Rupert Neve Designs Portico II: Master Buss Procesor
Could this be the end-all of stereo buss processing? This reviewer thinks you will be at first amazed, and shortly after will become overwhelmed with the urge to keep anyone else from figuring out that this "magic box" exists.
Here is the opening statement from Rupert Neve Designs about this product:
"Based around the high voltage, discrete and class-A signal paths made famous in the 5088 Mixer and the Portico II: Channel, the Portico II Master Buss Processor is a creative tool that redefines the boundaries and limitations of traditional 2-channel compression and limiting."
And I am inclined to agree 110%...
The first thing you will notice is that by simply patching in this device your sound has already improved; This is because of the custom wound input and output transformers. The second thing that comes from this experience is the massive amount of headroom provided by the 72V topology, borrowed from the 5088 console and instantiated throughout the entire Portico II range of products. Additionally, the MBP also incorporates mastering grade detented pots for full recall-ability and easy notation.
The beginning stage of the processor is the S.F.E. or Stereo Field Editor; This section uses a MS processing approach to give you individual control over the depth (mid) and width (side) levels of the program material as well as a band pass filters that allow you to boost or cut these values within a specified frequency range. The curves for the EQ are broad and general purpose, i suggest checking the manual for the exact specs before using them. There is also a switch to feed the compressor with the Mid (depth) signal, going to channel A, and the Side (width) signal, going to channel B. This way each section may be treated independently for dynamic adjustment.
The Compressor section is both dual mono and stereo capable, providing both feed-forward and feedback types, as well as peak or RMS detection circuits and make up gain (up to 20db). As if this were not enough flexibility there is also a mix control (titled "Blend") provided for parallel compression, both a internal side chain (set to 250hz) as well as inserts for external side chain processing, and finally a continuously variable control for Silk and Silk+ modes which emulate the best characteristics of transformer distortion in two distinct flavors. Silk is focused on the lower frequency range, and Silk+ is focused on the upper frequency range although both types are full range effective.
The final component to this massive all-encompassing desert-island masterpiece is a finely tuned single knob operating brick wall limiter. Here is the description from the manufacturer: "...this limiter is extremely intelligent...Our new Adaptive Release Technology is behind this...Using a blend of release time constants, this limiter will simultaneously respond quickly to transient material... and slowly to more sluggish signals." There is also a soft clip section that catches any peaks that may have slipped past the knee of the limiter. The limiter and soft clipper are both switched out of the signal path when the limiter knob is fully clockwise.
With on board MS processing including band pass filters, various forms of compression, parallel processing, internal and external side chain detection, frequency range tailored variable saturation, and advanced brick wall limiting I ask you: Could you even imagine a more complete, flexible and sophisticated device for the duties of master buss processing? All for under $4,000 and from the one of the most legendary names in the industry I think this device will have to be pried from my cold dead hands before I will ever go another session without its use. Thank you Mr. Neve for paving the way to a brighter, smarter future and for conceiving this most ultimate of audio witchery.
I had a chance to hear the Portico II at Blue Rock Studio in Austin Texas with Mr Neve present. In a high-end studio setting with Barefoot MM27 monitors you could really hear what it was doing. Without it you heard seperate tracks. Engaged you heard a finished, married sound. It will reside on the aux section of my Rupert Neve Masterpiece as soon as I can afford it. Ultimate Audio Witchery comes close to describing the Portico II.
One thing about us Neve MBP owners that I've found we all have in common is that we don't really tell people we own one in our studios. Why? Well because it's arguably a modern day classic compressor and we don't want to let that secret out! It really does something other compressors can't or don't do that are currently on the market.
First to describe and sum up the MBP in one word its, "CLEAN" and I mean that in both its aesthetics and function. Visually, its clean, organized, easy to see what knobs do what task and I find that important. Sonically, this compressor is about the most transparent piece of gear I own! During testing I pushed it down to 20db of gain reduction and not once did I hear it breaking up, artifacts, or bad distortion. Simply amazed at how clean this box is. So to me that is at the core of the unit but here is where it gets fun and where you really get your bang for the buck...Silk Red/Blue, Stereo Field Editor, and Limiter!
Yes, I said the MBP is CLEAN however, you can color your source material to your hearts desire too! Silk Red/Blue along with the Texture knob really give you so many sonic options. My personal favorite feature of the Neve MBP has been the SFE (Stereo Field Editor) and what it does to the width and depth of the source material. Now I'm at a point where I almost exclusively do stereo widening with the MBP and less with plugins. PLUS the option to send the SFE to Comp for Mid/Side compression is something I think is probably far UNDER USED by MBP owners. Finally comes the Limiter which is again very very clean and transparent...honestly when I engage it most of the time I can't really hear the audible difference because it just seems to chop those peaks down without getting in the way at all.
With all of that said, IMO, there really isn't any source or genre of music this box cannot handle or enhance. A fantastic piece of gear from Mr. Rupert Neve and company.