Rupert Neve 5059 Review

Rupert Neve 5059 Satellite Summing Mixer Review: Alan Branch reviews the Rupert Neve Designs 5059 Satellite Summing 16x2+2 Mixer. Grab a coffee, read full article below courtesy of Audio Media (October 2012). Also available as PDF download.

“There is something lovely about the sonic change in the tiniest of details as you drive the channels. Pushing level into the mix buss and adjusting the master output produces more of a lovely sheen, its transformers blending in a lovely musical flavour to the tone…” - Alan Branch

If you are based in the UK and wish to audition any Rupert Neve Designs hardware in your studio or purchase directly from Rupert Neve Designs, please contact Rupert Neve Designs UK on 0845 500 2 500 or e-mail sales@sonic-distribution.com.

Rupert Neve Designs 5059 Review

Rupert Neve Designs has added something new to it’s classy Pro Audio range, the satellite 5059: a 16 – input, dual stereo output Summing Mixer. Borrowing design elements from its illustrious 5088 mixer and Portico II channel and bus compressor, this rack of Neve magic is a lovely addition to the studio line up. So, whether you’re fitting out your production room or a home recording set-up, there is something to choose from the Rupert Neve Designs range. The Rupert Neve name is synonymous with sound quality and excellence of circuit design. His creations have helped many producers and engineers capture, shape, and produce some of the greatest sounding records of our time.

Summing mixers V’s in the box (ITB)

There has been much debate about the pitfalls of mixing ‘In The Box’, and whether analogue summing is better than digital summing where a mix is concerned. To determine this, there has been many published shoot-outs between mixes and mixers comparing their desk versus ITB work.

So I’d like to put a few things on record, as far as I am concerned, about this controversial subject. I say there is absolutely nothing wrong with mixing purely ITB with most of today’s DAW software; there are no real limitations or summing flaws, but there are differences. In the classic sense of mixing, analogue signals in a conventional mixer are affected all the time – op amps, transformers (any components, infact)… These can all add harmonic distortion and other elements that we find pleasing to the ear.

Summing digital signals within a computer is all about the maths, combining all the ones and zeros. This is an exact form of mixing with nothing added to the signal path. While the ITB internal floating point mixer can have hundreds of dB’s dynamic range it has no headroom in the classic sense. A typical DAW has 0dB headroom, and beyond that, clipping will occur that won’t be nice at all.

But having said that, if you had plug-ins that induced the same qualities as analogue hardware, such as Waves NLS Summing console emulation or Slate Digital’s VCC Virtual Console Collection, then you can achieve similar results. So, it’s just a different way of working. Great results are achievable with ITB – you just might have to treat levels with a bit more care and select useful plug-ins if you want to achieve a similar analogue sonic quality.

A big factor in Summing vs ITB might also be controllability – having actual hardware like a mixer means more hands on control. The tiny adjustments you do instinctively with your hands on faders as you listen will help more than anything to achieve a great mix. One of the first things I learnt as an engineer is to get the balance right – it’s no good having great sounds if you can’t hear the vocal or drums properly!

Now that’s sorted, we can look at the Rupert Neve 5059 suming mixer baggage-free.

Rupert Neve 5059 In Detail

The 5059 is a 2U 19-inch rack unit, decorated in RND’s uniformed vintage white faceplate – solid 0.22-inch aluminium plate mounted on the front of a heavy steel shell with magnetic screening. Like all the other Rupert Neve Design units, this box is impeccably constructed.

Laid across the front in left to right order are two rows of input controls in two banks of eight. Each input has channel level rotary faders going from infinity to +10dB, pan control, an insert switch, and a stereo 2 send for routing to the alternate second output.

The first thing you notice is the solid machined construction of the knobs – no cheap off the shelf plastic being used here. Also, you’ll notice that the levels have dB level markers, although have no indent at 0dB. I really enjoyed discovering this because it said to me that Rupert knows how studios work, and how people use their gear. To enable a useful recall of a mix, any outboard gear has to be set exactly the same – something that can be quite hard to do, especially due to the inexact marking of a unit or the variances of any continuous potentiometer (pot), so to help this you can calibrate your outboard hardware with a tone to unity gain. That means that what you put in is that same as what you get out. You don’t touch the level controls, so any ident on the level control could interfere with this set-up process. A lot of engineers I know work this way, and would be the way I would use this in a mix studio set-up.

At the far right of the Satellite are two stereo output controls, both of which are supplemented with a texture control and a silk selection switch. The dual outputs are somewhat different to most summing mixers, this being purely for alternative configurations: maybe sub groups or stem mixes, routing to a second Satellite unit, or even to use the other output to utilise the other texture/silk control and route back into the main stereo output.

There are also level indicating and power LEDs. The rear has a power socket for RND’s own universal filtered low noise switching power supply, while inputs are via D-Sub connectors in banks of eight, as well as four D-subs for the send and returns of the inserts. Note that these inserts are always sending, and only replace the input signal once activated. This means they can be used for aux sends for separate effects or setting up compressors, recorders, etc. Lastly output is via balanced XLR for both stereo outputs.

Rupert Neve 5059 Silk / Texture

Now this is where Rupert’s magic really happens for me…yes, the mixer is fully class-A withcustom transformers. RND has perfected the Neve circuit design for many years, refining out all the unwanted artefacts such as noise, slew rate, and high frequency distortion. The Satellite Silk feature uses negative feedback on the output transformer to enhance harmonic content and change the way the distortion character of the mixer performs – this is very reminiscent of Rupert Neve’s vintage designs in classic consoles.

There are two circuits, both depicted by the colours Red or Blue. Red is used to enhance the highs, and the blue to enhance the lows. This Silk feature is found on their Portico range, and is one that I have used many times with my own Portico 5012 dual mic amp. It has produced some stunning results, so yes – I am a bit of a fan of this circuit design.

Rupert Neve 5059 In Use

Set-up is simple enough with the right D-Sub looms. The pin out wiring is sensibly placed on the rear of the unit. I routed the Satellite inline from my Apogee Ensemble outputs, calibrated each level pot with a tone from Logic, and I was all set to go. This meant as I switched from song to song I knew my levels would always be the same – the only thing I had to take a note of would be the texture control. However, at the rear of the Satellite manual is a handy recall sheet showing a plain print-out copy of the front of the Satellite unit, ready for marking in various levels in case a recall of settings is necessary. Routing either stems or full mixes through the Satellite would be my main way of working, but it could be placed in a rack to take in a set of keyboards or outboard effects. With 16 inputs it could probably do both for most people! But as I noted earlier, the inserts are always sending so it can be configured for different studio set-ups: two 5059 units for example would provide 32 channels to mix down to four stems.

The effect of running mixes through the Satellite is not an easy one to explain; it’s a subtle analogue effect, but its character is immediately noticeable. There is something lovely about the sonic change in the tiniest of details as you drive the channels. Pushing level into the mix buss and adjusting the master output produces more of that lovely sheen, its transformers blending in a lovely musical flavour to the tone – very smooth, but with all transient detail intact and low noise and distortion.

Selecting the Red Silk feature and winding up the texture control is where I thought this Satellite mixer came into its own, adding saturation and character. The Red Silk adds a lovely crispness to instruments and vocals, all the high end ‘Ear Cookies’, as I like to call them, within a mix became more apparent and glossy. Now, don’t mistake this feature for EQ; it’s very different to that. Red Texture helps create a more natural feeling of enhanced high frequencies. Selecting the Blue texture enhances the bottom end of a mix, which felt like classic Neve warmth at it’s best. This is why people choose to mix on these consoles: because the track comes out fat and warm. Instruments came through the Blue texture with a larger imprint in the mix, and drums and bass appeared more whole and complete with a lovely roundness and size.

Having inserts on the Satellite is a lovely addition as I have an old Chiswick Reach valve compressor, so this is perfect for me to output a mix or stems, insert my outboard compressor, add some texture, and route it back to my audio interface to record the master back into my DAW.

Rupert Neve 5059 Review Summary

The Rupert Neve Design Satellite 5059 Summing Mixer is well made, well designed, and well featured – in fact everything you could want from a summing mixer to help with creating high quality richly textured stems or mixes, or simply as a rack mixer for superior channel returns in a neat package. Add to this the heritage and unique transformer circuitry that will herald lovely sonic texture and colourisation, and it’s a brilliant addition for anyone serious about their music production.

Alan Branch is a freelance engineer/ producer and ex-member of the On U Sound Crew. His long list of credits include Jamiroquai, Beverly Knight, M People, Simply Red, Depeche Mode, Shed 7, Sinead O'Connor, Bjork and Sade. www.alanbranch.com

Looking to buy Rupert Neve Designs hardware in the UK or try in your studio?

If you are based in the UK and wish to any audition Rupert Neve Designs hardware in your studio or purchase directly from Rupert Neve Designs, please contact Rupert Neve Designs UK on 0845 500 2 500 or e-mail rupertneve@sonic-distribution.com.

Rupert 5059 Video Overview 

Rupert 5059 Full Spec