounded like! Thankfully, it is absolutely there in the sound department as well.
SCA sells this module as a kit (along with many other, equally amazing ones!) with PCB board and all necessary components to complete the build. You provide the solder and iron, though. To have a working preamp, you have to purchase the 3U rack chassis, at least one module, the heavy duty power supply, and wire harness for supplying some juice to each module.
Unpacking the box, I was very, very impressed with the level of detail in packaging and organization. I expected hundreds of resistors mixed up and thrown into a zip-lock bag, but that wasn't the case at all! Everything was organized with the Bill of Materials, and even taped together in order! I felt that was above and beyond for sure.
The PCB board is very cleanly laid out, easy to read, and very sturdy. Each module takes about 3-4 hours to complete from start to finish. Not a bad way to spend the day! I completed 8 of these units over the course of a weekend.
The instructions and setup guide was very easy to read and informative. After the first one, I only needed to reference the guide for wiring diagrams for the input transformer.
With 8 completed modules, biased and ready to go, I installed them into the chassis, wired them all up, and installed the faceplate. The entire unit has to weigh ~50 lbs when loaded with all this beautiful Carnhill Iron!!!
The sound of the pre's themselves is stunning. Drums sound huge and 3-Dimensional. Guitars are in your face. Vocals sound smooth and warm. Pretty much everything I would expect from a 1272 type pre.
...and I have 8 of them. (for only $3k!)
Bottom line is: These things rock. I recommend them to everyone.
By bxt403 on 13th December 2011
One of the best deals around.
If you're an experienced Geekslut- you'll totally be at home with SCA kits.
The build instructions are some of the best I've seen- and coming from a technician and technical writer- they're even better than the service manual instructions from companies who don't do DIY. The thing is that you MUST be comfortable soldering- if you do plan on building your own. Even if you get SCA or a qualified technician to build them for you, it's still an amazing deal for what you get.
I've built kits from Orphan Audio/Quad Eight, Five Fish Studios, Ladyada, Highly Liquid and have racked/built numerous other custom jobs- and by far, SCA's procedure to build is one of the easiest to follow. They include information for people who are new to the whole realm of building, and coming from a person with over seven years of experience as a broadcast technician: they're extremely easy to follow, if you do have a technical background.
I've built the C84, T15, N72, and A12. The beauty of SCA preamps is that many other owners LOVE to trade- as such I traded one of my 3 N72's for a J99 (with John Hardy 990c's!). The thing was that there was some questionable soldering that I had to touch up (overall the build quality was minimally acceptable to my standards but it didn't take too much time to for me to touch up the numerous cold solder joints)- and the person I got it from said the builder was experienced. Be sure to get some high resolution pictures of the actual modules you buy (especially of the top and bottom of the circuit board- so you can see any cold solder joints), if you do buy them built by some one other than SCA. The only bad thing I see is that there is a potential of inexperienced, self-proclaimed "engineers" who might sell you something of questionable build quality for much more than the craftsmanship is worth.
The instructions for all the preamps are well laid out- however I highly recommend the T15 for inexperienced DIYers, as it has the most room for error. The N72 is daunting if it'll be your first DIY build and be aware that if the build quality is shoddy- you won't be able to sell/trade them with as much ease versus those built by a person who has the proper experience.
Since I can compare my API A2D to my A12's, I can honestly say SCA hit the nail on the head, sound wise. The logic does imply the N72, J99, and C84 will all sound similar to the designs they're based on. Although I can't compare them to the real thing, I can say the N72 sounds spectacular.
Also- I'd say the average build time will vary greatly with your experience. Take no heed in the recommended build times, as the more time you invest in making sure everything is cleanly done- the less likely you'll have a non-working module that you'll have to spend even more time trouble-shooting to get working. Also- as there is always a possibility of something not being connected properly, or getting a faulty part: being able to read a schematic is a must, if you do want to build a kit.
By mikeg09 on 27th March 2012
The Seventh Circle Audio N72 Preamp is a rock solid preamp that sounds Big! It gives your audio that Neve sound without having to spend a lot of money. This preamp is a colored preamp and it gives you many different characters with 12 different gain stages! The higher you crank it, the more saturation and color you get! Twist it till you like it baby! If you are planning on buying one, I would advise you buy one that is already built instead of building it yourself from the kit unless you have a lot of experience in soldering. Many people who have built their own seem to experience problems according to what people have been saying in the Seventh Circle Audio forums.
The quality of this preamp is top notch and the color you get from it is top notch. It sounds big and cozy. It is not a sparkly kind of preamp though supposedly it has a little bit more top end than an original 1073 preamp. I don’t have a real 1073 so I cant comment based on experience but that is what I’ve read online.
I love mine and I only use it for vocals since I don’t have a live room to record instruments. If you have a microphone that has a lot of top end and mid range, this preamp will tame the high end and mid range in a beautiful way . Even if you crank the preamp a little higher, it will start to naturally compress your audio in a nice way as well by just smoothing everything out. If you are looking for that lush Neve sound, this is the preamp for you!
By Bcsteene on 24th April 2012
Seventh Circle Audio N72
I had been searching for that round smooth sound of the beatles and older sounding albums. I had been using a focusrite ISA one, and while it sounded good, it just wasn't cutting it for me. I ended reading about Seventh Circle Audio Preamps online and decided to try them out. It was a bit spender, because I had to buy the chassis and power supply, but its worth it. In my opinion this sounds as good if not better than any other neve clone out there. The tone can only be described as smooth and round, if you want some more punch just turn it right up. It comes with 2 knobs, one is a step 5 gain knob, then other can be wired as trim or a full output fader - from 0 - max. There are two switches, one to turn phantom power on and off, and the other to switch the phase, which is nice. The setup is simple, without many choices to choose from, but I like that simplicity, and the sound is amazing. The only thing that would make this better would be a cutoff switch to cut around 75 hertz and below, but considering how good it sounds, you won't complain. The N72 is modeled after the NEVE 1272, and I believe hits the nail right on the head - and for the price, you can't go wrong. I love the sound, and I will be filling up a rack with these. I think that the reason this preamp sounds so good is that it uses two Carnhill transformers; one on the input and one on the output, plus it seems like quite a bit of research went in to getting the circuitry as close to the original as possible. (the focusrite ISA one only uses one Lundahl transformer, which gives it a good sound, but nowhere near as good as the N72). I can't recommend this preamp highly enough. For the money you won't find this as good of a sound anywhere else!!!
By monkeyxx on 31st December 2013
I gave the "Ease of use" 3 stars because you have to build it yourself, which is a 95% chance of success with attention to detail and perseverance. It will take a few or several hours. Installing in the chassis, the old off-white one anyway, is a PITA. I'm glad SCA has moved to a more modular, almost 500 series approach with their black chassis. They do deserve credit for their high voltage power supply, which makes the N72 possible.
I gave features 3 stars because you don't get the EQ section or Line Input of say, the AML EZ1073 kit, which uses the same transformers, but is a bit more expensive. It basically has everything you need as a microphone preamp, though.
I have slowly fallen in love with the Neve sound. I listen to Nigel Godrich productions, usually featuring Thom Yorke and ask myself, "How does he get that bass?" "How does he get that thick low end and rounded treble?" I think a lot of it is his rack of Neve console modules, and, mixing down on Neve consoles.
I would characterize the sound of the Neve class A amplifier and Carnhill transformers as being smooth, moody, and deep. There is a softening of the high end, and a saturation, and thickness in the lows. I have used it extensively on vocals, and bass guitar, but, I am starting to see its general usefulness on any source, including synthesizers. It's a great sound to build a mix on. The Neve EQ and compressor circuits are also worth a look. I've been attracted to the bright smacking API sound for a long time, which still has a nice color, but, there's no quicker way to deep tones than piling up on the old Neve stuff. It's just soft and pleasant, and hard to go wrong with.
I would say the SCA N72 is by far one of the best values in pro audio, considering the price of pre-built channels, or god forbid, vintage ones. It doesn't look like much when mounted, but the sound and performance is absolutely there.