Blind shootout of Vintech vs Neve conducted in Nashville

On Monday Jan 16th 2006 a blind shootout of vintage Neve 1073's and Vintech X73's was conducted at Nashville's "Seventeen Grand" studios. All tracking/recording and playback was supervised by renowned recording engineer Chuck Ainlay. Several high profile recording engineers and producers were in attendance including: Gary Paczosa (Engineer for such artists as Alison Krauss, Linda Rondstat, Dixie Chics), Kyle Lehning (producer for Randy Travis, Waylon Jennings, Restless Heart, etc.), Pete Sheridan, Dan Spomer, and many others

All recordings were done utilizing Nuendo 3 software at 24 bit, 192k sampling rate. Steve Lamm of Cryptic globe recording operated the Nuendo software running on a custom built (by Steve Lamm) quad AMD 64 bit processor computer. The A/D convertors were Lynx Aurora 16 mastering grade convertors clocked to a Universal Audio 2192.


There were a total of four rented Neve 1073's available for the tests. Two were rented from Gear for Days of Nashville, and two were rented from Dreamhire rentals of New York. Vintech provided two model X73 units and one model X73i for the tests. The mics used were a Royer stereo ribbon microphone and custom large diaphram tube microphones built by Big Microphones of Nashville.

Chuck Ainlay tracked female vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums and acoustic piano for the listening tests. Each microphone was passively split to both a vintage Neve 1073 and a Vintech X73 or X73i simultaneously, presenting a 600 ohm load to each microphone. This was done so that in each test both the Neve and Vintech modules received the exact same source material.

Chuck, along with Steve Lamm, oversaw recording the various tracks into Nuendo 3 directly out of the Neve and Vintech modules through the Lynx Aurora 16 convertors.

Listening tests:

Steve Lamm put together a series of six listening tests from the material recorded. In each test Steve cut out a short section of a recorded performance (between 3 and 4 measures approximately) from both the Neve and Vintech recordings. Remember that these recordings were cut using the same mic split passively to both the Neve and Vintech preamps simultaneously, so mic placement and variances in performance were eliminated as variables from the tests.

He then setup a test that played back four repititions of a particular audio clip in random order, three clips being identical copies recorded with one of the preamps, and the last clip being recorded with the other preamp. In some of the listening tests, three of the clips were recorded with the Neve preamp and one with the Vintech. In some tests three clips were from the Vintech preamp and one was from the Neve preamp. Listeners were asked to identify which of the four clips was different from the others in each test

Results: Out of twelve signed test sheets, with six listening tests per sheet, the average test score was approximately 23.6 percent correct. The probability of picking the different preamp out correctly in each test by pure chance alone is 25 percent. Most people got either one or two correct answers out of six. Here is the actual distribution of correct answers on twelve signed test sheets, six test questions per sheet:

People who got zero correct answers = 1

people who got one correct answer = 6

people who got two correct answers = 4

people who got three correct answers = 1

The best score was 3 correct answers out of six.

Of twelve signed test sheets, there was a total of 17 correct answers out of a total of 72 possible correct answers. Here is their distribution by source material:

Drum overheads: four correct answers

female vox one: three correct answers

female vox two: three correct answers

acoustic piano: three correct answers

electric guitar: four correct answers

acoustic guitar: two correct answers

 Kyle Lehning, producer for Randy Travis, Restless Heart, Waylon Jennings, many others






Vintech Audio is not afilliated with AMS Neve LTD.

Photo Above: Left to Right, Dan Spomer, Chuck Ainlay, Steve Lamm

Steve Lamm :

“As tape operator/assistant engineer I was involved in every technical aspect of this test and I can say it was definitely a very fair test”.   “1073 modules themselves are very different from each other and I found it extraordinary that no one in the room could discern any real difference between the 1073 and the Vintech”.  “I re-played the test later in my own studio, long after I had forgotten which was which… I didn’t fare any better trying to figure out which was which than anyone did in the actual testing”.

"Here is a technical description of the Vintech vs Neve 1073 test.   I was the tape operator and assistant engineer in this test.  Chuck Ainlay oversaw the test and was the Audio Engineer.

 A drummer, singer, guitarist, and pianist were recorded.   For the drums, a Royer SF12 Stereo ribbon mic was used for stereo overheads.   The mic line from each side of this stereo mic was multed and the signal arrived at the preamps at 600ohms.   Each side was sent to a Neve 1073 rented from Gear For Days and a Vintech X73 (so four pre-amps were involved for this stereo test).   The outputs of the pre-amps were sent directly to the recorder (An AMD Dual, Dual Core Opteron Nuendo rig using RME AES-32 sound cards and Lynx Aurora 16’s as the converters).   The project bit/sample rate was 24/192.   For the rest of the instruments/voices a large diaphragm condenser mic from BIG microphones was used.   Again this signal was split using a mult and sent at an identical 600 ohms to the 1073 and Vintech X73, and then directly to the Nuendo Rig.

 The returns were monitored on a Neve VR series console.   In the first test, the outputs were each routed to a separate channel on the console, and Chuck flipped the phase on the channel and adjusted the levels until they cancelled out to assure perfect level matching.   We then created clips from each performance, each about 15 to 20 seconds long.   We copied these clips exactly in Nuendo and repeated them 4 times.   In each test one of the clips was from one of the preamps and 3 from the other.   Each time it was completely random.   For instance… on one test the first clip was from the Neve, the second clip from the Vintech, and the last 2 from the Neve.    The challenge was to pick the one that was different, and then guess which pre-amp it was.  

 After the first test Chuck felt the test would be even more accurate if we routed the signals out of Nuendo to the same channel on the console.   So, we did that.   We routed the clips from each preamp to the same output in Nuendo so that they would come on the same channel.  When the flipped the phase on one in Nuendo and adjusted the levels for best cancellation.   This eliminated any possible variances in the channels on the console.   We then performed the test twice more on new subjects again with the sample playing 3 times from one pre-amp and once from the other."


Steve Lamm

Cryptic Globe Recording

Nashville Club Cubase/Nuendo Host

:  www.clubcubasenashville.com

:  www.crypticglobe.com

+  steve@crypticglobe.com

Chuck Ainlay with Gary Paczosa (engineer for the Dixie Chics, Alison Krauss,etc)



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