Review: Black Lion Audio B173 Mic Pre

Black Lion Audio’s take on the classic and sought-after Neve sound.

Item: Black Lion Audio B173 Mic Pre
Price: $649 (US), £350 (UK)
Mic Rating: 4.5/5

At A Glance: Neve’s 1073 mic preamp has been highly revered and used on countless recordings for decades – however, their price typically puts them out of the range of most project/home studio owners. Black Lion Audio aim to remedy this with their B173 mic pre, which aims to capture the classic sound of a 1073 but makes a few tweaks to the original design in order to keep the costs down. The B173 is a single channel mic pre-amp with high-quality input and output transformers. It features up to 80dB of available gain (plenty for any mic/source) and is housed in a 1U, 1/2 rack chassis.

High Notes: There is a stepped gain input with separate output level control that allows you to drive the preamp a little more without clipping the output into your recording interface – something that is key to the classic 1073 sound. It has phantom power, a phase switch and it also features a DI for connecting guitars or similar into the unit. One of the reasons the original 1073 was so sought after was its ability to help sources sound slightly larger, warm, and well defined – something that the B173 also manages achieve and makes it a particularly great choice for tracking vocals with.

Off Pitch: The stepped input gain features different values than an original 1073, which might be a problem for some users who are used to an original 1073. Also, the DI input bypasses the units (Cinemag) input transformer. As a result, if you want to add some of the classic 1073 sound to your DI’d signal you will need to run it though the mic input instead.

VoiceCouncil Reviewer Says: The B173 is a great sounding preamp at a great price. It is targeted perfectly at the serious home studio owner who has a good quality mic and is looking for a quality preamp to match it. Like the original 1073, it is a great choice for vocal recording, however it is equally happy being used with any instrument you might want to record. Some users who also own a Neve 1073 say that the B173 lacks some of the high-frequency detail of the original; however, with Neve’s current recreation of the 1073 costing substantially more, the BLA B173 represents great value for money.

There are various other “1073-clones” available that are also worth checking out, including the Golden Age Pre-73, Heritage Audio 1073, Vintech 473 and BAE 1073.

Manufacturer’s Website: Black Lion Audio

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