The recording-studio market is abundant with many mic-pre offerings under $1,000 that claim to "run with the big boys." And while some of the claims may be true, what if one of the real "big boys" made a microphone preamplifier available at a street price near $1,000. Welcome to the Great River Electronics ME-1NV.
With a list price of $1,395 and a street price in the neighborhood of $1075, the ME-1NV is a half-rack, single-channel desktop version of the Great River MP-2NV. The 2NV, which has become, according to many, the mic pre to envy is based on the classic Neve 1073 module. The big brother of the ME-1NV, the ME-2NV, began with conversations between Dan Kennedy of Great River Electronics and Fletcher of Mercenary Audio. The idea was to emulate the best characteristics of the Neve 1073, while taming the well-known looseness and mushiness of the original Neve 1073. The noisefloor of the 1073 does not sit well with many recordists operating digital recording systems. While the 1073 is well known for its "big" sound, characteristic of the iron in the transformer, it can sometimes get out of hand when stacked over many tracks of a recording.
Pulling the ME-1NV out of the box, it feels heavy and solid. The knobs, buttons and meters are all well laid out and we found the MP-1NV to be one of the most intuitive units we've tried. The gain-input knob is nice and large and feels good in the hand. Input is stepped up at 5dB increments from 5dB to 60dB, while the output level is fully variable from -25dB to +10dB. Working with the input and output together reveals a variety of tonal variations.
The front panel includes buttons for 48V phantom power, polarity reverse [for the XLR output], impedance selector between 300 ohms and 1200 ohm for the input load of the microphones and Hi-Z buffer and a loading switch, which controls the output termination relay between unloaded and a 600 ohm resistor.
The back panel includes a variable 110V or 220V power connector, XLR mic in, XLR line out, 1/4" TRS patch jack for inserting external devices such as a compressor, EQ, gate, etc. and also a -10 dBv unbalanced output.
We used the ME-1NV on a variety of sources with a variety of mics, amps and instruments and also alongside other preamps. On bass, the ME-1NV delivered a tight, well-defined tone while adding just enough "color" so as to make it reminiscent of vintage gear. On several vocal takes with different singers on different mics, the ME-1NV showed itself to be versatile and a "team player" as it seamlessly incorporated into the system and worked effortlessly and without an overbearing sonic personality.
As a direct box, the ME-1NV is excellent, giving all the texture and tone of vintage preamps while remaining tight and focused. The "iron" sound via the Hi-Z input is increased by an additional input transformer, which interestingly is preceded by a FET impedance converter. We tested the DI on bass, keyboards, drum machine and guitar run through a POD. The ME-1NV accurately focused the sounds in the soundfield while providing just enough character to give a colored "edge" to the sounds. The ME-1NV has balls!
Great River does have the RK-1 kit availabe to a rack single ME-1NV or EQ-1NV to mount the unit in a standard rack. The RK-2 kit can be used to rack a pair of ME-1NVs in a standard rack.
I highly recommend this new offering from Dan Kennedy and company to anyone who is wanting to get into the sound afforded by more expensive and vintage mic pres. To have something of this level of design, build and sonic quality near one thousand dollars has been a long time coming. We're glad the Great River ME-1NV is here.
More information about the ME-1NV can be found at Great River Electronics.