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Review: Vintech 473 February 14, 2011

Posted by ConnorSmith in : Digital home recording studios, Mixing, Reviews , trackback

Note:  I wrote this article over a year ago, but never posted it at the time.  I’ve left the original review as is, but added a new section at the bottom, now that I’ve used the unit for a year filled with tracking and mixing.

The Vintech 473 offers 4 channels of Neve 1073-like preamp with shelving EQ in a 2 space rackmount unit.  It uses an external power supply (sold seperately) which can power up to 6 channels of Vintech preamps.

In Use:

Right after I got the unit, I got a chance to use it in a tracking session.

The external power supply has a good side and a bad side.  The good side is that the 473 stays fairly cool (temperature) even when running all 4 channels all day.  You can also power a few different units with one power supply.  The bad side is that its external and at this time, I can’t find a rackmount adapter for it.  It isn’t really a big deal, but carrying around extra cables and trying to find a case for it can be a tiny hump for the traveling engineer/producer.  I also wish it could power 8 channels (so I wouldn’t have to buy another if I get another 473…).  That all being said, I feel confident saying that I think the benefits outweigh the negatives.

First up, I used it on drums (specifically inside kick mic, snare drum top, and LR overheads).  The output attenuation pot was really nice to have on drums.  I could drive the preamp gain a little hotter (to get a taste of the transistor crunch), but could lower the output to prevent clipping the A/D. This was especially good on the close mics.  The shelving EQ was very convenient, and sounded great to boot.  I ended up dialing in a bit of 12k for the overheads, a bit of 60Hz for the kick, and adding some 3k to the snare.  A quick note – the unit is very easy to use.  That may seems like an odd comment, but it made the workflow very smooth.  The knobs are large, easy to grab, and are clearly labeled; the switches are large and take some effort to push (- a good thing!); things like this make me happy. 

I thought the preamps (and EQ) sounded fantastic.  The transients of the kick and snare sounded great (especially with the extra gain I gave to the input stage).  It worked well on overheads too.  Usually I prefer a tube preamp on overheads (due to the distortion qualities, transient response, etc…) but I thought the very-slightly overdriven 473 sounded great in this application.

Next I used the unit to track guitars.  I used two amps, mic’ing each off axis, one with an SM57 (with the transformer taken out) and the other with a FatHead II (stock tranny).   I ended up dialing 40-50 dB of gain and had no noise problems.  The 57 was plenty bright, but the ribbon would need some EQ.  A quick flick of the EQ switch, and I dialed in a fairly substantial boost at 3k.  It brought the track up to an appropriate level of brightness in the high end without becoming harsh.  While the 473 doesn’t have the EQ capabilities of the single channel strips from Vintech (or the original Neve’s for that matter), I find the shelves to be very convenient and great sounding.

After guitars, I used it on vocals (U87ai -> Vintech).  We actually started with the 87 through a UA 6176, and while that is another great unit (with tons of sonic options), we ended up liking the Vintech better on this particular application.  The Vintech had no tube color, which is what the song/singer was dictating.  The preamp performed just as how I would expect a 1073-like pre: very well.  I would feel comfortable using this as an everyday vocal preamp.  There are a lot of sonic options packed into this unit – the ability to drive the input hot and pull down the output, the EQ, etc…

A quick note in the middle here – the input impedance switch is another nice tool to have.  Switching from 300 up to 1200 Ohms did about what you’d expect (slightly more gain, slightly more present high frequencies).  Again, this is another sonic option the engineer has at his/her fingertips.  Convenience (as well as excellent quality) is really a theme on this unit.

For the pro studio, this is a great sounding unit at a great price.  4 channels of Neve preamps for around $3000 is a steal.  For the home or project studio, the 473 is a excellent choice for high quality front-end.  The preamps sound great, have plenty of (clean) gain for any mic, and the shelving EQ is excellent for tracking.  Additionally, the Hi-Z inputs on the front are great for tracking guitars, and the line inputs (and EQ) can give a great new color to in-the-box tracks.

// end of old review – start of new review

Well, it’s one year later, and I can say I’m just as thrilled with the unit.  I’ve done far less tracking this year as mixing, and the Vintech has shined.

The unit has held up well to my many travels.  I usually suit it up in a rack case and haul it all over the place.  I will still say that the external power supply is a bit of a hassle.  While I appreciate it’s merits in keeping the 473 cool and the power away from the audio, it is still hard to lug around in a separate box.  But – the hassle is worth it – the sound is awesome.

In mixing, I have it normalled out of my converters (to the line inputs) for inserts.  I use it on drums occasionally, but typically I throw my lead vocals and sometimes acoustic guitars through it.  Just driving a vocal through the line stage and adding a little EQ can bring it to the next level (anyone with a Neve console will probably tell you the exact same thing).  While the preamp sections are invaluable, it’s hard to ignore the awesomeness of having this unit for mixing.

As in my Avid Pro Tools Native HD+ HD I/O 16×16 analog review, let’s do the final breakdown:

Pros of the Vintech 473

Cons of the Vintech 473

Overall, I’m very happy with the unit after the first year… here’s to many more!

Connor

The Studio Files

Comments»

1. Rick - July 23, 2011

Great review. I’m going to give this one a whirl for my front end. I was fortunate enough to record guitars through a Neve 9098i before I really developed an ear, and even THEN I could hear the sonic amazingness.

2. Tony - June 26, 2012

Has anyone had any problems with the impedance and mic/line switches on the 473s? Our is about 6-7 years old and channels will cut out randomly and I’ll have to exercise switches to get signal back. Any suggestions on how to fix this problem?

3. William Jeong - October 9, 2012

Hi what will be the good compressor unit to use with Vintech 473


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