Rupert Neve Designs 542 and 511The Rupert Neve Designs 542 is a follow-up to the Portico 5042, offering ‘a remarkable simulation of classic tape sound’ through the inclusion of genuine tape drive circuitry and incorporating a number of new methods for adding ‘analogue colour’ to tracks and mixes.

The 542’s True Tape emulation circuit provides the rounding and compression typically achieved through the use of tape, and can offset the harshness often found in digital recordings. Unlike digital emulations, the True Tape drive circuit works by feeding a tiny magnetic ‘record head,’ which in turn is coupled to a correctly-equalised replay amplifier. As the voltage rises on the ‘record head,’ saturation increases and a soft-clip circuit engages at higher levels to round off peak transients. The sound of the tape circuit can be further modified with selectable 15ips and 30ips modes, providing a ‘saturation equalisation’ of sorts, and a pre/post-tape blend control. In addition to the tape circuit, the 542 includes the variable Silk/Texture circuitry found in the Portico II series of modules (with both Red and Blue modes), which allows fine-tuning of the harmonic ratio and tonality of the output transformer.

The nonlinear qualities of the True Tape head, Soft-Clip and Silk circuits can be combined and tuned by adjusting the saturation, blend and texture controls. These effects can improve their dynamic response. For example, a snare drum captured with a dynamic microphone that sounds ‘dead’ in the high-end could be run through the 542’s tape and Red Silk circuits to simultaneously thicken the low end and sweeten the high end. If the snare is overly dynamic, the saturation knob can push the signal into soft-clip mode, reducing transient spikes. Additionally, the blend control can be used to preserve the drum’s natural dynamics and transient content even with more extreme applications of soft-clip and saturation.

Similarly, using two 542s across a mix, the gain staging can be optimised such that the tape circuit provides extra intensity in the loudest sections before final compression and limiting. Using this technique can help retain a more dynamic feel, even after the dynamics have been reduced, as the instances with the most compression correspond to the instances that have more pleasant harmonic distortion provided by the True Tape circuitry.

With the addition of the 511 and 542 to the Portico 500 Series, which also includes the existing 517 Mic Pre/Compressor/DI and the 543 Mono Compressor, the 500 Series now has four versatile tone controllers and mic preamps. The list price of the Rupert Neve Designs 542 is US$895.


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