Hey there Gear Mortals, today we are checking out the 1073MPA 2-channel microphone preamp by Stam Audio. You might remember that not too long ago I did my first Stam Audio review here of the SA4000 Stereo bus compressor. I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t, but suffice it to say, it blew me away and I knew I had to see what else Stam had to offer.
Right off the bat, if you know a thing or two about vintage recording gear, this Mic Pre should look like one thing and one thing only to you – a Neve Microphone preamp! And as you might be able to tell from the name, it’s specifically a clone of the Neve 1073 Mic Pres, probably the most famous and sought after Mic Pres in existence. It’s been used on practically every major release since the 70s and continues to be used on hit records to this day. Now, the original Neve 1073 was being made in the 70s and hasn’t really been in production for a long time. What Stam Audio has here is a clone of the vintage Neve 1073 people have come to know and love.
The first thing we are going to go over is the look and feel of the unit. I had high expectations in this department based on my time with the SA4000, and the 1073MPA did not disappoint! It looks just like an old Neve 1073 but in rack unit form instead of a mixing console format. The colors and the knobs all look identical to the Neve 1073. Even the feel of turning the knob is somehow the same, and I was just in a studio that had a desk full of original vintage Neve 1073s, so it’s still fresh in my memory. This unit feel premium, it doesn’t feel or look like a “clone” or like it was cheaply made at all.
As you can see from the front panel, it’s a 2 channel discrete preamplifier. Each channel has a DI input for recording things like electric guitar or bass directly, a gain knob that starts at 15db and goes all the way up to 70db, 3 switches for 48v Phantom Power, a flip polarity phase, a Hi-Z switch, and at the end there is a Trim knob for controlling output level of the mic pre. On the back, each channel has an XLR input, an XLR output, and a TRS 1/4″ output.
Now we get to the juicy details everyone is probably wondering about – how does it sound? Firstly, unlike most vintage gear today, the microphone preamp doesn’t have a plugin version out there. There are one or two companies that claim they model it, but in my experience, those plugins don’t do it justice at all. I should mention that Stam Audio actually have 2 different configurations you can get the 1073MPA in. One is with a Carnhill transformer, and the other with a Sowter transformer. They are both very similar to the original Neve 1073 in terms of how they sound but there is a difference between the two. The unit I have has the Sowter transformer and when I compared it to a real Neve 1073, the difference was very little. In fact, the difference was so small, I had two original Neves in side by side comparison with the Stam, and the Neves sounded just as different from each other as the Stam Audio unit to them.
You have to remember that just because it’s the same model mic pre, made with the same exact components, in the same factory, in the same year, they’re still going to sound different from unit to unit. I did, however, notice one difference between the Stam 1073MPA and both Neve 1073s, and it’s in the low-end frequencies. The best way to describe it is that the Stam Audio unit’s low end is clearer and smoother. It takes more to get its low end to distort than the Neve. And I’m not talking about the “good” kind of distortion in this case. The Neve’s were distorting in the low end in a way that I wasn’t thrilled about. I much prefer the more open and smoother low end of the Stam unit instead.
Some of you may have noticed the Hi-Z switch and are wondered what’s up with that? Well, it’s something of an old trick engineers used to do on the Neve 1073, but Stam has made it easy by giving it to us with the push of a button! What it does when engaged is change the impedance from 300 ohms to 1200 ohms for better impedance matching with certain microphones. Using it on a microphone that doesn’t need 1200 ohms also yields a cool sound, almost like it is saturating sooner. The DI input is also wonderful to have on this unit. It definitely adds the character of the 1073 into the DI signal, which sounded awesome! I think I’m actually going to put my DI box to rest for a while and use this Stam unit for recording guitars instead.
Last, but not least… the price. The original Neve 1073s run for about $3000 US per unit, and they only have one channel each. That means that two of those bad boys will run you $6000! But one of Stam’s 1073MPAs are $890 with a Sowter transformer or $790 with the Carnhill transformer, for two channels each! If you want a Neve 1073 mic pre, there is no reason I can think of not to go with the Stam 1073MPA. And if you just need 1 channel instead of 2, Stam also sell the SA-73. A single channel version of the 1073MPA ($550 for the Sowter transformer, $500 for the the Carnhill transformer). $500 for the most famous and sought after microphone preamp in the world is one hell of a deal. We will be checking out the rest of Stam Audio’s line of products in the coming months with the SA-87 Microphone up next, so be sure to be on the lookout for that.