Rupert Neve 511 500-Series Microphone Preamp
The Rupert Neve 511 500-Series Microphone Preamp is a truly legendary preamp with the flexibility of variable Silk/Texture, provides exceptional sonic performance and flexibility.
With a big, bold preamp and the flexibility of variable Silk/Texture, Rupert Neve designed the 511 to combine classic sonics with 500-series value. Incorporating the 517’s powerful preamp, the 5012’s universally useful sweepable high pass filter, and the transformer-saturating power of a variable silk circuit derived from our flagship Portico II Channel, the 511 is a Rupert Neve-designed micpre for the masses.
Designed for 500 Series by Mr. Rupert Neve
Rupert Neve: "While creating functional 500 series modules is relatively simple, designing those modules to equal their non-500 series counterparts with the current, voltage and space restraints is quite challenging. In creating our own 500-Series Modules, we experimented with a number of different transformer and circuit designs to achieve the same presence and sweetness found in the Portico Series of modules. The result of these efforts is that outside of the slightly lowered headroom, our 500 series modules are nearly indistinguishable from standard Portico Series modules, and are perfectly suited for studios of the highest caliber."
Input signals may be derived from Mic or Line sources (make sure 48V is off for line sources!). The input has a 10K Ω non-reactive input resistance that handles a full 22dBu signal without the need for a pad. The pre-amp is a TLA non-reactive design that precludes the loading of microphones with limited driving capability. A primary gain control provides 66dB of gain in 6dB increments for easy recall, with a +/- 6dB trim for fine adjustment. For condenser microphones and powered DIs, there is +48V phantom power. A transient-optimized HPF continuously covering the range from 20-250Hz is included to tame rumble and proximity effect.
One of the key developments in the 511 is the Red Silk / Texture control from the Portico II Channel. Building on the "Silk" mode found in the Portico Series mic pre-amplifiers, Texture is designed to adjust the actual amount of harmonic music content from the source material, in effect, providing wide range of tonal options for the preamplifier. Like the original Portico Silk, the Silk Red / Texture works by reducing negative feedback on the output transformer and adjusting the frequency response to more closely resemble Mr. Rupert Neve’s vintage designs. With the 511, the Texture control allows these techniques to be pushed further than previous designs, adding about 10 times the desirable THD of the original silk control at its maximum setting.
With that said, we have taken great care to ensure that the musical integrity of source material itself will not be compromised by these harmonic controls (these are not to be confused with controls from other manufactures that may "incinerate", "demolish" or "destroy" source material), and we believe they can be confidently utilized to fit the personality of any song, instrument or engineer.
Low Noise, Low Distortion Operation
Much care was given in designing the 511 to produce as little noise and non-harmonic distortion as possible. Carefully implemented signal paths and Class A operation are a large part of the 511’s sweet, whisper quiet performance.
A complete discussion on transformers is out of place at this point, but it is helpful to review some of the essentials where it will be seen that a design needs to be viewed as a whole, not simply from the point of view of a single component.
The fine subtleties of circuit design relating to sonic performance are gradually becoming more clearly understood. For example, research has shown conclusively that frequencies above 20 kHz affect the way in which humans perceive sound quality. But, long before scientific evidence emerged a substantial body of musicians and engineers knew that equipment with apparently the same technical measurements could sound very different.
Incredibly small amounts of musically dissonant odd harmonics have a disastrous effect on the sound quality. Extraneous noise or interference that finds its way into a signal path seriously impairs performance of the whole chain.
Many control rooms make use of outboard gear that is not well protected from external signals. Poor grounding of such equipment can be a serious problem. "Electronically balanced" circuits much used in modern equipment, can give very good measurements on the test bench but they do not provide adequate rejection of the stray fields found in every working environment.
Input and output circuits must be freed from ground dependence so that only the "wanted" signal enters and leaves the processing path. Transformers are the ideal solution. The sweet and silky sound of my classic old favorite consoles was achieved with big transistors and large high quality transformers. Rupert Neve Designs Portico modules achieve similar quality today without the bulk or the cost.
In order that modules can work together as would be expected (i.e. in a proprietary console configuration) without producing hum, R.F. interference, or other interactions, the connecting interfaces, grounding, levels and impedances must receive careful attention. Each of our Portico and 500-Series modules is a complete integral signal processor that delivers its specified performance independently. This is one of the reasons we use transformers.
Rupert Neve 511 500-Series Microphone Preamp Features
- MIC GAIN - A 12-way precision rotary switch controls gain from 0 to 66 dB in 6 dB steps.
- TRIM - Continuously variable +/-6 dB level control.
- +48V - Engages phantom power on the microphone input, as supplied by the 500 series rack.
- POLARITY - Push button inverts the polarity of the signal path, and illuminates when engaged. The symbol “Ø” is often used to denote opposite polarity.
- HIGH PASS FILTER - The high pass filter is continuously variable from 20-250Hz and engaged by the HPF switch, which illuminates when engaged. It is a valuable aid in any signal chain, but particularly so in a microphone preamplifier. Signals below the selected frequency are attenuated at a rate of 12db / octave, getting rid of proximity effect, building rumble, air handling, motor hum, etc.
- SILK / TEXTURE - Pushing the Silk button engages the red Silk circuit, which reduces the negative feedback on the output transformer, adding harmonic content as the texture is increased. Red Silk accentuates the saturation in the mid and high frequencies, similar to that of the red silk mode on the Portico II Channel. By manipulating the Texture control, the amount of Silk can be changed from essentially absent, to roughly 10 times the amount of coloration / distortion found in Silk from the original Portico Series. With Silk / Texture engaged, the distortion characteristic and harmonic content of the unit are very reminiscent of many of Rupert’s class-A vintage designs.
- LEVEL METER - An Eight-segment LED bar-graph meter displays output level (pre-Silk). The color range proceeds from green for lower level signals, yellow for intermediate signals, and red for high levels. When the 511 is clipped, the highest red LED will hold longer depending on how far above the clip threshold the signal was.
Rupert Neve 511 500-Series Microphone Preamp Specifications
- Noise: Measured at Main Output, un-weighted, 22Hz-22kHz, source impedance 150 Ohms balanced. Noise performance can vary depending on the 500 series and / or interference from stray magnetic fields.
- Unity Gain : Better than -103dBV
- With Gain @ +66dB : Better than -60dBV
- Equivalent Input Noise : -125dB
- Frequency Response: Main output, no load Main Output +/- 0.1dBu from 10Hz to 31.5kHz -2.6dB @ 120kHz
- Maximum Output Level : +23dBu
- Total Harmonic Distortion and Noise @ 1kHz, +20dBu output level, no load. Better than 0.0025% @ 20Hz, +20dBu output level, no load. 0.025% Typical (2nd and 3rd harmonic)
- Total Harmonic Distortion and Noise with SILK engaged TEXTURE @ min
- @ 100Hz, +20dBu input level, no load 0.015%, mostly 3rd harmonic (typical)
- TEXTURE @ max : @ 100Hz, +20dBu input level, no load 2%, mostly 2rd harmonic (typical)
- Gain Unity up to +66dB in 6dB steps. Trim continuously adjustable from -6dB to +6dB.
- Phantom Power Supplied by the 500 series rack power supply. Switch selectable on faceplate.
- High Pass Filter Continuously variable swept frequency from 20Hz to 250Hz.
- Slope: 12dB/Octave
- Power Requirements @ +/-16VDC 100mA
What We Think
What can you say about anything from Mr. Neve, that hasn't been said before? We all know his gear and legacy, and we all love it. What he is doing with RND is different than before, but is still just as impressive. The Rupert Neve Designs 511 gives you a Mr. Neve Pre in the 500 series format, at a ridiculously affordable price. It is musical, present, with the right amount of forwardness and detail. It gives you stepped gain, and a variable trim, to choose if you want it cleaner, or if you want to drive the transformer for more saturation. Then toss in the signature "Silk" mode, and contour the harmonic richness in the mids, to get a sound that is just... well, leaves you warm and speechless. I love everything Mr. Neve has contributed to this industry, and I am bold enough to say that the industry would be a bad place if he never came here to contribute. The 511 is one of the best values in the industry today. It doesn't matter the style of music, or the sound source, the 511 has you covered with a rich and fluid sound that will definitely improve your recordings. Get yourself a Purple Audio Sweet Ten Rack, and load it with 511s (be sure to check out Front End Audio's 500-Series Rack Attack Bundles for fantastic savings when buying multiple 500-Series modules). You're done.
- Ryan Ferris
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Excellent versatile preamp. Great value.
I love this thing. It has loads of clean headroom and ample gain to bring up just about any level. Having a trim on the gain is super handy as there isn't an output trim pot, but that might be what contributes to the magic of this preamp. It's very clean, but by no means sterile. In many back to back tests, this Neve won out in nearly every shootout for having the right amount of body, clarity, and smoothness. The variable HPF is a very nice touch that comes in handy, especially that you can punch in and out to make sure the setting doesn't interfere with vocals or room duties while being handy enough for strings or higher register singers. The silk is an interesting touch, adding just a little harmonic complexity. At max settings, it's a little much, but between 9-12 o'clock is the sweet spot. Definitely not an always-on thing but for a little character for vocals it works very well. I use regularly for vocals and bass as well as mono acoustic guitars, but it works very well for mandolin, violin, cello, and just about anything else I've used it for. Steve from Nashville July 14, 2020 Music Background: Composer Producer
Yep, I said fuzzy. The midrange of these is so cool on electric guitars!! These have just the right feature set at just the right price point to own a whole rack full. I use em everyday on electric guitars. But they are solid on kick snare combo also. Vocals tend to be a bit darker through them , but hey, if it's what you're looking for.... I love these. High pass, silk circuit and kick asss midrange. Yep.
Definitely something to add to your power chassis. I use a pair of these on acoustic tracking and with the "silk" feature, this thing is a keeper! "Warm and clear" are some of the words I would use to describe these. These things are also of high build quality, pretty heavy for a 500 series preamp. I was actually going to sell these but I couldn't bear to let them go.
Open, in your face preamp with versatile tone coloring options. I've been relying on my Auteur previously for recording flute. The Neve is much more present and gives a more close-up perspective to the recordings. I plan on adding another of these to my studio very soon.