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AMS Neve 4081

Test & Review

Are you looking for a professional transistor preamp to properly equip your recording studio? You can opt for the AMS Neve 4081. It is a transistor preamplifier which has an external power supply. Discover in this guide our complete test as well as our opinion on this preamp.

AMS Neve 4081

🎤 by Kevin Jung

Summary of the Test 👇

The quality of the signal is decisive for the clarity of a recording , whatever its origin. However, it is very common for the signal generated by a source to be too weak to be well reproduced at the output. This is where adding a preamplifier to the signal path becomes essential.

The audio equipment market is also full of preamplifiers. the quality of the signal obtained is not the same from one model to another. It is always wiser to opt for models from a brand with many years of experience in audio equipment. The AMS Neve 4081 preamp does not intend to disappoint in this regard with its array of ingenious features .

Presentation of the AMS Neve 4081 brand

Neve Electronics is a company born in the United Kingdom in the 1960s. It was built on the basis of research carried out by entrepreneur and audio engineer Rupert Neve . Neve has been recognized from its beginnings as a source of innovation in audio recording . Notably, she invented moving cursor automation in the 1970s.

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Such a degree of innovation cannot go unnoticed by other leading companies in the audio sector. The Siemens Group acquired Neve Electronics in 1985. Neve and the Siemens Group then merged with Advanced Music Systems in 1992. This gave birth to the AMS Neve , which won a Technical Grammy Award in 2000.

Neve's reputation in digital audio was not lost after the merger. The new products are based on the concepts that made Neve devices famous. They do, however, include improvements intended to make them more suitable for modern workflow requirements.

The Neve 4081 is a good example of this approach since it was designed based on the 1081 , an improved version of the Neve 1073 DPX model . The latter brought glory to Neve in 1972 in terms of multi-channel mixing console . However, the 4081 cannot compete with the 1081's 12 compact preamp modules

AMS Neve 4081
Picture from Amazona.de

AMS Neve 4081 Preamplifier Overview

The AMS Neve 4081 amplifier has aluminum handles on the front to protect the control interfaces. The 4081 can thus be used as a standalone class D amplifier . The system will rest on four rubber feet placed on the underside.

The AMS Neve 4081 transistor preamp This is because it has an external power supply with a voltage of 100 to 240 V AC . The latter will plug into an eight-pin DIN socket located outside the case. The nominal frequency is 50 to 60 hertz for a current of 1.9 amperes . The 4081 preamp can thus manage a power of 456 watts .

Every function on the four channels can be controlled directly via the front panel or with the Neve remote control. No adapter is required to connect the AMS Neve 4081 amp to a computer since the connection can be made via USB port. The software required for frequency and audio signal monitoring is also available for PC and Mac.

A USB audio interface is however necessary in case several units need to be connected in series. It is then possible to control up to 16 of these units remotely for a maximum upgrade of 64 channels . Each module in a 4081 multi-amp installation can also be clearly identified using a DIP switch on the rear.

AMS Neve 4081 purchase
AMS Neve 4081

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digital converter role can optionally be added to the box to digitize the four channel outputs. The output signal can then be in Firewire or AES3 . These in turn are distributed in digital form as a return channel.

It is recommended here to use a 24 AWG with a parallel capacitance of 16 pF and a characteristic impedance of 100 ohms . Another option is to use a twisted pair Category 5 cable like you might find in Ethernet cabling . This type of cable has a maximum capacitance of 17 pF/fT and a characteristic impedance of 100 ohms .

D/A converters can also generate a line-level analog signal which will be made available to a 25-pin D-Sub socket . This type of channel is most often used for monitoring returns or direct monitoring mixing. However, it would have been nice to have an RCA connection at the back to optimize the process.

The D-Sub jack also provides access to balanced insert returns for each channel. The idea is to be able to route an AC input signal to the D/A converters. The rear of the case also includes 8 XLR inputs/outputs for condenser microphones with 4 corresponding mic/line inputs and outputs.

AMS Neve 4081 microphone preamp
Picture from Amazona.de

Features of the AMS Neve 4081 preamplifier

It is reasonable to assume that 4 1081R preamps were installed in the 4081 case. The functions available on the front of the case are very similar. A large rotary knob is placed above the channel to adjust the preamp gain . A push button also allows you to manage the settings of the mixing console when the 4081 is used with a Neve 88 R console .

Six backlit pushbuttons below the digital display LCD window provide the usual switching functions of a preamplifier. For everything useful for ribbon mics , it includes phantom power , a 20 dB pad , and a low impedance mode .

Added to this is mic/line input switching and buttons to reverse polarity and activate an insert circuit. The idea is to pass the input of a D/A converter from the preamplifier output to an external input. This feature is useful for placing an external compressor between a channel's analog output and the corresponding balanced insert return to a converter. The compressor can be activated or deactivated via the front button of the 4081.

AMS Neve 4081 purchase
AMS Neve 4081

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The start/stop button is located at the top of the control panel, near the 4 preamplifier control zones. The two buttons below allow you to configure the sample rate and clock source for an optional digital card.

8 yellow LEDs indicate the current sample rate with standard modes from 44.1 to 192 kHz . Indicators for 384 kHz and DXD sampling rate are also present. 4 green LEDs below indicate the current clock source in Wordclock, AES3, Internal and Firewire formats.

Build quality of the AMS Neve 4081 preamplifier

The AMS Neve 4081 preamp seems fragile and light in comparison with older Neve models, and especially the 1081 Classic. This impression is reinforced by the design of the gain controls. The 4081 is, however, better built overall than its appearance might suggest.

AMS Neve 4081 microphone preamplifier
Picture from Audiofanzine.com

The AMS Neve 4081 is a priori only a preamp and does not have an equalization section like the standard 1081. However, such a function is useful for manipulating the tone of the signal for treble and bass. The AMS Neve 4081 can still amplify the power of the tuner for a DJ mixer, a vinyl turntable or a UHD home cinema in surround sound. A ground loop hum can indeed be heard when the phono preamp is plugged in.

However, this can be advantageous in terms of cost. Many users prefer to make flat recordings. The signal is then processed with plug-ins like Logic-Pro X , a digital mixing board , or an analog mixing console .

The remote control software is easy to install and configure. It features an intuitive interface that matches the front panel controls of the AMS Neve 4081. Settings can also be saved for added convenience. It is also possible to directly control the 4081 via a MIDI processor using Pro Tools .

The AMS Neve 4081 preamp can also be presented as equipment from another era with its classic and purely analog design. modern audiophile 's workflow .

AMS Neve 4081 purchase
AMS Neve 4081

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By the way, also check out our complete review guide for the Manley Voxbox channel strip . Discover in this guide our test and opinion on this channel strip, its four different sections (equalizer, de-esser/limiter, microphone preamplifier, and compressor), its sound quality, as well as its technical characteristics.

Focus on the sound quality of the AMS Neve 4081

It is difficult to define activities acoustically once the AMS Neve 4081 is added to a signal path. The difference in sound reproduction is nevertheless very noticeable. Each injected signal gains in density , whatever the style or frequency spectrum.

It seems that the 4081 added its own channel to the electrical signal after discreetly adjusting the stereo input with an equalizer and compressor. However, it was initially designed as a simple preamp and not a home cinema amplifier or headphone amplifier. The signal is so rich and natural at first listen that there is no need to process it with other tools. The noise level is insignificant and does not affect the signal even if the preamplification is full.

AMS Neve 4081 preamp review
Picture from Audiofanzine.com

Preamps were never designed for transparent sound reinforcement and AMS Neve's 4081 is no exception. The sound can only gain character due to the transformers at the input and output of the signal. The 4081 still delivers clean sound for the average user.

The bass tends to be full-bodied, regardless of the subwoofer, but the result remains very natural. The high frequencies are open and extended. Transient ranges appear smoother than on modern, transformerless preamps. However, this does not seem very problematic in the digital age. The subtle crushing effect imposed by the transformers also inspires an analog ambiance worthy of a moving coil with an active filter , just like the Dbx 286s (a Channel Strip preamp).

The technical characteristics of the AMS Neve 4081

The AMS Neve 4081 preamp still has some headroom to process the signal given its 70 dB of available gain. This is true even when low output microphones are used and placed far apart. It is certainly inappropriate to speak of excellence with an EIN figure of -123 dBu at 60 dB of gain. The proportion of noise in the system nevertheless remains quite innocuous.

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The distortion rate of the 4081 is less than 0.07% for over 20 dBu of output. This is a good result for this device although the figures are better on other Dsp units. The nature of the distortion is also more important than the rate, and that of the 4081 is very subtle.

A preamplifier such as the GML 8304 can certainly deliver a and quieter signal in comparison. However, all it takes is a touch of extra color, like that provided by the AMS Neve 4081 preamp, to bring life to a sound source.

The preamp gain range expands from 20 dB to 70 dB 5 dB increments in microphone mode. It is then reduced by 0 to 20 dB in line mode. Gain settings are displayed respectively in a large two-digit LED window below the regulator. Two LEDs indicate signal present and stereo audio overload. The green light corresponds to signals greater than 30 dBu . Red is associated with signals above 24 dBu with 2 dB below analog clipping.

AMS Neve 4081 in studio
Picture from Cheapbest.com

Another interesting guide : Audient ASP 880 preamplifier . Discover in this guide our test and review, the sound quality, the technical characteristics, as well as some test demos of the Audient ASP 880.

Operation of the AMS Neve 4081 with the optional digital card

The AMS Neve 4081 preamp can be accompanied by a digital card to expand its functions to those of an audio interface. The card offered here is equipped with AES input/output connectors for converting 4 analog microphone into AES format. The sampling rate can, if necessary, be selected using a dedicated control at a maximum of 192 kHz .

AMS Neve 4081 purchase
AMS Neve 4081

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Two AES ports with stereo configuration are also added to the design of the card for signal conversion to D/A . These connectors attach to the 25-pin D Sub interface on the card. The Firewire setting allows in this case to directly connect a computer to the 4081. The idea is to have 4 ADC Mono/Firewire and DAC mono from the computer. The signal can then be examined using an ins/line to a D Sub.

This configuration is particularly highlighted with Pro Tools V9 software or its later versions. The AMS Neve 4081 preamp will be selected as an I/O device in the playback interface using the audio processing root driver. If necessary, the latter must be installed.

It is then possible to route four preamp signals into Pro Tools using the Firewire connection. These signals can then be monitored using the line/ins outputs. This is the best setup for recording on the move with a laptop. Such an approach could also be applied to a VHF or GSM even if this emerges from the remit of the AMS Neve 4081.

AMS Neve 4081 packaging
Picture from Fatllama.com
AMS Neve 4081 purchase
Our Overall Opinion

Overall Sound Quality

4,8 /5
4.8/5

Value for money

4,6 /5
4.6/5

Global mark

4,7 /5
4.7/5

Our opinion on the AMS Neve 4081 amplifier

The AMS Neve 4081 preamp is the perfect example of an amalgam of modernity and tradition in audio equipment design. Those accustomed to the classic interface of a model like the SSB Electronics SP-2000 will find a certain familiarity in its concept. It is nevertheless innovative enough to compete with an Electro-Harmonix or other modern preamps.

It is almost unnecessary to submit the AMS Neve 4081 preamp, as it is capable of satisfying expectations in delivering a clean and rich sound. The quality-price ratio is more than attractive knowing that it offers technology close to a 1081R for half the price of this device.

The possibility of adding a digital card to the preamp is also a point on which other preamps can hardly compete. This is all the more true considering the AMS Neve 4081 preamp can be connected directly to a computer using a Fireware connection. Add to that remote control functions and you have equipment that is close to perfection.

The AMS Neve 4081 preamp, however, can only come close to perfection since it is not exempt from defects. The most notable problem in this respect is the rudimentary side of its design, and especially for the gain control. The latter gives the impression of being very fragile to the touch.

However, the quality of a preamplifier is often not measured by its appearance, but by its components. The 4081 aligns with this philosophy by offering more efficient technology than its design may suggest. AMS Neve has always been a sure value when it comes to audio equipment and the 4081 reinforces the reputation of this brand.

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AMS Neve 4081

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