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Vintage Audio Projects’ quest to futureproof gear

The team behind Vintage Audio Projects have looked at original construction from 1970s kit and spent a lot of time recreating it. The product quality has become an industry secret that the company is keen to get out there

Some four years ago, Gerhard ‘Gerry’ Oostvogels, owner of Rockstar Recordings studio, decided to invest time, research and engineering in the construction of vintage studio gear. From that decision, Vintage Audio Projects evolved.

“The idea came because I wanted to add Neve 1073 vintage pre-amps to complete my studio build around an SSL 4000 G+ console,” Oostvogels says. “Neve pre-amps offer perfect quality but come quite expensive … I noticed the same feeling with one of our engineers, who had invested in Chandler Limited pre-amps and wanted extra Neve gear.”

Oostvogels teamed up with Jurgen Michiels, a young expert in valve and audio electronics – the initial plan was to build pre-amps for Rockstar Recordings. Michiels did research in original construction schemes of ‘70s Neve vintage equipment and started the development of printed circuit boards for pre-amps.

“The next step was key,” continues Oostvogels. “We put together a few prototypes and submitted them to critical users, like studio engineers and clients of our recording studio. The reactions were unanimously positive, so we decided to carry on and build 50 pre-amps.”

Oostvogels explains that quality rather than price was crucial: he started ordering components like potentiometers, transformers and capacitors worldwide, like handmade Blore-Ed controls and Carnhill transformers as used in orginal Neve equipment.

Whereas the first Dual 1073EQ were built to fit Rockstar’s studio assignments, the pre-amp’s name and fame quickly spread – four units were shipped immediately after the first prototype was installed. “The big challenge was to get the components in time,” continues Oostvogels. “It took us almost one year to finish the next batch of 1073 EQ’s.”

One of the Dual 1073 EQ’s was supplied to studio and live musician Tom Lodewijckx, who used the pre-amp in combination with original Neve 500 modules. The live use of the pre-amp inspired Oostvogels and Michiels to develop channel strips for live and studio purposes: the single 1073 EQ and 1084 EQ and the dual 1084 EQ. “For 2017, we plan to build a channel strip of the 1084EQ in combination with a UA1176-based compressor,” adds Michiels.

Vintage Audio Project’s catalogue further comprises a DI for bass, the VAP12 and VAP28, both available as 2 channel U rack or as desktop version. Based on the API DI, the slightly modified DI box was demoed by several bass players. “One of them played a session at Brussels ICP who has now also ordered a dual VAP28d,” enthuses Oostvogels, adding that, at press time, some 3 DI’s were sold.

All of the pre-amps are built in self-manufactured 19” size aluminium housing, with front-panels designed by German manufacturer Schaeffer. Oostvogels says the retail price is determined by the components and handcrafted nature of manufacturing. “The big challenge is to make the industry aware of the product quality – beyond the ‘believer’ network we already established. We eye users who want sustainable products, futureproof and failsafe for the next decades. With no compromises in terms of components and quality,” he says.

Comments studio engineer Peter Bulkens: “I decided to buy four 4 dual 1073EQ preamps after having compared the prototype with my Chandler LTD-1 during a vocal recording session. I shifted both preamps blindly and guess what – the 1073 came out as superior, with a much more powerful voice without any measurable volume level, which comes in handy with the ‘find peak function’ in Protools. I am also using the 1073EQ for in-the-box mixing with hardware inserts. The three colour led light is also a keen feature.”