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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Does your studio need a ducker? A Neve ducker?

Everyone wants the famous Neve sound. But can you find it in a ducker?

By David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass
Here's an interesting device that is currently up for auction on Ebay. It is a ducker module, made by the famous Neve company. There are two reasons why you might want to buy it...
  1. Because you want a ducker.
  2. You want the Neve sound and this is a cheap (£495 'buy-it-now') way to buy into it.
So firstly, what is a ducker?

A ducker is something that is very handy to have for live TV or radio sound. Suppose you have a radio phone-in program for instance. You parallel the presenter's signal into the control input of the ducker, and the caller's signal through the regular input and output. The caller gets his or her chance to speak, but as soon as the presenter chimes in, the caller's signal level goes down. Call this giving the presenter an unfair advantage if you like, but it keeps the show flowing smoothly.

Another example might be background atmosphere in a sports stadium. This can be ducked under the commentator's voice whenever he speaks.

Such a gadget might have a musical use too - you could subgroup the backing instruments of a song and duck them a little whenever the lead vocal is active. I have to say that I've tried this and I haven't personally had a great deal of satisfaction from it, but it is certainly worth giving it a go and it might work for you.


As you can see, the unit has controls for threshold, which is the level of the control input at which the ducker will kick in. Attenuation depth governs how much the signal under control will be lowered in level. Recovery sets the time to return to normal.

The famous Neve sound?

Now, as to whether you can get the famous Neve sound just by putting a signal through this unit and not actually using it as a ducker, I don't know. Looking at the internal shots there are transformers for both input and output (and I am guessing that the signal path is mono). Transformers are often thought to have a 'sound'.

And of course, when the unit was blessed by Rupert himself as it came off the production line, then the Neve sound was sealed in for sure. (Kidding, BTW.)


Hopefully you will see that this is just a module. It would need a power supply and proper connectors to the outside world to get it working. For someone with the necessary know-how and a sense of adventure, it should be a fun project.

Oh, and if any reader of Record-Producer.com does buy this item, let us know how you get on (and send us some audio)!
Publication date: Monday July 02, 2012
Author: David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass

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