Neve Portico 5045

Ok, before we get into it, let me first say a couple of things.

First, I love the name of this piece gear.   Maybe it just appeals to the nerd in me but “Primary Source Enhancer” is a cool name.

Second, this piece of gear is made by Rupert Neve Designs (also cool).

Even if you don’t know who Rupert Neve is, you have heard his work.  His is the first name in audio preamp and mixing consoles, and his creations are coveted by producers and engineers world wide.  This gear was used on some of the greatest recordings of all time.

All right, let’s get on with it:

The 5045 is a tool designed for vocal feedback reduction. I think the unit was designed especially for the spoken word, or at least it lends itself beautifully to that niché.  With this device you can greatly reduce unwanted background noise that bleeds into your microphone much like a conventional noise gate would, but the 5045 operates on a different principle.

The single space rack mount unit has 3 knobs for each of its two channels:  a threshold control, a depth control and a time constant.  The threshold decides at which point the process kicks in, the depth is the amount and the time constant determines how quick the PSE kicks in and releases the processing.  The rear of the unit has XLR inputs and outputs for each channel, a ground lift switch, power switch and jack for the 5045’s wall wart power supply.

So…it sounds easy enough to operate, but how well does it do its job?

After engaging the device and performing a few simple twists of the knobs, the 5045 PSE does in fact reduce unwanted noise and increases the intelligibility of the signal coming from the microphone. It simply sounds good and has the trademark warmth expected of a Neve device.

The literature for the 5045 claims a 20dB reduction of unwanted signals, and while being tested in the studio (though not being scientifically measured) this appears to be true. While the original signal’s integrity is suppose to remain intact, it does sound enhanced as the product’s name implies.

There is some definite voodoo in this box, and it is the good kind of voodoo. I really like what it does with my voice, again, warming the vocal’s tonality.

Yamaha announced this unit quite a while ago. And the initial application reports were all about sports.

Indeed, according to Yamaha, it is in use in a huge number of professional sports facilities across the nation. Typical uses include on a football referee's announce mic. Places where the ambient noise can easily swamp the primary source and where feedback is a constant concern.

At the same time as the original Yamaha press came out, I had had a conversation with SPL content dude Bill Evans about a certain soft-spoken pastor I work with who insisted on using a lav mic because he did not like the look of a headset and how I was constantly fighting to keep that mic channel from feeding back. He had the idea of getting the 5045 out and trying it in a house of worship setting.

At a recent house of worship gig, I used the 5045 PSE in a spoken word environment using the Pastor’s lapel mic. The signal from the PSE was loud and strong, and certainly more resistant to feeding back, as promised. I would venture to add that the sound of the tiny lapel mic was definitely more tonal-wise than it would have been without the 5045’s processing.

For those looking to get more out of their sound system and looking to goose the signal without feedback, this is the ticket.