Rupert Neve Debuts New Shelford Series
A long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away, eh, well, a converted rectory in Little Shelford, England, Mr. Rupert Neve crafted a series of preamplifier and EQ designs that revolutionized the sound of recorded music. Now residing in Wimberley, Texas, Rupert and his team of engineers have painstakingly combined the very best of these classics with contemporary concepts and components to create the high-voltage Shelford Series of modules.
The heart of the Shelford Series lies within their class-A, discrete, +/- 24V topologies, built around custom-wound transformers and inductors. Rupert carefully engineered these topologies to emulate the renowned 80 Series channel modules crafted during his time in Shelford (1073, 1064, 1081, etc.), and the resulting Shelford Series designs capture the power and soul of his classics, without the compromises of the past.
The EQ section is particularly inspired by Rupert’s previous works, featuring a 3-Band EQ based on the highlights of the classic modules. The low frequency band is primarily based on the 1064, which is renowned for its creamy, resonant bass. Unlike the 1064 however, the LF band can be used as either a shelf or a peak filter, adding punch, dimension, and immense control to your low end. The Shelford EQ’s inductor midrange band is based on Rupert’s prized 1073 EQ, which is ideal for sweetening vocals and instruments while bringing them forward in a mix. The 5052’s high frequency band is a hybrid vintage / modern design, blending inductor circuitry from the 1073 with capacitor-based topologies to deliver vintage tones with enhanced control.
Aside from being the high-voltage preamplifier and processing complements to the 5088 console, the 5051 and 5052 may also be fitted into any of three available vertical racks for stand-alone use: new 2-way and 4-way vertical stand-alone racks, and the 9-way vertical rack, which fits within a standard 6U, 19? rack. The modules require +/- 24V on 4-pin connectors from our external DC power supplies . There are currently two options available: the RND 5-way brick supply, and the RND 25-way 2U rack-mount supply.
The EQ design on the 5051 evokes sonic similarities with some of Rupert’s classic EQs. The 5051 uses a custom tapped inductor with selected capacitors to form the mid range equalizer band, and the shelf curves are based on Rupert’s vintage modules, including very similar frequency choices. Each EQ section also uses low feedback class-A discrete electronics to prevent low level artifacts and harshness from detracting from the tonal shaping. The EQ, however, is a modern design with advantages offered by techniques that were not possible 35 years ago along with improvements in electronic components currently available, and should not be considered a clone. Let’s just say it has heritage.
Both the High and Low Band can be switched from Shelf to Peak curves and offer 15 dB of boost or cut. The High can be switched from 8 kHz to 16 kHz and the Low Band selected at 35 Hz, 60 Hz, 100 Hz or 220 Hz. The inductor based Mid Band offers 6 center frequencies; 200 Hz, 350 Hz, 700 Hz, 1.5 kHz, 3 kHz and 6 kHz. The Mid Band also has a High Peak switch to narrow the bandwidth or increase the Q of the filter. The 5051 includes an 18 dB/octave High Pass Filter with two corner frequencies on a lit button that toggles through “OFF, 60 Hz then 120 Hz indicated by a blue or red LED respectively.
Additionally, the EQ can be switched Pre or Post the compressor. Normally the EQ precedes the compressor but the order can be selected so that the EQ follows after the Compressor. The 5051 also has two XLR balanced inputs that can be switched from the front panel. This allows the user, for example, to have a mic preamplifier and line input from a DAW to be pre-patched and easily selectable.
The 5051 Compressor also features a discrete class A signal path proven used in the Portico Series, withindividually controllable threshold, attack, release, makeup gain, ratio, side chain HPF, Feed-Forward / Feed-back selection and Peak/RMS detection modes. With the compressor inactive, the 5051 may be used as a transformer-coupled, high-performance line amplifier, and two 5051?s may be linked for stereo operation as well.
In order to control gain, a V.C.A. or Voltage Controlled Amplifier (or Attenuator) is used. There are many types of V.C. including the use of tubes, discrete and integrated solid state circuits and naturally non-linear devices, each one having its characteristic behavior that reflects sonically on the final performance, and gives it a character or signature that can be musically attractive or not! The Portico 5051 compressor makes use of a very accurate, low noise, low distortion V.C.A. having, essentially, no signature of its own.
A part of the audio signal is rectified and smoothed to produce a suitable control voltage for the V.C.A. which has to respond very quickly and have low distortion. If the response is too fast, low frequency signals will themselves, be gain controlled! If the response is too slow, the signal will overshoot and the first few cycles will not get compressed. The speed and accuracy of the response, known as the “attack”, and the time frame that gain remains under the initial control, known as “release” or “recovery” and plays a large part in the way a compressor sounds.
The 5051 also has the ability to switch between feed-forward and feed-back modes. If the V.C.A. Control voltage is taken from the 5051 output, (i.e. after the V.C.A.) it cannot act immediately on the V.C.A. because it has already been modified by settings of the V.C.A. and circuits through which it has passed. This is known as a “Feed-Back” compressor. The two compression characteristics are quite different; there is more “Overshoot” and both the attack and recovery ramps are changed, providing the user with powerful choices.
In most of Mr. Rupert Neve earliest designs, feed-back detection controlling the VCA with a rectified voltage from the unit output was intrinsic to the musical dynamic response. However, the very nature of a feedback compressor limits the attack time of the compression circuit. To offer faster, more technically accurate response times, feed-forward detection was implemented on Mr. Rupert Neve’s more modern designs. With the FF / FB switch, both classic and modern VCA responses are available.
The Shelford 5052 echoes the simple and definitive 1073 feature set with a vertically-oriented mic pre, high pass filter, and 3-band inductor EQ, while also incorporating modern capabilities like the variable Silk / Texture control from the Portico II Series and simultaneous pre / post “tape” operation. Utilizing class-A, discrete, +/- 24V topologies with custom-wound transformers and inductors, Rupert Neve designed the 5052 as a vintage-style channel strip that captures the soul of his classic designs, without the previous compromises.
The 3-band, custom-tapped inductor EQ on the 5052 was inspired by RND’s favorite portions of Rupert’s vintage EQ designs. The low frequency band is primarily based on the 1064, which is renowned for its creamy, resonant bass. Unlike the 1064 however, the LF band on the 5052 can be used as either a shelf or a peak filter, adding punch, dimension, and immense control to your low end. The 5052’s inductor midrange band is based on his prized 1073 EQ, which is ideal for sweetening vocals and instruments while bringing them forward in a mix. Additionally, the mid frequency band’s proportional “Q” response makes it well-suited for minimizing problematic frequencies in a source. The 5052’s high frequency band is a hybrid vintage / modern design, blending inductor circuitry from the 1073 with capacitor-based topologies to achieve the vintage tones with enhanced control. As Rupert originally intended with his most prized classic designs, each EQ section uses low-feedback, class-A discrete electronics to prevent low-level artifacts and harshness from detracting from the tonal shaping. The EQ circuit itself, however, is a decidedly modern updated design using techniques and components that were simply not available 35 years ago.
Following the preamplifier, the 5052 has a transformer-coupled output, which allows the 5052 to feed a tape machine or DAW directly from the mic pre while still using the EQ and Silk / Texture in a dedicated analogue mix path such as that found with a 5088, 5060 or vintage console. This output can also be used to insert a separate compressor between the mic pre and the EQ, or it can allow the 5052 to work with two separate sources. When the “TO EQ” button is engaged, the mic pre signal is routed directly into the EQ such that the mic / line input signal flows through to the main output as a single channel strip.