Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5032 - Outstanding value in a Mic Pre/EQ


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The Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5032 is a compact, half rack width, single channel Mic Pre/EQ module. It includes a full-featured microphone preamp that is identical to the RND 5012, but with the addition of a flexible 3 band Equalizer in place of a second mic pre. The EQ component is complete with both a high and low frequency shelving curve as well as a parametric mid band that covers a range of 80Hz-8kHz. The Mic Pre section has selectable mic or line inputs with both paths having full access to the EQ, Silk and a very nice High Pass Filter. Rupert Neve's lifetime of scientific sound explorations and experimentation is very evident in this little box and has thus produced a remarkable piece of modern audio gear. The RND 5032 is a very versatile unit considering its small 1/2 rack size and would be a valuable addition to any larger mixing system or for use in standalone situations. The 5032, like most of the Portico series, is available for purchase in both a vertical or horizontal format.

What's good:

Dollar for dollar, this Mic Pre/EQ is incredibly versatile and it delivers Neve's intelligently designed sound at a very reasonable price. Generally speaking, Rupert Neve's Portico line offers a sound that in some ways improves on his older designs. In comparing The Portico 5032 to the Neve 1073 Mic Pre/Eq many users claim that the more modern 5032 has its own unique sound that has slightly more clarity and presence than its older counterpart and I would agree.

The EQ section has its own independent transformer coupled line level input so engaging the EQ with flat settings does make an audible and sometimes desirable effect on the signal. It imparts a slight but certainly noticeable fullness and spaciousness to the sound that has more life or energy in it than when disengaged. When I first began to adjust the EQ settings I was immediately impressed with how rubbery, flexible and natural the response was. The source doesn't become thin or harsh when you really unnaturally boost the highs. Nor does it become overly dull and murky when unnaturally boosting the lows. Amazing to hear! When dialing in the more usual subtle type of EQ settings I was immediately enamored with how this little unit really tightened up the signal in a beautiful rubbery way.

When using the premp for makeup gain on the mix bus after analog summing, the separate elements in the mix seemed to have more individual clarity and separation to them, while at the same time, making the whole mix sound like a complete and cohesive whole. Engaging the silk function, the source became slightly smoother and almost glassy, in a slightly smeared sort of way. I can see how this function would be useful for calming down sources that are too edgy or textured.

The Portico 5032 also includes a very useful continuously variable 12 dB/octave high pass filter. With a selectable range of between 20 and 250 Hz, you can easily and completely attenuate any offending low frequencies in your signal sources without at all effecting any of the the upper frequencies above the selectable range.

What's not quite as good:

There are a couple of things that in my opinion Rupert Neve Designs could have improved on. The version that I own is the older, original faceplate design (not the version pictured above). Style aesthetics aside, there are very few hash marks on the faceplate itself, making frequency adjustment and recall a slow process. This is also true when attempting to match two 5032's modules for stereo signal processing. You can improve this problem by upgrading to the current faceplate design (pictured above) by ordering a conversion kit offered by RND for roughly $100USD each.

It might have been a positive upgrade to have used stepped pots for easier recall and stereo matching, providing the steps themselves were quite fine. Obviously if the steps were too large, this would not be an advantage as the 5032 EQ in particular is quite responsive to subtle adjustments. Finely stepped pots would still allow the 5032 to excel when micro adjusting in order to find the sweet spot for each specific signal's needs, that setting where the harmonics line-up and the source seems to really come alive.

One other minor complaint is that the Portico Series Half Rack Joining Kit and the Horizontal Joining Kit are quite expensive and seem overpriced for what they are.

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