Review: BAE 1066DL Mic Pre for 500 Series

BAE’s 1073/1066 re-creations are still the fattest and most authentic of all modern choices I’ve tried, bar none.
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For the sake of modern brevity, let’s paint this complex subject with fast and concise strokes: The Neve 1073 mic amp/EQ is an all-time favorite design for its flattering response applied to vocals, drums, horns and guitars; this is nearly an industry-wide consensus. Seemingly all 1073s (including most knock-offs) sound good, and I must note that BAE Audio’s faithful recreations lead the pack due to their choice of traditional St. Ives/Carnhill transformers, at least in my estimation.

Neve’s classic 1066 shares the same mic and line amps as the 1073, but offers expanded EQ frequency choices, as does the BAE recreation. The 1066DL is a triple-wide 500 Series single-channel unit with a complete set of variables: mic or line sensitivity, quarter-inch front panel DI, variable HPF, impedance choices, three bands of EQ and the requisite output trim (for that all-too-familiar driving the front end and braking/attenuating the back end).

What’s really the difference between a 1073 and 1066? It’s more high-shelf choices and different mid-band selections for the 1066, making it reportedly more suitable for guitars—true, but not the entire picture.

I worked the 1066DL into my Aphex 500 Series rack right next to my BAE 73MPL 500 Series 1073 mic amp and continued business as usual; that is, week-in/week-out tracking bands with 1073s on crucial channels. I typically employ them on kick and snare, or maybe a pair of bass DIs, or via SM57 and a LDC (or a ribbon) on electric guitars. There were no surprises here with big drum sounds or “no need to EQ me” basses and guitars that are felt in your belly. For what it’s worth, the 1066DL did a fine job with clean-up work, too—adding final layers of non-crucial overdubs like tambo, cajón, handclaps, acoustic guitars and other odds and ends—even if the unit is primarily known for big and fat sounds. In numerous exacting and direct comparisons, I repeatedly could not tell a difference between the 73MPL and 1066DL; they were either identical or, at times, I found slightly more thickness with the 73MPL.

Having the impedance selection up front? (sadly, it’s on the rear of my early production-run 73MPL) proved to be golden. As much as I love 300 ohms of impedance to loosen up SM57s and reach down to my ankles on kick drum, the 1200 ohm setting can be a little more euphonic and deserves a listen with most any input source. My only complaint is that the 1066DL doesn’t have any power indicator or backlight behind the switches, making quick visual verifications impossible. The 73MPL has lit switches and that is indeed useful.

I saved my quirky left-field observations for last. I’m not delighted with the EQ. Don’t get me wrong; it sounds great, offering a proper legend and firm, sturdy controls. The additional four high frequency shelf choices are welcomed, too, even if I don’t actually use them when tracking all that much. Furthermore, the mid-band choices do indeed help with sculpting guitars. But the problem is, in the 1066DL, we’ve exchanged finer choice detail in the true-mids and lost control of the low-mids. I miss having 360 Hz to “notch out the box” and would give my right arm for choices at 160 Hz and 220 Hz where I could carve out a little waistline on some full-figured bodies as created by the 1066’s typically-voluptuous nature.

BAE’s 1073/1066 re-creations are still the fattest and most authentic of all modern choices I’ve tried, bar none. If you don’t EQ when tracking, the 73MPL is your best value at $950. Maybe you’re more into sculpting upper mids than lower ones? If so, the 1066DL is ideal at $2,200. But for me, I’d take the BAE1023L (at $2,400) with expanded top shelves and a plethora of mid-band choices. Just remember, my boost-happy colleagues—one good mid-notch is usually better than a top and bottom boost “smile”, especially with delicious 1073 sonics.

BAE Audio
http://www.baeaudio.com