The Rupert Neve Designs Portico ll ($3,249) is a 2U channel strip with mic/DI preamp, equalizer/de-esser and compressor sections. It has the familiar RND layout of functions and bulletproof build quality, with much of the internal signal path based on the Portico 5088 console, including ±36 volt power rails that allow higher gain levels and headroom.

The Portico ll has XLR inputs for both mic and line signals. These are a balanced TLA (Transformer Like Amplifier) design accepting a maximum +25 dBU input signal level. Based on the output stage of the 5088 console, the balanced and floating discrete Class-A output can deliver up to +25 dBU. TRS sockets allow Link and sidechain insert functions. There are also DI instrument In and Thru TRS sockets on the front of the unit. The mic pre section has two input gain controls, a 12-step rotary control, with 6 dB per step (0-66 dB) and a Trim control gives ±6 dB of continuous fine-tuning.

The Portico ll has a Bessel (most linear phase response), 20 Hz to 250 Hz HPF with a 12 dB/octave attenuation. There are switches to either place the filter in your signal chain after the preamp stage, or onto the compressor sections sidechain input.

The main fourband EQ section can be switched wholly in/out (pre or post the compressor) or in LF, LMF/HMF and HF sections. It can also be placed pre or post the compressor section. The HF and LF EQs have four fixed, stepped, frequency selections each, in shelf or peak mode. The two mid sections have swept frequency and Q controls. The HMF frequency selector is also used as a reference for the de-ess function.

The fabulous compressor on the Portico ll has a comprehensive set of controls and features; two are worthy of closer scrutiny. First, you get to switch between RMS level sensing mode (attack and release follow average signal level) and Peak mode (attack is a very fast 0.1ms). With this mode, in particular, you can then use the handy Blend rotary control to balance the original signal and the aggressively compressed signal as per parallel compression. Second, you get a button to switch between Feed Forward (FF) and Feed Back (FB) compressor modes. FB tends to be described as delivering a smooth sonic feel, where FF tends to be more aggressive, with a pumping feel.

Finally, we have a switch that selects either Silk or Silk+ modes, with an associated Texture rotary control that determines the amount of the sonic shaping introduced to the signal. Silk adds some subtle vintage distortion to the signal, with a focus on lower mids, while with Silk + introduces a “vintage Class-A console” circuit emulation with more high-mid presence.

The Portico ll is a wonderfully versatile box of tricks. The preamp alone is sonically very clean, with a subtly extended top end that gives a very pleasant presence. Beyond this, the array of options is almost daunting in its variety. At no point did I find myself wishing for a few more frequency options or a wider range of bandwidth control, for example. Every stage just oozes quality and attention to detail. This is, for me, the best I have heard in the Portico range of devices, and there are some very good pieces already there.

Rupert Neve Designs
rupertneve.com