Golden Age preamp Mod

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Golden Age Preamp Mod

Since the Golden Age preamp came out in late 2007 there has been a huge amounty of activity on the forums discussing various mods that might be carried out to the stock unit to bring it right up to spec with an original Neve 1073. Gearslutz The Womb

It's generally agreed that GA have made a fantastic job of recreating the original circuitry but obviously with a retail of £220 there had to be some corners cut somewhere. There are a number of different threads out there but the general consensus is that the biggest improvements can be made by replacing the stock chinese mic transformer with a quality Neve/St Ives style unit. In the UK, Carnhill produce the VTB 9045 transformer for around £45 with vat and carriage and it's really about the best you can get; it's what AMS Neve use in their Neve clones so we figured it would be a good starting point. The only other difference we noticed right off was that the GA73 used electrolytic coupling capacitors where Neve used tantalums. The tantalums are a little more accurate and generally considered more “HiFi” than electrolytic capacitors and with the capacitors and the transformer coming in at around £55 in parts we figured it had to be worth a go!

First Thoughts

The Golden Age preamp is very easy to take apart to work on but it was immediately obvious that there was going to be a big problem replacing the chinese transformer with the Carnhill which is much bigger and has a different pin configuration. Added to this the Stock transformer is a pig to get out as the pins go through the board and it's really tough to melt the solder. We got a bit scared about cracking the board but eventually sussed how to do it using two soldering irons..................


After some beard scratching we finally decided to drill two holes in the side of the pre -73 case and mount the Carnill on its side using its two fixing screws

We then connected the correct pins to the points on the board using short lengths of colour coded wire and replaced the original capacitors with the tantalums

Finally we replaced the knobs with our favourite chunky retro knobs and stuck on the Carnhill Stickers.

So I guess now you are thinking "what did it actually sound like"?

We tried the modded pre 73s in the studio on a number of different sources and our initial reaction just reinforced the fact that the stock pre 73 out of the box was just a fanatstic piece of kit for the money: We could hear an increased air at the top end particularly on bright sources like the acoustic guitar but we pretty much agreed that 99% of project studio owners simply wouldnt be able to hear any difference on a vocal recording. Further tests on drums reinforced our initial observations but we are a busy commercial studio and with so much work on at the moment it was hard for us to spend a lot of time setting up sessions to compare the pres. However we do know a man who has probably the best set of ears in the business and who lives not to far from us. Producer/ performer John Parr has worked at the highest levels of the music business with international artists like Meatloaf, Bryan Adams and tina Turner and is an old friend. John is just completing his fantastic new state of the art studio " Somewhere in Yorkshire" and has equipped it with the best gear that anyone can buy at the moment so he was pretty interested to try out our modded pre-73

Somewhere in Yorkshire: April 2010

For the sake of these test we will rely on all factual, technical and description data being a given.
NB: This test was only to make a direct
comparison against the Neve 1073
The first test I carried out was on my vocal with 3 of my favourite mics which I know well: Neumann 87i, a Brauner VM1 and a Marshall MXR.  I have a number of mic pres but the obvious comparison to make was with and original Neve 1073 which made it quite an easy test.
 Basically all 3 mic’s displayed their natural character sound through  both the GA73 and the Neve 1073 with no obvious  differences. However I felt that the Neve was somehow better - it just had a little bit  more bottom and overall size on all 3 mic’s. That being said the GA was certainly surprising and  at £250 against the Neves £1800 it really is a great unit for the price and punched well above its weight. Ultimately I suspect if you didn’t have the Neve to measure it against you would be 100% satisfied with the Golden Age
Two mic’s were used in this test – The Brauner VM1 and the Neumann 87i and again the comparison Pre amp was the Neve 1073. For me this really  is the acid test – a nice grand piano is a large beast to capture both from a mic and pre amp perspective. Once again the GA stood its ground well and  we are talking maybe only 15% smaller in size and roundness than the actual Neve.
I’ll cut to the chase here. I can hear the difference. It’s not subjective – there certainly is one. For me the Carnhill and the odd couple of replaced capacitors bring the GC slightly closer to the Neve – How close…? Maybe another 5% nearer than the un-modded GA Pre-73 but ultimately for the money both the stock unit or the modded version  are a no brainer – It’s a pro mic pre for semi pro money.
I would add that all these tests were done with settings mirroring the Neve settings – however the GC offers an interesting extra feature allowing you to overdrive the transformer – thus offering massive or minimal color. As the actual Neve 1073 does not have this feature we did not explore this fully.

John Parr






Microphones and recording 2012. Golden Age preamp Mod