Neve 88D gives sound quality

The latest in a long line of digital consoles coming out of the AMS Neve stable, the 88D is in direct competition with the SSL C range of consoles. Dubai-based sound engineer, John McGregor, gives us the lowdown on the music production console.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  December 2, 2006

I|~||~||~|The latest in a long line of digital consoles coming out of the Neve stable, the 88D is placed in direct competition with the SSL C range of consoles. Being an analogue person myself, and an SSL fan, I have to admit that I was a bit wary of this console when I first got the chance to start working with it. All the external equipment required just to get this console up and working was worrying because if one link in the chain went down, there would be serious problems. But I must admit setting this desk up was easier than I thought. We had to get all of the connections in the right place — this being my first time with MADI connections — and make sure everything was talking to each other properly, but after this was all correctly wired, the desk made life very easy and intuitive to work with. Being a digital console, it has no hardwired settings. A user has complete freedom to set the desk up in any fashion they want. The desk itself is set up from the Encore interface, which runs from the main computer. Inside encore, one can have all their desk settings available to them. There is not one major function that is unavailable within Encore. One important function is the Desk Editor. Desk Editor is where you can set up all your channels, tracks, auxes, groups and cues to your exact liking. For example, setting up my channels on my mix down desk setup. Within Desk Editor, I have options for what type of Dynamics, EQs and filters I would like to place on my channel. To give you an idea of what we have available, on my channels I was running: • 1 Compressor • 1 Gate • 1 4-Band EQ • Hi & Low Filters • 1 insert All of this over all 24 channels, and it only takes five minutes to set up. Create one channel and copy and paste all the settings to all the other channels. It couldn’t get easier. More options available to a user but the best way to learn is to play around with it. You are only limited by the I/O available to you. With regards to I/O, on the 88D it is easy and simple to do once you know what is what. If you haven’t used MADI before, it is going to be a small challenge to get your head around this format. But once you have it figured out, it isn’t so hard. With the option of being able to individually name all of your routing, things get easier. For detailed specs of the 88D, visit www.ams-neve.com. Here, I will speak more about how it sounds. Despite loving SSL sound all along, I must admit that Neve users were right about ‘Neve sound’ being fantastic. This desk with the combination of the Neve 1073DPD pre-amps is an amazing console. Neve is renowned for ‘adding’ to the sound of your mix. The clarity and warmth that a user gets from the whole combination is amazing. I can’t quite put my finger on it just yet, but whatever you record comes out of the speaker sounding warmer, fuller and smoother. Like the pre-amps, the dynamics & EQs on the desk are also amazing. This really surprised me, digital emulations of classic Neve architecture, hmmm! I have used DAWs for years now, so I have played with lots of ‘plug-ins’, butt the hardware emulators never overly convinced me. They were still missing something that made the original special. Although they were amazing plug-ins, they never really lived up to the original sound. The processors on the 88D would really need to shine if they were going to pass the test. EQs With options of up to six band fully parametric EQs and filters, there is a lot of power to alter the tonal quality of the sound. I have to admit that I am very sparing in the use of my EQs, as I prefer to get the right sound through correct positioning of my microphones. That being said, the EQs on the 88D have performed excellently. The sonic control that they afford you is amazing; as you would expect from a digital EQ, complete reach on all bands over the frequency spectrum. The EQ is not unrealistically tight, but neither is it too wide. Selection of the type of filter one wants to use is simple with all options available on the desk at the turn of a knob. Sonically they sound great, I can’t tell yet if it is the pre-amps that are adding all of that warmth or if the EQs are making a contribution, but I do know that even with minor equalizing, the instruments were sounding fuller and warmer, with excellent frequency seperation. DYNAMICS As you would expect from a product of this quality, the dynamics are very responsive and extremely powerful. The compressors alone stand out, with awesome sonic quality. The compressors on the 88D are guaranteed to tame even the most wayward of signals with ease. The gates are solid and make it easy to remove as much spill or other unwanted signals as you need. The only processor that I haven’t tried as of yet is the ‘Look ahead compressor’. But as soon as I get some vocals to start playing with, I am going to slap it on and see what happens. In the past, I liked the SSL sound as it gave me a clean sound – just what I recorded. In fact, I had never really liked Neve before as their sonic characteristics were not to my taste. However, having tried one now and seeing what warmth and depth it can add to your sound, I am very pleased with the immense potential of such a console. My concerns about the console being digital, and therefore, being too complicated to set up and operate, were unfounded. This desk acts and feels like an analogue console when it is most needed, but gives you the limitless configuration setups that only digital can offer. This is indeed an outstanding console. ||**||

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