Golden Age Project PRE-73 Premier by roughgear
Golden Age Music (the company behind the Golden Age Project Pre-73) started a new premium line of products aimed for professionals. This premium line is called "Golden Age Premier" and their first preamp is a deluxe version of the PRE-73, called "PRE-73 Premier". I did a test in my studio comparing it to a real AMS NEVE 1073DPA and I have to say I'm extremely impressed by it!
Besides the new design, the "Premier" version comes with lots of upgrades compared to the "Project" version:
- Original Carnhill input and output transformers made in the UK,
- Polystyrene capacitors and Tantalum capacitors
- 14 db output pad (and output trim poti)
- High quality knobs and buttons
- Locking XLR connectors in the back
- Selectable 600 Ohm output termination
- Connector free internal wiring
- Toggle switches with gold plated contacts.
It also has a lot of well thought of features that other preamps are missing, like:
- Selectable 6 dB/octave high pass filter at around 80 Hz or 200 Hz
- Selectable two position high frequency AIR EQ boost mode with +3 dB or + 6 dB at 30 kHz
- 4-step LED output level meter
- Insert jack
- Selectable 600 Ohm output termination
Other basic specs like +80 dB preamp gain, switchable mic impedance between 1200 or 300 Ohm are just the same as on the original.
Years ago I had a Golden Age Project PRE-73 Mk2 myself and the new Premier version definitely is a big step up.
The built quality is excellent, all the knobs and switches feel like they could handle many years of heavy studio use. It's a reliable, serious piece of gear. Some people might have preferred to have a 19 inch unit, but I actually like to have the choice to decide if I want to have another preamp channel, an EQ or a compressor next to it in the rack.
Most important: how does it sound? I did several tests with the Golden Age PRE-73 Premier and it definitely delivers that creamy, high-class Neve sound that I hoped for. Silky highs, solid, powerful lows, and fat sounding mids. It just sounds "right" and very musical on many sources with many different mics. To make the difference between the original AMS NEVE 1073 DPA and the Golden Age Premier PRE-73 audible, I did a phase inversion test between the two. The result was mind blowing. I used a signal splitter to feed both preamps with the same mic signal. In theory, when you invert one of the channels the audio should disappear due to phase cancellation. If you still hear something - that's the difference between the two mic preamps. The two preamps almost nulled in this test which shows how extremely close they sound (as we are talking about analog gear, even the two channels of the AMS NEVE didn't completely erase each other when I did a test between them).
As I tend to like mics that are on the darker side, the built in AIR EQ can be extremely handy. On some ribbons it just perfectly adds the right amount of high frequency to the signal. No need to reach out for an extra EQ. Also, the 200 Hz High Pass Filter can be useful for close miking a guitar amp with a ribbon mic for example, and again - the signal is instantly "mix-ready". That simply saves time and money.
What I like about the Golden Age Premier PRE-73:
+ sounds extremely close to the original
+ high quality components (UK-made Carnhill transformers)
+ Sound options make it very flexible
+ Sturdy construction, great quality
+ Output pad and trim poti
+ 2 step Air EQ and High Pass Filter
+ 4 LEDs are handy for metering
+ unbelievable price!
One of the best things about the Golden Age Premier PRE-73 is it's price. At the moment a single unit sell for less than 500 € here in Europe (Stereo Channel for 978.-!). Next to all the other clones currently on the market (Heritage, Warm Audio, etc.) the Golden Age Premier PRE-73 is the most affordable and offers the most features at the same time. After trying multiple microphones (dynamics, ribbons, condensers) and different Instruments and vocalists I can absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for that "NEVE" Sound.