Review of the Great River ME-1NV by TweakHeadz Lab
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Review of the Great River ME-1NV

Nice Pre-Amp for the serious Home Studio

 

 

Getting a good preamp is something that is not easy to do.  Along the way there are many stumbling blocks, things that get in your way before you finally get down to business and pay.  There must be a hundred reasons to not spend a lot of money on a preamp, a piece of gear that only does one thing, boost your microphone or instrument signal to line level.  Last year I counted up the number of mic preamps I had in my studio.  I was aghast to realize I had over 50 mic preamps, 46 of them on mixers, and that I used one or two of them on a regular basis.  How was I to justify getting a box that had "just one more"?  Especially one that had none of the features we are accustomed to getting. 

The ME-1NV falls into the "wire+gain" philosophy of preamp.  That is to say, there are no frills, no extra circuitry to run the sound through.  No EQ, compression, gate, scooper, de-esser, harmonic shifter, nothing.  There's no digital signal path, no s/pdif, ADAT, no big VU meters, just the basics.

It comes in a 1/2 rack 1 unit high case of thick metal.  A bit heavier than you'd expect and all the switches are solid.  The gain control is a stepped control, and you have a choice of settings in 5db increments from 5db to 60db.  The Output level knob is smooth and variable from -10 to +10db.  Fully pushed to the max there is 70db of gain which is plenty for any dynamic or condenser mic and probably for most ribbons as well.  In addition to the usual phantom power and polarity switches, there is a switch for "loading" and for "impedance".  These can give your mics a slightly different sound and response characteristic.  Where you set the output can also affect the sound.  You can push the gain up high and decrease the output level into minus territory for a more vintage sound, or lower the initial gain and boost the output for a more modern sound, according to the documentation.

There is also a HiZ input for electric guitars, basses, or whatever instrument level devices you wish to amplify.  Works great.  My guitars come through as clean as I could want, with a nice texture for mixing.

Subjective characteristics:  First test:  Acoustic guitar/Shure SM81. The first thing that I noticed in the first minute was the awesome sense of pressure coming from my recorded audio tracks.  It was a character that could be felt as well as heard.  Perhaps it is this sense of dynamics that lead people to say its a great pre for pop music.  Its got punch.  Second Test:  Vocals (mine) with an SM57 and then an RE20 by Electro voice.  The SM57 sounded so good I had to check to make sure I did not make some mistake and record into the wrong mic!  My first thought was heck, throw the rest of the mics away, this is all I need.  Until I tried the RE20, which was even better with plenty of high end but no harshness.  Oddly I found the RE20 to sound better than the Neumann TLM 103 with the ME-1NV, at least with my voice, yet the Neumann had all of its characteristic smoothness, now in greater relief. 

Though the ME-1NV is not regarded as one of the quietest preamps, to me, with my limited experience with high end preamps it was very quiet with a rich detailed sound.  While I can imagine a more "transparent" sound, and a more "neutral" sound, I'd have a hard time convincing myself that is what I really want.  So far it has been able to take everything i have thrown at it. 

Count me as a satisfied customer.  After all the years of messing around with lesser preamps and spending lots of cash on things that did not as profoundly affect recorded sound, I have to wonder why it took me so long. 

 


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