History and a look inside a vintage Neve 1066
See what our friend James Rowell has to say about the 1066...
My name is James Rowell, I am an Audio Systems Technician specializing in Neve equipment service and restoration. I must start by thanking the limitless efforts of Geoff Tanner, former head of the Neve Electrical Drafting Office and Special Orders / Spares Manager at Neve during the classic 70’s period. Mr. Tanner has been very generous with information about vintage Neve equipment on his Aurora Audio website and many forum posts. He is the world expert and invaluable to the Neve community to keeping these classic modules and consoles going. Thank you as well to Blake Devitt, the foremost active vintage Neve technician, based out of the U.K. for all of his help over the years. Thanks so much to Ben Kroeger for handing over the Analog Classics blog.
I am not going to get into Neve company or product history as Mr. Tanner is the authority and has graciously detailed it extensively. But stay to what I focus on as a technician in modules and consoles we service, design elements, sonics, maximizing and maintaining performance. Today I am going to talk about vintage Neve Mic Pre / EQ modules, which Neve referred to as channel amplifiers, specifically the 1066, an undeservedly less well-known brother to the 1073. I will also touch on some common issues and things to watch for when purchasing and racking vintage Neve modules.
This particular channel amplifier is a 1066, with the earlier less common round plug in Marinair 10468 microphone input transformer. These transformers have a uniquely broad and big sound, with a little less apparent top end, than the later rectangular Marinair or St. Ives 10468’s. They sound great on kick drum, bass, and a slightly different flavor on vocals.
Chronologically the 1066 came out prior to the more widely known 1073. The round can 10468 predated the rectangular version, placing this all original module around 1970 production. The 1066 is often described as being a 1073 with a 10kHz high shelf, instead of the 12kHz of the 1073. There is more to it than that.
The HPF frequencies are different; 45Hz, 70Hz, 160Hz and 360Hz compared to 50Hz, 80Hz, 160Hz and 300Hz on a 1073. The bass is nearly the same at 35hz, 60Hz, 100Hz, 220Hz, with 110Hz for the 1073. The midrange frequencies are significantly different; 700Hz, 1.2k, 2.4k, 3.6k, 7k vs. 360Hz, 700Hz, 1.6k, 3.2k, 4.8k, 7.2k on the 1073. The midrange bell curve has a different shape and response overall as boost or cut is increased, giving a change in feel compared to a 1073. 1066’s are unfairly lesser-known as all the rest of the module, mic and line preamp and output stage are identical to the 1073. 1066’s are a hidden secret of producer / engineers and excel on guitars and vocals for a different and often better Neve flavor than a 1073. They are great on overheads too. During mix the differing EQ points provide a nice complement to the 1073.
There are several common issues to watch when Neve channel amps are considered for purchase and racked. Clean condition modules are always best. Originality of electrolytic capacitors is not key, as long as any previous replacement work was done to original Neve factory standards. Not in a hurry, risking torn up board traces on collectible equipment. Original electrolytic capacitors are fine as it means the module likely hasn’t been touched post Neve factory.
The electrolytic capacitors were considered a design wear item and had an expected lifespan of 10 to 25 years. It is a tribute to the design, materials used and care in manufacturing from the raw components through the finished module that many modules still perform to factory specification. For reliability and continued factory performance, any Neve module with electrolytic capacitors older than 10 years should be changed with very high-quality parts by an experienced vintage Neve technician. At some point, the capacitors will degrade so much that the module will not work correctly. Penalties to tone and performance happen well before then, but can be difficult to pick out without reference to a freshly recapped module.
Racking the modules is fairly straightforward as vintage Neve console channel amps were one of the few designs with a complete transformer balanced output stage and fader (output level control) insert prior to the output stage built into the module. Many console designs of the era placed the balanced output in the console frame or relied on the bus outputs. Power supply, supply wiring, and distribution and rack grounding can be a common issue with Neve equipment. This manifests as excess hum, RF interference, or oscillation at higher mic gain settings.
One Neve racking pitfall that shows up often is incorrect values for the output level controls. This alters the loading on the EQ passive filter output and causes incorrect EQ high pass filter response and a level shift between EQ In and Out settings. This issue is made worse by the internal fader send load resistor in the module. This resistor must be in place for use in consoles and lifted for use in racks with output level controls as it also alters the EQ filter output loading.
A more prevalent issue is based on some poor advice that has been widely circulated. The Class A output modules utilizing the gapped core LO1166 output transformer all have a bias adjustment for the single-ended output stage. This was set up under specific conditions at the Neve factory, and merely ‘observing the output while adjusting bias for even clipping’ is not the complete procedure and leaves the module biased incorrectly. This really affects the tone and sweetness of the sound at normal operating levels.
All taken together it gets ‘techy’ quickly and a good idea to have your modules and racks checked by an experienced Neve service technician. There are very few that know the original unwritten Neve factory bias procedure. The poor information on biasing is so prevalent that 75% of original modules we get in for servicing are set incorrectly too.
With the initial cost and collectible value of these modules today it makes good sense to protect the investment by having the modules and racks tested and any issues found corrected. It is worth ensuring the wonderful and always musical Neve sound is maintained and preserved. After all, we are using this equipment to maintain and preserve artist recordings.
Learn more about James and his work HERE.