This is another fine product in the "Mercenary Edition" line, meaning that it's endorsed, used by and has passed the test of Fletcher and crew at Mercenary Audio. It's two channels of solid state preamps, with transformers going in and out, and is based on the electronics and sound of the classic Neve 1073 preamps. The usual features are here - gain knob with 5 dB steps, trim knob for output adjustment, Hi-Z input for instruments, phantom power and polarity switching. The "not always seen on pres" options are an impedance switch (for 1200 or 300 ohm), a loading switch which adds a 600 ohm resistor across the transformer's secondary at the output stage, and dual bar LED metering on the second amplifier and output stages. On the back are XLR ins and outs, along with a 1/4" insert jack to sneak an EQ or compressor in before the output, and a -10 dBv output for computer recording, zero latency issues. With classic Neve mic preamps, people first think of the meaty, full sound and the transformers that help achieve that sound. You get transformers in the 2NV, and you get that sound. I'll tell you, as soon as this mic pre visited my studio it took over on kick and snare duties for basic tracking. Yes, it has more "coloration" than an Avalon AD2022, and it has different midrange response than a Daking 52270, but I like what it does quite a bit. Setting levels and getting great sounds out of this pre is a breeze, especially with the dual metering. You can see exactly how hard the preamp is being hit and what the output level is too. I tried hitting it really hard with drums and reducing the output with super-cool, slightly distorted drum sounds as the result. Transients change their feel as you hit the input harder, plus it still sounds musical - a creative tool for sure. The only slight faults I had were that the output trim has no center position (though, as Dan Kennedy of Great River points out, you can order a bunch of center indent potentiometers and only half might be electronically centered) and since there wasn't a manual ready for this unit I still have no comprehension of the "loading" feature (for unbalanced output?). For $2495 (list) this is no novice's mic pre, and learning a bit about impedance and loading might be your duty when you buy one, but even a rank beginner could plug some mics into this and get better sounds than they did before. That's why it exists, and why you might need one.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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