Many consider the Neve 1073 the best preamp ever made.
But it’s expensive and hard to find.
The Golden Age Project Pre-73 Jr was designed to mimic the classic sound of the 1073, but to do so at a much lower price.
And it comes close.
It is a basic unit, with few features and controls. But it adds a very distinct tone to your sound that you can’t get elsewhere for a lower price.
Naturally, that means it lacks clarity. If you want a transparent preamp, this is not the model for you. But if you love the classic vintage sound, the Pre-73 Jr gives you that at a very affordable price.
Let’s take a closer look and see exactly what features this unit lacks and if it can give you what you need from a preamp.
Golden Age Project Pre-73 Jr Review: Overview And Features
When recording music, one of the first things you’ll need to find is a good microphone. What many people overlook is that you need a microphone preamplifier as well. Without one, you just won’t be able to bring out the maximum potential of any condenser or dynamic mic.
There are many different types of mic preamps out there. The Golden Age Project’s Pre-73 Jr. is one of the best values out there, so we thought we could take a closer look at it and find out more about its qualities and features.
While this company is not as big or famous as some of the others, they have a great lineup of affordable equipment. The Pre-73 Jr. is marketed as “the little brother” of the company’s famous PRE-73 mic preamp.
While the “junior” version we’re discussing here is clearly simpler, it still manages to offer quite a punch. It’s a great solution for anyone who needs a mic preamp but likes to keep things simpler (and more affordable).
First off, just like its “older brother,” this is a single-channel preamp. But there’s a noticeable lack of controls, with simplicity being the main feature.
On the front panel of this small device, you’ll find two knobs: one for gain and one for output volume. There’s also the instrument input with higher impedance. There’s a switch next to it to turns it on and to disable the input on the back panel.
While we’re at it, on the backside there is a combined balanced TRS and XLR input. There, you can also find XLR and line outputs, as well as the power switch. There’s also the insert jack to which we’ll get shortly. The device is powered using the included 24-volt AC adapter.
- Single-channel microphone preamp
- Can also work with instruments
- Stripped-down preamp with very simple and intuitive controls
- Phantom power for condenser microphones
- Absolute phase switch
Functionality And Features
As mentioned, this is a straightforward piece of equipment. There’s one combo input on the back panel, as well as one instrument input on the front with its DI switch.
The two knobs on the front are for input gain and output volume. The gain control ranges from 20 to 70 decibels. There’s also one LED indicator for signal and another one for phantom power.
The addition of the “insert” jack can be quite useful in some settings. With this feature, you can insert an equalizer or any other external effect unit into the signal chain. In short, it can help you simplify the setup while retaining some tone-shaping options.
One of the main intentions of both the PRE-73 and the PRE-73 Jr is to replicate some of the classic vibes the Neve 1073 (more on this below), especially with its high gain settings. This model comes with class-A electronics and there are no integrated circuits involved.
The sound is what you would expect from a fully analog piece with a warm tone. At the same time, it manages to deliver the much-needed punch and attack.
You don’t often find a preamp or a rack-mounted unit that’s capable of retaining the “fatness” of the tone while keeping some of the much-needed presence and clarity at the same time.
The first obvious use is for vocal microphones, especially condenser ones. Many condensers lack “thickness” in the tone. The PRE-73 Jr. manages to boost your tone and give it more punch, presence, and overall warmth, without making things too blurry in the process.
The addition of an external EQ in the setup will help in adjusting the tone further, but the whole point is to get that natural “in-your-face” kind of tone that cuts through the mix.
This also comes in handy for instruments, especially stuff like acoustic basses and guitars. It generally won’t be much use for electric guitars, but this preamp can still come in handy for miked-up electric guitar amplifiers.
All that said, if you’re a lover of that “neutral” tone, this might not be the preamp for you. It’s designed to bring more character to your recordings or performances. It does not transmit a transparent sound.
As for other instruments, it can also serve you well for bass guitars and even keyboards. If you’re a lover of those small analog synths, it can definitely help you get more punch in your tone.
In the end, it’s nothing too fancy, but it gets the job done. And considering the price, it’s a great buy for anyone wanting simplicity and coloration.
Advantages And Disadvantages
- Easy to use
- Has all the essential controls
- Great tone quality
- Some additional controls could be useful
- Some users may not like the lack of tone “neutrality”
Golden Age Project Pre 73 Vs Neve 1073
Because the Golden Age Project PRE-73 Jr. was designed to mimic the classic sound of the Neve 1073, we need to look at how the two units compare. Although the Pre 73 mimics the overall sound and the high gain settings of the 1073, they are still two different devices.
Many would argue that the 1073 is the best mic preamp of all time, and there’s definitely support for this argument. First made at the very beginning of the 1970s, it was intended as a microphone preamplifier and an EQ.
Interestingly enough, it hasn’t changed much over the years and it still remains fairly popular among professionals and vintage-lovers even to this day. It added its own character to the tone with the class-A discrete transistor circuitry and gave both thickness and presence to the tone.
The problem is that you can’t really find this preamps easily anymore. That also means that the price is even higher than before. Neve still makes the 1073 preamp according to the original specs, but they don’t make that many of them.
While the tone of the 1073 is definitely better, the PRE-73 Jr comes close and is far simpler and cheaper to get your hands on.
The overall setup and controls might be a bit weird for some who are not used to vintage equipment. It may also not be as good an option as the PRE-73 for some instruments, like acoustic guitars and basses.
But if you’re into vintage stuff and really love those classic analog synthesizers, then the 1073 is a great right choice. Assuming you have the budget. If not, the Pre-73 and the PRE-73 Jr are both much less expensive and offer a similar tone.
Golden Age Project Pre-73 Jr. Vs Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII
As mentioned above, the PRE-73 Junior is modeled after its “older brother,” the PRE-73. Golden Age Projest has now made a third version of this classic preamp, the MKIII. Putting these two preamps next to each other, it takes no more than a glance to realize that the MKIII is a more versatile product.
It not only has more controls, but more detailed controls, plus far more features. The gain goes up to 80 decibels instead of 70, and it has signal and clipping indicators as well.
While the back panel is pretty much the same as the Junior version, the MKIII has a few interesting additions on the front. For example, the “Air” feature adds a boost in the high-ends and provides some clarity.
There’s also a very useful high-pass filter that gets rid of anything below 40, or even 170, Hz. Additional controls include the switchable impedance for the microphone mode.
Despite the differences, the prices are close. The MKIII is not really much more expensive. If you’re having a hard time choosing between these two great mic preamps, here’s how to decide.
If you need a simple setup that doesn’t take too much space, but provides basic tonal characteristics, go with the PRE-73 Jr. version. If you have more room in your rig and prefer to have more tone-shaping options, the MKIII version is what you’ll want to get.
Pre-73 Jr Review: Conclusion And Rating
The Golden Age Project PRE-73 Jr is a microphone and instrument preamp for those who favor simplicity and vintage-oriented tones. Naturally, that means that this preamp is far from neutral. It will add character to your tone and this will be the first thing you need to bear in mind before buying it.
The Pre-73 Jr adds that vintage analog dimension to your tone, in the style of the legendary Neve 1073. This does mean there is a slight lack of clarity. This is the exact sound some musicians or producers prefer, but it is not what everyone wants.
The Pre-73 JR is a great way to get a classic sound from one of the most popular preamps ever, but at an affordable price. But it is also quite simple, with only basic functions. When everything is added up, it gets a Musicaroo rating of 4.5 out of 5.