Rupert Neve (left) and Billy Stull with Legendary Audio’s new Masterpiece analog mastering system.
Legendary Audio (AES booth #209) announces the worldwide launch of its aptly-named Masterpiece analog mastering system at the upcoming AES Convention. Conceived by veteran mastering engineer Billy Stull, with all circuitry designed by audio legend Rupert Neve, the Masterpiece is a comprehensive, unique analog mastering processor now available from Legendary Audio.
Nearly three years in the making, the product is a 6U frame equipped with eight vertically oriented filter modules reminiscent of vintage Neve designs. In the Masterpiece’s standard configuration, these modules comprise four stereo pairs collectively offering a wide palette of sonic amenities, including precision peak and shelving equalizers, a full-featured dynamics section, highly authentic tape texture (thanks to a real tape drive circuit), incremental phase rotation and various classic audio functions.
Although many of the modules’ topologies are based upon older designs, every circuit was meticulously updated to attain the highest modern specifications. “By reworking the ICs, transformers and such we’ve really coaxed a lovely sound out of this box,” says Neve. “In many respects, the Masterpiece reminds me of the famous consoles I made for George Martin in the late ’70s, and I’m very pleased with the pristine audio quality we’ve managed to achieve with it.”
The right side of the Masterpiece’s chassis is home to the processor’s master section, which boasts an extremely innovative new feature known as image control. Neve explains that, “Image control is quite remarkable in that it can be used to increase or decrease the width of the stereo sound image, enhance or reduce the level of natural ambience inherent in a recording and even alter the placement of elements on the sound stage, such as dramatically moving instruments from one position in the stereo field to another or sending vocals forward, backward or completely out of the mix. It’s rather stunning. Once engineers have had the opportunity to experiment with this feature, they’ll very likely never want to switch it off!”
Both Neve and Stull view this product as a particularly ideal solution for breathing more life into projects that have been recorded in home studio setups. “Seeing that the price of digital recording gear has come down to the point where many engineers and musicians are now doing their own sessions at home, the quality of these recordings can sometimes be less than competitive,” Stull notes. “However, the Masterpiece provides an arsenal of tools that is very effective in enhancing, restructuring and repairing those types of recordings. In the right hands, this product can make even relatively lackluster stereo tracks sound like they were recorded in a world-class studio. And, of course, it can do some equally amazing things to projects recorded on half-million dollar desks as well.”
Sets of highpass, bandpass and lowpass filters can be inserted in the path of each circuit block except the EQ sections, allowing fine adjustments to be made in any part of the high, mid or low bands or across the full frequency spectrum. “This is another unique feature and allows you to do some things that can’t yet be done in a recording studio environment,” says Stull. “For example, you can choose to fatten up only the bottom end of a song with a classic tape saturation, spot in compressors on just the midrange if vocals are a problem, and so on. Auxiliary inputs even allow you to insert another piece of equipment, such as a favorite compressor, into the system and similarly use it on any part, or all, of the three bands.”
Stull sums up his impressions by adding, “The Masterpiece can make recordings sound so clean, and yet offer so many different ways to color audio. This product truly provides mastering facilities, audio restoration houses and other professional users with more possibilities to extract just the right sound from a recording than ever before possible.”
Limited quantities of the Masterpiece will be available shortly following AES and may be purchased directly from the manufacturer for $19,000.
For more information, please go to www.legendaryaudio.com.