Rupert Neve Designs 542, is a follow-up to the acclaimed Portico 5042. As such, it delivers a remarkable simulation of classic tape sound through the inclusion of genuine tape drive circuitry while also incorporating a number of new methods for adding analogue color to individual tracks and mixes.
The 542’s “True Tape” emulation circuit provides the nostalgic rounding and compression typically achieved only 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-equalized replay amplifier. As the voltage rises on the “record head,” saturation increases, and a soft-clip circuit engages at higher levels to round off harsh peak transients. The sound of the tape circuit can be further modified with selectable 15 and 30 ipsmodes, providing a “saturation equalization” of sorts, and a pre/post-tape blend control. In addition to the tape circuit, the 542 also includes the variable Silk/Texture circuitry found in the Portico II series of modules (with both much-loved Red and Blue modes), which allows the engineer to fine-tune the harmonic ratio and tonality of the output transformer.
For engineers, the 542 is an intuitive and dynamic tonal control. The non-linear qualities of the “True Tape” head, Soft-Clip and Silk circuits can be combined and tuned by simply adjusting the saturation, blend and texture controls. These effects can help breathe new life into sterile tracks and enhance performances with their dynamic response. For example, a snare drum captured with a dynamic microphone that sounds anemic and “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, thus 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 optimized such that the tape circuit provides extra intensity and excitement 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.