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Old 22nd May 2019
Lives for gear
bowzin's Avatar
AML. If you like what CAPI is about for API-inspired designs, then AML is the closest analogue of that for Neve-inspired designs. Colin I think used to service Neve's or worked at Neve or something, either way a lot of his designs are heavily Neve-inspired, the same way CAPI is heavily API-inspired. The AML 1073 with EQ, either the rack or 500-series, looks like quite a bargain if you want the EQ as well.

Another one is Aurora Audio, as he used to work for Neve, and he just recently launched a line of much more affordable products, not sure if they're out yet, but they looked really exciting. I think the Aurora Audio preamps fall under "Neve inspired" rather than "clones."

I have VP28's and love them. They have a lot of color, sometimes too much, but I really like them. Electric guitars, drums, and even rock vocals or vocals in a dense mix. Got 'em used well under $500 each, so they were pre-built and a total bargain. Somehow he fits THREE transformers inside, wow.

SCA N72's are excellent. Personally I prefer the "one shot" versions over the rack versions, only because they come standard with a DI and I think the DI is exceptional. The one-shot versions also have an impedance switch, which is nice to have.

Note that SCA is wrapping up operations, he posted on here that they are winding down their business when their lease runs out. Something like that. Still... if you spot an SCA N72 One-Shot used or something, it's very much worth picking up in my opinion. Maybe download the schematics/build instructions while you can, would make any future repairs pretty simple, as it's a beefy, straightforward build, no LED's or metering, etc. Brand new N72 One-Shots were ~$600-$630 and a bargain, so any less than that is gravy.

I also have the Stam Audio dual 1073, with Carnhill input transformers and Sowter output transformers. It uses high-quality components, a gigantic power supply, looks like a million bucks, and the Sowters give it a slightly different twist that I enjoy having. Got it for about a grand so around ~$500 a channel with name-brand transformers, quite a bargain if you spot one used. Not sure I can recommend ordering from them at the moment, as they're a mess with backorders.

Since you have the VP28's you're probably open to 500-series, the other ones I have are the Great River 500 pre, and three Avedis MA5's I got for insane bargains. Those two are excellent, a bit more "clear" ... maybe you could say a bit more modern take on Neve color. My "clones" are more chewy and dense in the mids. As my mic locker improves, I like that the Great River and MA5's don't "mess" with the signal quite as much. On dynamic mics especially, sometimes I prefer the more heavy color from the clones.

Also in a similar price range is the Don Classics NV73 which is 500-series and has an optional EQ you can add.

I tried a GAP Pre73 a long time and many revisions ago, and my SCA N72 was noticeably better. People would mod them with Carnhills to improve the sound, however... the ones now labelled with "Plus" at the end of the name come with pre-installed Carnhill transformers from the factory. They're about $500 I think for those versions. Also they have a "Golden Age Premier" 1073 worth checking out which also uses Carnhill transformers.

Don't forget (because I always do) that you can snag a used Neve 1073LB 500-series pre for ~$700-800 with the tiniest bit of patience. So a "real" Neve reissue is within a few hundred of most of this stuff. Adding their EQ module separately does add quite a bit to the cost though, basically doubles it, and comes up used less often.

Another sleeper is the Louder Than Liftoff Chroma. It's a 500-series version of the Silver Bullet. You can switch between either a Neve or API inspired preamp circuit in it. It comes with a lot of other tricks and goodies, but is 100% worth it just for the preamps/line amps. He sells direct, so no distributor or retail markup. Out of all my color preamps, this one does something unique, in that while it most certainly adds obvious color, it really, really does not mess with your original signal. It really respects the original signal and doesn't "mess it up." Because of this, it's also a bit more subtle color than the others, but in situations where I really like the sound of the mic, this is my current favorite preamp. This eventually replaced the Great River pre as my fav go-to for lead vocals with my nicest U67 style tube mic, for example. It was even more clear and detailed and "right" throughout the mids with that mic.

Because it respects the original signal so much, it's also perfect for running tracks or buses through in line-level mode. You just switch it over to line level vs mic level, just like the VP28 has that option. That's one of the primary intentions of the Silver Bullet and Chroma, so it makes sense, but I had to get one myself to really understand it. I have two Chroma's now, and I haven't reached the ceiling on these units yet. It is NOT clean and adds obvious color, just a bit more subtle take on Neve and API which I really appreciate. The idea is you track with it and get some color, then run tracks/buses back through it adding another layer, then use it on your mix bus adding another layer, etc. Adding more controllable "layers" of color as you go. I really need to explore this more, it's got my full attention at the moment, feel like there is tons of potential here, just trying to incorporate it into my setup and workflow better.

Good luck, sorry for the long post. I went down a big Neve rabbit hole over the last few years.