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Portico 5012 vs. 5043 - identical sonic imprint? Condenser Microphones
Old 27th September 2014
Portico 5012 vs. 5043 - identical sonic imprint?

Does anyone own both these units? Do they impart more or less the same sound? Is the preamp a little more detailed?

I'm a classical pianist and Artistic Director of a modern acoustic/electronic ensemble. I'm starting up a DIY label with the intention of putting out my own recordings of myself and my group, as well as some of my colleagues. I recently bought an AEA R88 stereo ribbon, and an Apogee Symphony I/O, and I have two compressors, an Avalon 747 and a Portico 5043.

I know, conventional wisdom is you don't compress classical, but I don't play Mozart. The stuff I do is often very aggressive and in most cases I LOVE what the 5043 does for the sound, even if I barely hit the gain reduction. I did notice once, on a recording done by a friend using Schoeps mk8 and recording as DSD, the 5043 did take away some of the detail in the very quiet stuff. It's a thicker tone but it's maybe a little blunter as well.

At any rate, I'm considering picking up a Portico 5012. I'm wondering does it give the same luxurious, deep, and compelling sound as the compressor but perhaps a bit more detailed? Or if I recorded using say the AEA TRP and then ran through the 5043 after, would it more or less do the same thing? I'm probably going to get the TRP either way, but as there have already been recordings where I wanted that sound I'm wondering if it might be better to have the 5012 as well, especially if it does something a little different? I've enjoyed using a parallel setup, where I can dial in as much of that Portico sound as I think the track needs, I can imagine using the preamp like this as well.

If anyone has both and can offer a comparison, I'd be grateful. It seems more people like the 5043 than the 5012, wondering if it's a different sound.
Old 27th September 2014
PS - I know obviously it "does something different," it's a pre, not a compressor. I'm talking strictly in terms of the sound of either as line amps.
Old 27th September 2014
Gear Addict
ABBA's Avatar

The Portico preamp is less detailed and IMO not worth the price.
I have - and love - the Portico 5043, it is the best unit in the Portico series.
The EQ is fine but very expensive for a mono unit.
The Portico preamp and tape saturation are not as good as the EQ and Comp.
For a preamp I much prefer the Forssell SMP2.
Old 27th September 2014
Deleted User
you should check out the AEA TRP .. it is a very nice piece and works well with any dynamic and is squeeky clean

I had one ( the ribbon pre ) but I am much more of a color guy so I sold it and kept a pair of portico 5015's ( pre/comp) as I liked the 'way' they sound and the fact that with the input trim is AFTER the input transformer so you can drive it harder or less hard for some fat or lean sound and that it has an output transformer that can also be driven pretty hard if you want to
Old 27th September 2014
Lives for gear
Oldone's Avatar
There are basically 3 sounds with the 5012

- Clean
- Pushed
- Silk

I disagree with the conclusion it's not detailed. It's as detailed as a new Neve 1073 (without the EQ), Great River or Daking Mic Pre I. I've heard them all side by side on a variety of singers and microphones and the differences depended on the singer. Each preamp had a frequency zone of emphasis which can make it more suitable depending on the vocalist. I was going to sell my 5012 and decided to keep it after this shootout. It is less detailed on the Silk setting, rounded, slightly grainy sounding but that's by design.

Regarding does it sound like the 5043, yes and no. On its cleanest setting, maybe a little, but when you go for various compression levels on the 5043, things quickly change. I think the 5012 is a pretty versatile preamp for a transformer based design. If you want big clean however, I would point you to a used Martech or even an Avalon 737.
Old 29th September 2014
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JonMiller's Avatar
I'm not sure if they sound the same, but I quite often find myself running mics through my 5043 without any compression. It tends to add a little low end weight and smooth out the high end.
Old 29th September 2014
Exactly. Even just the sound of the 5043 can do something very magical and appealing. I typically record small ensembles with piano, flute, clarinet, violin, and cello. It makes everything sound bigger, the strings become very rich and also bold, the clarinet gets fatter and sweeter, it does a lovely job taking some of the unpleasant shrill resonance out of the flute, and the piano can get just absolutely huuuuuge. I loved the sound so much I wondered if I should be recording through the preamp as well.

However, there have been times when I thought the most delicate nuances of timbre and color might get slightly blunted, I suppose that's the price for the extra girth and richness. So I thought maybe the best solution is to record through something squeaky clean and then use parallel processing afterwards to add that sound as much as seemed needed to taste. Maybe even ride the faders to change the blend when re-recording the processed track. This is what I've been doing, my old rig was a Zed R16 and a blumlein pair of Advanced Audio 414s. I just got that R88 so I figured I'd get the AEA TRP and then parallel process that super clean initial recording. But if the preamp can get me that similar effing awesome Portico sound but even be a touch more accurate depending how driven, that would be ideal. And I like the idea of being able to dial in different sounds, with silk and with gain staging. And maybe there would be times I'd prefer instead just to record with it from the get go, like Roger above. But on the other hand, if I'm already getting the benefit of that sound from the compressor maybe the money would be better spent somewhere else.

I did read somewhere, I think in the RND's marketing materials, that those high voltage designs, like the Portico II or Shelford, have some benefit to the slew rate. So maybe that's the answer to get that sound but have it be even a little more accurate and detailed? Pretty pricey proposition though.

The Avalon 747 is a nice sound as well, with the tubes engaged. I'm glad I have it, the sidechain filters are seriously useful when you have blaring high strings and triple fortissimo flute. But that Portico compressor has me wanting more.
Old 29th September 2014
Oldone, would you say with the 'clean' sound of the 5012 that it's just much less obvious the coloration of the transformers as compared with the compressor? Maybe that's sort of what I'm doing with this parallel setup? Or does it just have a different frequency response? I feel like that is part of the magic of the compressor, as alluded to above, it does change the frequency balance, especially the lower registers. Ah, I should just rent one for a couple of days, I work in NYC so it's easy enough.
Old 29th September 2014
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Oldone's Avatar
Oldone, would you say with the 'clean' sound of the 5012 that it's just much less obvious the coloration of the transformers as compared with the compressor?
Yes. The 5012 definitely reacts differently to various frequency ranges and amplitude. It's a pretty neutral sounding device vs. the 5043 which immediately has it's sonic imprint even at light compressor settings. In the shootout I mentioned above, the preamp was closer in sound to the AMS Neve 1073 (once again with no EQ) than the Great River if that helps your frame of reference. Some other mic experiences I've had are that the TLM mics from Neumann do not sound all that great with the 5012 (talking the TLM49, 103) however the M149 sounds remarkable as do my Oktava 12s (really clear and articulate sounding for these). The SM7B was just OK. The AT 4050 and 4033 are just OK as well with the 5012. Surprisingly, when I still had the NTK, it sounded fantastic.

Also know, I use both the 5012 and 5043 for tracking and on the master buss one after the other on the backside of the summing mixer. Trying to get a little Neve console vibe going there.
Old 29th September 2014
Old 30th September 2014
Gear Addict
jono's Avatar

FF sounds very different from FB mode on the 5043. On my piano I like FF a lot.
Old 19th December 2014
Epilogue, I did end up getting the TRP, and am thrilled with it. The dynamic range is tremendous, I used the R88 and TRP to record something for flute and piano with extreme dynamics, barely audible to ear splitting high notes and it's all there crystal clear with no distortion. Alas, the 5043 doesn't seem to work the same magic on this chain as when I was using 414s, it's a bit too dark. The recordings I've been getting have been surprisingly open, I know there's a high end dropoff with the R88 but it doesn't sound like it. I'm finding the 5043 takes away a bit of the air. I wonder if the Portico II MBP would be better in this regard.
Old 4th May 2018
Epilogue #2 , I did eventually get a Portico 5012. I'm mixing an all-electronic album for a composer friend ATM, and using a Folcrom passive summer. The 5012 as the mix bus amp sounds so good! Anyway, now I can answer my own original question, the 5012 and 5043 do have a related sonic imprint, but you could easily tell one from the other. I eventually found the 5043 too heavy handed with the thickening effect and sold it. Got the Nail instead, which also has a flattering sound but much more usable for classical. But anyway Oldone was exactly right, the 5012 can give you the Neve touch, big sounding and very sweet and attractive, but not nearly as colored as the compressor. Looking forward to trying it on grand piano in a nice hall with the AEA stereo ribbon. The TRP is tough to beat, but I wonder if in certain cases the size of the 5012 might be worth swapping it in.
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