Technology

Field Test: Vintech Model 473 Class-A Mic Preamp

FOUR CHANNELS OF NEVE-STYLE PREAMPS AND EQ 1/01/2005 7:00 AM Eastern

Is it possible for a company to offer a quality, retro-style mic pre with usable EQ for $800 a channel? It seems like a lot to ask, but in the case of the Vintech Model 473, it is a can-do. As its model number implies, the Vintech 473 includes four mic preamps that use the same circuit design as the vintage Neve 1073 preamp. To limit the 473's list price to a moderate $3,195 (plus $200 for the unit's outboard power supply), Vintech employed switches that enable only 70dB maximum gain (vs. 80 dB in the 1073) — plenty of gain for almost every conceivable studio application. Each of the 473's all-discrete, Class-A, solid-state preamp channels also includes both high- and low-shelving filters, a front panel instrument DI jack, a two-way input-impedance selector and separate switches for mic/line input selection, polarity reversal, 48-volt phantom power and EQ bypass.

HANDSOME AND FRIENDLY
The 473's attractive front panel controls are thoughtfully laid out for efficient use. Four beefy, knurled aluminum knobs for each channel — one red and the others chrome-colored — provide control over preamp gain and EQ boost/cut. The red input-sensitivity knob provides 20 to 70 dB of preamp gain for mic signals or 0 to 50 dB of gain for line signals (depending on whether mic or line input was chosen for a channel) in 5dB steps. A continuously variable output gain potentiometer for each channel provides attenuation all the way down to minus infinity (silence). It's useful for attenuating the input signal below the 20 dB of minimum gain presented by the input-sensitivity control or for riding higher gain while tracking. The two remaining knobs for each channel are also continuously variable. They each provide up to 15dB boost/cut for their respective shelving filters and have 0dB detents.

A two-way switch directly underneath each of the boost/cut controls selects the corner frequency for the respective shelving EQ: either 3.2 or 12 kHz for the high shelf and either 60 or 220 Hz for the low shelf.

The input-impedance switch for each channel selects either 300 ohms or 1.2k ohms. As expected, I found that the latter setting provided mic signals with slightly greater gain and depth and a brighter, more open sound.

Except for the previously mentioned instrument DI (¼-inch unbalanced phone) jack for each channel, all I/O are found on the 2U, rackmountable unit's rear panel. For each channel, there are three balanced XLR connectors for mic input, line input and line output, respectively; thankfully, these connectors all latch. An unbalanced, ¼-inch phone jack is also provided for each channel's line-level output.

The 473 connects to its external, table-top-style power supply via a 7-foot power cable fitted with latching 4-pin XLR connectors. The power supply has four output connectors and is capable of simultaneously powering one Model 473 and any two single-channel Vintech preamps. The power supply also features red status LEDs for the 24- and 48-volt power rails. A red LED on the 473's front panel also lights when juice is flowing. A detachable three-prong AC cord, measuring 7.5 feet long, serves the power supply.

HOW DOES IT SOUND?
I performed an A/B comparison of the Vintech 473 and my Millennia HV-3D on male vocals, recorded with an AKG TLII mic in omni mode and used an Apogee Rosetta A/D. The two pre's provided a very similar spectral balance: tight bottom, open mids and detailed but unhyped highs. The 473 produced a slightly saturated sound that lent a flattering sense of urgency to the track, while the HV-3D exhibited superior depth that gave the vocal more intimacy and realism.

I got great results using the 473 to record snare drum and toms, played by rock-solid drummer Steven Tate. The 473's attenuators were used to prevent clipping a MOTU HD192's inputs downstream. The tracks sounded wonderfully tight and punchy. Adding EQ boost above 12 kHz to each preamp channel (using the 473's shelving EQ) heightened the tracks' sizzle and snap.

I also used the 473's high- and low-shelving EQ to fatten up and sweeten previously recorded DI'd electric guitar tracks routed to the 473's line inputs. The results were a huge improvement over the original sounds. The 473's EQ sounded smooth and warm and was very responsive.

Next, I got very good results using the 473's instrument input to record DI'd electric bass guitar. The instrument input has a 100k-ohm impedance (which is quite low for DI duties) and was wired in parallel and active simultaneously with the 473's mic input. Although the resulting bass guitar track had less clarity than what I normally get using DI inputs on most other gear, the track's bottom end was quite broad and the 473's subtly saturated sound made the overall timbre admirably fat. When I used a passive Kramer Pioneer bass, the 473 was capable of supplying 2 or 3 dB more gain than what was needed to hit 0 dBFS on a Rosetta A/D calibrated to maximum sensitivity.

Recording my '62 Strat through a Roland Micro Cube amp and using a Royer R-122 ribbon mic and the 473 (EQ bypassed), the sound was perfect: smooth, round, focused and possessing just the right amount of crunchy detail for rock tracks without sounding glassy.

Overall, the Vintech 473 provided an outstanding 4-channel solution for tracking and mixing, providing great-sounding preamps and EQ, flexible I/O, intuitive controls layout and beautiful cosmetics in a moderately priced package.

Vintech Audio, 877/4-MICPRE, www.vintech-audio.com.


Mix contributing editor Michael Cooper is the owner of Michael Cooper Recording in beautiful Sisters, Ore.

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